Yesterday I had a session with Ms. A. She was one of my first clients and after 8 months has become pivotal in my experience as a counselor. She is a 73 year old, “short and round,” little woman who feels as though she is at a crossroads in her life; her kids are married with children, she has fulfilled her duties as a mother and is living with a husband she feels she was threatened and guilted into marrying. She found meaning in being needed as a wife and a mother but somewhere along the line, lost herself in those responsibilities. 36 years later, she wants to regain control of her life and is beginning to wonder what she can do to make the best of her remaining years.
I had spoken to her over the phone several times before we actually met. I quickly learned that she is a very learned lady, always making reference to a research paper she read, a conference she attended, a study that was conducted, etc. The qualities and characteristics we emphasize/hide when we start a new relationship are interesting. She presented a misdemeanour that made me almost question whether I was competent enough to counsel her. It was a little intimidating and I think she intended it as such. See, Ms. A had been abandoned by a few counsellors and friends in the past that had tried to be her support, but had gotten overwhelmed and left or didn’t have the tools to help her. So the tests were necessary, they were for her, not for me. One of the things I had to learn was not to take stuff like that personally. It wasn’t about me, she wasn’t trying to make me feel incompetent and inferior, this was about her and her need to feel safe and secure.
Asking for help isn’t easy and to make things worse, we have it programmed in our heads that the person asking for help is a lesser person than the one helping. They must be a better person because they’ve got it figured out better than I do and to compensate for that feeling of inferiority, our ego and pride come into play — If I look the part, I can compensate for how I feel inside.
After a few phone sessions, I made it to the next round, another layer peeled. She was ready to meet face-to-face. Slowly the walls were being torn down. We agreed to meet at her home as she didn’t have access to transportation at the time. I had my reservations. My mind got the best of me a few times, talking to someone who has expressed feelings of instabilty and then going to their home without ever having met them. As I pulled into the parking lot I opened up my binder, pulled out her file and reviewed it. Said my prayers and simultaneously stepped out of my car and my comfort zone. Rest assured as I walked to the door, I kept keys between my fingers and said my prayers. Personal safety first 🙂
She opened the door to the co-housing complex, a short little lady, hair up in a bun like a yogi, small blue eyes, wrinkles that ran as deep as the wisdom in her eyes. I followed her as she waddled to her unit. We walked past a neighbour, she introduced me as the lady who would be ‘decluttering her mind’. Keys still in hand. She opened the door to her room and my jaw dropped. Not really, but my keys did.
Ms. A didn’t just need to declutter her headspace, she needed to declutter her home. You see, Ms. A is what some would call, a hoarder. Her entire unit, living space, kitchen, basement, stairway to the basement, etc. looked like that.
I’m a big believer in a higher power and an even biger believer that this higher power has quite the sense of humour. There couldn’t have been a more fitting ‘sign’ of the chaos I was getting myself into! My journey had started…
To be continued.