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Posted By Gloria Vanderhorst on 01/25/2018


A messy divorce brought Sally into treatment.  Her marriage was arranged when she was 17 and she moved from her native country to the United States to be a bride at 18.  Three children soon followed.  Her husband was a competent and very successful businessman, affording the family every advantage and more.  Sally frequently experienced panic that was extreme to the point that she sometimes would run away from a situation.  Once in an airport following a minor argument with her husband, she ran away leaving him and the children to worry about her for hours. To comfort herself she turned to alcohol and pills, a pretty risky combination.  When her youngest child was in elementary school, her husband filed for divorce and she was now parenting on her own. 

Her initial presentation for treatment was to help with parenting skills and to learn how to manage a process of shared custody.  Her husband had quickly moved on to remarry and return to his business interests leaving his new wife to cope with the children. 

As our work unfolded, I learned that Sally’s early childhood had been a nightmare.  Her mother was an undiagnosed and untreated schizophrenic all throughout her childhood.  She recalls periods of abandonment and dysfunction that are truly nightmarish.  In first grade she learned to get herself up, fed and off to school because mother could not be trusted to show and father left early for work and came home very late.  Sally truly learned to raise herself.  Sometimes her mother would spend the day naked or rush around the house layered in her entire wardrobe.  Sally observed all of this and suffered all of this without help from anyone.  The fact that Sally was still standing was a miracle in and of itself.

Slowly and carefully we started to move through the rubble of her life as one would do following the bombing of a city, bringing in cranes to move the large pieces and finally digging with our hands to sift out the truth of her early experience.  Reparenting is a long-term process and Sally was committed to rising from the rubble and building a personality that could function in a healthy way.  The truth that we come into this world with a self that can understand health and well-being was clearly evident in this case.

Sally’s treatment was not swift but it was successful as she took each piece of her life and examined both the injury and the strength, she was able to blend together a sense of self that was truly beautiful.

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