I wrote a few days ago about JP, a wonderful counsellor who helped me through one of the most difficult years of my life. Off the back of that, I have decided to write a short series about people like him. People who have passed through my life, people who have remained in it, people, in any case, who have made it easier for me to live.
One such person is P.
P is an old friend of my mum’s from work. At the time I was completing my MA, P was working at the university medical centre, and through one thing and another, ended up being my GP for a while. I debated for a short time about whether I wanted that connection made and eventually decided that I was happy to overlook the awkwardness for the sake of having a good GP. Surprisingly, it was rarely awkward at all.
2013, like 2011, was one of my worst. I was hospitalised twice on the brink of something awful, and both times P called to make sure I was as OK as I could be given the position I was in. She also asked permission to talk with my mum and I know that the conversation they had helped my mum a great deal.
It’s hard to explain sometimes how someone made a difference to you. I think with P it was similar to how it was with J: I was asked for information but never pressed for it. I was allowed to talk but never forced to. Silence was OK. Talking was OK. The danger I presented to myself at that time was not OK and as far as was possible, P found ways to work around that danger. The university I went to had a “nurses’ station” with two bedrooms, where people could go if they were especially unwell. I went there several times with the gentle persuasion of P, on nights when I might have gone home and done something a million times worse. (On the subject of gratitude, I also have to be thankful for the nurses there, who were non-judgemental and “looked after” me as best they could).
An example of the kind of thing P would do. There was one day when I went to see her and had eaten barely anything for days.
“Do you have anything in your fridge?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “Um, olives.”
She made an exasperated sound. One minute later, she had fumbled around in her bag and pulled out a twenty pound note.
“It’s the kind of thing I would do for my kids,” she said.
Things I could have spent the money on, but didn’t: vodka, cigarettes, chocolate.
Things I did spend the money on: Pasta, orange juice, tomatoes, rice, potatoes.
That’s what happens when you’re trusted: you behave in a way that is trustworthy.