Elaine: Life Challenges for Terry

After attending community college, Terry worked in retail. She drank alcohol and behaved erratically, which at the time Elaine thought could be related to her young age. Terry’s problems with managing finances escalated. She developed a gambling addiction and filed for bankruptcy. Later, she found a job in a large organization, and continued to work with support and understanding from her supervisor.

About 12 years ago, Terry left a voicemail message for Elaine, saying she was going to kill herself. Elaine and her second husband, Mark, were getting ready to leave on vacation. They went to Terry’s apartment to talk with her and provided resources for Terry to call if she felt suicidal and informed her siblings about the situation. Elaine told Terry that she “wasn’t allowed to leave that kind of message again.”

Shortly after that incident, Terry started seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist. She is now taking a medication prescribed for bipolar disorder. Over the last year, there have been times when Terry exhibited erratic and unrealistic thought processes. On several occasions she went to a clinic because of anxiety and stress, often related to financial problems complicated by gambling.

Both Elaine and Terry use a strategy they call “affirmation” to help them feel better in stressful situations. Elaine explained,

I discovered that when I behaved in a way that wasn’t what I desired, I punished myself. When we’re not feeling good about ourselves, punishment just adds to that feeling. When I started understanding that was what was happening, I realized I needed to affirm that I’m good enough, so I taught my children this too. In this way we can address the behavior and still feel good about ourselves.

In Terry’s teen years, Elaine brought her along on walks and to the fitness classes she was teaching. Terry continues to use exercise as a coping strategy. However, her coping strategies are a mixture of both healthy and unhealthy behaviors. She is a smoker, plays games excessively on her phone, and watches TV as stress management strategies.