Been thinking about Mondays.

by

I used to spend Monday nights counselling in an amazing place – the first place I ever worked with adults and liked it, actually. I would walk there from our home, a ten minute walk along tree lined streets, and when I walked through the door I was among friends. Everyone was gay, so the thing that happened at other agencies didn’t happen here. In other agencies, I was always referred the gay clients.

Not sure why. Much like some of my colleagues in others jobs were almost mythically scared of counselling – ‘I’m not a counsellor, I can’t talk about those sorts of things with people, I don’t want to open a can of worms’ – people in these other agencies must have thought I had gay superpowers. It’s odd, the assumption that just because a person is gay that must be why they are in therapy. My clients at these other places wanted to talk about depression, losing a baby, their experiences in combat.

The reverse happened on Monday nights. Because everyone was gay, I was often referred clients with mental health issues. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like mental health as much as…well, as much as me, but sometimes it’s nice to say, ‘No, thanks. I have too many clients with too many needs. I need a few people who are a little less complex.’

On those nights I sat among friends, three other counsellors and the night administrator. We talked about our training, played with a kitten that always managed to sneak into the building, struggled over notes, drank a lot of half-cold tea. My clients came, one by one, and I would go into the waiting room to get them. I always filled up with water, we climbed the stairs, I shut the door behind us and we settled in to work.

The people were astonishing in their bravery, in their terror, in their confusion and joy and hope. In their despair. I would listen to one person speak of their absolute certainty they had HIV, yet still fell to their knees every weekend in dark alleys, pleasuring strangers. I heard about the preparations someone else was making for the end of the world, for disasters right around the corner. I nodded along as people talked about starting relationships, ending relationships, wanting to lose their virginity, wanting to lose themselves in the perfect oblivion of happiness that they were sure a forever-relationship would give.

I would walk down the stairs, back to my colleagues, and we would share ten minutes together before the next set of clients walked up the path. We ate biscuits, flirted with each other (oh, how I miss my gay boyfriend!), processed difficult sessions in huddled two or three minute support sessions. Then the next client would appear. And the next.

The room I worked in had tapestries hanging on the walls, comfortable padded chairs that rocked gently, a window that never totally shut, a skylight that made any rain sound like gunshots. It had puppets and clay and toys in the corner, for during the days it was used during family therapy.

In that room, one person spread out cards on the ground, as we made a storyline of her life, her dreams, her what-nexts. Another borrowed a puzzle, each piece an animal, and we talked about who she was, who her sister was, her mother. Another brought his own lists into the room, driven to meet each point and subpoint, to achieve everything in five minutes or feel doomed as a failure. One clutched a pillow to her stomach every session, as if she was protecting her insides the only way she knew how.

In that room, I supported people changing gender. I offered someone the genuine human contact their psychiatrist seemed unable to. I accepted a painting a client did, with obscure figures representing our relationship; it was beautiful.

Every other week on Thursday afternoons, I would appear in that room again. There I shared my work with others, we discussed people – not cases, I admitted that sometimes I needed a break and I learned how to ask for one. We used glitter, we made cards for those leaving, we welcomed those who joined in. Our group eventually settled on three counsellors and a supervisor, women joined together in their curiosity about themselves and other people.

I miss that room, those people. I wonder how my past clients are doing, and have to feel that most of them are still on their path to growing up, growing out, developing. I miss the feel of Monday nights, as the warmth and belonging wrapped around me. I miss the way it was to deepen my practice as a counsellor, to realise that yes, I was good working with adults, I liked working with adults, I might actually consider working with adults again. I miss the faces – those that were tear stained, those that were angry and blaming, those that were looking to me to fill something they were having trouble filling in themselves.

I miss the wobbles and the uncertainties, the what-the-fuck-do-I-say-now moments, the comfort and belief that I didn’t need to have all the answers, because the people sitting not-quite-across from me usually did.

It was nice.

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2 Responses to “Been thinking about Mondays.”

  1. Christy Says:

    It sounds nice.

  2. Darlene Says:

    That does sound nice. (Oh, and you can find me on Facebook by my name: Darlene House in Florida…….)

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