Every Thursday I tap lightly on the door of my therapists office and he lets me in, sizing me up in milliseconds. He knows how I am with just one look. I take my shoes off. We crack open some Coke Zeroes.
And we talk.
I'll call him Adrian, for the purposes of this post. Never have I met a man such as this man. Ever. Told him recently,
"You know Adrian, if there was an international Find Eden The Best Therapist reality TV show, you've been in Katoomba this whole time. I probably stood behind you in Coles years ago thinking to myself hurry the fuck up would you."
He laughs. We laugh a lot - we laugh about the darkest, most twisted, fucked up shit you could ever imagine. We talk about politics. Refugees. Climate change. Secrets fucking up families for generations. Death. Life. Parenting. Suicide. We talk a lot about suicide.
I've had some counsellors in my life, but NEVER have I met anybody like this man. This man made me believe that good and true people in the world still exist. When I try tell him how much he means to me, how much he's done for me, I get choked up. It's priceless. No pressure or anything but he has saved my life. He and my GP talk together about me, we all confer on treatments and state of minds and what to do, oh what to do when you are completely annihilated off the face of the earth.
I am the luckiest person in the world to get to spend time with Adrian for one hour each week. Sometimes he's seen me more than once a week. We text each other, often. Checking in. He visited me in hospital. There have been times where I couldn't leave the house to go see him and so he has come to me. He came to sit with me the other week on the anniversary of Cams death. I opened the door, told him I didn't have anything to say, really. We sat on the couch in front of the fire.
I love this man. On a deep, human level, I actually love this man and I do not know what would have happened had I not had the fortune of meeting him.
I was hesitant at seeing ANOTHER therapist, at first. Watching my stepdad die from cancer in hospital did a number on my brain pretty bad. I wasn't particularly close to Jim really, but his death brought up a whole host of "issues" and I could feel myself sliding down. So I thought I'd give therapy one last shot ONE because man have I ever had some shitty therapists. I had one once who could not WAIT to see me, she'd lean forward in her chair, listening to my life that I almost asked her if she'd like some popcorn to go with the show?
At the ripe old age of 19 I knew things were really quite hopeless so off I trotted to my very first therapist. I lasted two sessions. My friends asked why I didn't go back.
"Because all he did was ask me how much drugs and alcohol I was taking. That's got nothing to do with anything!"
I've probably seen about twenty therapists in my life. Have not been open and honest with all of them - one in particular I adore, I still see her around town sometimes. I still thank her.
But Adrian? He got all of me. Every last thing, all the shit, all the bad and dark and things I think and stuff I did ... and the stuff people did to me. He got it ALL. Nobody ever has known everything - you know how you tell some people some things, and other people other things. Adrian knows it all.
He's seen me furious, hilarious, in agony, in realisation. He has told me things that I have never realised before. I thought I knew everything? He has a background as a mental health nurse, and now he's a grief counsellor. PERFECT.
I ask him about himself all the time, even though I probably shouldn't but I'm curious, you know? And it seems only fair that he shares a little bit, seeing's how I carve out such a large slice of myself for him. Why did he become a grief counsellor? What was his childhood like? What kind of a relationship did he have with his parents? How many kids? OH he is such an amazing father. His children are so lucky. I tell him repeatedly that he has fucked with my belief system so much - I honestly thought that there was no meaning in the world, anymore. I need him, right at this time in my life. The most awful, horrorful time.
He was the second person I rang to tell that my brother Cam killed himself. Dave was the first. He was the third person I keyed into my new phone - Dave first, then Cam, then Adrian.
I have dialled Cams number for over a year now, can you believe he hasn't answered once? For a while it was disconnected but now his number has been assigned to a new person. I keep ringing, and they never pick up. I hope they never do, god I hope they never do.
So for the first six months I was seeing Adrian it was due to the fallout of my stepdads death and my subsequent - breakdowns, I guess you call them. I don't know. I know we need labels, I know that. But both he and I refute the label of Bipolar, for me. I don't believe I have Bipolar. If I was sitting with a few psychiatrists right now we could all have a big talk about it, some might agree with me, some might not. But I got diagnosed with Bipolar last year and for the first few months it was HUGE relief like, oh, THAT'S what's wrong with me! Because I've known my whole life there's something wrong with me. You get told something often enough, you tend to believe it.
So last year I went on five different medications all at once and they kept changing it, all those doctors just kept changing all of my medications and talking about my case sometimes like I wasn't even in the room. Slowly, quietly, a nagging feeling at the back of my head, after I'd googled and researched and homework .... I kind of just knew I didn't have Bipolar. Some of the symptoms fit but not everything can be labelled. You can't label your spirit. So what is it, then? I asked my GP, asked Adrian, we talk a lot about it.
The biggest thing that's "wrong" with me is intense, unrelenting cumulative Post Traumatic Stress Disorder combined with a shocking anxiety condition. Also, huge depression. Apart from that I'm fine! I have to live with this stuff every day. Back in March I went off ALL medications for EVERYTHING I was so incredibly pissed off and over it. I told all my medical professionals, and we waited to see what would happen.
See, my brother killing himself was an inside job. I purposely push people out of my heart and I have hurt people over the years, something I am not proud of. I went to eight schools - four of those were different high schools. I was treated incredibly poorly by most members of my family. I was the family scapegoat, the dog you kick, my nickname at home was "the shadow." I remember back in the 80's when the Kids Helpline first got introduced and I got all excited but I didn't call. I didn't have the words to articulate what was happening.
Now I have the words. Adrian and I talk a lot about my writing and my blog ... what it has done, where it has taken me. I never used to have a voice. Now I do.
He knows my secrets, all my family secrets, and he is really helping me to see how and why my brothers death has caused me such complete desolation. It was an inside job. I never loved anybody the way I love my Cam. The first time I went to see Adrian after Cam died, I didn't cry. I was carrying Cams dirty t-shirt. I spoke like a robot. I sniffed the shirt.
"It still smells like him."
It still does - it's in the bottom drawer of my bedside table and I only take it out in case of emergency. I try not to let my tears fall on it. I inhale deeply. And then I get on with my day. You could give that t-shirt to a laboratory and Cams DNA would be on it, the DNA that will never be passed down to any children. If Cam had kids ... man, that would have been a good day.
I cry deeper, harder, worse than ever before. I talked with Adrian a lot last week about the weekend of Cams death, all the different scenarios that could have played out, how, if I HAD driven down there Cam might have shut the door in my face and killed himself right then as I was outside banging on his fucking door. He purposely shut me out, that weekend. I was actually angry at him, for not letting me know he was ok. I hardly ever got angry at him. I hate myself for being angry at him. That hate will fade, pretty sure. He SHOULD have been committed, because that's what we do with suicidal people, right? We commit them. But Adrian has a pretty big sense of what Cam was like by this stage and he tells me that would have easily talked his way out and done it anyway.
My love alone could not save my brother. My love couldn't save my brother. I couldn't save him. We can only save ourselves.
Adrian and I talk about the differences between me and Cam - we had different fathers, so there's genetic stuff. But also, I have had a willingness to ask for help over the years. My life has depended on it at times - get clean or die. Why, why couldn't Cam ask for help? And there's this awful realisation - because I'm living it right now - that you can get all the help in the world and you STILL feel like shit! The campaigns for reaching out and asking for help - so you do. And then what? You're still fucked up SURPRISE! Which is true, you're just fucked up AND getting help AND taking the bins out on bin night AND cooking stupid dinner AND crying in your car playing Eminems "You're Never Over" at full volume in Leura Woolworths parking lot getting strange looks.
I don't care about strange looks anymore. I don't care about so many things anymore .. in a lot of ways, my brothers death has set me free from a lot of things but why'd he have to die for that to happen?
Life isn't fair - jesus I'm still fucked up about Robin Williams. But you know what happened when I found out Robin Williams had Parkinsons Disease? I kind of agreed with his suicide a little bit. How shitty is that? If you have some form of physical, degenerative, painful disease ... then it's kind of ok to kill yourself? So, what about your mental battles? Why are they different?
It's hard to celebrate my brothers life because his life was filled with a lot of pain, hurt, and struggle. The kind which I deeply understand. I want people to know that Cameron didn't give up. He fought HARD my god he fought for years, to stay. This world is hard for everybody to live in and we do what we can to survive. Or not.
I go to therapy and eat cake and in a few weeks I'll even be going to Uganda for World Vision. I got through a whole year of a world without Cam in it. I fight the fight he lost - I fight it mainly for my kids, desperately wanting to spare them pain so I stay. And sometimes I'm an arsehole mother. And sometimes my kids are the arseholes. But mostly we love each other because love? Love is what has destroyed me so intensely but love is also what makes me stay. Stupid fucking love, fuck off with your love. Come here with your love.
I don't know where I would be if I did not have Adrian in my life. I think he's saved my life, no pressure or anything. He thinks that what I have done with my blog is fascinating, letting people in but also keeping them at a distance. He's not very "computery" but sometimes he asks to see a specific post so I email him the link with instructions - "Just click on the sentence and it will take you straight there! Magic!" Last week he asked me what a hashtag was.
"Well Adrian, it's like if you're on twitter right now and you wanted to know about the beheadings by Isis. You key in 'Isis' as a hashtag and everybody all over the world right now who is talking about Isis on twitter right now will come up."
He got it! It felt good to help him for a change. I tell him I will be his IT help desk. He agrees.
Sometimes I'm in so much pain I can't look at him when I talk, I look out the window at the beautiful view and just weep my words out and use up his tissues. I never put my used tissues in his bin I don't want to soil it, I always take them home and throw them in my bin. Told him to stop buying those fucking aloe vera tissues they grease up my glasses. Told him I need a stool to sit down at the front entrance when I'm putting my shoes back on. He did both things, for me. He likes me, I can tell. Sometimes, I count down the sleeps until Thursday, when I get to see him again and I think to myself, I can hang on til Thursday.
This time last year I was so heavily medicated I wonder how much of my grief I actually felt. So I just wanted to make it through to Cams death anniversary completely straight, feel all the feels, before I think about medication again. I need medication again - it's just a truth. So I'll be going on an antidepressant soon - how shit is it that antidepressants fuck with your libido? Like, your depression *will* lift but it will be harder for you to come. Feel better soon!
Adrian and I discuss the plots of True Detective, Game of Thrones, and Walking Dead in DEPTH. Sometimes a whole half-hour has passed and all we've done is talk about our mutual disgust in the current government. He is funny, smart, intelligent. His heart - size of the ocean. I have never known a man to be so thoughtful, considerate, kind. I've known many, many men in my life. None like Adrian. I worry that he'll die. We've spoken about this. I tell him - one more thing happens to me in this life Adrian ONE MORE FUCKING THING SWEAR TO FUCK.
Last week I sat down in the inviting soft red chair clutching my Coke Zero and I was so, so sick of myself. I just said, "Oh ok let's get started - um, grief, pain, tired, anxious, insomnia, family arseholes, existential angst, bullshit bullshit grief. There we go. That's the whole hour done boom."
He LAUGHED. I now have all of my guards down so he gets all of me man, every ounce of me so he laughs a LOT. I don't think he's ever met anyone like me. I've never met anyone like him. He is one of the greatest influences on my life. If I didn't reach out for some help, I would never have met him. He counselled me when my brother was suicidal and he counselled me after my brother suicided and sometimes I just sit there rage-weeping in his chair "ADRIAN I DON'T HAVE A COCK BUT IF I DID IT WOULD BE HUGE AND THE WHOLE WORLD CAN JUST SUCK IT."
He laughed so hard at that one.
I can never repay him. Just knowing people like him EXIST helps me. You know what I pass every time I walk down to his office?
Every single time I walk past it I resist the urge to look into its eye sockets and say, "RUOK?" Because that's what it feels like when people ask me that question. My answer is no. I will never be ok again, ever. I never really have been. I can still live, though. Do stuff. Try my hardest. Unravel the ravel. Break the bonds that had me constricted for years.
I begged Adrian to please never sack me as a client. He promised he wouldn't. I believe him.
Do you get help when you know you need it?