Friday, 11 May 2018
Release Date: 15th May 2018
This book consists of ten case histories that cover a wide range of themes from obesity to depression. One woman is trying to come to grips with past memories, another cannot escape from a passionate love with no future, an adolescent immigrant is trying to overcome a persistent stammer, a fifty-year-old man decides to separate from the love of his life rather than compromise with his principles.
Writing in the first person, the dramatherapist describes her reactions to and interaction with the client as well as some of the techniques used in the therapeutic process. The stories are based on real cases, but in order to conform to the story-telling genre they contain a beginning, middle and end, which is not always the case in real life.
Dancing with demons
I was sitting in my Athens office one overcast day in late February when Laura phoned me. She had a flat unemotional voice. “Do you deal with people who are overweight?” she said plainly.
I said that I did deal with people who were overweight, which was a slight misrepresentation of the truth, as I was only just embarking on my PhD in dramatherapy with overweight women. So, her call came as a positive omen. We made an appointment for the next day.
On the phone she had given me no idea of her current weight. She could have been anything from 60 to 160 kilos. So, I was prepared for anything. When I saw her framed in the doorway in a rather masculine mackintosh, I had the feeling I was facing a wall. She was plain and unmade-up, with a solemn face. It wasn’t until we were in my office and she lowered herself into the armchair opposite me that I realised just how big she was. I guessed she must have been about 120 kilos. In fact, I was out by 23 kilos. She informed me that she was 143.
From her stern countenance, I knew I would have to tread carefully. I wondered whether her extra weight was a shield, a thick padding against a hostile world. I had seen it before. It could take weeks, even months, to penetrate her defensive wall, and weeks more to flush out her demons, who or whatever they were. Was she aware of them? Would she try to hide them from me, as she had no doubt been hiding them from herself and from everyone else?
I could see in her pale face and graceless demeanour a battered pride, still intact, but fragile. I had to be careful not to let her dig too deep too quickly for fear of bringing the wall crashing down around her before she had managed to reinforce it. I needed to establish her trust, allow her to understand that my intention was not to break down her defences, leaving her exposed and vulnerable, but to help her create a state where she was in control of her own life. I would let her tell me her story, piecemeal, in her own way and in her own time, so that together we could uncover and deal with her furtive demons.
She started at the very beginning, even before her birth, which, as she explained to me, had not been an easy one. Laura’s mother had had two previous pregnancies, losing both embryos, the first one early on, the second at five months. The second had been a boy and therefore an added disappointment for her old-fashioned Greek parents for whom a boy was a blessing and a girl a burden. After she lost the second child, her mother went into a depression but she did manage to become pregnant again. This time she took no chances and stayed in bed for most of her time. So, the relationship between mother and daughter was strained before she was even born, only to be further exacerbated on her first day in this world by a complication with the birth. The umbilical cord got wrapped around her throat and face and it was a miracle she survived at all.
For the first two years of life, Laura had a mark on her face, which faded in time, but apparently not, it seemed, without leaving a scar beneath the surface, visible to no one, not even to Laura herself perhaps. Baby Laura was not the image her mother had had of the perfect child. In fact, it appears she was quite ashamed of this blemished creature, as no photos were allowed to be taken of her as long as those marks were still on her face. Laura said that it was as if she only came into existence when the marks of imperfection had disappeared. I couldn’t help wondering which stigma had done the most damage, the one on her face or that left by her mother’s shame.
Before You Let the Sun In, is out May 2018, published by Sphinx, an imprint of AEON Books, priced £14.99 each. For more information see:http://www.aeonbooks.co.uk/