When I was pregnant, I came off the medication I had been on since my breakdown
My GP wanted me to go back onto it once I’d reached 12 weeks, but I refused. (I still refuse). As a compromise, she suggested I see a counsellor instead.
I had been through the self-referral system with CMHT before; I hadn’t really rated it when I had been floundering in the abyss of my mental health. I knew they couldn’t help me; they knew I was beyond their help, and referred me to the next level of mental health care (which also didn’t really help).
Any way, I agreed to go. The way this works is, you call a number which goes through to the overworked secretary of what seems to be several different departments. The phone often rings through to voicemail several times before you reach a real person, and if you leave a voicemail it is often lost in the ether. When you eventually get hold of said overworked secretary, you’re about ready to admit defeat and open a vein. She takes her time locating the relevant diary, and then makes you an appointment in about 4 weeks’ time to see someone at your doctor’s surgery.
The idea is that you speak to the counsellor for 45 minutes or so, they give you some “homework” or something, you go on your merry way and make an appointment to see them again in two weeks. Except the system doesn’t work, because once you leave the appointment, you have to go back through the rigmarole mentioned above, and usually end up waiting at least a month between appointments.
I knew all of this, but I didn’t want my GP to make me start taking medication again. So I made the call. The appointment they gave me was with a man, which was less than ideal, but it was the only one available so I took it.
At my first appointment I told the man my situation, which was this: my partner had kicked me out in the middle of the night, but when I found out I was pregnant, we got back together. The “fact” it was entirely my fault we had ever split up in the first place was brought up at least once a week; I was to take full responsibility. Eventually I got sick of this, and broke it off. He then went out and slept with someone else (probably more than one person). We got back together shortly after, but I was having a hard time dealing with the fact he’d slept with someone else and refused to share a bed with him until he’d been tested. It was at this point I had my first appointment with the counsellor.
Bear in mind here, that I was in an abusive relationship. This man had slept with someone else in order to punish me for finishing with him. He was still telling me it had all been my fault; I had caused him to kick me out the first time, I had so callously and heartlessly dumped him the second time we split, I had driven him to sleep with someone else by not taking his calls, and now I was deliberately causing drama and trouble by not just going back to normal.
I told the counsellor this. I told him I wasn’t sure of my own mind, and wasn’t sure if perhaps it was all me, and I was just painting a particularly bad picture of him to the friends and family who were telling me I should just stay away from him.
The counsellor told me he had previously been a relationship counsellor. He told me it wasn’t usually allowed, but did I want to bring my partner with me to my next session, and he would try and help us work through this. I asked my partner, and – surprisingly – he accepted.
A few weeks later, we went to see the counsellor together. We sat in a room with him, and he agreed with everything the ex said. At times I felt they were ganging up on me: if we were going to be together, I needed to accept responsibility for what had happened, suck it up and get back to normal.
I remember leaving the appointment, and walking down the street, reeling. The ex was talking to me, but I wasn’t hearing; I was walking along thinking, “oh no, I really am a terrible person; I really have been painting an awful, one-sided picture of this man to all of my friends, and now they hate him and it’s all my fault!” I felt so guilty about the whole thing, I bought the ex dinner before we went home.
I really felt that since the counselling session was for me and not my partner, the counsellor should at least have tried to be on my “side” for some of it.
When I went to the next session, the counsellor asked me how things had been after the previous one. I told him I felt like they had ganged up on me, and that really it wasn’t what I’d needed. The counsellor told me he had been aware of that at the time, but was also very aware that if he agreed with me too much, it might seem that we were ganging up on the ex, and that might make the situation worse for me once we left the session. I wasn’t really sure that was a feasible excuse, to be honest.
I didn’t go back after that session; I didn’t see any point. By agreeing with everything the ex said, he had re-enforced his actions. He had made his behaviour acceptable in the eyes of “the authorities” and more importantly, he had contributed in a large way to the mind games the ex was playing with me. I really couldn’t trust my own mind; a mental health professional had shown that to be the case, after all. More than once over the course of my pregnancy, the events of that day were brought back to me – “you counsellor told you about this… remember what your counsellor said…”
A few times since S was born, when I’ve been having a hard time with things, the GP has suggested I go back to counselling. She’s handed me leaflets, and I’ve smiled and put them in my handbag knowing I will never call that stupid number. I can’t rely on that service to do anything to help me, and I feel that that man’s actions were actually detrimental to my mental health and wellbeing. I have no idea if he still works there, and I don’t want to find out.