It was late in the day when I had a call from a past client. I could not understand what she was saying, only a few words between her sobbing which was troubling to me but had to be excruciatingly painful to her.
I heard some coherent words like ”anxiety” , ”losing it !” and “cannot remember anything”. But most was just a jumble of her trying desperately to talk while choking through her tears. I had to break through her anguish and say, ”STOP, take a breath, and I will wait for you to be able to talk because I know that you are in pain right now. “Breathe and I will wait.”
I could hear her trying to catch her breath and so I then said, ” is your husband around?” Then I heard his voice and knew that he was standing over her, telling her to calm down, but his frustration and the intolerance in his voice was easy to hear.
I then asked her to call me back when her husband was not around !
She did so, and when she called, it was like I was talking to another person. Her husband was now talking outside with a with a guy who was installing new gutters. So, with my encouragement and taking my time with her, she was able to discuss a plan of activities for the next day….and the next day she could remember what we talked about and planned ! Go figure.
Having some experience counseling with this person in years past, I knew she was a very sensitive type and felt overwhelmed often by her very dominant husband. We spent a few minutes catching up and I started putting the pieces together. She had been isolated by COVID, there was a lack of people interaction. She had not worked for a few years and she was not involved in anything productive in her life. No goals, no sense of purpose, no plan for what she was going to do the next morning, IF she even got out of bed.
Since I was retired, she had been seeing a new counselor who did not know her history as well as I did. Somewhere, along the line she was referred for “neurological testing” because she felt she was becoming forgetful. This evaluation was done, not by a Neurologist, but by some mental health facility. Due to her anxiety while taking the “tests” , she could not remember anything or respond coherently. That lead to the test administrator to suggest that she may have early signs of memory loss, even Alzheimer’s. That was all the client needed to hear ! Her anxiety went through the roof, and she had such self-doubt that it was reinforcing all her fears. I met with her PCP, and he and I agreed that she had normal memory loss for her age, but her anxiety over ”losing her mind” had exaggerated her forgetfulness.
I encouraged her to seek an appointment with a new Psychiatrist who worked with seniors, and although it took time to schedule an appointment with him, she was encouraged by his stating that he felt her memory was extremely effected by her anxiety, as well as inappropriate medications.
Anxiety is powerful, it can cause a person to feel so out of control emotionally, so self-doubting, and lead to one thinking the worst.
This is still a work in progress and it will take time for her to have her medications changed, get into a normal sleep pattern and gain some true faith in herself. If we can get her involved with some activities at her community center, gradually interacting with more and more people and programs, there is a good chance we can assist her in finding a purpose to get up every morning.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist/Emeritus, Coach