A reader has asked a very pertinent q. What is the matter with the two of you, that you went on seeing such eejit counsellors?
Absolutely fair enough. And particularly pertinent in this story about Bink.
Middle of the Atlantic. Titanic glugging down. Icebergs all around. Lifeboats disappearing out of the film set without you.
Man-eating shark comes along and offers you his fin to hang on to...
Isn’t that how Bink ended up in the Florence Nightingale Unit?
Take another analogy. You have cancer. Chemo hurts. In some ways it hurts your body for real, and your hair starts to fall out. Do you quit?
I am doing all this analysis many years later. I surmise.
We could have done with some help and support. This was the help and support on offer. The fact that your doctor doesn’t seem particularly kind and sympathetic doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t have the qualifications to diagnose and treat you.
By the summer I was dreading Wednesday afternoons like the thumbscrews. But I was fixated on them too. They’ve done things with rats: getting them addicted to poisoned sugar. The rats know the sugar is killing them, but they can’t stop themselves.
I may have just made that up. You get the gist.
Every midweek, we would come home and I’d be plunged into despair. By the weekend I was just starting to breathe again. Monday, I would be feeling ok. Tuesday, fine. Then, wham! It was Wednesday again and we’d be waterboarded once more.
Till there came a point, one 3 am, Shaun away, when I went into the bathroom and tried out one of his razors along my wrist for size.
The humiliating thing is that by the time you’ve deconstructed a plastic disposable safety razor, you end up with something which wouldn’t cut a piece of paper.
I didn’t really mean it, anyway. I meant the misery: not the suicide. Nevertheless if I’d ever felt tempted to adultery – I haven’t – I’d tell a friend, just to be sure I didn’t do it. So the next morning I told a friend.
He thanked me for not ringing him at 3 am.
There were three sessions that summer which were enjoyable. The male counsellor was away, so instead of the schlepp across London by tube to the hospital, we were invited to the female counsellor’s house a short bike ride away in South London.
It was full of violins and books, tatty and homely just like our Vicarage. And it was a completely different experience. She was never unkind to us...
At our next regular appointment, we asked if we could go to her house in future. He said they only worked together; and if the sessions weren’t in the hospital, we’d have to pay for them.
By the time we broke for the summer, every diary entry was peppered with our counselling. I was tormented. And already dreading our return in September.
I rang a GP friend to ask whether this stuff really worked. “I think,” she said kindly, “if it doesn’t feel helpful you don’t need to continue.”
I took, as reading matter on holiday, a book analysing the effects of psychotherapy. For a while I could cite chunks of it, but I can’t now trace the name or author. Perhaps it will come back to me. I quoted passages to Shaun as we drove through Ireland.
His thesis was as follows. After trauma, most of us recover (to some extent). Those who are in psychotherapy put this recovery down to their treatment. Research shows, however, that those who don’t go through psychotherapy recover faster and better.
The day we were due to resume drew near. I had been asking Shaun for weeks what we were going to do. He told me not to worry: he would deal with it.
“Don’t we have to tell them? Anything at all?”
Predictably, I was the one to answer the telephone when the counsellor rang, on the day, to find out what we were doing. I still didn’t know, so I handed the telephone to Shaun.
“Are you coming for your session this afternoon?” he asked.
“No.” Shaun said. And hung up.
My anger, as I think back to that year, is not of the hurling china at the wall and screaming type. It is slow-burn and sad.
There was enough to read the runes. My brave, wonderful and brilliant Shaun went through considerable trauma as a child and young man. This isn’t to do with Bink’s illness, which was always in her genes.
He has carried the grit in his soul, as he does everything, superbly… and mostly silently. But two kind, qualified people, with a year’s weekly sessions at their disposal, could have helped him and us in that process of turning his pain into pearls.