I had been in counselling since the age of 16 until last year. I cannot do the Maths in my head but that is a lot of years. My counsellors in order were, Kate, Tracy, Guinevere, Liz, and lastly Tina. That equates to five counsellors over that time. I like to think that each of them, using the analogy of “bosses” in a computer game peeled away a bit of my egg shell in turn, and there sure was a lot of shell to peel. They then were able to work on the detail inside that shell and lead me to a new place in my life, and pass me over to someone new to continue that journey.
When I first entered into counselling, it was a luxury. A luxury because, having cerebral palsy meant I was medicalised from the get go. A plethora of professionals would forever be poking me, assessing me, exercising me and a whole multitude of other things.
So absolutely, counselling was a revelation. It was the one place where I could talk and be heard, move forwards, backwards, get stuck and still come out the other side.
I went into counselling an abused, confused, sad, and lacking in confidence depressed young boy. I ended counselling a much happier, bubblier, more confident and vivacious young woman. I cannot say whether that is a common outcome of the therapeutic process, but suffice to say it is one I am happy with.
The biggest breakthrough I think came when I said something pretty sharp and cold, out of the blue. It was that love was not unconditional. This led me on to thinking that I may never receive the love and approval I had craved for so many years from various quarters, and I had better just get on with loving myself. Therefore, let me assure you it is the best kind of love you can have. Fundamentally, this is because you know yourself best, and you know your needs best. Much like a tap providing water, self love has a limitless supply. I know the seed of self love I have planted in myself will continue to grow, flourish, and never wither.
Counselling is a bit like needing a bank loan, and in some cases one pays with real money. It is an investment in oneself, to enable growth, confidence and strength. The objective is I guess to facilitate the emergence of a happier, more balanced person who is in a better place at the end of counselling than they were at the beginning. The best bit is, it actually works.
Put it this way. If counselling were a religion, I would be a pastor. I truly believe in everything about it, its efficacy, its methodology, and its outcomes.
But anyway, before you think I have been at the Malibu’s combined with potent Red Bull again, let me talk about when I first sniffed an ending. It was when Tina first mentioned the name of her partner.
It took me by surprise. My response was along the lines of who is that, then when she said her partner, I sensed something. An increase in congruence, or perhaps a shift in relations.
However, I thought no more of it until the My Transsexual Summer tour came to The Edge. She asked me if I would be going and my reply was naturally yes. She told me she would be in attendance with the local trans group, her partner and daughter.
Now at the start of the counselling relationship, I would hazard a guess that such a scenario would be unthinkable. But it felt OK, doable and manageable, not to mention enjoyable.
Needless to say, by the end of that night I was the happiest I had ever been, and I am sure Tina was wishing for a hot bath and linament.
So it was not long after that, our usual session became our last session. The best part about it was that it felt absolutely natural, and completely the right thing at the right time. To decide as someone who had been in counselling for so long that now was the right time to finish was immensely empowering.
Counselling can take you to so many dark, lonely and painful places initially, and sometimes for many years ahead before you make a breakthrough. In essence, it is like dissecting and researching your core and your soul, and then being solely responsible for reassembling it, under the guidance of a counsellor. Indeed, you cannot get away with the fake bullshit you deliver to friends and family, the fakery of keeping up appearances, and smiles, whilst inside, your are flooding your emotions with tears. Any counsellor worth their salt will not let you get away with this. And ultimately why should they? You have invested in yourself and want to move forward. Most tears are not crocodile, and most crocodile tears are real tears postponed.
But it was all over just like that. A final payment – bang! – the end. For me, this was a leap into the unknown too, this ending. Would I pine for Tina? Would I miss Tina? Would I run around the house screaming at the top of my lungs psychotically “TINA IS ACTUALLY MY MOTHER!!”
In reality, none of those things happened. I knew Tina had done her job well. She had provided her services to me with empathy, two way congruence and unconditional positive regard.
Experts do not release injured animals into the wild before they are ready, it is much the same with humans. I released myself when I was ready. I did not ask permission, for I trusted my judgement and thought processes. I was ready.
I now see wholeheartedly what she means when I say I did it myself. For throughout our person centred relationship I was in control. I created the changes, and Tina facilitated them. Whether she agreed or not was irrelevant. She allowed me the power to decide, to choose, and to fight and win my battles.
Tina is not now my counsellor, she is my friend, because I do not need her professional capacity any more. I want to thank all my counsellors, for not allowing me to be who I am, but just to be and express when they professionally counselled me.
But it was Tina who allowed me to allow myself to rectify biology’s fundamental mistake, by posing a very simple question week after week after week, either face to face or on the phone.
That question, quite simply was,
“How are you, Hannah?”
The importance, and value and impact of that weekly opening gambit should never be underestimated. The feeling of being heard, not just listened to is an amazing gift to receive and give back to others if appropriate too. Thank you sincerely Tina,