Monday, September 18, 2006

Dilemmas of Love

Marisol is fifteen years old, and she has one connection outside of Klingberg- her mother. She hears from her mother occasionally, and there is great love between them. Some times her mother is so overwhelmed with her own health issues and survival needs that she is unavailable for Marisol. Marisol worries about her and reacts desperately to the ups and down of their relationship. Marisol has so little ability to manage her feelings, put them into words or ask for help. Things happen, she experiences strong intolerable feelings, and she acts out. However, lately she has shown some improvement and has generally been much safer.

Marisol formed a very close and intense relationship with an older girl on the unit, Jasmine. The girls became a couple and were “going out”. At times this caused difficulty, as Marisol reacted intensely whenever Jasmine was unresponsive or was having trouble herself. But generally Jasmine was kind, a positive leader, mother-like and caring towards Marisol. Jasmine helped her learn to stay relatively calm, and encouraged her to feel more hopeful.

Jasmine was discharged to a supported apartment program. This was hard for Marisol, but she used adult help to get through it. They stayed in close phone contact. The team had to put some limits on the timing and amount of phone calls just so that Marisol would participate in other activities.

Sadly Jasmine is not doing too well. She has been missing from her program, skipping school, and is said to be hanging out with an older man. There was a scare that she was pregnant- luckily this proved not to be true. Marisol calls her, and sometimes Jasmine calls, but not as much. Marisol is often upset by her calls with Jasmine, or by having to end them, and she is worried about her. This relationship is replicating her relationship with her mother. Recently, Marisol was hospitalized after a visit with Jasmine.

To many it seems obvious that we should end Marisol’s contact with Jasmine. When we suggested this, Marisol said please, no, she could not bear it. We have now talked about a period of stability followed by supervised calls. Can we use this situation to help Marisol learn how to survive relationship troubles? Can she possibly plan how to handle the distress she may feel after a call without doing anything unsafe, and can she use adult help to carry out these plans? We believe in the power of relationships-should we take away one of the two people this girl loves? Or are we doing her a disservice by allowing a destructive connection? What would you do?

1 comment:

Marcia Brubeck said...

I would debrief Marisol after a phone call with Jasmine. I would ask her what's up with Jasmine, what her (Marisol's) concerns are for Jasmine, how she feels about Jasmine's treatment of her, and any other questions that would seem likely to elicit Marisol's feelings about her friend and their relationship. Then I would help her deal with the boundary issues--the things that are hers to worry about and those that are Jasmine's problems--and discuss the idea that Marisol's feelings are her responsibility and Jasmine's, hers, because we are all, each of us, responsible for taking care of our own feelings. That said, I would suggest a joint session, facilitated by the therapist, so that Marisol could learn how to honor her feelings and communicate them appropriately to Jasmine. Both girls could be invited to make requests of each other in the context of the relationship, and both could be debriefed at the end to learn how they felt the session had affected their relationship.