Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Talking to Strangers

I'm just back from seeing my counsellor. This is the third time since the Golfer died that I have consulted a counsellor. Each time I went for several months then thought I was fixed and left. Then, a few months further on, I would find myself crawling back. It's very dispiriting. When I was 'normal' - i.e. married, I would have had very little sympathy for someone who still needed help THREE YEARS after their husband had died. I'd have thought they were malingering.

From this side of the fence I (obviously) see it very differently. For whatever reason (and there are a few), I find that I need that extra person to talk things through with, and I am very glad indeed that my counsellor is there. I can say things to her that I cannot say to my son or my friends. I still don't dig down too far, and I don't cry, but I find the sessions a useful safety valve, a place to be honest instead of putting on a brave face, and it is great simply to talk for an hour to a sympathetic listener.

But of course, the very fact that I need to use a stranger as that sympathetic listener highlights my situation all the more. When I was 'normal', and in a relatively happy marriage, I talked things through with my husband. I didn't need to pay someone to listen to me.Even though we argued a lot in the later days, when the chips were down he was always there for me. HE WAS PART OF MY TRIBE. It isn't just that he knew me better than anyone else alive, he cared about me more than anyone else in the world.

It is humiliating to have to go to outsiders for help, whether it's because I can't clear the block in my drains, or I've bumped my head and I'm worried that I'll have a haemorrhage in the night and no-one will know, or because I am simply lonely and I've talked to all my friends and I'm still lonely. It was a standing joke between us that when the Golfer came back from a long business trip he had to be ready to sit down with a big mug of tea (or a large glass of wine) because I was going to have two weeks' worth of conversation and gossip to get out. And he always did it, sometimes even willingly! Now I have to spread those conversations out amongst friends and professionals, and I understand how those little old ladies feel that you see in town talking at length to shop assistants. It isn't just that they are lonely. They are trying to replace the aching gaps in their lives left by family who have died or gone away.

So I go every week to my counsellor. And I'm very glad that she is available to me. But I wish more than anything that I didn't need her, that I was normal again.