I sit in the waiting room nervously, avoiding eye contact with the others, drinking cola. Then my counsellor introduces himself. He is in his fifties with grey hair, in good physical shape. He is calming. In his office we go through the preliminaries and I talk about the issues that are bothering me. I joke around a little as if to say Some bad things have happened to me but I'm ok.

My counsellor doesn't have to be Sigmund Freud to see through this. He simply says You're laughing, but this must be very difficult for you. I don't have time to react intellectually to this. All the hidden emotions appear unbidden as a physical pressure in my chest. I cry a little. I feel the relief of finally being able to admit how I feel to someone neutral, someone who I won't burden, someone who I won't offend. I no longer have to be strong.

I tried counselling because of the good experience of a friend. She said The first time everyone cries. I remember nodding supportively, thinking Not me, baby!

First time

This was my second attempt at seeing a counsellor; the first time I psyched myself up for several days only to arrive and find that the woman- that I was supposedly going to depend on in the future- was ill; most disappointing. So again I mentally tortured myself for another week, considering the pros and cons of counselling before deciding whether I was making the right decision or not- did I really need external help? Well their was only one way to find out. I once again returned to the imposing grey door to make another appointment. It was on the side of a busy corridor filled with oblivious individuals carrying out their business; completely ignorant to the many catharsis sessions that supposedly went on, on the other side of the door.

In the end I was rung three hours before my appointment and told the woman I was supposed to be seeing "was running early and would I like to come down now?" Of course not! Don’t be ridiculous I thought, I wasn’t ready yet, I needed those precious three hours to talk myself out of going, before inevitably talking myself back into it and ending up back where I started. However, not really having much choice in the matter, I skipped the preferred torturous middle step and headed over.

Upon arrival I was ushered into a waiting room to be told that the counsellor was "running late" and would I mind waiting forty-five minutes. The whole situation was getting ridiculous now; I had to steel myself to come in the first place, I did not want to be hanging about waiting for a woman who may or may not be of any use to me. The waiting room was cold and incredible neutral- everything was white, "probably not unlike the counsellor"; I mused aloud to myself, resulting in several disturbed looks from the receptionist soon after. Whether this sudden outburst of insanity helped me at all I don’t know; all I do know is that I was shown to the counsellor after only a ten minute wait following a quick phone call from the receptionist to the counsellor, and a nervous smile towards me.

Then at long last I was in my first counselling session; I sat in the rather uncomfortable surroundings and waited for the woman to start talking first, I certainly was not going to begin. The women introduced herself and ironically said,

"Do not worry, everything you say here is completely confidential. I was just telling my last patient John who suffers from a severe case of paranoia, that you can completely trust me, so just relax" she whispered conspiratorially.

With an inane smile on her face she continued to ask me what I thought the problem seemed to be; with considerably less faith I began, half an hour later I had given her the basic outline of what I was going through which caused me to self harm etc. Thus leading to her conclusion I was suffering from depression, the severity of which still had to be decided. However, before we ventured on to that topic she wanted to offer me some advice on replacement methods for self harm,

"People like you need help, you're sick, I want to make you better"

After this charming little announcement from her I began to loose my enthusiasm entirely, and sat there for another degrading twenty minutes as the counsellor listed several coping methods she swore by in the past when she was a bulimic ( another pleasurable look into the women’s past,)

"I still relapse of course every few months, but they usually work," again the inane grin.

At the end of the hour I almost ran out of the room trying to obviously hold back tears, I needed time to think and process everything- was this odd women right, was I really sick minded? However, the counsellor was not done yet, as she said goodbye she left me with a parting anecdote she found hilarious, her anorexic daughter was marrying a dietician. How hilarious I thought, god, where do they find these people- and I’m supposed to be the one with problems.

"See you next week" she trilled,

"Not if I can help it" I murmured aloud as I crossed the waiting room; unfortunately for me the receptionist chose this moment to look up, and once again overheard my small exclamation and urged me to come back soon for more ‘help' as she put it, and clearly thought I so desperately needed.

When it was all over I returned to the man who had recommended this counsellor to me in the first place, I wished to offer him my thanks for allowing me to experience such a derogatory encounter in person. I mentioned the enlightening methods of relief the counsellor had offered me only moments before; the man nodded in assent at my words and hurriedly ushered me out of his office. Fair enough, after all, it was rather stupid of me to forget a long bath and a cup of tea solves everything; well according to the counsellor anyway.

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