I recently bumped into a colleague in the waiting room. She was there for ‘work stuff’. Naturally she assumed I was also there for ‘work stuff’. But in fact I was there for my own therapy appointment. You’d think in a huge mental health trust, these encounters would be rare, but so far I’ve bumped into someone I work with nearly every week. And when I bump into people, I go into therapy feeling vulnerable and ashamed. Not the best starting point.
I find being in the ‘client’ role uncomfortable. I know intellectually what I should do. I know I need to face the feelings, not avoid, challenge myself to the point of discomfort. I know no change comes without this. And I have made so many changes. I was adamant that I would agree to anything but would not stop running. That was my non-negotiable. But now, I’ve given up running. I’m not sure how I got from point A to point B with that one but it leaves me feeling that everything I’ve used to feel just about ok about myself has been stripped away.
The therapist I have been seeing has been thoughtful. We now have an arrangement to reduce the likelihood that I’ll bump into a colleague. It has definitely helped. I hope I’m gradually becoming less defensive, less prickly and anxious. But I’m still not good at the ‘client’ thing. I worry about my therapist, I don’t want to be a ‘difficult’ client. I don’t want her to leave sessions feeling that it’s been hard work. Maybe that’s just me trying to hold onto a sense of control in a situation that leaves me feeling weak. And confronting issues around my eating disorder definitely makes me feel weak, among other things.
It’s interesting that most of my colleagues have NO idea. I go to work, I get on with things. I go to therapy, get as much out of it as I can, because I am completely, tremendously grateful for the opportunity, and then go back to work. And the people I see in the waiting room, we never mention it. Not that I think I have to, but it does feel that there are things now left unsaid. And some people would definitely judge me if they knew. Maybe if we dropped the idea that mental health professionals don’t (or shouldn’t) have mental health problems, it would feel less uncomfortable. Because within services, whether we like to admit it or not, it is often still ‘them and us’, and I’m really not sure which side I sit on at the moment.