You make the appointment with the Counsellor. It is a week ahead. It is always a week ahead. I guess they are busy flinging clods of advice at dozens of us. You would have to declare an emergency for them see you the moment you ask to meet them.
The office has a depressing sameness to it. Minimalist, to the point of emaciation in terms of décor. A few certificates are framed on the wall underscoring the Counsellor’s pedigree and there is the mandatory family photo on the otherwise clean table indicating warmth and obviously designed to make you feel more at ease.
They always offer you coffee as if it was a panacea for all ills and as friendly a gesture as a hug. If we have coffee together, we can be friends. Pewrhaps confidantes.
Then, as if you have all the time in the world they come at you from an acute angle, pointless questions about you, your family, the dog, the canary in the cage.
Come on, you have been there, you know exactly what I mean. Harmless questions creating little pieces of your jigsaw which they will then use as the big picture of your evaluation. And if you are a parent reading this with children studying abroad and you drop that data into teacups at your social soirees and market their departure as a triumph remember your child in the counsellor’s room has just taken one giant step into denuding his mind to strangers and allowing them to intrude and take over that space.
Oh, they are very good at it, so gentle and understanding, sparring with you, acting like those fencers do, cut and thrust, inveigling you into saying things you said you wouldn’t.
You are now knee deep in the Counsellor’s liquid concern and it is drenching you and now that amazing chemistry kicks in and you feel guilted into nodding in agreement to whatever he is saying. A few more sessions are needed, we will fight the goblins in your mind together, this is our battle.
The move across from lonely me to togetherness is done so deftly that you do not even realise you have been mobilized and are now a freshly recruited soldier in the pharma child army.
But wait a minute, it is not the Counsellor who gives you the medical prescription, it is the psychologist. So to get there you have to go this route. You have to nod assent and accept that more rounds of talks are needed and these will be good for you, so see you Friday at 4 pm and we will take it from there.
Except that in the quiet morning there is much despair. Sleepless nights, fuzzy minds, criminally heavy workloads, shortage of pills in the dorm or the ‘contact’ as you are engulfed in wave after wave of uneasiness and a gnawing claustrophobia, the only port in storm Friday 4 pm and you begin to yearn for it. The Counsellor understands you.
No one else does, no one knows what turmoil there is within. And then, it is the first time you refuse to pick up the phone from your parents five thousand miles away. Let the phone jangle and play its corny tune I don’t want to talk to them, they will ask the same questions, switch off the Skype, we can always lie that the Net was not functioning, stop with the ringing, Friday is three days away, three long unending days.
It is ringing again, why can’t they leave me alone, I am fine, I am okay, there is nothing bloody wrong with me. Is it so difficult to ask for a little space, just a little space, how will I ever get this work done.
Friday comes and Friday goes. So does Wednesday at 3 pm and the next Monday at half past five for a longer one on one and finally the 65 million dollar question; would you be averse to meeting a psychologist.
Averse? A shrink. Are you crazy, you thinking I am crazy.
Not at all. The meeting could do wonders. Everyone who takes a little therapy comes out the better for it.
Then they offload the responsibility. “We only recommend it if you are agreeable and open to the idea, it is just an idea, no pressure.”
No pressure???? Are you kidding, it is the psychologist who is going to give that prescription, remember, make nice, say yes, who cares.
You find yourself signing up for a second tour.
Another step into the war zone. You wanted to go, you nodded like a celluloid doll, the Counsellor only did what you asked.
No guilt, clean hands, unlike Lady Macbeth.
Here I come, Monday at 3 pm.