Monthly Archives: March 2013

That time when my counsellor was a work colleague.

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.

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 17.43.56

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.


Today is the day.

Today is the day: my first counselling session. I would like to write about how I feel, but truthfully, I don’t feel anything. It’s been nearly five months coming, and today, I feel much like I did five months ago. Numb. Empty. And exhausted. Exhausted by the daily grind of depression, the heaviness of trying to get out of bed, the dissonance of putting on an enthusiastic face for the outside world, and the pressure of wanting to be ‘getting better’ for the people in my life who were so relieved to see me getting professional help.

I ran out of citalopram a week ago and can’t find the prescription slip to order a repeat. I could go back to my GP to get a new prescription,  but I’ve explained to myself that since I didn’t want to be on medication anyway, this is a good opportunity to see whether psychological treatment alone is enough. That’s the rational explanation. The truth is, the thought of seeing him again makes my heart beat through my chest, so I’m avoiding it.

Now today, I have to talk. But what to say? My life is good. I have a well paid, interesting job; a partner who I love deeply and have fun with; a nice flat in an area lots of people wish they could live in; good relationships with family; and lots of friends who I love and who care about me. There is no good reason for me to be unhappy. I could dig out supposedly traumatic events from throughout my life, but in my experience, that’s true of pretty much everyone. So that leaves me back where I started: what to talk about? In my last go at psychological treatment, I remember endless silences because I didn’t know what I was meant to talk about.

A couple of months ago, I requested a copy of my patient file from the psychiatrist I saw in 2004-5. It was hard seeing things written down about myself, things that I didn’t recall being spoken in the room. Words like “anorexia nervosa: partial remission”, “drunk today”, “borderline personality traits: see for further assessment”. There were also the letters between my psychiatrist and my GP, which I’d not seen before.

I feel she is suffering from a mild to moderate Borderline Personality Disorder. She describes a long history of labile mood, and has been self lacerating for the 2 years. She also bites her fingers to cause pain, and can also be reckless with spending and sex.

And a year later:

If she remains engaged in therapy she should continue to make slow but steady progress.

I dropped out of treatment a month after that last letter was written.

I feel reassured that this time I am seeing a counsellor without an official referral from my GP, so they won’t share information about me. But I know I suggested in an earlier post that it would be useful for them to share information. The point is, I want information shared in a way that includes me. I want professionals who are collaborating in my treatment with me. If they communicate, I should be copied in. Instead, I get a choice between uncoordinated treatment from two separate professionals who don’t know what the other is doing, or coordinated treatment in which I have no voice.

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