Secrets…Being a therapist…Why I blog…

INSANITY copy

INSANITY copy (Photo credit: Inspiredhomefitness)

The other day my sister, Michelle, posted the following to my Facebook page:

“Why are you skinny people doing this to yourselves??? I thought insanity was designed for overweight individuals???”

As you might imagine, the “insanity” to which she referred is the Insanity Workout exercise program by Beachbody and led by Shaun T.  Nine days ago, I decided to take the 8 week challenge and have been reporting my progress to friends and family via Facebook.  I am happy to say that I have completed each day thus far and intend to continue so doing.

Now, back to my sister’s comment.

You see, she is right.  I am not overweight and thus it would seem that I would have no just cause to take on such a workout program.  Right?

FIBROMYALGIA

FIBROMYALGIA (Photo credit: *SHESHELL*)

Wrong.

I decided to take on the Insanity Challenge, because I wanted to prove two points to myself:

  1. 1. I can achieve a high level of fitness as a person with fibromyalgia; and
  2. 2. I can take care of my body as I choose to without fearing input from others.

——

A world of secrets…

Back in 2008 when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my body had been changing rapidly.  As I wrote in my recent posts, I had gain a significant amount of weight in only a couple of years.  You see, before I started graduate school, I worked as a personal trainer and fitness instructor from 2002 to 2004. That period of my life was one in which I experienced a high boost to my body image.  I was strong and healthy.

My weight then was higher than what it is now, but it was never a concern to me.  My major concerns:  strength and endurance.  And if there is one thing that I have lamented greatly since having fibromyalgia was the loss of my physical strength and endurance.

With my weight gain came real health concerns, such as being warned about my blood pressure and having some other health issues being labeled as “due to excess weight.”

"If you had 5 minutes...,"  collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)

“If you had 5 minutes…,” collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)

It was frustrating to find myself in that state and feeling that I couldn’t do anything physically about it…like exercise in the way that I had in the past.  I was too tired.  I felt too much pain.  There was a bigger issue though…

Work.  

As many of you know, I am an art therapist and counselor.  I specialize in the treatment of eating disorders.  This area of specialization developed from my second year internship and subsequent job.   So, why would working within this area create a problem for me?  Simply this…

How does a therapist embark upon a health improvement that would mean significant weight loss while reinforcing to her clients that their desire to lose weight was unhealthy?

For a long time, I did not have an answer.  I worked in a place where there were strict rules on how food could be discussed and what foods could be eaten.  Discussion of weight loss, weight loss programs, and diets was forbidden.  This is not to say that these rules were always followed.

The reality was that a majority of the staff was female, White and American; and the fact is that a majority of White American females struggle with body image and disordered eating.   This is not to say that women of colour are immuned to such an experience.  So, as the saying goes, don’t get it twisted.     

—–

 

Being a therapist…

Also, there seems to be a very strange expectation, i.e. that all Black women are happy with being overweight.  I write this because of various experiences I had while trying to manage my weight issues.  The most memorable of these was an experience I had with an older White female nutritionist who worked at a local hospital.

I was given a referral to visit this nutritionist because both myself and my doctor believed that it would be good for me to have professional advice on how to safely and slowly lose my excess weight through diet, since exercise was proving difficult for me.  At that time I was about 50 pounds overweight.

I sat with the lady and stated my reasons for coming to see her.  From her lips came the following response:

“But you’re Black!  Why would you want to lose weight?  Aren’t all Black women a bit fatter that everyone else?  Aren’t you people use to being like that?”

Now, some may believe that I am exaggerating…but I kid you not.  Those were her  exact words that are engraved upon my heart and mind.  I was in disbelief.

There I was seeking help to lose the weight that was causing me severe health problems…and there was that lady telling me that I didn’t need to lose the weight because of my skin colour.  Huh?

——

So, I realized that I had to do it on my own.  I decided to take matters into my own hands as I wrote in my previous post.   The thing was that at work, although I had explained to some that I was planning to lose weight, there was apparently discomfort that I had made such a choice.

Moreover, I did not discuss just how much weight I intended to lose, because that was no one else’s business except for me and my doctor.  Looking back, perhaps it would have been better if I had simply stated a number, even though I did not have a number in mind.

The world in which I worked during that time became closed.  I watched as people stared at me with curious and suspicious eyes.  I listened as people made side comments about me.  I answered as people kept asking me, “haven’t you lost enough now?” or “why are you still losing weight?”

And then there were the painful rumours regarding eating disorders and even my sexuality.  It was a truly discouraging time.  I often felt alone; and between having fibromyalgia and being the only Black clinician on staff as well as the only art therapist, I often felt misunderstood.

My studio space became a place of refuge during the last year of my weight loss.  I watched as people, who were once willing to speak with me or were friendly with me, stop interacting with me.  And, in all honesty, the decision to move to Italy came at the right time as who I had been no longer was.  The new person did not fit in with my old world.

So, why have I written about this or about anything else?

Because it was time.  Especially as a counselor specializing in eating disorders.  You see, even counselors are human. 😉  Even we struggle with our bodies, including food concerns, weight and body image.

It is a strange paradox about the world of psychology.  As a counselor you are expected to help others in overcoming their problems.  At the same time, however, it is seemingly frowned upon by peers if you have problems of your own.

This Cold Hard Floor: II, watercolour and ink painting by Diedré M. Blake, 2006

This Cold Hard Floor: II, watercolour and ink painting by Diedré M. Blake, 2006

There is a reason why…

research has looked into the suicidal tendencies of psychologists (counselors/therapists/social workers, etc.).

There is a reason why….

some of us feel that there is a need to be invincible.  That there is a need to hide what hurts us, to hide our struggles, to hide our true selves.  We walk about attempting to be the tabula rasa (blank slate) for everyone, including our peers…and it just doesn’t work.

There is a reason why…

many of us, who were once bright and shining candles, finally burnout.

There is always a reason why…

I write about this, as well as the previous blog post, to write the truth about a topic for which I held tremendous fear: my weight loss.

I write because I believe that it is the job a therapist to be human and to show his or her client that there is always a path to be found out of the difficulties of life, not just via book lessons but through setting the example by how we live our own lives and how we take care of ourselves.

Until Next Time,

D.

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3 thoughts on “Secrets…Being a therapist…Why I blog…

  1. quirkybooks says:

    I saw a counsellor for a period of time years ago and one day I knew she wasn’t herself. I asked her what was wrong and she asked me how I knew something was wrong but I could sense it. I think this is a gift I have, to be so sensitive that I can pick up on these things. It just becomes frustrating if others tell me there isn’t anything wrong and I can feel there is.

    • Diedré M. Blake says:

      I understand where you are coming from. It is hard situation to balance, i.e. maintaining an open/honest connection with your client and maintaining the boundary of therapist/client relationship. I think that some therapists can go to far and disclose too much. I am an advocate, however, for therapists who understand the value of unharmful/therapeutically sound (i.e. within the bounds of our code of ethics) self-disclosure, especially if it is something that may get in the way of treatment, such as illness. Of course, I believe that it is important to share, within limits, personal experiences that relate to your clients. Still, it is a difficult thing, because the situation is not a friendship. A client pays a therapist for the relationship that they have. Thus, it is important never to blur the boundary line…I don’t believe that any therapist would want his or her client to feel the pressure/burden of that therapist’s personal issues. The reality is that no matter how much a therapist and a client “like” each other (i.e. could have become friends if they had never met as therapist/client), it is still a professional relationship that ends (for the most part) when the therapy ends. :/

      • quirkybooks says:

        I think what you say is good, although in the past I have not felt burdened by another person’s problems but I fully understand why it could be too much for the client and indeed prevent them from opening up. Thanks for your insight.

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