Meet Mark: Part III

The second of three articles focused attention on Mark and his wife, Lucy. She wasn’t able to join us for the first therapy session. At that session, Mark provided a brief overview of what he labeled as depression. Symptoms remarkable to include irritability, anger and quiet were noted. The second session brought attention to the couple. Lucy took center stage. She provided more specific information regarding her worry for Mark. Even the boys were scared. The description offered light about an active family. Both parents are gainfully employed. They play video games and watch television. They eat early dinner together. If I close my eyes, this brief information may paint the picture of a healthy family. Yet, Mark isn’t doing well.

Lucy described Mark’s moods, onset about a year, as out of character, unfamiliar. Mark’s demeanor, humor and mood have been impacted. Lucy says the marriage is well. Though I didn’t yet pursue this area in greater detail, I’m going to focus on the transformation of Mark’s character.

I wanted to know about any medical concerns. Mark, how is your physical health? Sometimes, when a chracter transformation occurs, we need to rule out any medical problems. Have you been ill this past year, give or take? Have you had a recent complete physical including blood work? How’s your appetite. Describe your sleep patterns. Mark looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, glanced at Lucy and stated, “I’m physically fine. I’m not ill. I eat well. I haven’t seen my family doctor this year. Sleep, well, I am restless. Sometimes I wake up in a start. Then I have trouble getting back to sleep. Then, I have to push myself to get through a work day. My job is demanding. We have to keep the shop in peak running condition. Something breaks down, I or others have to fix it quickly. Like I said Marshall, I like what I do.”

Lucy, how has this self-described year affected you? Lucy took a deep breath. “This has been hard for me. The newness of Mark’s problem has me upset. I love Mark dearly. We are doing well. Seeing him out of sorts goes deep for me and I know for the boys too. I have to weigh my words. When Mark is restless in his sleep, it wakes me up. I don’t say anything. I know he feels badly about himself and how the four of us are affected. I’m a nurse, a fixer of problems. I don’t know how to fix mark. I’m not clear even about the source of his problems. I know it’s not us. What do we do, Marshall?”

Mark, what is work like? You mentioned twice that you like your job. Given the years, can I assume you are highly skilled and, therefore, that’s not problematic? Mark looked solemnly at me, got flushed in his face, and then blurted out, “Hey, you want to know my problem, a problem I didn’t want to bring home?” I nodded. Go on Mark. “I work with four other guys. We’ll talk politics. Clearly, their collective beliefs differ from mine like 180 degrees. They rode hard on me for weeks until I stated my political position. Now, they don’t tease. They say harsh and cruel statements not only about my beliefs, but also my character. For me to hold to my political beliefs meets a daily dose of put-downs. Usually I can take it Marshall. In this case, they cut me no slack. This is serious stuff. I’m cut off socially at work. They eat lunch separately. They don’t include me in after-work drinks. This and other unmentionables have weighed me down. I’m helpless. This isn’t an issue to talk up with HR. They are entitled to their opinion. They rip my opinion and my character. I’m exhausted.”

We decided to continue therapy to include Mark and Lucy. Studies have revealed rifts in intimate family and friendships during this last year in the political arena.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.