Margaret Burke Is Not Fucking Around

If you were walking down the street looking for someone to interview about their first-hand experiences of World War I, you would immediately hone in on Margaret Burke. She is old. She shuffles along, bent over and leaning on a walking stick. When she reached out to pass me a depression inventory, her hand was shaking violently.

Margaret is no soft, cuddly grandma, though. She takes no bullshit.

In the first five minutes, she’d asked a question, I’d answered, and we were sitting in silence, looking at each other.

I feel like you’re looking to me for something,” she said. “You want me to take responsibility for you, and I’m not doing that. I won’t do that.

I struggle with talking sometimes,” I said.

You mean you’re resistant to talking,” she retorted.

Later, I shared that I used to play sport every day and that I knew it was good for me, and I said I’d look into joining a gym to find out how much it’d cost.

I don’t think you really want to do it,” she said dismissively. “If you did you’d just commit to it. You can pretend it’s about money, whatever.

There will be no excuses with Margaret Burke. She called me out every step of the way. Sometimes very legitimately, so I couldn’t help but laugh, and sometimes in ways that seemed to leave no room for depression or anxiety and the barriers they put up.

Like Alina, she pointed out the incongruity of my half-smile and casual tone while I talked about the “horrific things you’ve done to yourself,” and I tried to explain, a little.

I’ve just done this so many times,” I started, and she cut me off, telling me that this was more evidence that I’m resistant and not interested in changing, that I’ve self harmed for years and I’m going to just keep on doing it. I tried to interrupt to explain that she’d misunderstood me, that what I was trying to say had nothing to do with self harm – I was talking about having done “this” (giving my history to a new mental health professional) so many times (more than 30 times in the last year) that it’s lost impact for me, that it’s just reciting things like they happened to another person. But she just raised her voice and spoke over me, then went directly into another question without giving me a chance to respond.

I’m pissed off about that. I get that she’s not afraid to argue with me, and that’s pretty refreshing, but she has to let me speak too.

She was very clear about what she’s offering. “I’m not going to stick around forever,” she said. “If you’re not making progress, you can find another therapist.” I loved this candour, the refusal to make false promises, but it makes her a bit of a wild card. I don’t want to be adrift again in another couple of months because I wasn’t meeting the goalposts.

There’s a lot to like about her. I found it incredibly challenging and confronting, though,so much that I was on the verge of tears pretty much all session. When I walked out of the door and down the street, I suddenly realized my whole body was aching, and realized I’d been tensed tight with my jaw clenched for the last hour. But I’ll always know where I stand with her, and she won’t let me pretend that a spade is anything other than a spade.

I don’t know, yet. I could make a lot of progress with her on a more superficial level, I think – eating better, working out, trialing more medications. But the part of me that likes her is the critical bootcamp part that says “See, you’re just being a lazy shit, you need to stop making excuses and fucking around, if you’re depressed it’s nobody’s fault but your own“. I approve of her approach because it feels like what I deserve, and I felt a lot more need to hurt myself last night than I did after Alina. My instinct is that I could make short-term progress but maybe not long-term change with her, but I don’t know. Maybe that’s just another excuse.

Advertisements
Margaret Burke Is Not Fucking Around

16 thoughts on “Margaret Burke Is Not Fucking Around

  1. No she certainly is not fucking around. I agree, that “tough love” kind of approach can be helpful in certain ways. Also, I think a high level of empathy will be very beneficial to you. Which I don’t foresee you getting from her? Maybe she softens over time? I like that she can see through defenses, and also, sometimes we need a more gentle approach to let our defenses down in our own time as we feel safe. Not to be strong-armed into it.
    You aren’t a lazy shit, you are traumatized and have had so many experiences of being abandoned and rejected and are naturally protecting yourself. I like that you protect yourself. It is healthy and adaptive for what has happened in your life. And I think you will learn safety, and will start to trust and feel less resistant. But it does not have to happen when someone snaps their fingers. You know?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I just had this bizarre image of her leaning in, shaking her walking stick in my face and bellowing “YOU WILL TRUST ME RIGHT NOW OR ELSE, DO YOU HEAR ME?” Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to work, Margaret. I guess the benefit is that I know what I’m getting right from the start – I find it much harder to cope when an empathetic therapist suddenly turns on the tough love approach. I’m not sure she’s the right therapist for me, but I’m also not sure whether that is really based on what I NEED or whether I’m letting what I WANT take over.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 Hard to tell, and you’re in such a tender place right now. I think intuitively you KNOW even if your wants may try to persuade one way or another, I think you are very attuned to your needs even if you don’t always follow them.

        Like

  2. This.shaking says:

    Rea: I just read this: “On The Importance of Titration for Trauma Healing” at The Art of Healing Trauma. Shared it with Betsy (my T) and, seeing I am going through STUFF, we are going to try it. B will help me. She liked this a lot. I thought of Margaret Burke when I read it. Rachel is right. You know? TS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, TS. My first thought was that I haven’t had any trauma so I shouldn’t need titration, but that isn’t a helpful thought. I love the articles you share – I’m a reader too!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I just wanted to come back and let you know that I referenced this when Margaret was pushing me too hard, and if you hadn’t shared this then I wouldn’t have had the words. Thank you TS.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This.shaking says:

        Dear Rea: I am so impressed that you are working with MB! Cheering you on! And I just love how we bloggy friends help each other! Thx: I think I needed to be reminded about titration myself today. TS

        Like

  3. Sirena says:

    Geez, Margaret Burke scares the shit out of me and makes me laugh in equal measures. I like zero bullshit, I work well with that but I also need space and empathy and some nurturing too. I hope in the next few sessions she mellows a bit and that’s just a bit of a front she puts on to newbies.

    Like

    1. Right?! I was torn between wanting to cry and wanting to give her a high five. I really value people who speak their mind but it was pretty full on. I slept through the session I was supposed to have with her yesterday (so much for the seven alarms I set…) so only one more to go before we both decide whether we want to keep seeing each other or not.

      Like

  4. she scares the shit out of me if i am honest! I’d be crying my eyes out. I like someone nurturing and warm and caring and compassionate and empathic. I hope if you do see her she will mellow out a bit. xx

    Like

    1. She was definitely a shock to the system! I like warmth and empathy too, but I haven’t made a lot of progress with my more nurturing therapists, so I’m thinking about whether I need to be pushed more (like it or not!).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t know, too harsh for me I think. I am already harsh with myself, and I really need my therapist to model empathy, so I can learn to be gentler with myself. I also know different types of therapy for different people, so if this helps you, great. Just don’t let her “no excuses” feed your negative judgment about yours.

    Like

    1. I think I’m the same – I don’t think it’ll be possible to change my self-harming without learning to be less harsh on myself. But that feels very wrong, to want empathy. And let’s be honest, whether it’s therapeutically necessary or not, hearing a compassionate response feels a lot better than being told you’re sabotaging yourself and you have to try harder, so I feel like I’m copping out, I guess. Gah. Decisions.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s