Today, not for the first time in my life, I walked through the doors of a new CMHT. This time it felt different. Over the last year, through work, I have experienced these places in a new way, from the perspective of supporter rather than supported. I have marched into meetings where I have felt comfortable to sort through information about the lives of others. I have learned to feel confident about advocating, discussing. It took a while to recognise emotionally that I was not the one under scrutiny (at least not in the same way) but once I did, I found myself able to enjoy working in this new capacity.
Today I found myself back in my old position, in an attemptedly happy waiting room with an assessment looming over my head. I envisioned my colleagues watching this scene unfold and was overcome by the oddness of it. I was led by a kind, bright person into a small room where I was asked for what felt like (and may have been) the fiftieth time, to go through the details of my life, starting at birth.
I noticed as I spoke how easy it is for stories to vary over time. Stories about yourself are never objective. They change according to your thoughts and feelings at the moment of telling. I felt suddenly terrified that I would get it wrong- how can you get your own story wrong?- that I would somehow forget something crucial or remember something vital but hitherto unmentioned. It went fine. The decision was made that, as I generally function fine, I require no intervention bar perhaps a medication review. I should receive an appointment in the post sometime next week. I was congratulated on riding out my crisis, on my long-ish stint of stability, my ability to see past myself. I told the kind, bright person that I liked her necklace. I left.
The whole experience was like walking through a mirror or going to a country where people drive on the other side of the road but nobody thought to tell you. Quietly unsettling. For a year I have walked in different shoes. Today I put my old ones back on and remembered what it is to be on display in a glass case- no- to be a glass case yourself and have someone look through you, shine a light, open you up.
It felt incredibly strange.
It felt like a new injection of empathy.