A little over a year ago, with Christmas approaching and the close of a bloody rough year, I sat in a warm, tiny room across from a kind, tiny lady and cried in a way I never had before.
The kind, tiny lady was a counsellor. One my GP had recommended, and one I just couldn’t afford. I was working from home, part time, a single parent, getting a divorce, dealing with the aftermath of all kinds of awful things I shan’t bore you with, and had been through the freedom programme, a secondary course by the same providers, and some NHS counselling that pushed me to the absolute edge because the counsellor was so terribly, terribly wrong for my needs.
Counselling is a thing that so few people will speak about. Counselling is hard, and personal, and private. It’s something we all think we should be embarrassed about needing, or wanting, because surely going means you’re broken?
But that’s not true. I went because I didn’t want to be broken. Because I didn’t want to give power to the idea of being broken. Because being broken wasn’t an option.
And I went, and cried, and gave the kind, tiny lady a piece of my soul – and she cried and gave back a piece of her own.
Over a year has passed. Most weeks I have seen the kind, tiny lady. For some of them she didn’t let me pay her. For most I insisted on doing so anyway. She wanted to help me at a time I very much needed her help. I wanted to pay for that, because I refused to be dependent on anyone and I knew paying meant I had to appreciate what we had together.
I’ve seen many counsellors through the years – my life hasn’t been peaches and cream, and I’ve battled against neurological disorders, poor health, poor choices and a string of shitty people.
Through the NHS you sometimes get people to talk to. Most are disinterested, overworked, demotivated, and your access to them is limited.
It doesn’t help.
The pressure on the service means you wait months for someone, get a slither of them, and begin to see your issues for a moment before it’s snatched away and you’re abandoned to coping alone.
Because the system is so flawed, doctors will Medicate you to help you through a rough patch, knowing that it’s – at best – a band-aid with no stick, and will do nothing but buy another week before you might be someone else’s responsibility, and the system is why so many young people and sick people and sad people and damaged people and lost people don’t make it.
I won’t lie – there’s times I almost didn’t make it. But I have two babies, and not making it wasn’t an option, and it’s not strong that I made it, it’s just that I didn’t think there was another choice, so I had to.
But without the kind, tiny lady? No. I quite probably wouldn’t have made it.
When I handed over some of my soul with wet tissues, tears and a sense of absolute panic, and was given a piece of someone in return. I was saved. I would say she did it. She would say I did. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
For the weeks and months that followed that day there has been a huge journey – and the person who first walked into that room became someone else, but at the same time just showed who she’d really been all along. Some weeks it’s easy, and funny, and light. Others I don’t speak for 24 hours after I walk out of the door.
Some weeks I skip out to see friends. Others I climb into bed and sleep until I have to parent again.
Some weeks I am happy to share where I’m at, and others I’m absolutely incandescent with rage I don’t know how to explain.
Most of it, now, is just life. Most of it back then wasn’t, or at least shouldn’t be for most people. I was broken, and I have spent many months rebuilding myself from the scraps I’d been left with.
And it’s hard, it’s really hard, and it sucks. But it’s also amazing.
And some weeks I think about how much I pay each week to do this thing, and what I could have bought instead.
I could have bought a car, or a posh holiday, or a designer outfit, or some really great nights out, or a very expensive prostitute, or a panda bear on the black market.
Each week I have put that money aside, even on weeks when I didn’t really have it to spare – because it wasn’t spare.
Some weeks I had the choice between that or buying exciting food – and I chose my mind and health over branded cereal because I know the long term benefit is worth it. That I’m worth it. And even putting that into words shows a journey I’ve been on, because the me who first met the kind, tiny lady wouldn’t have ever thought I was worth investing in.
I began as a background character in my own life and am now a main role in the days I live through.
Last week the kind, tiny lady set me a task. It’s one I am really struggling to do, and one I’ve put off for months, and one I don’t know how to even start, and I’m writing this blog instead of doing the thing, because it frightens me, because it is looking a bit too closely at the things that hurt the most from the very middle of that part of myself I keep packed away from the general public.
It’s all well and good keeping parts of yourself from the world in general – but this is a part I keep from myself, and I’m someone who should really be able to connect with it.
But it’s hard. Even all these months later, it’s hard.
But I’ve written this now, and walking into that room was hard that first time, walking into that room has been hard many times, speaking there has been hard, meeting the eyes of the kind, tiny lady has been hard, meeting my own eyes in the mirror has been hard – Christ, breathing in and out and just taking another step has been hard. But I did it. I did it, over and over, so I can do this thing too. If I can face my demons, I can face myself, right?!
Just do the thing. You’re worth it. I promise.