She didn’t end up pursuing anything else, however—though she did spend time focused on school and keeping her grades up. She also spent more and more time in her room listening to music or online, and much less time with friends. Sleepovers were a thing of the past. Even birthday parties changed from large gatherings of friends to just a few family members. Over the next few years, she became more isolated and lost interest in most social activities altogether. She was uncomfortable and nervous around people now. And though she didn’t seem particularly unhappy according to her parents, she had changed so much that they wanted to know why and what might be wrong.
That’s when I met Lannie. Her parents—both of them—brought her to see me for the isolation, nervousness, and worry they had begun to notice. They seemed to have a good relationship with each other, and they clearly had a great love for their only child.
When I first spoke with her, she was polite and very soft-spoken. She sat in a very rigid posture at the front of the overstuffed sofa, with both feet planted firmly on the floor and her hands clasped together on her knees. It looked as if she wanted to be able to get away quickly if needed. It was clear to me that trust was a huge issue, so I worked hard to earn her trust and confidence.
Over the next year or so of our work together, Lannie and I covered a lot of territory. But no matter what we discussed, it always came back to trust. And though she fought for a long time the notion that she didn’t trust anybody, she ultimately realized there was some truth to it. She had quit the activities and begun isolating herself because at the very core, she was afraid of being hurt by someone she loved and trusted.
Many times when therapists meet someone who has a hard time trusting, we look for signs of trauma. But Lannie insisted, as did her parents, that she had not experienced any trauma. She had never been abused, physical or otherwise. She had never been the victim of or witness to sexual trauma. She had never been bullied. In fact, the only upheaval in her life anyone could speak of was her parents’ divorce. And she had handled this well by all accounts.
So we started there and talked at length about the divorce. She expressed that her parents had handled it well, and that both of them had remained friends. She had been worried for a while about how sad they were, but then they seemed to get better, which made her feel better, too.
She talked about how much she enjoyed spending time with both of them, about how much they each needed her, and that she was glad to have her time split between them. In fact, when they asked her at 14 if she’d rather live with one more than the other, she’d said no. She talked about spending time with both of them more than anything else. It was a near-constant topic of conversation for us. And even though she did not speak of their living arrangement in negative terms, I had a hunch there was more going on there.