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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5810
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Kate: I have a question. Yesterday I went to church and the

Customer Question

Kate: I have a question.
Yesterday I went to church and the pastor, in his message, was talking about how God says once he forgives, he chooses to forget, and also a little about handing things over to God. During the invitation, even though I was singing on praise team, I felt like I needed to pray with someone, so I put my mic down and went down and talked to the pastor and he prayed with me. I decided I can't care what anyone thinks. Anyway, he knows a bit about what I am dealing with (from Debra, who is his wife). He prayed and then started to tell me something, but we realized that basically everyone was waiting for us, and they were having to start the song over. So he said he'd tell me later.
I ended up going out to lunch with a group, even though I was so tired, because a couple was there from another town 3 hours away. They had been temporarily transferred here for a year a few year ago, and I love them. They are so cool and wow - so smart. She is paralyzed from the waste down and just had another surgery, so I wanted to hear about how she was doing and they had asked if I would go, so I did and it was not bad, despite the fact that Jim, at al were there.
Anyway, after lunch, the pastor was telling me about their friend in Virginia (he didn't realize I had been emailing with her). Then he told me that one of his fellow pastors had counseled her. He had been in Vietnam and I guess one of the things that the Vietcong did was set traps with things that would bury deep in a person, and they were dipped in dung so that it would cause infection. He didn't have access to antibiotics or a hospital. The wound did infect and was getting worse. He said he knew that he would die if he didn't take care of it. He had to open up the festering wound without pain meds and scrape out all the infection and then pour boiling water on his arm. The pastor said that's where I am right now. But it is what needs to be done. I thought it was an interesting analogy.
He also told me that this other pastor had used a workbook in counseling this woman, and still claimed that it was the best. He didn't know what it was. I emailed debra's friend and asked if she remembered what it was called.
The pastor said he (along with Debra, if I would feel more comfortable) would be glad to go through the workbook with me. I thought that was nice.
Here's my question: assuming I get the workbook and am interested in doing it, would it be better for me to ask Linda to do it with me, or to go through it myself or to do it with the pastor. Would that be getting too many people involved here?
Good news, however, is that even though I thought I probably opened myself up to more questions by stopping singing to go down and pray with the pastor, but it couldn't matter, it seems to have had an unexpected benefit. When I went back up, and when the pastor was praying with the congregation, both of the other female singers were very sweet and just put their arms around me because they could tell I was upset. But nobody asked a thing after church, even at lunch. It was such a relief. It made them (even Jim) back off, it seems. that is awesome!
He was a little rude, but just in his general way, and he didn't pry at all. I was asking who some woman was, because she came up and asked me all these legal questions after church and was very passively aggressively expecting me to do a bunch of work for her by her divorce trial wed (I don't even do that kind of work) because she apparently is unhappy with her own lawyer, who is doing it for free, and he doesn't want to pay another divorce lawyer. I didn't tell anyone anything she asked me, but I was trying to figure out if I should know who she is, even, because as far as I know, I've never seen her before (as an aside, I was very irritated by this). It's hard, because our church has like 800 members. Turns out she is fairly new and I wouldn't have known her. But one of the women at lunch commented that it is hard, because everyone knows who I am and my name, since I sing all the time, but I don't know who they are. Jim said "yeah - everyone knows you because you're the 'star'". I shot him the dirtiest look I could give, and he said "whoa ... Well, it's true.". I asked him if he got the full effect of my look or if I needed to slap him also. He apologize and shut up. I think he was embarrassed, but he brought it on himself.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

I am happy to hear that you got so much support from people at church yesterday (except Jim)! That is wonderful.

Doing the workbook with the pastor and his wife depends very much on how much of your past you want them to know. There is no rule that says you cannot get help from any source you want to during therapy. The only concern is that you get different messages from different sources. And when you are vulnerable, that can cause conflict for you. As long as you are aware of that, then any help you get is up to you. If you are ok with the pastor and Debra knowing some of your deeper issues and you feel safe with them knowing that, then that is ok. In a way, it's really no different than you doing it yourself, though you might have their input to think about. I might mentioned it to Linda too so you can see what she thinks.

There is also no rule that says you can't work on it with Linda at the same time. That might be overkill, but there could be parts you get stuck on, or the pastor could say something you are not sure about. Checking in with Linda would be like a safety measure so you know you are on the right path.

That analogy about the Vietnam vet was excellent. It is a good example of what therapy helps you do. It is awful to face your problems and digging into them is painful, but once you get it all out you can heal.

I'm sorry to hear that Jim's issues put a wrench in your day. He seems a bit jealous and may have a bad self esteem.

I share your caution about the woman who approached you in church about legal issues. You don't know her and therefore it's hard to gauge her motivation in asking you for help. If her current attorney is working for her for free, she may expect the same from you. And no one wants to get into that kind of mess where you are working for someone who is demanding and expects you to work for free. I'm not sure of how your field handles that, but it could get sticky.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.


I will definitely talk to Linda about the Pastor/workbook thing. And I am waiting to find out if Debra's friend even remembers what it was called. And it could be it is great for childhood sexual abuse, but not for my situation or that I look at it and just don't want to do it.

I didn't think about the fact that I may have to share more about things with the pastor and Debra if I went through it with them - never dawned on me. I guess I thought that what I had shared with Debra and what she told her husband would be enough. I don't really think I want to share the details with them - partially because I don't want or need them to know, partially because I have to see them all the time and I would be embarassed/ashamed, and partially because sharing those things will cause me upset, and I don't really want to get upset in front of them. I do not think they would react badly, and I know they care about me and that I am special to them. I think much of that has to do with the fact that I remind them a lot of their middle daughter, who they adore and who will be shortly returning to Africa to continue with missions (she has been back for a while because she returned when her sister's husband died last summer. She leaves mid-July to go back). Debra has told me so many times how much me and her daughter are alike, way before I even met her. (And Debra was actually correct - I can see, now that I have spent some time with that daughter. She is totally different than their other 2). This means a great deal to me, because I love them, too, and I know that Debra appreciates me partially because as a head pastor's wife, she has to be careful about friendships, and sometimes people have the wrong motivations for wanting to be her friend or are super-judgmental. (Which is funny. I told her the I became friends with her in spite of her being married to the pastor. I told her I didn't want to have to be watching my mouth all the time, etc.) They are both totally down to earth and real, and Debra actually has a similar sense of humor to me, which was surprising. The pastor is a servant to the core. They also live about 2-3 blocks away from us. I also appreciate their treating me as my parents do not, and they are great with their daughters and granddaughters. But still - the details may be more than I want them to know, or more than they even want to know, and expressing intense emotions with them may be too much for me. They are very emotional people. He may start crying in the middle of a sermon while telling a story - or at the dinner table when he recounts a time Debra was close to death. So they may think it's normal, but that is different form the way it makes me feel when I express such feelings.

And I can't get mad at them or push back or things that I might be inclined to do with Linda.

I seriously did not think about the fact that I would probably have to share details. I am so glad you pointed that out.

I think Linda will think it is a good idea, because she wants me to experience others' reactions and to not feel so ashamed for people to know. And she was so pleased I told Debra, and pleased with Debra's reaction, and that she put me in touch with her friend. I don't know that the pastor would actually be giving me advice or anything - I thought just having someone to be there while did it, and help to see things more clearly, etc. But I don't know - because really, I have no clue what such a "workbook" would be like. So I don't know how much potential there is for contradictions. You and Linda contradict each other. But I am able to sort it out, usually based on the fact that you both know different amounts about different issues/aspects of things. Like, I have talked more with you about my childhood and parents. Linda and I have talked more about it than we had, and I'm sure will touch on it more, but I knew your assessment of the situation was likely to be more accurate, since you knew a lot more. Sometimes I have spent 2 days discussing an issue with you, and only 5 minutes in a session discussing it with Linda - so you have more on which to base any assessment/suggestions. On the other hand, there are things that come up in sessions with Linda that you and I just have not had occasion or reason to discuss. So she would probably be in a better position to assess those things. Also, sometimes, despite the fact that I may have discussed it more with one or the other, I just have a feeling which way to go, or maybe I just recognize I need to explore it further. So I don't think I will have any issue with that, and feel comfortable saying to him: "that's not what my therapist said," or saying the same thing to Linda, or to you.

BUT - I think the considerations are: (1) whether I want to share all these embarrassing details with them and whether I am willing to share intense emotions with them; (2) the time factor - I don't have all the time in the world to be seeing Linda and them and working by myself on things, etc. I would have to decide whether it will help and whether it is worth the additional time commitment (whereas, with Linda, I would do it during my regular therapy times, which are already going to be part of my schedule (although I could reduce it to once a week for a while if need be). On the other hand, I need to look at what it is and see whether it would make sense for me to take up our therapy time working on that and setting aside the other things I'm working on. (3) I need to know how Linda feels about it and take it into consideration; and (4) the other thing to consider is that, although Linda is a Christian, it might be a really good thing to get the pastor's theological perspective on all this and my reactions and participation and situation.

Hmmn ....... I guess the first thing I need to do is look at the workbook.

As for the woman asking legal advice - yes, she wanted it for free. I frequently do pro bono work, and will try to help people out when they can't afford it, but #1 - she was totally rude and didn't even introduce herself (which is why I thought maybe I should know her); #2 - she didn't ask me if I could do her a favor or help her or anything - she said "I need to talk to you..." then just basically was telling me I need to do things for her; #3 - I don't even practice that kind of law, and specifically refuse to practice any kind of family law, and told her that; #4 - She wanted me to do something in a 2-day period, on an emergency basis, and seemed to not care when I told her I had court, appointments, and other clients' work to do and couldn't do anything quickly; #5 - she wanted me to call her attorney and tell her what to do. I explained that I was not going to do that, since I knew none of the facts and am not familiar with that type of law - I would not call someone and presume to tell them how to do their job, and her response was that she could fax me info she had and I could do research and then call her attorney; and, finally, #6 - I offered to refer her to another attorney who does practice this kind of law, but said she would likely have to pay them, and also, she probably could not get any attorney here to handle the case since there was a trial on Wednesday 3 hours away, and if anyone could, even who practiced their, they'd probably require a premium fee. Her response was that she qualified for free legal aid. I informed her that legal aid in Albuquerque doesn't even handle divorce cases, to my knowledge (maybe they do now, in which case she should call them back), and that I was totally unfamiliar with whatever organization helped her get free representation in this other county, but just because she was low income did not mean she was entitled to free legal services from any attorney, unless they agreed to do it for free. So there was NO WAY I would have agreed to help her for free, even if it was within my area of practice, because she was rude and apparently feels entitled. Plus - it is absolutely unreasonable for her to expect me to do research, look over a ton of documents, and make calls for her for free within 48 hours.

If I had had the time and it was in one of my practice areas, and she had been nice or at least asked for help and didn't demand it, I may have considered it, as I am pretty liberal with free help when people need it and appreciate it, but that was not how she was. And in any event, I don't appreciate being trapped after church for a long time being asked legal questions and pushed to do things for people. The least they could do is just ask for my office number. I gave her my office number right off the bat and told her to call me during the week, but she just kept talking. I don't want to be rude - especially at church, but she was rude and she shouldn't pounce on me when we have just finished the service and I'm still up at the alter and just putting my mic away. It's very inconsiderate. I used to have problems with this all the time at church, and I started leaving during the offertory just so I didn't have to deal with it, but it's gotten much better. But the more I think about that woman and when I was telling Jamie (warning her in case the woman called), the more angry I get. I don't understand when people are so disrespectful, yet feel entitled to my time and expertise for free without even asking, and then are pushy and whiney about it. Next time it happens, I think I should just say "It is Sunday, and I am at church and just finished worshiping and I do not handle work matters at church. Here's my office number. You can call during the week." Uggh. It just infuriates me so much.

Okay .... I was just babbling. I am obviously really mad about it - I didn't realize how mad it made me. :)


Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

I agree with your points about the book and going over it with your pastor and Debra. There is a lot to consider. But first seeing what type of book it is would be helpful! :)

I can understand how you feel about the woman who talked to you at church about being her attorney. The assumption that you would do things for her without pay is quite presumptuous! I believe that most people would feel as you do.


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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

It wasn't the fact that she wanted free work - I'm sure whoever told her I was an attorney also told her I help people a lot for free. It was her presumptiveness, he rudeness, her sense of apparent entitlement, and the fact that she feels she can corner someone she doesn't know, at church, about work matters, without any consideration of my feelings or the fact that that is my time away from work or anything. The wanting me to work for free is a minimal issue. The expectation of it and invasion of my time and my space is a bigger issue.

Well, off to my appointment with Linda.

Debra sent me the most encouraging, nice texts this afternoon. It was very supportive and nice. And needed.

Have a good one.

Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Have a good appointment! Let me know how it goes.


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
It sucked. I feel terrible. I need to take a break from talking about this stuff for a while.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

I am sorry to hear that Shay. I understand your need to take some time off. I'll be here when you feel ready to talk.


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