“Whatever happened to Gary Cooper? The strong silent type. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings, he just did what he had to do…what they didn’t know was that once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings they wouldn’t be able to shut him up.”
I have heard many tales of how notoriously difficult it is to get good, free mental health care in the UK. In this world of cuts, I would imagine it’s nigh on impossible. Except, it turns out, if you’re a single parent. This feels a bit like fiddling while Rome burns – you can’t get a living wage, or affordable childcare, but you can get someone to talk to when your house is repossessed. Bonus. But it has still been a pleasant surprise that counselling-funding exists for a relatively vulnerable group.
I’m not sure it’s been such a boost for my self-esteem though. This year I’ve been offered four distinct kinds of therapy. I PROMISE you this isn’t because I’m exhibiting wildly anti-social behaviour or uncontrollable weeping/early signs of madness (*wibble*). It just turns out that I now tick quite a few boxes. And who wants to tick those particular boxes?
There is also a caveat to this unlikely NHS miracle: the counselling comes in restricted, niche packages. For instance I’ve been offered “first time mum and baby” counselling — but this is only really available if you’re having trouble bonding with your baby. So although it was offered, in the end, I didn’t qualify. Thankfully.
I won’t bore you with the details of the other bits of therapy on offer, but they all followed the same pattern: “this counselling is available to you as a single parent. Hmmmm.. but your children must be by two different fathers. And you need to have a disability. And you must sing I will survive with sufficient verve to show us you’ve properly been through the wringer”.
And so, like Gary Cooper, I’m just doing what I have to do. It’s not so much that there’s nothing to say, just that if you get me started, you’ll never, ever shut me up.
(This post is dedicated to the man who regularly poops in the bins round the streets where I live. Now there’s a person who should qualify for some therapy…)