I wouldn’t say I’m a connoisseur of counsellors (although I DO love the alliteration) but I am beginning to see that they’re not all ‘the same’.
Not that I tend to geneneralise… But when someone mentions the word ‘counsellor’, I do see a lot of beige. The room has to be, of course. The pictures on the wall have to give off a soft glow of reassurance at best. At worst there are probably directions to the Fire Escape – so quite reassuring if you’re a claustrophobe I should imagine. And nowhere on the counsellor’s wall will you ever EVER see a print of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’’ – however much you’d love there to be.
*I’d* love there to be.
The first counsellor I ever met was a hirsute, be-suited Indian man called Dr Rah (*name changed for protection purposes – although I’m now not sure he actually wasn’t called Dr Rah… anyway this was decades ago – he’s probably dead by now). And we used to meet on Wednesday afternoon in his office at the Psychiatric Wing of our local hospital.
The fact that I was driven there by my mum and dad who sat shame-faced in the waiting room for my 45 minutes to be up didn’t help me relax any, I can tell you.
The company I was working for at the time was paying for his counselling (being part of the Private Healthcare American companies liked to give their employees in the 80’s) and all I can remember of our sessions was the way he spent Sssooooo long tapping the tobacco out of his stinky old pipe under the table we ‘shared’ and refilling it with fresh leaves from his pouch – an exercise he took far more interest in than he ever seemed to do with me, his patient.
I didn’t really understand everything he said to me and the only thing I can remember being slightly worried about was when he pushed a half dozen tablets across the desk at me and asked me to arrange these as ‘people who are important in your life’ – with the biggest tablet being me.
Considering I was there mostly because I’d tried to overdose, I think the irony was lost somewhere. Either that or he hadn’t read my notes properly.
And so I lined up my tablets accordingly. My boyfriend being the closest followed by my best friend, other best friends etc.
He stared at them for an awkwardly long time, sucking on his stinky pipe and nodding (think Peter Sellers in ‘The Party’) and then made the statement “so in order to become closer to you, the one before has to be eliminated?”
I don’t think I’ve ever rearranged anything quite so hastily (and guiltily) and this sentence – clearly – has stuck with me.
The next Counsellor was a nice lady who smiled a lot and unbeknown to her, gave me the validation and assurance I needed that I wasn’t wasting her time and I was a suitable candidate for counselling and that if I wasn’t happy with my life then I was the only person who could change it. I liked her and I only ‘needed’ three (NHS) sessions with her before I’d rather extravagantly interpreted any ‘advice’ she’d given me into “Find the first guy you meet who takes an interest in you, no, no… of course it doesn’t matter that you’re both completely rat-faced at a house party in Aberdeen… and move him in with you and your bewildered 6 year old daughter until you realise he’s an idle alcoholic who’s hell-bent on self-destruction and doesn’t mind who he takes down with him. Oh and let him buy a dog that will turn into the size of a donkey before it’s 5 months old and scare the living sh*t out of anyone that might want to beat a path to your door. (Perhaps to rescue you and/or daughter). Um.. Okay?”
Suitable candidate for counselling? Yup, she wasn’t kidding!.
The third counsellor I had was the lady I started seeing last year, following the 2nd car crash in five months and she was a private, fee-handler, recommended by my doctor who needed me to be ‘fast-tracked into the system’. Again, she reassured me I wasn’t wasting her time (of course not – I was paying her for it, after all!) and that she considered me a suitable candidate for counselling.
Oh, I think I see a pattern emerging.
But as the weeks drew on, I realised that she wasn’t actually paying much attention to me. For instance we’d stop after 50 minutes and she’d always say: “we’ll take this thread up again next week” and we never did. Of course I COULD have informed her of this fact, but I rather thought that was more her job than mine and so I silently seethed until I’d relaxed enough to just blether on about whatever was angsting me that week – usually the Hubby or Road Users.
And after 8 weeks I didn’t feel I’d got anywhere. And I kept asking her if we were making progress, to which she’d reply: “Do you think we’re making progress?”. All very “bah” and frustrating.
So when the snows started before Christmas and I was told that my lovely hubby wasn’t allowed to wait in the Waiting Room for me and would have to endure sub-zero temperatures outside in the car for 50 minutes, I decided that was my last session with her.
I was even dismayed not to get so much as a ‘feedback’/report’ or even flippin’ Christmas card from her and wouldn’t recommend her services. She knew how to drag it out a bit and still achieve nothing whilst being paid handsomely for whatever it was she thought she was qualified to do.
Now the lady I’m currently seeing – and have only seen twice – is someone I like very much. She’s already right Up There in my estimations, not merely because she remembers what we were talking about last week (okay, so it’s only been 2 but hey…) she also makes comment. This week, after I’d told her how my mum had died, she said: “you look terribly sad” – which I know sounds like an obvious thing to say but I never realised my mother’s death actually made me sad until yesterday when she told me how my face had reflected the words I’d just spoken.
We have only 8 sessions before the NHS runs out but already I am confident she will help me find out what's holding me back and preventing me from leaping at life with arms outstretched and a giddy smile on my face.
She’s used two words so far that I have chewed over and over in my head endlessly and which I’m becoming very familiar with and have even started to attribute to parts of my life that have, for whatever reason, gone ‘wrong’ and these words are Blocked and Shocked.
Quite apart from anything else I’m oddly gratified that they rhyme.