This is a school essay I wrote when I was like, 13.
Feel free to laugh.
"So Bob, how are you doing?" My therapist, Jean, asks, smoothing her wrinkled hands over her skirt. I don't answer at first, opting to stare blankly at the wall instead. It has all the usual posters – "How do you deal with depression?", "What causes stress and anxiety?". Every one of these so-called 'clinics' is identical. I laugh at them inside my head, feeling superior. Jean clears her throat, interrupting my reverie.
"What?" I do my best to look composed, but she's really irritating me. Any reaction at all means I lose. She won't get what she wants from me.
She smiles. It looks fake, strained, like someone's stretching her lips against her will. "I asked you how you were."
I shrug casually. "Fine.. good.. you know how it is."
"No I don't. Why don't you tell me about it?" She's acting nonchalant, but I can feel her determination to get me to open up. They're all the same. None of them seem to grasp the fact that I'm a lost cause. I know the therapy routine inside out.
All my life I've been a mental case. At six I was diagnosed with ADHD, and by ten I was attending regular counsellor meetings with my mother. Usually I'd just sit and watch my mother spill her guts, but occasionally I'd get one of those patronising brightly coloured worksheets with questions such as "Do you experience regular feelings of hopelessness and despair?" I was too young to really understand the language or the process we were undergoing.
The reason for all the therapy sessions was my father. He, like most fathers, was a hero figure for me from a very young age. He was a doctor, worked seven days a week and had little time for his family. When I asked why I barely ever saw him, my mother said it was because he loved us and wanted to make as much money as possible. She would later discover that he'd been spending very little time at work for the last year, and the rest with his secret girlfriend in a flat we didn't even know he'd rented. That marked the end of our 'happy family, and the start of my mother's alcoholism. It also set me off down a route of self destruction that continues even now.
"I've been tired a lot recently." I remark.
Jean's eyes light up. "Why do you think this is? Drugs? Alcohol? Spending too much time partying with your friends?"
Snorting, I look at her for the first time in what seems like hours. "You know as well as I do that I don't see anyone out of school."
"From what I've heard, you don't see anyone in school either. Your school counsellor phoned me last night." Her tone is casual, but there's a sharpness behind it. This reminds me of my grandmother. She was a proud yet nervous woman who disapproved of almost everything. My mother could imitate her high, scratchy voice almost perfectly. This impression was reserved for when she was drunk, of course. I found it difficult to see the funny side of anything on those days.
For a moment I actually feel embarrassed, then decide it barely matters what Jean thinks of me. "Yeah, I've been off quite a bit recently."
"With your mother's permission?"
"My mother doesn't know which way is up these days." I say bitterly. I regret it instantly. Sometimes I forget Jean is The Enemy, and let my guard down. But I'm just handing her ammunition.
As predicted, I'm hit by another barrage of questions. "Has she been drinking again? Has her intake increased or decreased? how does this make you feel?"
My mother has been drinking almost every night since He left us. At the beginning, I tried to convince her that it was doing more harm than good, but gave up after a couple of years. Nothing anyone could do would have any effect whatsoever. Even her own uncle's alcohol-related death did nothing. She drank herself into oblivion in front of the television, often crying or very angry with no one in particular. It got better more recently, but I can't help but feel that the slightest thing could bring it all crashing down.
I blink helplessly at Jean. It's difficult to fit all these feelings into a simple sentence. She gives me a knowing look, trying to show that she understands. It's a bluff, I reassure myself. With all the therapists, psychologists, psychoanalysts and other ridiculously-titled people that have told me they know exactly how I feel, I'd be a fool to believe anything they say.
"Tell me, how has your substance misuse been recently?"
I bite my lip to stop myself yelling at her, then take a deep breath. "If you mean drugs, say the word."
She smiles wryly. "Why do you want me to do that?"
"Because you're patronising me."
"I use formal language around you because I know how intelligent you are, not to patronise you." She tells me, as if this explains it all.
"You feel inclined to play down your intelligence because you feel it is easier if people do not have high expectations of you. I understand this, but it isn't very productive."
I lose my head. "You people! You look too far into everything! I don't act smart because I'm not, and I don't give a crap what other people expect of me!" She's doing this deliberately, I can tell by the triumph that flickers in her eyes.
"Why do you think this makes you so angry? Did I get a little too close to the truth?"
I growl, unable to form words. She's right. She's a button-pushing bitch, but she's right.
"Bobi, it's okay to admit these things to me. That's why I'm here." Her voice drops as she looks right at me. Suddenly she's my mother, honest and vulnerable.
"Things are going to get better, honey." She sounded hoarse. I nodded mutely as 'Margaret Izzard, Children's Welfare In Edinburgh' stepped off the front porch. We'd been waiting for over a month for this meeting, and when it finally came it had been worse than normal. I had to sit there and watch as Margaret laid into my mother, telling her how irresponsible she was being. The worst thing was that I couldn't argue, because the things my mother was being told off for had come from what the psychologist I had been seeing at the time had reported.
We had both cried when Margaret brought out the email she had received and started reading my most recent notes.
"Anger issues – a very quick temper, had ADHD since childhood…" She read aloud, overemphasising 'very' and looking gleeful. "..and where was – oh, there it is! Yes, and unconfirmed Borderline Personality Disorder."
No one spoke for about ten minutes.
"Borderline.. what?" I choked out, my eyes focusing on the ugly chair my mother was sitting on, rather than her face. There was no need. I could feel the hot tears rolling down it.
She promised, from that day, never to drink again. This lasted almost a week. That was the last drinking promise she ever made, to this day. And it had the distinction of being the last time I believed anything she said.
My consciousness drifts back to Jean. Time has passed, I can tell by the way she's staring at me. Is that why she's staring? Am I meant to be answering a question right now? God, I'm so tired.
And upset, I realise, as I become aware that I'm crying.
Perhaps out of confusion she still doesn't say anything. Neither do I, content to dwell on that horrible day. It was the first of many overdoses that would blacken my evenings for the next few months. Nothing really serious ever happened as a result of this. A few ambulances, but she never needed her stomach pumped. I'm not sure how long ago it was, judging time isn't my strong point. I can be in the middle of a conversation, then abruptly I'll be dragged into a memory. Sometimes it can be a good moment, with both my parents and happiness intact, but more often it's an overdose evening, or one of the times I tried to run away. I hated her so much I could hardly stand it. My father too. He triggered this whole thing in the first place.
"Sometimes I feel like there's a fire inside me." I confess. She's tactful enough not to ask what the hell I'm on about, so I continue. "I get so mad.. and I don't even know why. It's not fair on her, being left by her husband and having a son that completely despises her, but I can't help it. She's so useless." I shock myself with how truthful I'm being. My heart racing, I force myself to watch Jean's reaction.
To my surprise, she doesn't rub it in my face. "It takes a lot of courage to be honest like that. You may not feel like it, but you're actually making a bit of progress."
I grin, because I can't think of anything else to do. The sick feeling is fading fast, because I've finally said something I've been dying to tell someone. Anyone, really.
"It's natural to feel a little bit violated after outbursts like this, but I promise you, it gets easier." She lifts her brown leather handbag from the floor, obviously it's the end of the session. "Today has been a breakthrough, Bob. Stay with what you feel, consider it. Try to work out where all those feelings are coming from. Keep a diary if you want to. You know my number, call me if anything comes up."
"Jean-" The words catch in my throat. I'm so unused to being sincere to these people that it almost hurts. "..thank you."
She beams at me the way a proud mother would. "No problem."