He couldn’t sleep. It had happened again.
Right there, in their favourite restaurant, he’d had a panic attack. He had lain on the floor and lost control.
A small crowd had formed around the table where he had sat with his girlfriend.
Thankfully, a man with strong arms had gently pulled him up and shooed everyone away. He had pulled up a chair and sat down with him until the panic attack subsided.
But that last incident wasn’t what was keeping him awake. His girlfriend had booked him a therapy session, and his first meeting was going to take place in the morning. As he lay awake at two in the morning, he contemplated cancelling it.
Later on, as he sat in the therapist’s office, he wondered if he looked as tired as he felt.
“So, did it take you long to get here? I hope you didn’t have a hard time trying to find our office,” said the therapist. She was a petite woman with a kind face who looked to be in her mid to late thirties.
‘It didn’t take long.’ He had slept on the train but not before asking the kind stranger that sat next to him to wake him up in five stops. The stranger had tapped him a stop before to make sure he was up in time.
“My name is Jane, and I’ve been a therapist for about 8 years,” she said with a beaming smile that had to be exaggerated. No one that listened to other people’s problems for living was bound to be that happy and so early in the morning too.
“My name is Kunle.” He smiled nervously and shook her hand.
“So, what brings you here?” she smiled again, this time displaying lipstick-stained teeth.
“My girlfriend booked me this therapy session because I have a lot of panic attacks. I had a long night, and I was very worried about this session.”
Eek, had he said too much? Perhaps it was the lipstick-stained teeth. Something about an imperfect therapist made him feel at ease.
She smiled. “That’s okay. Most people find therapy sessions to be daunting until they actually go to one. I can assure you that this space is a safe one. I won’t force you to talk about anything you are not comfortable with.”
“Okay. Thank you for assuring me.” He looked around the room. It was clean, almost bare apart from the table that was cluttered with several self-help books. Right on top of the messy pile was a book called: How to be yourself.
Self-help books are so bogus. Why would anyone need help being themselves? Did she read those books for herself? Could it be that even a therapist of eight years could have an identity crisis?
“So, how long have you been having these panic attacks?”
“Before I answer that, I’ve noticed that you like to take notes, and I want to make sure that anything we discuss in this room stays between us and that you won’t write a book about me or something.”
Her eyes widened for a moment, and she took a short pause. “Umm, I take it that this is the sort of thing that kept you up all night.” She turned and put the offending notepad on the messy table behind her. “Not to worry, I can assure you that those notes are not even going to be worth me making a book out of.”
He gave a half-smile “hmm.” He still wasn’t convinced.
“Besides, those notes are for me to know how I can help you,” Her voice was firm with a slight tremor to it. She coughed and cleared her throat. “Sorry, I seem to have caught a cold.”
“Why don’t you start by listing all the things that make you happy.” She smiled again, and he looked away.
“Um. I don’t have a list per se… but my girlfriend makes me happy. She truly is the only person in my life that has looked out for me,” He muttered with a faraway look in his eyes.
“Hmm.” She leaned back into the chair until it made a loud and irritating creaking sound.
“She just wants me to get to the root of my panic attacks.”
“Okay, let’s review that for a moment.” She reached back to her desk, grabbed the notebook and started to jot down.
“I know what is causing the attacks, but I think you may find it strange. I have had them for as long as I can remember.”
“It’s a wooden spoon. I panic every time I see one. I am here because I was told you could help me with coping strategies.”
“Do you think you could dig a little deeper to understand why the wooden spoon causes such a reaction?”
He closed his eyes and clenched his fists.
“My Grandma used to beat me with a wooden spoon, almost every day when I was a kid. I don’t blame her because I know she wasn’t alright, but here I am today, still trying to find a way to deal with it!”