Dreamed 1992/4/28 by Wayan
The first dream a patient has in therapy (or the dream that drives them to seek therapy) can suggest issues and approaches. Alan's Office is a dream at the start of therapy that suggested... trouble. But I was so desperate I ignored its warning!
I had chronic illness--pelvic pain, headaches, blood in my nostrils, dizziness. Allergy shots helped a little--only a little. The slightest stress triggered attacks. Doctors called it stress and said to see a therapist. I knew they were half-right; I did have big issues that worsened my stress. But stress usually doesn't make you feel like someone kicked you in the head and crotch till you bleed. Why did I react so physically? I needed medical help too.
Anyway, I knew my problems were odd, so I shopped around--asked friends for referrals. I liked one therapist, Ana, but dreamed she was great for abuse victims but that in my case her hands were tied! That taught me such dreams could be revealing, nuanced... specific.
I got a referral to a guy we'll call Alan. I made an appointment. Two days before our first meeting...
I'm meeting Alan--first therapy session. Strangely, he has me meet him in a school--in the basement. In an awkward little room or nook with an open archway--no door, no privacy! We talk. He turns, intermittently, into a therapist I saw years ago who was no help. Ominous!
Then we're interrupted. A big woman blunders into the room. She wants another department--a supply room? He says, annoyed "It's across the hall--you know, under the sign saying SUPPLY DEPOT? Not like the sign outside THIS room saying THERAPIST!" Clearly frustrated and embarrassed at his crummy makeshift office.
I crack jokes about it, unsure what else to do, parody it as I complain about my life. "Gee doc, I feel like there's no space in my life... no privacy... like I have no boundaries."
But when I get serious I talk about physical illness. "Stress gives me pelvic pain, dizziness, headaches, I see spots before my eyes... I see a big one right now! Worries me."
He DOESN'T ask--and I think he should--if I've had a checkup lately. Couldn't this be something medical? At least it should be considered and eliminated.
But he seems quite deaf to the physical side of my problems.
TWO DAYS LATER
First appointment with Alan. His physical office is nice--upstairs, with a view. So why that narrow, blind space in my dream? Is it his mental space, or the social space we have in common? Yet he said he's rather Jungian, so we have dreamwork in common. Why the discrepancy?
SIX FRUSTRATING MONTHS LATER
Alan's been ignoring the body half of my little mind-body problem. He's all about feeeelings. I'm in way more physical than emotional pain. Last week, I asked Alan to think of medical referrals for me. But after a week, he can't think of a single person to see on the medical end--whether hypnosis, bodywork, allergies, stress, or depression meds (though I suspect my serotonin's fine; it's my adrenals that are low-to-exhausted). His excuse: "I work with emotions, don't know much about other modes." I say "I feel you hid that from me." He says "I never hide from you, I made that choice early." And then promptly proves this false. He says "I admit I'm not much into dreams, it's not my way of getting to things, and I recognize now that perhaps that makes us a poor fit!" Perhaps? For six months I've felt he was weirdly tone-deaf to my dreams--when I'd said up-front I'm a dreamworker. He's kept dismissing my complaints that he belittled my core process. Crazy Wayan, just projecting.
In fact he adds (again without seeing it contradicts his "I hide nothing"): "When I myself was in therapy, I often complained that my therapist was not intelligent enough, was not following me. This turned out to be part of the therapeutic process--what I really needed from him, and what changed me, was nurturance, emotional acceptance." So it must be true for me, too. I must really not want the concrete diagnostic, behavioral help, coaching and referrals I asked for. He knows best!
I get sympathy from others in my life, thank you very much. They're called friends.
A costly, six-month dead end. Time to cut my losses. Alan misrepresented what he offered. Lesson: don't assume professionalism means understanding or even honesty. My wariness isn't a projection as Alan says; it's hard-won knowledge of problems (diagnostic and otherwise!) that poorly-understood minorities face.
Action: seek therapies I can test, whether dietary, behavioral, medical, or hybrid.
I should have heeded that dream.
I talked to nearly twenty therapists till I found one my dreams liked. She worked on my emotional issues--extensive, as I suspected--but also pushed me to test various medical hypotheses. Most didn't pan out, like migraine meds... and mood elevators actually made me sicker. But...
Through trial and error I found I had severe gluten sensitivity--allergists had assured me I didn't, of course! Yet I proved it--turned my pelvic pain off & on, repeatedly. I quit wheat, oats & barley, and got better. And stayed better.
Next I tested a theory I had an undiagnosed infection--Lyme or similar. I tried strong antibiotic herbs, and got better. So I talked a doctor into trying high, sustained doses of antibiotics. I got better--again. And stayed better.
Twenty years after Alan I was way better but still had no diagnosis for my remaining symptoms--until, one day, my friend Lily read Sam Kean's The Violinist's Thumb. Kean argues that the musical prodigy Paganini had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a mutation causing weak stretchy collagen. Rubbery joints let him play incredibly but shortened his life. Lily saw I had the same markers as Paganini! I went through the EDS Society's checklist of (quite distinctive) markers, and forced a doctor to do the same--and she had to concur--it was EDS. My fragile joints & dislocations, bloodvessels that bleed & bruise at a touch, impaired immunity & many chronic infections, stress-vulnerability, and often high-functioning autism, are a syndrome named over a century ago. Yet decades of doctors and shrinks missed it and offered me... sympathy. For a fee. Like Alan.
Here's a chart showing my life... with & without health coverage. You see any correlation between doctors and health? I see zero. Could have been worse! One doctor offered opioids; I said no. Silly me.
So... yay Shelley, yay Lily! And boo, most doctors, therapists... experts.
MORAL: when experts assess you, trust your dreams' assessment of them. Narrow, viewless? Move on!
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