…MY WORK AS a counsellor was filled with drama. I ordered a years supply of tissues every January, and over the decades I needed more and more. Mostly for the client.
The room I used was spartan. Free from distractions; three soft armchairs, a coffee table that scarcely supported any of its namesake on it, tissues, a small pile of Crisis Intervention pamphlets and my folder, cheap blue plastic, empty but for one page on the woman who sat before me, it being her first time.
“Before we start I find it’s always beneficial to get to know one another…” She recoiled and fidgeted with her handbag strap on her lap, avoiding eye contact.
I softened my voice. “I’m Dennis Roundhill and I’ve been a counsellor for over two decades specialising in domestic issues.” I omitted ‘abuse’.
She looked over, eyes unsettled, shifting in her chair. “I’m Corrina…I appreciate you taking your time counsellor.” Her tone was muted.
“What I would like to do today…” I didn’t get a chance to continue.
“Please!” she interrupted. “I’ve been to counsellors before, I just want help, I can’t cope any more, the situation has gotten out of control. I need help! Today! Not tomorrow! Today!”
I understood her desperation. An abusive husband? a controlling partner? The scenario all too familiar.
“I understand Cor…”
“No! No, you don’t! You do not understand! I don’t care how many years of experience you have, you cannot understand…nobody does. My friends laugh at me, my boss said I’m fired if I call in again. I need help and I need it today!” Her pent up emotions were nothing unusual but the desperation and need in each word hit me hard, pinning me to the back of my seat.
“Of course!” I soothed. “That’s why I’m here, that’s why you’re here. It’s a brave step and you’re here now.” I glanced at my blank paper. “Please can you give me a better idea of what your circumstances and issue or issues are? I’ll be taking some brief notes, I hope that’s ok.”
She didn’t need any encouragement.
“He hits me. I have bruises all down my legs!” She pulled up her skirt revealing dark marks on her calves and shins. “He trashes the house when he’s angry, if I lock him in a room he causes so much damage.” She looked despairingly at the walls and ceiling wiping a tear away before it could fall.
Locked in a room? I interjected. “How often does this happen Corrina?”
“Well, every day…I just don’t know what to do any more.” Her pitch shot up, on the verge of breaking down. I nudged the tissues closer to her, but she declined using her fingers to dab at her eyes.
He sounded like a monster. Of course I couldn’t say that. “In addition to physical abuse is there verbal abuse, controlling behaviour…”
She nodded, sniffling. “He doesn’t speak though, it’s all physical so far…”
“He doesn’t speak?”
She took a moment to reply. Looking downward. “Well, it’s pretty embarrassing, I know I should be able to cope with him…to be a good mother…”
A good mother?! Trying to remain professional I offered up an empty cliché. “Remember, you’re the victim, you are not to blame, ok!”
She continued unprompted. “Do you have any idea what it’s like hearing other mothers calling him my little green monster?” She paused to reflect briefly, then more tears flowed, unnoticed this time, a good sign; she was letting go. “He’s due to start school next year…I…I…” and she was gone, mascara laced tears she’d held back flowing freely, helping herself to handfuls of tissues, trying to control her sobbing.
A good mother?! I gave her a moment. “Can you clarify some details for me? You’re not talking about a husband or partner?” She shook her head, sniffing, touching gingerly at the corners of her eyes with tissue.
“He’s my baby boy…he’s only…four years old.” Sniffle. “My little baby Hulk…”