(This was written on Wednesday. I think this is pretty important, considering that’s when my appointment was).
Today was my last appointment with my counsellor. For obvious reasons, I’m going to name her C. It was the end of an era really but I know it was the perfect time to finish. I couldn’t and still can’t believe that it’s almost been two years, about seven weeks off. Almost two years that I’ve had counselling. And just think, I was told that I would only be there for a six week period.
I was first introduced to the idea by my GP when I was sixteen. My mother and I had been looking for a way to cope with my mental breakdown and apparently, medication wasn’t an option at the time. So counselling it was.
“You have two choices. There’s an online therapy site that you can go onto whenever and instantly connect to a professional. You won’t see them and it will all be done anonymously.”
Hmm… Not sure.
“Or you can go to the What Centre in Stourbridge.”
Hmm… Still not sure.
Counselling wasn’t something that I had ever rated or even thought of using. I wasn’t undermining it, but it just wasn’t for me. I am, to some extent, a very private person. You wouldn’t find me sharing or explaining my thoughts and feelings often. So the very thought of having to do those things was actually quite distressing. No, I didn’t want to sit there for an hour while someone analysed everything I said. It was one of my worst nightmares.
After much discussion with my mother, I knew it was the best bet I had to overcoming my issues. I didn’t exactly like the idea of online therapy. Something about it seemed very off to me. So the Centre it was.
I was sent there initially for a review. Was I bad enough to go? It wasn’t C but another woman who asked me very personal questions that I wasn’t prepared to answer. My mother was there for moral support. What was I going to say in front of her? So I said hardly anything. Yes. No. That’s what my head of pastoral care said at school… I tried to lie, to play it down so nobody thought I was bad enough to be there. I must have been, even with my lying, because I was admitted for a six week session. One hour every week on a Wednesday.
When I got there, no mother this time, it wasn’t the woman who assessed me but C. Immediately, I didn’t want to be there. They had given me a completely different person. She seemed nice enough but I didn’t want to tell her anything about me. Technically, I didn’t have to. She had a note from my GP.
…Some form of depression, severe anxiety issues and occasionally has made herself sick…
Well, C had somewhere to start but I just sat there. I didn’t want to explain myself. To me, counselling wasn’t going to help. I didn’t think it was going to “cure” me or change the way that I was. She handed me a star chart and a list of empty boxes to tick. It was “to check how I was”. Well, not very well, else I wouldn’t be there. I ticked them all, growing ever concerned at how many “Often” boxes I ticked. Low self-esteem, no motivation, doesn’t socialise often. Yes, I sounded like a bundle of joy.
It wasn’t until a month or so later that we got to the pinnacle of why I was there, why I had been sent to my GP in the first place.
“Why do you make yourself sick?”
“Because I want to.”
“Is it bulimia?”
“No. I just don’t want to go anywhere. I can’t go anywhere if I’m sick.”
C didn’t push me for an answer, nor did she ask me to elaborate. She brought it up twice after that. Once when I mentioned it, asking if I could discuss it further (much later after the original conversation) and once when she asked a year later if I still had the same problem. No, I didn’t. Nobody made me go anywhere I didn’t want to anymore. Nobody wanted to upset me that much.
After that, it seemed to get easier. I managed to be much more honest as time went on and it wasn’t until nearly a year later that I was able to cover the issues of why I was really there. Only then did I honestly feel like I was slowly getting better. It was a pretty rocky journey, shown by my charts, but I have definitely improved over time.
C showed me the graphs today since it was my last time there. My progress chart has moved from 4s and 5s at most to 7s and 8s, which is actually considerable progress.
“I didn’t realise how bad I was. I didn’t think there was much wrong with me.”
“That’s usually what people think,” said C.
She was as intrigued as me by how much I’ve changed. I remember one of my charts was off the scale, literally, when I started and had been halved by the end. We laughed about it, but it was eye opening to me to see how two years had made such a difference. Also, how much being at sixth form seemed to really have gotten me down. The only times I seemed to ever get better was when I wasn’t at sixth form. Funny that.
We covered a range of topics, pretty much everything that happened over the two years I was at sixth form, from work, friends, family and my mental issues. There wasn’t much that wasn’t mentioned in that room. C was always patient, considerate and friendly. She was also pretty constant too. Imagine seeing someone almost every week for an hour for two years. You get used to them and I think we became used to each other. She noted that I spoke more now than I did when I arrived. Natural, I guess. I’d slowly grown comfortable with her. There wasn’t much that she didn’t know about my past two years.
Last week we sat staring at each other, smiling rather awkwardly. C admitted: “I’m actually going to miss you.”
Part of me wasn’t yet ready to let go. It seemed strange that we might not see each other again after the next week.
“It’s okay. I’ll probably come back about Christmas time, let you know if I’ve stabbed anyone over milk.”
This has been an ongoing joke for a little while now, since I knew I was going to university. ‘The Kitchen Affair’. The one where nobody touches Hannah’s things in the shared kitchen else she’ll cry and possibly confront you. C had been trying for a few weeks to reason with me. Would you ever speak nicely to them? Would you be okay with sharing? What are exceptions? And don’t forget, these people will be living with you for a year. I didn’t care. If someone took something of mine, I’d be knocking on their door at whatever hour to get it back. She must have realised because she eventually dropped the subject and started helping me prepare for Aberystwyth.
So, yes… It really did feel very final today. I was equipped as soon as I walked through the door with a blue bag, filled with a Cadbury’s chocolate box, a psychology book, a bunch of flowers and a silver enveloped card. I’d even tried to write a nice message, something hard for me. But to my great surprise, it all came very easily. It was so easy to thank her for the time we’d spent together, her support and the immense guidance she’d given me. C has definitely helped me recover from probably the worst time of my life, whether through advice or just listening and talking to me.
Like I’d said, I hadn’t rated counselling. Would I rate it now? Yes! It’s not for everyone and people go away feeling as if nothing has changed. Yet, after two years, the gradual incline of my mental health was incredible. I couldn’t be anymore grateful and I hope she knew that.
Thank you, C.