If Sheila were to suddenly pop up before me at this very moment, which would be very lovely and very convenient, I still reckon I could claim to be anger-
So what has finally driven me, against my best efforts, to this unreasonable and unfamiliar degree of fury? Well, Sheila would say that where there’s loss there’s anger, and, it has to be said, there’s been a fair amount of that going on recently. In the weeks leading up to the end of the Summer term, I thought we were handling the impending departure of Gill rather well. Gill is Deputy Head at my school, and my go-
Gill lives in my area of the city, and kindly offered to drive me to the bowling alley where the ‘do’ would commence. The journey was excruciating, but that was nothing compared to the wrongness of the bowling experience itself. She’s the Deputy Head FFS! Oh she may have encountered most of my ‘parts’ in a plethora of challenging circumstances, but there was never anything informal about our relationship. She was Authority – therefore never fully to be trusted, and certainly not to be mixed with. And there I was, having to suffer the indignity of changing into those ridiculous bowling shoes with her, and then performing the absurd bowling dance itself. I would rather have my back scrubbed with a brick. But I joined in with the jokes and the banter and the half-
The issue of leaving cards and presents was next on the agenda. Sheila had the interesting idea of me sending Gill separate leaving cards from each of my ‘parts’. The expense and embarrassment aside, I’m just not confident that Gill, or anyone else from outside the Land of Therapy, could share Sheila’s mindset on this one. Muggles are Muggles: at the end of the day you can only expect so much from them, so I signed the joint leaving card instead, although I did rather recklessly add, “All of me will miss you.” I refused to engage in the choosing of cut-
The presentation of said departmental cut-
As the 12.15 pm bell for lunchtime rang on Thursday, something curious happened. Quite suddenly I found that I had something very urgent to do which forced me to stay in front of my computer. This vital task was all-
Fortunately my department had saved a chair for me so there were no negotiations to be made on that front. Unfortunately it was directly opposite Carl Jenkins, Gill’s replacement, who will take over the role of ‘Le Roux Madness Manager’ in September. My 4-
As I stood up to leave, Carl approached me to ask if I was teaching that afternoon. I nodded and headed for the door, knowing that there would be sentry guards outside my classroom for the rest of the day. I couldn’t speak to him because my eyes were pricking. Every teacher understands just how difficult it is to teach when you are desperately trying not to cry. Tears really would do nothing for my reputation, so I set some silent work (no mean feat on the next to last day of the Summer Term!) and wandered aimlessly around my room, fighting back the tears as it finally sank in: Gill is going tomorrow forever. We’ll neversee her again. And we’ve got to survive her leaving speech and the staff buffet with the inevitable final farewells.
I normally arrive at work at around 7.30 am, one full hour before school starts because it reduces my journey time by around thirty minutes if I set off very early. Punctuality is one of my strong points, but the next day I somehow got caught up in Asda en route and arrived about two minutes before the beginning of Lesson 1, half an hour after staff are expected to be on site. I didn’t want to run the risk of illegally showing DVDs in my lessons until the students were released for the summer at 12.15 pm, which is exactly what I would normally do on the last day. No, I just felt that I must be on my best behaviour or … well … I’m not very sure why. Will stuck his head round my door and said slightly resentfully, “Oh, you’re still teaching, then?” so I nodded and mechanically rattled my way through my lessons, congratulating myself for my amazing self-
“Yes, I’m fine,” I replied.
“Well, Cathy, you don’t look one bit fine,” said April. “In fact, Gill has just been over to see me to say that if you would like to leave school now, that would be fine. As far as she’s concerned, you’ve said your goodbyes. She won’t be offended if you go now and don’t stay for the speeches this afternoon.”
I assured them both that all was well, confused as to what the problem was. “No, you don’t understand,” April continued. “Carl and Janet and Gill have all seen you this morning and feel it would be a very good idea for you to leave right now.”
I was even more confused then. How exactly had Carl and Janet and Gill seen me this morning, when I sure as hell hadn’t seen them? I must have done something fairly drastic to get this response, but I couldn’t for the life of me think what.
“Shall we carry your bags down to your car, now?” said Will, smiling, and then I got it. It was okay. I wasn’t being sacked, or suspended. I hadn’t done anything wrong at all. Au contraire: I’d clearly been doing everything far too right and it had proper freaked everyone out. This was it: the Great Escape. I was literally being given time off for good behaviour. And, being someone who never looks a gift horse in the mouth, I seized upon this golden opportunity of evasion and drove off in the warm sunshine, laughing all the way.
The high didn’t last too long, as I was left with the queasy uneasiness of unfinished business. Gill and I never did say our goodbyes: in reality we avoided each other and the horrible awkwardness of having to end a truly remarkable relationship. I felt I held the moral high ground as at least I’d written mygoodbye.
The future is scary as there are so many ‘What ifs?’ What if I still feel compelled to about-
Still, I consoled myself, at least I’ll have psychological support, as by that time I’d received a letter from the NHS, from Dr Marauden, inviting me to attend the first of two ‘Business Meetings’ in which we would be drawing up our contract for 2-
Don’t get me wrong: I had my concerns about Dr Marauden and her psychodynamic ways, but by this stage I’d already met with her on four occasions and was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I’d completed a lengthy questionnaire for her about all aspects of my life, including stating clearly what days I’d be available for therapy. She was aware of my background and diagnosis and felt that she, being the most senior Consultant Psychologist, was the right person for the job. Fantastic! Bring it on! I thought.
So three days ago I set off on my Dutch bike and cycled across the city to St George’s Hospital. The Psychotherapy Service have recently moved to this building, so it was new to me. I was given two different psychological tests to complete before I was allowed to see Dr Marauden. I know now that this is just part of the drill, and try not to let it get me down. I sat nervously in the waiting room surrounded by people who were all exceptionally thin, acutely aware of my own robust stature and sun-
She kicked off by asking me if it was my first time at St George’s. She then explained that the process of ‘contracting’ was very serious and formal in the NHS, and normally takes two or three separate ‘Business Meetings.’ I shifted around in my seat. She handed me a booklet with ‘Cathy’s Contract’ on the front, and showed me that she also had a copy in her hand. She began to read out the first page of the booklet which was all about Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Therapy. I listened and followed in my own booklet. She asked me if I had any questions about ‘the process’ so I asked what exactly the ‘The Blank Screen’ is. She explained and added, “I shall be empathic, but not friendly. Neutral at all times. There will be no chatting in the corridors on the walk up to my office. Do you understand? Some therapists want to be your friend, but that won’t be happening here.”
Next came an explanation of ‘The Golden Rule of Free Association.’ It says in the booklet that it is my responsibility at all times to “report thoughts and feelings without censor.” Quite how that works when you have several parts voicing their thoughts and feelings simultaneously I can’t imagine, but I kept quiet as I was feeling very intimidated. And bad. Very, very bad. Once again I wasn’t sure exactly what I had done wrong to end up in this place, I just knew that it must have been pretty serious. My bottle of Diet Coke fizzed over and soaked my jeans. She looked away in disgust.
The ensuing discussion on ‘Threats to Therapy’ offered little in the way of reassurance. There is to be no stubbornness, no lying – this is all listed in the contract booklet – no suicidal or self-
We moved on to address the ‘Schedule of the Therapy.’ She asked which days I was available, which worried me as I’d told her this on two previous occasions. “Mondays and Wednesdays,” I replied. I knew that she doesn’t work on Mondays, so I presumed Wednesdays would be the day. No, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9.00 am to 10.00 am would be the allotted timeslot. “But I’m a teacher,” I announced. “My hours are fixed, and I did …”
“Well, I’m sorry, but things have changed. I’m Head of the Service now and I definitely can’t do Wednesdays. This isn’t going to work. We may as well terminate the interview here. No point contracting with someone who can’t offer you therapy,” she barked.
Quite, I thought. I was stunned. This couldn’t be happening. It had taken two and a half years to reach this stage. She was my new therapist. This was a business meeting and it was a done deal. We were ‘contracting.’ All their faces flashed through my mind – Sheila, Vicky Smith, Ivan the Ponytail Man, James Davies … It had all been for nothing. And why? Because nobody had bothered, nobody had cared enough to check the details, the basics.
Dr Marauden looked at me quizzically. “We may have discussed times at some point, but what with all the upheaval of moving buildings … There is a possibility that a colleague of mine may be able to see you on Wednesdays but she’s away at the moment. And there’s no guarantee of course. I’ll contact you in early September.”
And with that she stood up. Frowning, I followed suit. As I was leaving I noticed a large wet patch on my seat from the Diet Coke. Marauden clocked it too and looked at me. I smiled and left.
So now you know the real reason for my rage, my fury … oh, alright … my anger, my hurt. I was winded, as though I’d been kicked in the stomach. The whole meeting had been so belittling, so humiliating. Well, back when I first contacted PODS I was advised that if I could possibly avoid the NHS psychiatry route then I might be better off, that with private therapy there is an element of choice and control and equality and not these inflexible inhuman systems. But I was determined that the system wouldn’t beat me. Armed with my diagnosis and my sense of humour, I would be tough enough to weather the storms until I was eventually given the treatment they kept promising.
Two days ago when I began writing this article, I thought I couldn’t go on, that I’d finally been annihilated by NHS Mental Health Services. But since then, thanks to you readers, thanks to a visit from Meera, my ironically-
Down to business …