Suffer the Children

The case against labeling and medicating children, and effective alternatives for treating them

How the Weiner, Schwarzenegger, and Edwards Sex Scandals Helped Me

He had been living under a black cloud of depression.

About a year ago, I received a call from the father of a little boy whom I had treated several years ago. The father reassured me that his son was doing fine, but he wanted to talk with me about a problem of his own. In my office, he told me that he had been living under a black cloud of depression and anxiety for several years. He had consulted a psychiatrist, who had prescribed antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications for what the doctor thought was a chemical imbalance in the man's brain. The meds had helped for a time, but they weren't working any more. The psychiatrist had changed his medications several times, but nothing helped his depression for very long. He didn't understand why he was feeling so bad because he had a wonderful life--a successful and rewarding career, a wonderful wife, three beautiful children who were doing well, and no financial problems.

I worked with this man for several months. We looked into his childhood, his work, his extended family, his marriage. I kept running into a wall. Everything about his life seemed healthy and normal. When he said that he craved connection with a higher power, though he did not subscribe to any particular organized religion, I suggested meditation. A Buddhist meditation center had recently opened in our community and I had heard good feedback about if from other clients. He said this was a good idea and he would pursue it.

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I didn't hear from him until a few weeks ago. He said that he had started going to meditation sessions and he liked them, but he was still feeling terribly depressed. Then, as sudden as it was unexpected, he confessed to me that he had had several affairs during the course of his marriage. They were brief affairs with different women, and none of them had lasted longer than three months. He had met the women while traveling on business. None of the women were in his life at present, and he hadn't had an affair for the past four years. But he now was overwhelmed by guilt and the fear that he would lose his marriage. He asked if I thought his secret affairs had anything to do with his depression, and I said they had everything to do with it.

During our next conversations, we quite naturally talked about the sexual indiscretions of Weiner, Schwarzenegger, and Edwards. My client related to these men because he too was in a position of power. He said that his affairs had made him feel more powerful. How ironic, I reflected. The sordid headlines about the sex scandals of these famous men had brought my client's own indiscretions to the forefront of his consciousness. Not able to repress his festering secret any longer, he was able to confide it to a therapist and face the reality of what he had done. From an impasse of many years, he was now able to move forward toward healing.

Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D., is a family therapist and the author of Suffer the Children: The Case Against Labeling and Medicating and an Effective Alternative.

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