I had my first Mind counselling session scheduled for a couple of days ago. I had taken the day off work and had a nice day with family, going to see an art exhibition and chatting over a late lunch in a lovely cafe before heading over. I wasn’t feeling anxious, but I did feel empty and not sure what I would talk about.
I arrived a few minutes early for my 5pm appointment with the counsellor I’d been allocated, Karen*. Reception was closed, and despite buzzing several times no one opened the gate to let me in. I waited until someone came out and sneaked in behind them, and hung around the locked reception door wondering what I should do. The courtyard was crowded with people, but no one paid any attention to me. A few minutes later a familiar-looking woman let herself in through the gate and came over: “Are you here for counselling?” I introduced myself; she was clearly having the same thought process. “I think we’ve met before, haven’t we?”, Karen asked. Yes, I think so. She apologised for being late and excused herself to go and prepare the room, leaving me outside.
I write a note to myself: Shit. I recognise her. From work I think. I search my work emails, trying to make the connection. But I don’t know her last name and I meet at least a hundred new people through work every month. The point is though, we recognise each other. Which means it’s likely that our paths have crossed professionally and that they will again. I contemplate making a run for it before she comes back, but that wouldn’t be very professional.
Karen reappears: Come on up. So have you worked it out yet, how do we know each other?
Me: I’m not sure, I think it’s probably work.
Karen: Probably. Come through and we can talk about it.
In the warmth of the counselling room, I explain where I work. Karen’s face lights up: “Oh right, that’s it.” She asks me how I feel about it. What I feel is compromised, and angry. But I don’t say that. I explain as politely as I can that although I’m confident she would be professional, I wouldn’t feel comfortable receiving counselling from someone who I might then bump into into at work. She was understanding, and left the room to explain the situation to her manager. She returns, and says that the counselling coordinator will get back in touch with me as soon as another counsellor is available.
So I leave.
On the way home, I write another note to myself: All I want to do is cry. But I’m at the tube station. I’ve been waiting for so long, and this has confirmed all my fears about seeking help.
*Obviously not her real name.