What I Learned From An Overwhelmed Client

Have you ever said, “I can’t fit another thing on my plate. My plate is too full, there’s no room.”? Do you think you’ve reached capacity?

I wanted to share a bit the story of a client I was counseling. She worked part-time and could barely manage it.

She had health problems and an abusive ex-husband who bothered her regularly.  The biggest challenge was her intellectually disabled, behaviorally challenged 22 year daughter with Schizophrenia who was living with her.

I remember that plate comment so clearly when she first showed up. “I can’t fit another thing on my plate. I’ll crash if I get handed anything else.”

My job was to de-escalate things, give her some communication tools and emotionally support her.

Three weeks into our counseling relationship, her older daughter with 2 small children was hospitalized after being mugged. My client had a sense that something was up as she couldn’t reach her on the phone. She went to her apartment where her grandchildren had been left unsupervised while “Mom went drinking”.

Youth protection got involved (obviously) and she ended up becoming the emergency guardian for the 2 little girls while their Mom thought she was still “the Mom” and would come over with demands.

Obviously, we worked a lot on resilience building by having better boundaries and delegating what she could. A month after starting her guardianship, during our session she thoughtfully said to me, “Remember when I said that my plate was too full? Nothing else could fit? I guess I was wrong!” The giggle that accompanied this remark was the clue that she would be all right.

The art of “Plate Juggling” or how to increase our Coping Skills has more to do with Boundaries and support than with money or other resources.


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