A Memory (c.2004)

That day, I had a sudden, nervous, sick feeling towards the end of period 5 (History).  I had to leave because of the nausea and (hidden) the sudden, unexpected shaking of my hands.

When G told me she was leaving, I could have said this to her: that I had been feeling nervous all day, which was completely unusual before one of our sessions.  I could have expressed surprise.  At that moment, several choices were open to me and what I chose to say, when she told me she was leaving, was “oh.  OK.”

She tried to discuss it further, talk around my feelings about it, but I didn’t want to.  When she pushed too much I said “well, what do you want me to do?  Cry about it?”  At that moment, I actually saw hurt on her face.  Although I wanted to be clear that I wasn’t remotely bothered by her departure, I definitely didn’t want her to feel bad.  I felt guilty- but I was a teenager.  The stone had been cast, I could not take it back.  It was far too late to make amends.

As I write this, I suddenly remember the other conversation, two weeks or so prior.

She: So, I suppose what I want to say about what I said before, is that maybe I said it wrong, because I knew I was leaving…

As I write this I remember, clearly, what she said “before.”

She had told me that she was thinking about my “needs as an individual” and wondered whether I might be more comfortable seeing a black therapist.  I remember, clearly, my outrage at the time.  In retrospect, I can almost understand what she meant (or I hope this is what she meant): that, given my predominantly white school, it might be good to have someone “of colour”, outside of my family, to relate to?  Or was she just fobbing me off?

A couple of years before, I had a black counsellor for a few sessions.  “It’s hard to be mixed race,” she told me with all the authority of knowledge, but none of the honesty of experience.

I reacted to G the same way I reacted (on the inside) to the black therapist, though I respected G enough, and had been seeing her long enough, to at least partially explain my reaction.  What would be the point, I asked, in trying to “match my colour”?  Did she plan on looking for a specifically mixed race person for me to see, or would she just settle on any non-white?  Although I didn’t say this, I was quite upset because G was Irish- like my grandfather- and yet seemed to think I would feel more of an affinity with any black person, over a white person who shared my roots.  G backed off quite quickly after my outrage was expressed, saying it “wasn’t what she meant” but the feeling of being unsettled, the vague rage, was already there.

It’s funny, because this was going to be a brief piece about the way in which I chose- or chose not- to say goodbye to someone.  In the memory I had, I had skimmed the surface, overlooked the genuine and justified outrage I felt towards G as she said goodbye.  I had minimalised my anger, my real experience, and turned the situation into one that makes me feel bad.

It’s odd, the way memory works.



I’ve often wondered what it would be like to bump into JP (not the pope but my old therapist).  It’s been seven years since I saw him and given the circumstances (broke up with girlfriend, therefore had nowhere to stay and moved back to London) I never got to say a proper goodbye.  I think when I left we both thought I’d be coming back, so even our last phone call didn’t end in the way I used to think endings were meant to.

I’ve written to him over the years, tying the loose ends into neat knots that in real life usually unravel, though I would never tell him that part.  I wrote to him when I got funding for my MA (but not when I got ill).  I wrote to him when I quit drinking (but not when I started again).  I toy with the idea of writing now, but I think I left things in a good place for him, and a note of hope is where every Recovery Narrative should end, right?

The truth is, that man’s kindness saved my life.  At my most down, at my lowest weight, at the deepest point of despair (up until that point), he was there, unjudging, prodding only gently and letting me reach my own conclusions where I had to.  I think a lot of people could do with a JP in their lives.

Occasionally I catch myself wondering what he would think if he could see me now, working, writing and drinking in moderation.  Then I stop wondering, because he can’t, of course, see me and perhaps the best I can do to say thank you is to live, live, live.