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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Kate. I didn't realize it bothers the moderators to continue

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Hi Kate. I didn't realize it bothers the moderators to continue a thread that long. Oops. It's just a lot easier sometimes so I can scroll up and refer to what you said in your last post, so I can know to what I am responding, and it's especially easier when I am writing the posts on my phone.

It was interesting working on the death row appeals.  And I enjoyed going to death row.  They are regular people, and they need help.  They are calm, polite, and very appreciative.  Most of them were on drugs at the time they committed the alleged murder(s). Off of drugs, they are remorseful and nice. I only worked there for a semester in law school, as an extern, and when summer started I went to work for that state attorney general's office, in the civik right section. (our neighbor and good family friend, who is the mother of one of my best friends growing up, was lieutenant governor at the time, so I got all sorts of cool state government jobs). Anyway, I spent most of my time working on one guy's appeal, He had allegedly killed his gf while he was hopped up on i forget what drug. They got in a fight by a river in another big town, and something transpired, and he ended up hitting her over the head with a tire iron a number of times, killing her. Then, when he went to leave, his car was stuck in the mud and he couldn't move it. Unfortunately, when he was trying to get out of the mud, he caught part of her head and her hair under a tire and it was a mess. He then put her body in the river, and weighed her down with rocks, but the rocks only weighed 40 lbs total, and he apparently didn't realize there was a dam upriver a little. So, when the dam was closed, and because he only put 40 lbs of rocks on her, her body was floating in shallow water, barely below the surface, with her arms and legs floating on top of the surface, Not too bright. But he shouldnot have been sentenced to death, In that and most states, the death penalty is only available with a murder, and only when there are other mitigating factors, such as a double murder, murder of a law enforcement officer, murder in the commission of another felony, lying in wait, torture, etc. The jury had sentenced him to death claiming that he stole and used her ATM card, but he used it all the time, and his paychecks were deposited into her account. But, that's what they found, so.... none of the appeals worked. He was put to death in November, 2010. Sad. I'm still bummed about it. I don't think there should be any death penalty. I do realize what the Bible says, but I am unmoved by such scriptures unless someone can prove to me that those handing out and carrying out every single death sentence are strong Christians who can discern the will of God. I just think it's wrong and I don't think it's our place, as a society, to kill people. Plus -- it is so misapplied -- primarily against minorities and almost always against those who had public defenders and could not afford private defense counsel. Okay .... off my soap box! (btw - if I did not have to be concerned about making a living, my dream job would be doing pro bono death penatly appeals or to volunteer for the innocence project, getting innocent people out of prison - well, or, I really want to be a bankruptcy judge).

But the REALLY good stories come form my federal criminal defense work. I went through a trial which was so hilarious I could hardly keep a straight face, which is too bad because our client was facing decades in jail, and his codefendant was facing over 100 years. I'll tell you the story sometime. I really wish I had a transcript of that trial, for laughs.

I understand what you are saying again about the whole self-esteem thing. You are saying it's not black and white in counseling, and that you are not supposed to judge; you are supposed to make me feel better. But that's hard for me to accept because I AM very black and white and expect black and white. Also, is it so jugmental if I asked your opinion? I want the truth and there is generally only one truth. There are not varying truths for different people. So -- is it wrong for you, who is an expert in these matters to tell me the truth? It's like when I went to talk to Dr. M. because I thought she'd be more likely to give me the un-sugar-coated truth about by culpability in what happened, and asked L. over and over and made her prmise and swear to tell the truth about it, because she has admitted that she won't tell a client something that would hurt him/her. So - it comes down to the same thing. If I want to get the truth out of all this, and not just try to create a feel-good story, then I need to know that those who are helping me are being objectively honest. Can't you ever just give you opinion? Is that so wrong? And if not, how can I believe that other things you said, like that you don't feel disappointed about or cringe when you read about what I said and did?

Does that make sense?

The transference thing makes more sense now. Thanks for the further explanation. So I guess it was transference at work when I made L. promise several times that she was not lying about her thoughts about whether I was bad in what I did and said, and that I have told her, when I was crying, that I really didn't want to do those things, and ask if she believes me? And my need to know what you or L. or Dr. M. REALLY think?

So you're just a little older than me?  That is good, I think.

Have you worked a lot, in face to face couseling, with people who have gone through the same things as me?  Have any taken so long to get past it? (but not including child sexual abuse or longterm abuse.  I'm talking about a one time incident).  I'm just wondering.

Do you have any idea how long I am going to be in this really-intense-feelings state? Even a range? Any idea? Like days, weeks, MONTHS?

okay, well, it's midnight and way past my bedtime. I need to try to go to bed. Wish me luck!! 

Hope you slept well!

Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.


Most people do not know about the long thread situation. But some of the people I have worked with told me that they were contacted about having longer threads. JA does not include the Experts when these kinds of situations occur so the only way I know is from people telling me.

Thanks for sharing the story of the man you worked with on death row. I have worked with criminals in my work as well, and the stories you hear in the news are never what really goes on behind the scenes. I can respect your beliefs about the death penalty. It is a very difficult issue that really should be dealt with once and for all.

I would enjoy hearing your other story as well. I'm curious about what kind of situation these guys got themselves into!

I understand your need for the truth. But giving an opinion or just the truth as I see it is not counseling. That is someone giving you advice and counseling is not about advice. If I just gave you an opinion, you would not discover anything on your own and counseling is about you discovering what your feelings are. And feelings are not black and white nor can they be broken down into facts. They are different for everyone.

What is important here is finding out why having everything black or white is so important to you and how you learned that having it that way is the only way you can see things. Where did you learn that all things are black and white?

There seems to be a trust issue for you as well. You don't want a sugar coated truth. What makes you feel that your therapist, psychiatrist and I would tell you a sugar coated story about your situation? In other words, you feel if you are not given the black and white truth through our opinions and facts about your situation, then you are being lied to?

I don't think your need to know the truth is transference so much as your feeling that we think you acted bad during your attack. Your need to know the truth is about something else.

I have worked extensively with people who have been through traumas. In community mental health, you see anyone who needs help whatever their issues. Abuse is very common, rapes not so much because there are rape centers that specialize in helping those who have been attacked. People who are attacked either go there themselves or are referred by the doctors or police when they report the attack. The people I worked with came in for different reasons then told me about their rape later on in treatment.

There is no way to tell how long you may feel the way you do now. Each person is different and your recovery depends very much on how motivated you are and how open you are to looking at the feelings and resolving them. I understand your need to resolve this quickly. No one likes to feel so intense all the time. It's hard to cope with. But you are doing very well.

I hope you did sleep well. No nightmares maybe?


TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Not really sure if the moderators have contacted me or not, as I've not been able to access that email address on my phone because I screwed something up and haven't had time to fix it, and I haven't bothered to check it on my computer. Guess I should check it! I could be inadvertently tickin them off!
I have thought about the black-&-white and trust issues. Here's what I think: growing up, I didn't think anybody lied to me. I mean, I'm sure they did - I just never knew about it. It's not like I didn't lie growing up. I lied to my parents all the time as a teenager. But I could count on whaty parent and other important people told me, and I wasn't used to people being deceitful (or I was just unaware). Having grown up on a small town, I knew most people I went to HS with since elementary school. I had the same best friends from Kindergarten through graduation. I saw a lot of back-stabbing and meanness and stuff between my sister and her friends, but not mine. In college, I saw people not being honest as to other people, and telling people their confidences and stuff, and it bothered me, but for some reason, I didn't think they were being that way with me. I didn't have any secrets to be retold or anything, but I never thought about it. I took people at face value. I was too dumb or naive, I guess. But when that happened, it change that. I took those guys at face value, and I was dead wrong. I had no thought that what they were telling me about their friend and the car wasn't true. I wasnt even scared when I didn't see the car or when he first grabbed me. I was wrong about everything. And I thought the world was a certain way, and it wasn't. And I found out in a very painful way. I guess i felt like everything I "knew" wasn't true. I didn't know if I could trust anyone or anything.
Then, when I went to the clinic a few months later, it was a horrible experience and I didn't trust that (although I was the one who didn't tell the truth. I had the belief that they wouldn't ask me anything, which was wrong and dumb on my part).
Then, when I told my friend some time later, her initial reaction was to ask if I slept with 2 guys. I know I wasn't being clear and was having trouble saying it, but I believed that since she was a close friend, that she would know I wouldn't do that and would instinctively know what I was trying to say. But I was wrong about that. And I assumed that she would not tell anyone, simply because I told her not to, but later I found out that she told all of our friends. I was wrong about that, too.
Also, I had certain beliefs about people, like if they were really hurting someone, they would stop. I believed that I was ultimately in control of everything that happened to me. I believed that there were things I wouldn't do and wouldn't say, no matter what. I believed that if I were ever in a dangerous situation, I would stand my ground and act heroic or exceptionally. I believed and expected all of these things.
I was so wrong, and I felt like My reality was shattered. I felt like I was wrong about everything and that I couldn't trust anyone or myself and I didn't know what to believe. I felt like I lost my base. Nothing was like I thought it was. That is a horrible feeling.
I don't want to feel that way again. I don't want to believe something or trust someone and find out later I was wrong. So I want to make sure I know the truth and don't believe something that is a fallacy. I don't want to believe something because it makes me feel good or better, when I could find out later it wasn't true and feel terrible. I don't want to risk that.
I have become really good now at telling when people are lying, but I know I can't discern all the time. So it is easier not to trust most people or to be super cautious. And I just can't trust myself. I obviously mis-assessed myself and I didn't live up to my expectations. And I don't live up to them now. If I can't trust myself, why woe I trust anyone else?
Recently, I have needed to trust other people - people I had not even met - because I knew I needed help. The fact that you guys are professionals made it easier, because I assume you will comply with your ethical obligations. I do not feel like I made bad trust judgments there, but the fact that I need you guys is further proof that I misjudged myself.
Plus - let's face it - I did not handle things right. Otherwise, I wouldn't have the issues I'm having to deal with now.
So - I think all of this has resulted in my need to know the truth. I had the feel-good thoughts before about how things were and believed what I wanted to believe, and I paid a pretty big price for being wrong.
Also, I have a need to know that the people I trust are not BSing me and aren't trying to get me to believe in those feel-good-but-aren't-true things.
And in order to feel like I know the truth, I NEED to believe that there is only one truth and that things are.ack and white. If things are too subjective, there is too much room for error.
I have to be very careful because I made huge mistakes before and was wrong about everything and everyone and was wrong about myself and did things I should not have done and that we're not right. I can't live with any more guilt if I am that wrong again.
Plus, I think that I believe that if I had known the truth about the world, had known the truth about myself, hadn't so freely trusted people, I would have been able to control the situation. And I think that's true, actually. And I can't stand not bein in control. At least if I am in control and things go wrong, I know who to blame and can hopefully learn not to let it happen again. If I'm not in control, things are random and could happen again.
Thinking this through and writing this is making me want to cry and I am getting a little worked up, maybe anxious?? Is that normal? Why do I feel that way just because of this?
And by the way - I didn't mean that asking those questions or wanting the truth was transference. I meant my not trusting that L. told me the truth in the first place.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

okay ... as I have thought about this since I posted this morning, now I feel panicked. It is true that I CAN'T trust anything or anyone, including myself.

And the thing is -- you and L. and Dr. M. are telling me that I am not culpable for what I did, and that I need to get past the self-blame, but I think I have believed for so long that I am resposible, that I need to be convinced otherwise to change my pattern of thinking, and I am not convinced. And how can I be? I can't be sure whether all you guys are telling me the truth (that there is an error in my thinking) or just saying it because you want me to feel better.

Now that I think of all this, I feel totally "floating," like I have nothing to ground me. It doesn't feel good.

Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.


It sounds like you formed your views of truth and lies as a child. You believed your parents were always truthful. You had no reason to think otherwise. And from what you have told me, I'd have to agree. Your parents were honest with you even if it hurt you. This helped you develop the belief that you are in control and that everyone is truthful to you. The black and white view.

But you took those beliefs with you into the world and found out that others were not like your parents. Then you believed the two men who attacked you and that triggered your self blame. You then experienced a string of experiences where others betrayed you or hurt you and this confirmed your self blame.

Many of your comments are geared towards blaming yourself. Here are some of them:

"I took people at face value. I was too dumb or naive, I guess."

"I had the belief that they wouldn't ask me anything, which was wrong and dumb on my part."

"And I just can't trust myself. I obviously mis-assessed myself and I didn't live up to my expectations."

"but the fact that I need you guys is further proof that I misjudged myself."

"Plus - let's face it - I did not handle things right. Otherwise, I wouldn't have the issues I'm having to deal with now."

All of these comments show that you do not trust your own judgment so you look to others to guarantee for you that you will not get hurt again and end up questioning your own judgment. You want things to be black and white so you are not lied to and therefore made to feel like a failure. What you are doing is blaming yourself each time someone lies to you or deceives you. So by saying you wants the facts, you try to control the things people tell you so you don't have to blame yourself for not catching the lie or deceit.

So when Linda, Dr. M or I tell you that you are not at fault for the attack, you want proof. You want to know that we are telling the truth and you will not accept what we say until you can know for sure that we are not lying.

The problem with your logic is that there are no guarantees. You are never going to be able to live in a black and white world, sure of everyone's motives and being able to read everyone's lies on their faces. Life is not like that and neither are people. What you need to do is break this cycle. The control, self blame, shame and back to control cycle is preventing you from being able to move forward and heal.

You can ground yourself once you look at your beliefs and begin to work on changing them to healthier beliefs. Right now, you are working on keeping yourself and your world under your control. That is a false belief that can be easily shaken, which may be why you feel so upset now. But letting yourself be human and realizing that you cannot control the world and therefore prevent yourself from getting hurt is much more solid ground. Once you learn to let go and allow yourself to be human and make mistakes without blaming yourself, you feel more on solid ground.


TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

But how do I do that?

I can't stand it when people blame everyone else for anything that happens to them and choices they have made themselves. There seems to be little personal accountability in the world. A lot of people seem to have an attitude of entitlement and do not believe they have to earn what they get, and do not believe they should pay the consequences for their own choices or actions or even have to acknowledge that their choices or actions lead to consequences -- it's always someone else's fault or they are being treated unfairly or things just keep coincidentally happening to them. I do NOT want to be like that.

What is the balance? How do I get there? I feel out of control as it is. The thought of totally letting go of my well-established belief system is really scary. And it may change who I am.

And I don't understand all this. Intellectually, I guess I do, but it is confusing on the inside. I can't explain exactly what I am feeling, except that my heart hurts right now.

I don't think I should have canceled my appointment with L. today.

Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

You take it one step at a time. It is a matter of learning to trust yourself and others. You have to let yourself believe that is someone lies to you and you believe it, that is about who they are and not about who you are. You are not going to be able to trust everything everyone says to you. And when they choose to lie, it can be for different reasons. Understanding that people lie and learning how to react to that is going to make it easier for you to cope. It's when you insist that others confirm and blame yourself when you don't catch them not confirming that is the unhealthy and harmful behavior.

You also have to allow for other people's faults, issues and behavior. Some people will always blame others for choices they make themselves. It is their coping mechanism. And people will avoid being accountable. It is human nature. Just as you react to the world by wanting absolutes, other people react by blaming and avoiding responsibility. But if you let go of your need for absolutes does not make you someone who blames others. It doesn't suddenly change you into someone you are not. You will still have your beliefs. You just won't be so restrictive with your view of yourself or others behaviors.

Your well established belief system is hurting you. It is preventing you from trusting and believing what anyone tells you, including those who care about you. If a system filters out the bad along with the good, it is not a healthy system. There needs to be some give and take.

You will work this out. You are smart and insightful. It just takes time. You do not expect yourself to get used to new things right away and this is a new thing. You are trying to change your thinking which you have used to keep yourself in a false safety bubble for a long time. By changing it, you are threatening that bubble. But the bubble is hurting you and keeping out the things that make your life good and rich. Things that help you. It may feel odd for a while, but you will regain your balance and feel much better once you do.

Why don't you consider calling Linda? She invited you to call her if you needed to. You may need the contact to make you feel better. You could also see if she can fit you in tomorrow or Saturday, if she works Saturdays. It might help.


TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I posted on our newer thread. I did call Linda.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.
We can stay on this thread then or do you want to go to the other one? Confusing huh?!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Other thread :)
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Ok, see you there!