When Great Story-Telling Meets Humour and Compassion
The Compassion Junkie: From Diapers to Depends, It Never Ends! chronicles the true adventures of a slightly mad, zany psychotherapist with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), and a wild sense of humor. Think Bridget Jones meets the Buddha.
Written over three ski seasons, after running away to Whistler, B.C. in radical acts of self- care, Gould’s hilarious yet unexpectedly moving stories will have you laughing, crying and commiserating all at the same time. Anyone who has ADHD, had children, had parents, anxiety, hemorrhoids or suffered from feeling like they were a ‘human doing’ versus a ‘human being’, will appreciate the chairlift musings of how to get through this wild adventure called life. Throughout the book it becomes clear that life is a slippery slope especially when one has more compassion for others than compassion for self.
The chronic caregiver, recipient of the Governor General of Canada’s sovereign medal for volunteers, a Canadian honour, shares her lifetime journey from ‘First tracks’ (childhood) to Apres ski (not dead yet!) slaloming through the easy green runs in life, to facing the soul-sucking black diamond slopes. Professional psychotherapist Gaye Gould explores the challenges, the heartbreak and the pure joy of helping others, on her profound journey to helping herself.
Read a Passage of the Book
A Bad Case of Gas
It was Hallowe’en weekend and the little ghosts and goblins had yet to appear at our door. I was 9 months pregnant and off work for a grand total of one day, feeling quite anxious and bored and not sure what to do with myself. Being a psychotherapist and working in private practice so defined my sense of self-worth and wellbeing that I was quite lost without the reassuring familiarity of listening to others’ angst.
I had mastered the art of compassion for pretty much everyone else, but self-compassion was a foreign concept, one I had yet to discover.
Previous to this pregnancy it had looked like I wasn’t going to have any kids of my own, so I’d been banking on one of my twelve nieces and five nephews taking pity on me and caring for me in my old age. I figured one diaper change deserved another!
I had hit my mid- thirties, single and quite sure I would never marry again, given my starter husband had left with my heart and my one good suitcase, but then I found a guy that seemed to have all the qualities I would want in a sperm donor. Bruce was also very kind and nice to me and I thought that might bode well for fathering, if I was able to keep him around long enough to help me out with the odd parenting responsibility. I was able to tick a lot of the boxes with Bruce and he had pointed out that at 36, my free-range eggs weren’t getting any younger. True - And given the fact I had attended some workshops on child psychology, helped raise my younger siblings, babysat other people’s kids over the years without killing them, or seeming to cause any real harm, and gave parenting advice to patients (much like priests who give marital advice to couples, go figure) I decided to get pregnant and end life as I had known it.
On the other hand, I had always stayed away from working with children. Colleagues who are child psychologists, gluttons for punishment as far as I can tell, get a lot of referral business from me. Teenagers terrified me. All that hormonal craziness and poor impulse control. Still, it would take thirteen years for a baby to evolve into a teenager and since that seemed to be far off in the safety of future land I decided to throw caution to the wind and jump in with both feet. Of course, the ADHD pathways tend to have a mind of their own fueled with a longing for excitement and adventure, and this was often at the root of my decision-making process.
I read somewhere there is a theory that fetus’ choose their mothers, perhaps their fathers too, and I suppose that would make sense since it takes two to tango. Poor Graham. He has always been a bit directionally challenged, so I figure he went to the wrong uterus! He probably was supposed to land and live in a very cosmopolitan and exciting city, with a mother who could competently answer his never-ending steam of complicated questions, but he turned right instead of left!
I really didn’t pay much attention in the couple of child birthing preparation classes I managed to make it to. It just seemed so complicated, not to mention terrifying, and as well when you have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), sitting still listening to how one is supposed to pant and breathe is simply mind numbingly boring. I just wanted to get ‘er done.
I had a psychoanalyst in grad school who felt that my repeated use of the word “boring” was noteworthy. She would stroke her chin, (at least she didn’t have a beard) and say, “Tell me more about what is ‘boring you.’” I would say, “Don’t you mean boring to you?” She would look quizzical and say, “Tell me more,” and I would just say, “Boring, like I need to get the hell out of here and do something more exciting.” Her rebuttal would be “Boring, like something boring through you, like an excavator bores through rock uncovering something else?” And I would look at her and I would think “Wow, I am paying $65.00 an hour, American for that” (and the exchange rate for this Canadian student was 25 cents on the dollar in 1981!). I was broke and clearly unenlightened, a psychological dunce and unable to understand that boring feelings come when we are getting too close to the inner truth, and consequently we want to run as far and as fast as we can from the psychoanalyst’s couch and our inner, deeply hidden turbulence. However, I hadn’t realized yet that I had ADD, so boring was probably just frigging boring, and I was already onto the next sparkly ball that was vying for my neuropathway attention.
Anyway, besides not paying attention in those boring birthing classes, I also had not paid attention when my doctor told me my due date. I am not particularly good at focusing on matters pertaining to myself, and truth be told I was terrified of having this child. The whole process of having another human being growing inside me, another human being who’d pop out and start doing his own thing – this was so much more than other things that had been out of my control. In the past I have had a strong need to be in control and birthing babies is about as far as you can get from feeling you are in control and therefore able to stop the process if it is getting a little too anxiety provoking! If I had still been seeing my $65.00 psychoanalyst, I think she would have said, “Maybe there is a reason you are forgetting your due date, maybe you are in denial?” I think she’d be right.
Months went by. I knew I was quite pregnant, but I was too embarrassed to ask the doctor again, or I’d just prefer not to know when the babe was due. This happened a lot to me because when you have ADD you often have memory processing issues along with learning disabilities, and I was quite regularly in the mode of fake it ‘til you make it.
The night before Halloween, the sperm donor and I went to a really loud outer space type of movie and I returned home feeling a very disturbing cosmic shift inside my soul. I don’t sleep well at the best of times, unless I am firmly nestled in my beloved Rocky Mountains, and was tossing and turning as well as a beached whale is capable of. I also had some stomach issues, which I put down to eating too much buttered popcorn at the movie theatre.
The next morning, Oct 31st, I got out of bed and decided to go shopping for Halloween candy. Each step I took around the mall felt like someone was pulling my legs out of their sockets. I felt a profound sense of dread. ‘Oh my God’, I thought, ‘Am I ………?’ ‘No,’ I told myself, ‘I must be coming down with the flu’.
I persevered, got the treats and went home. I feel I am a human “doing” versus a human “being” and back then it was difficult for me to just allow myself to do nothing and rest. Instead, I did what any self-respecting OCD’er (Obsessive Compulsive Doer) does, which was wash the floor, do the laundry, clean the fridge and waited for the goblins to come calling. I had a very good role model for this, my mother, who was the quintessential queen of multi-tasking, never placing herself before doing for others. I later realized this was her coping strategy for avoiding and suppressing feelings that were getting too close to the surface.
The pains in what I perceived to be my stomach area were intensifying and I said to myself, “This has got to be gas. Yes,” I reassured myself firmly, it’s just gas, the worst I have ever had, but gas nonetheless!”
Trick or treaters began to arrive. Depending on whether or not I was in the grip of a gas pain I’d answer the door grimacing like a tortured, overweight witch, or smiling like a friendly, pregnant, but anxious neighbour.
With that thankfully over I went to bed saying, “Bruce I am pooped and need to sleep, because unlike you, I didn’t sleep after that awful movie last night.” He made some commiserating noises and said he would join me shortly. I proceeded not to sleep for several hours, and around 2:00 am gave up and had the brilliant idea that my gas pains would like to have a bath. In my family of origin we loved nothing more than being put in the bath, two at once, to save water of course, and tooting to see who could make the biggest bubbles! We would laugh uproariously – oh for the days that innocent farts replicating motor boat noises can cause serotonin levels to soar! Who needs Prozac when you are an expert gas expeller? But this night, alas, I couldn’t expel any of my gas.
Gingerly, getting into the tub because once I was down it was almost impossible to get back up in my state of advanced pregnancy, I drifted in and out of consciousness, aware enough that it wouldn’t be a good idea to drown myself or the baby. I remember thinking, ‘Gosh these pains are getting worse.’ In fact, the regular pains now coming at two minute intervals were too intense for even me to believe they were gas. Ah-ha! Was it possible I was actually having an appendix attack? People died of appendicitis, and I couldn’t have felt more scared if I was told I had minutes to live. I was consumed with terror. I flew back into our bedroom, or as quickly as a nine month pregnant body can safely fly, and shouted, “Bruce! Wake up. I’m having an appendix attack and maybe you should take me to the hospital".
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