Through the door 1 – Therapy needed


Dr. Black and Stuart Jessiman

A few years back and I am living in Paris with my Irish wife who works for a large International think-tank based in the city. I work in London and return to Paris on weekends via Eurostar. I have had many ‘episodes’ in the past, but for a while now I’ve been free of them. But I am working hard redesigning a national newspaper website. The long hours and constant travel (nearly three years including flights to Dublin) is wearing me down. I begin to cycle* My attitude in work becomes more combative. More alarmingly, despite my best efforts, I argue far more with my wife often over trivial of things, but sometimes just to goad her. Why?

*I didn’t know I was cycling since at this point I didn’t know I had Bipolar.

I fall off the wagon and begin drinking heavily again which considerably worsens the situation. One second I’m laughing with my wife then, in a flash, I’m shouting loudly and punching the wall of our apartment simply because  I can hear faintly the sound of our neighbours TV. Then, within minutes I’m all smiles again. I’m verbally combative always looking for arguments and to vent opinion because I want to engage aggressively. My interactions with people are sometimes incoherent which just makes me angrier still. Physically violence once a fear is now something that is appeals. I will stare hard at men in certain situations looking for an an angry response. I want them to up the anti and see where things go. In my head there doesn’t appear to be a stop point. Just go for it…

My wife is clearly at her wit’s end. She doesn’t know what I’ll be like from one moment to another she tells me later.

But despite realising my behaviour is returning to a hypomanic/depressive state, I am reluctant to seek therapy of any type.

But as the weeks pass by the situation worsened. She has had to come to the UK to collect me from Heathrow because I am too drunk to find my plane. Something must be done or my wife, this woman I love would soon become my ex. My wife accesses her work Intranet to find a list of therapists. But which one do we choose?

We go through the names of Therapists, Psychotherapists, Psychiatrists, Cognitive Behaviour Therapists,Tree-hugging Pagans, Soothsayers…In truth we simply don’t know which one is suitable because at this point neither of us know I am Bipolar. To my mind a handful of pills to calm a racing mind is the extent of my therapeutic ambitions. Fortunately, more by luck than judgement, we select an American who’s been doing therapy of some sort or another for some twenty-five years. We don’t know at this stage if we have chosen someone who will prove to be the right therapist for me. I phone the therapist and book an appointment. I put the phone down. ‘A New Yorker?’ Americans love therapy. I’m sure she will be fine.

The following ‘Through The Door’ blogs describes my introduction to the therapist Dr. Suzanne Black, the work done on establishing a working relationship and how I come to trust her and her judgement. Once trust is established what issues are discussed following my Bipolar diagnosis.

This is simply my story and it is not a template for how to do therapy! But it may resonate with one or two people who like me find therapy hard and who struggle to work or trust therapists. Throughout my narrative Dr. Suzanne Black interjects her analyses, assessments and observations that explain why I’m saying and thinking what I am. In short, it is the story of the interaction of therapist and patient who finally finds courage to walk through the therapist’s door.

There is no end to the story of course because like many of you despite coping mechanisms and medication I can still have episodes, but they are rarely as bad as they use to be. Better still I haven’t drunk for four years. Yes, therapy was not the worse thing I could have done.