The Professor…

It was a cold Friday morning in January. I was hovering nervously outside the office of Professor Dave Black waiting for a psychological evaluation for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Psychological and evaluation.

Two words I believed were reserved for the depressed, the mentally troubled, the crazy. And possibly Donald Trump.

So how could these words apply to me?

But they did apply to me, because apparently I had anxiety and apparently Cognitive Behavioural Therapy could help. Which was why I was waiting there. Waiting to be psychologically evaluated…

But for the record, I DIDN’T BELIEVE MY ISSUES WERE CAUSED BY ANXIETY!

Because I believed I had a serious health condition and I just wanted to be well.

I’d had enough of the pain, the worry and being ruled by a tormented body and tortured mind which left me incapable of focussing on anything,

EXCEPT MY HEALTH!

Focussing on my health had become my job.

And it was the worst job ever!

Even worse than the job I once had in a fish factory which involved sticking my hands in smelly fish guts at 6am on Saturdays in freezing cold conditions. Usually while dealing with a hangover.

It was completely exhausting.

The conditions were Dickensian.

I worked on it 24 hours a day.

It cost a fortune and paid me nothing.

There was no time off.

And the food was rubbish.

So I decided it was time to quit.

Which was why I was standing there waiting to meet a Psychologist. A Professor. Who might be able to help with that.

Introducing the very, very familiar, Professor Black

It was time to go in.

A voice called out ‘enter’ and I opened the door, expecting to see a white coat-clad ‘shrink’ and a couch behind it.

There was no couch.

But there was a desk and behind it sat a sandy haired chap about my own age who looked like he was a member of the 80’s pop group, Madness – very fitting given he was located in a Psychologists office.

However, he didn’t look like a psychologist. And he wasn’t wearing a white coat.

Yet he was strangely familiar.

In his turned up jeans, black DocMarten boots and red plaid shirt with braces, he reminded me of the guys I hung around with in my college days.

Against a backdrop of Cure, Smiths, New Order and Margaret Thatcher, we navigated our way to almost adult life, sharing secrets and experiences in those precious halcyon days between leaving school and becoming real grown ups. We were actors, cast in a tale of youth and hope, in a rose-tinted world where anything was possible and only good things lay ahead.

And seeing a psychologist was definitely not in the script.

As I sat down the Madness lookalike said, ” hello, I’m Professor Dave Black, but my husband calls me Prof D!”

Wow!

I admired his honest openness and felt I could trust him.

“So what do you  know about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?” asked Professor Black.

“Not much,” I said honestly, while staring at him intently and thanking the Psychology gods for my good fortune.

And in case you don’t know much either, here’s a summary from Dr Google…

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave… based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle.

He echoed the good doctor’s summary and asked what I expected to happen.

‘I didn’t expect you’, I thought, whilst at the same time being delighted it was him.

“I thought we would talk about things and maybe I’d lie on a couch,”

“Well there’s no lying down in here, we don’t have a couch!’ he quipped. “But we talk, so come on, tell me why you’re here.”

A surge of scratchy heat rose up my throat, prompting me to spill the beans.

And I told.

A tale of fear, worry and wondering how to get well. Of a raging sore throat and other symptoms which moved in and wouldn’t leave. Of a search for answers and googling, symptom checking and monitoring everything I did.

Then the floodgates opened releasing a torrent of tears in a forceful, flowing cascade. I sobbed and sobbed big, noisy, snotty sobs.

And I was suddenly six years old again. A six year old in a 40-something body with a mascara streaked face.

And that 40-something, six year old, was desperately hoping The Professor might do what her mum always did when she actually was six.

FIX IT!

But I wasn’t six years old.

And The Professor was not my mum.

So he didn’t do or say anything, except offer a tissue, which was great as I didn’t have one.

When I regained my composure he asked,”what are you really afraid of? “

He hasn’t listened, I thought, before realising I actually hadn’t told him that bit..

Fear of the future

So I told him I was afraid tomorrow would always be the same as today and I would never get my life back.”

“Well if you couldn’t get your ‘life back’ would it really be so bad?” He questioned.

I gave an emphatic, “Yes. I would be devastated.”

He was silent, considering my words before saying,

“There are ways of dealing with these things. Strategies and techniques I can teach you which could help. It’s really about changing how you think and view things but it isn’t easy. It’s very hard work and it is all up to you. Are you in?”

“I’m in!” I said, feeling an unexpected tremor of excitement.

“Then let’s get started. There’s things we need to get to work on right away. Firstly, you have developed some extreme behaviours.”

Extreme behaviours?

I looked at him, puzzled.

“Your Googling and throat checking habits are extreme and will make things worse. You must stop,” he said.

Ah, Okay. Guess I couldn’t argue with that.  

My habit of googling all day certainly hadn’t solved anything and was actually depressing. It had led me to some horrific virtual places and yes, it had made me feel worse.

And I did check my throat.

From every angle.

Numerous times a day.

I guess peering at tonsils with different sized mirrors and various lighting implements probably isn’t ‘normal’ behaviour for anyone who isn’t a throat specialist or perhaps tests mirrors for a living.

“Ok. I will try” I said, knowing I could probably cope without examining my throat while nervous at life without Dr Google, my friend, confidante and sole medical advisor.

He nodded encouragingly and said, “I know what’s really going on here”.

Surprised I looked at him. Waiting for the verdict. Wondering if that meant I wouldn’t need him after all.

“But I will get back to you about that next time” he said.

“NOOOOOOOO, damn it, you spoilsport!” I yelled inwardly.

And I was suddenly back to 1983. A time before Sky+ when box sets didn’t exist and you waited on tenterhooks for a whole week to find out what happened next in your favourite TV show.

AKA – A CLIFFHANGER!

And like the cliffhangers of yesteryear, I was going to have to wait till the next episode with The Professor, to find out what happened next. 

And I had a feeling it was going to be a very long two weeks!

Click here for the previous blog post.

21 thoughts on “The Professor…

  1. Do we have to wait two weeks to read the next episode? Your cbt fellow sounds so practical and grounded xx

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    1. That’s ‘cliffhangers’ for you Jo!
      And I am extremely grateful that my introduction to ‘therapy’ was with the wonderful Professor. With his guidance and support I learned so much about life, health and myself.

  2. Very nice cliffhanger, I’m already hooked and eagerly awaiting the next instalment.

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  3. Cyrus Bhandara 9th Nov 2018 — 5:49 pm

    Janie you write very nicely! You’re a clever girl. I’m so sorry to hear that you had experienced these awful days, I really had no idea! I’m looking forward to see when you met the next time he may have been wearing a two toned suit or baggy trousers. More intrigued in what the response was.

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    1. Cyrus, the thing with anxiety – for many who deal with it – is it’s extremely difficult to tell anyone what’s going on, except maybe those in the immediate circle. The only clue I gave the wider world that there was anything wrong was my rapid weight loss and even then people thought it was intentional. I always plastered on a smile, said the right things… while wishing I could be anywhere but around other people. I found it very hard. Anxiety is incredibly complex. But now I feel tremendously blessed to have been given the chance to reassess my life and move forward. Sometimes we are sent unpleasant challenges but they improve us for the better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well done Janie! I do understand a little bit. I’m so pleased you’re able to now talk about it. I assume your symptoms have gone now?

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      2. Ah now that would be telling, my friend. And a writer can not reveal the ending ahead of time 😂

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  4. Can’t wait to hear what happens next, although this sounds very familiar to a situation my daughter went through we took her to one of these sessions but being a practical teenager she kept saying “I’m fine and don’t need to go back” although this was two years ago and she is now vastly better. However after reading this there are a couple of small issues that perhaps could be resolved with this method. So will wait with baited breath, fantastic and well written. Can even picture the doctor in my mind.

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    1. That’s a natural response and I believe it’s a case of accepting your issues are real in order to work through them. Change will never happen until you understand it yourself. I am not going to tell what happened to me just now, but as with your daughter, these things can take a while to improve…

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  5. You have such a gift for writing, my friend. Each post leaves me wanting so much more. Even though I wish you had never dealt with this, I am so thankful you are sharing your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will continue to share my journey and if it helps even just one personal feel less alone then I will have done my bit. I am delighted you’re enjoying it.

      Like

  6. Hello, thank you for your post. I have anxiety that manifests in health issues generally b7t currently it is specifically my throat…2 years ago it was my jaw…a hypnotherapist I went to said various issues that were connected with jaw and throat pointed to not being heard etc., and can certainly relate to that. I eagerly await the next instalment xx

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    1. Hi Susan! Hello and welcome to my blog journey. Also thank you for taking the time to leave your comment – it is very interesting to hear of your similar issues as well as extremely comforting to know it’s not just me who has battled with a nasty old vindictive throat 😩 Anxiety is a very complex issue affecting many in a multitude of ways and very hard to get into perspective for some. It seems you have lived with it in several guides which must’ve been very challenging so well done to you for having the courage and strength to keep going on in life. It’s such a difficult thing to deal with and you only understand it fully if you live it – as we do, or have done. Your hypnotherapist is quite right, health issues manifest for a reason and as I get to a point where my journey has moved forward I will explore all sorts of other ideas around it, including one on not ‘being heard’ ‘not speaking your truth’ and being reluctant to communicate. All ‘alternative’ reasons for the manifestation of throat issues. Thankyou again.

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  7. You have no idea how helpful this is for me Janie. Thank you for sharing your story/struggle. I look forward to more.

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    1. It is a so good to hear this and If I can help others in any small way I’m delighted!
      Thankyou so much for taking the time to comment. It is greatly appreciated.

      Like

  8. Oh it’s so good to read I’m not alone with my health and anxiety issues . I don’t know what started first ibs or anxiety . I hate getting up in the morning when it all starts again pain and trying to work out what is causing it . I’m not living just existing at the moment like you I google everything for help . Cannot wait for next instalment . X

    Like

    1. Hello Moira and thankyou for sharing your experience. Anxiety about health is something that affects many people in many different ways. I didn’t actually realise how widespread an issue it is know until I started this blog and launched my Facebook group and people shared their stories with me.
      Take comfort that you are not alone. I hear you. I know what you are going through, so stay positive and remember there’s always good things ahead even though it doesn’t always seem that way.

      Like

      1. Thanks for replying my ibs is starting to get better . However my anxiety is still huge panic attacks just thinking of Xmas and putting a smile on my face for everyone . But reading your blogs lets me know I’m not mad and others share this daily x

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      2. Moira you are very brave and honest. I know how difficult that brave face can be. You are not at all mad you are doing what you have to do to get through. Great news that your IBS is getting better and I’m delighted you are enjoying my blogs. Look out for my Christmas special in a few weeks which is probably going to resonate with you.
        Thankyou for your support and I wish you all the best in your forward journey with your health xx👍

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