They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Luckily there is such a thing as free counselling…David H shares his experience
“Last summer, at the back end of all the Olympics hysteria, my life took a sharp nosedive out of a period that was the happiest of my life; my job was going well, I had a girlfriend, great social life and i was successfully keeping the demons at bay.
Then it all went wrong. Within the space of a fortnight I had no job, no girlfriend and some severe family and friend problems. I didn’t deal with it well, retreating back into myself, not having a clue where to start. I let the rot set in, like I had during tough times I had experienced in the past, but this time I managed to get myself to my GP before the damage became beyond repair. I was given six free counselling sessions courtesy of the NHS.
My designated appointment slot was at the same time I finished work, so every week I had to leg it there, arrive late and over-heating, giving my counsellor the weekly pleasure of the least erotic strip tease imaginable. There’s no question that starting counselling is bit awkward anyway, but my counsellor was friendly and professional. You fill in a sheet in your first session, answering questions such as, “How many times a week do you think about suicide?” Jaysus, nobody’s beating around the bush here.
Turning a bit dry and coy, I filled these answers in very honestly, goaded by such blunt questioning. I handed it back, not knowing quite what to do with my face. I couldn’t manage a smile and frowning seemed a bit ‘sad sack’. So I went for a wide-eyed-awkward smirk combo. Nailed it.
The results were a bit worrying. Suddenly you’re made acutely aware that, on the ‘mental health’ scale, you’re actually not the pansy lightweight you thought you were. Nope. You, my friend, are a major player.
She looked through the answers; I watched her face do the concerned look, the frowny one. I later discover that she does this a lot…but then there was a 20 minute spiralling, breathless, blasé rant about potentially good places to die whilst doing the big shop in Iceland. That may have contributed to proceedings. I realised, after my initial defensive negativity, that she was genuine and I was trying to find something that wasn’t there.
The session feels like 5 minutes when, in reality, I’d just been constantly chatting away at this poor woman for 40, like I’m shooting her in the face with a verbal machine gun; a gun full whinging and rambling bullets.
Once I got outside and rolled a fag, I started to feel a bit weird. What just happened? I would’ve licked the door handle if she’d asked me to. I had told her everything, all in a massive jumble. I imagine if you hadn’t seen Reservoir Dogs before and walked in on the ending where they all shoot each other, that’s probably how much sense I made.
I carefully managed the precarious icy pavement with no grip left on my Converse and, grimacing through my fag, realised that I felt a lot better. Maybe I didn’t hold back because I knew I had to get my ‘money’s worth’, but actually it was just a massive release of pressure. A welcome outlet. We seem to want people to listen to us, and whenever I do talk casually and sarcastically about this burden, I often feel I’m boring or causing people to feel awkward. It’s probably quite annoying for them; you become a bit self-obsessed (but not in a bigheaded way) when you’re going through a crisis like this. You then analyse every last thing about those interactions – how you’re looking, how was my body language, do I sound mad, do they think I’m weird, is my baldy head shining? The truth is it’s always shining, no matter what mattifying moisturiser I’m conned into buying.
I did very much the same the next week, but took it a bit slower. I filled in the gaps, like the scene about the Royale with cheese and the fat Travolta dancing bit. She tells me that that’s the wrong film and eventually we get into the correct storyline.
So the weeks ticked by and I found myself becoming more calm and together with each session. The time you have in-between becomes a constructive way to analyse yourself, rather than the endless cycle of internal diatribes and self-doubt. You start to discover methods to deal with things, I was recommended meditation…and completely ignored it.
I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of what I said in my sessions, as that would be like the aforementioned Reservoir Dogs death scene situation. What I will tell you, however, is how much it helped me; my counsellor was excellent and by the end of the six sessions, I would have continued, given the option. It took a huge weight off my shoulders, because I was able to bore somebody other than myself with all the brain farts I’d been saving for my own appreciation. It’s no good keeping them under your duvet; you need to let them out for the world to enjoy too.
It has helped me un-clog my head a bit and become more productive. I’ll never be entirely fixed but I’m now able to evaluate what I need to do in the future and what I want to be. I’m now capable of rational thought, without the constant internal arguments. It’s a strange feeling and I can honestly say that I actually feel a little bit normal. This was down to the counselling.
If you feel a bit “clinically fed up”, as Alan Partridge would put it, tell a GP; they’re very good at getting these sessions set up, they understand and, at the very least, it’s free. You have nothing to lose.
Oh, and I did eventually try meditation…ok fine, it works. Damn hippies…”