Calypso in Therapy

Calypso in Therapy
flowers from the Russian lea / fragment of 5 artworks "ROMANCE" / exhibition on "Sigmund Freud" CLUB @ Karelia, Petrozavodsk 2012

flowers from the Russian lea / fragment of 5 artworks “ROMANCE” / exhibition on “Sigmund Freud” CLUB @ Karelia, Petrozavodsk 2012

“You are cruel, you gods, and quickest to envy. It afflicts your hearts that a goddess should take a mortal to her bed. I did vow to make him deathless and never grow crooked, or worn with age. But let him go. Let him sail the restless sea…”
Homer, The Odyssey, Book V

Session One – a private counselling service, Moseley, Birmingham

– Not long after he left, I moved house and sold all my possessions
– That seems a little drastic… would you like to explain?
– He went back to his wife and son. I spent the first few months in a blur. Then I got tired of myself, and decided to make a fresh go of things. I thought it would be like the shedding of a skin. I thought that if I moved out, got rid of all the furniture, all the things that reminded me of him, that I would be able to start again.
– I’m interested in the fact that you sold all your possessions, rather than all the things he gave you…
– He didn’t give me anything.
– Ah. I see.
– Nothing at all, actually, come to think of it.
– The bastard!
– Are you supposed to say that?
– Sorry. So why did your possessions remind you of him? Surely these were things you bought before your relationship with… with…
– Odysseus.
– Yes. Odysseus. So, why?
– Everything reminded me of him. If I wore a certain jumper, it reminded me of the last time I wore that jumper with him.
– You got rid of your clothes too?
– Yes.
– Right.
– My table reminded me of sitting at my table eating a meal with him. I couldn’t sit at my table after he left. My bed… I couldn’t sleep in my bed. I slept on the floor. The park reminded me of him, but I couldn’t sell the park…
– So what did you do?
– I just stopped going. I avoided all the places we used to go together. The sun reminded me of him, but I couldn’t sell the sun. The rain reminded me of him, but I couldn’t sell the rain. So I drew the curtains.
– And did it work? Selling all your possessions?
– No.
– Why?
– It wasn’t the shedding of a skin. It felt more like a flaying. And everything hurt after that. Words. Music. The sun. The rain. It all hurt, like I was inside out. But I was inside out the whole time he was with me. Love does that. It puts your nerves, your receptors on the outside. And I found, after I sold everything I owned, that I couldn’t cope with losing everything that had reminded me of him. I wanted him close.
– What did you do?
– I started taking walks in the park.
– Would you like a tissue?
– No. Yes. I can’t believe I’m paying you for this.

Session One, Druids Lane NHS Clinic

– I sacked my last therapist.
– That seems a little drastic… would you like to explain?
– I was trying to bring things to a satisfying conclusion. I gave myself ten sessions. The sessions were very expensive. In truth, I knew, probably after session one, that ten sessions weren’t going to be enough. And I knew, after about session four, that I was paying someone to listen to me talk about him. I just needed to talk about him. And I felt my therapist wanted me to get over him, was willing me to get over him. I could feel her willing me to get better. That’s not very professional, right?
– I couldn’t possibly comment.
– She was a nice lady. So in session nine I tidied up all the loose ends, and in session ten I delivered the perfect ending.
– And what was that?
– I said, “I am so much better now. Thank you. I feel like I can really move on, so thank you.” I said, “I don’t even think about him that much these days.” And I paid her the final £75 and I left.
– And now you’re here.
– And now I’m here. Christ. £750. I paid her £750.
– What would you like to achieve, in these sessions? As you know, the NHS can only offer you six.
– I know, I know. I am lucky to have any sessions at all. I wouldn’t say I’m depressed, you see… bereavement counselling was a genius stroke of mine, wasn’t it?
– We assessed you as needing bereavement counselling.
– I miss him so much. I think about him every day.
– Would you like a tissue?
– Could you just pass me the box?

Accident and Emergency, Royal Central Hospital

– So, Miss… er… it says here ‘Calypso’. Do you have a surname?
– No. I am a goddess.
– I see (delusional).
– What are you writing?
– We believe that you may be suffering from an as yet undiagnosed delusional state. I was writing ‘delusional’ in my notes.
– I am not delusional. I am a goddess. My name is Calypso, and I have lived alone…
– Wasn’t that a song?
– Suzanne Vega. One of the more sympathetic treatments…
– Do you still live alone?
– I have always lived alone. Even when he was with me, I lived alone.
– How is that so?
– He didn’t love me. And so I lived alone. Would you pass me the tissues?
– This loneliness… the void… is that why you attempted suicide?
– No.
– Why did you attempt suicide?
– I don’t know. I mean what’s the point?
– What’s the point of living? For some people, it can get too much, yes.
– No. I meant what’s the point of trying to attempt suicide?
– Some people believe it is a way of ending the suffering.
– But my suffering will never end.
– We are going to help you challenge that notion. That is why you are in hospital.
– No. You don’t understand. My suffering will never end.
– Why? Why do you think that?
– I am immortal.
– I see (psychosis).
– What are you writing?
– (paranoia)…

Mental Health Assessment Unit, Royal Central Hospital

– This is becoming very difficult.
– How do you think I feel?
– We think you must be feeling very depressed. But we are not sure how best to approach your treatment. You’ve been admitted seven times in the past eighteen months.
– I am aware of that.
– You shouldn’t have survived the past three attempts. They have been becoming progressively more… determined. We cannot understand how you survived the dose and combination of pills last May, the impact of the train in, August, wasn’t it?
– Yes. August.
– And now this. The combination of drink and hypothermia should undoubtedly have resulted in death. Do you know how you were found?
– No.
– Unconscious under a tree in Highbury Park, your arms wrapped round the trunk. You were covered by a couple of inches of snow. You were wearing a T-shirt.
– It said ‘Destiny’.
– Yes, that bit you do remember. You were wearing a T-shirt and jeans. No shoes. A dog walker found you. She thought you were dead. You were blue. You should have died.
– I told you. I am immortal.
– We know. You have said, many times. It’s in your notes.
– Do you think I am immortal?
– We think your desire to live is very strong. It makes all this… well, it confuses us. You keep trying to kill yourself. But you keep surviving.
– It doesn’t matter what I do to myself, does it?
– We are going to have to think of a more appropriate way of helping you. Repeated hospital admissions are not the answer. We need to work, together, on a way of reducing the impulses that lead you back here.
– I’m actually not aiming, each time, to return here. But yes, from your point of view, it’s all a question of resources, isn’t it?
– No. That’s not what I meant.
– Yes it is. You, the NHS, can’t afford to keep treating me because I am immortal. I will become, over time – a very long time – a drain on resources.
– You are draining your own resources. Have you ever looked at it like that? Have you?
– No.
– If you are immortal, then you have to think ‘Do I want to live like this forever?’ Do you?
– I don’t want to live.
– You would appear to have no choice. Many people in this hospital would give anything to be able to live.
– Not on this ward.
– Even on this ward. Many of our patients make a full recovery. With medication, and the right therapeutic interventions…
– I don’t want medication. I don’t want therapeutic interventions. I don’t want to live.
– We are going round in circles.

Alabaster Ward, Royal Central Hospital

– Have you been writing?
– Yes.
– Is it good?
– Yes.
– Does it help?
– Yes.
– Would you like to show it to me?
– No.
– Why not?
– You are a different nurse from yesterday. You people seem to enjoy playing Tetris more than helping any of us. You shine torches in our faces at night. Julie burned herself holding her hands against the tea urn again. Bill punched a hole in the nurses’ station window. Nobody is changing his dressing. Margaret told me she was given instructions for hanging herself, for when she gets out. I asked her what was said, so maybe I’d pick up some tips.
– I am sorry to hear that.
– No you’re not.
– Would you like to show your story to anyone else?
– Yes.
– Who?
– Oh, nobody you know.

Louise Palfreyman lives in Birmingham where she works as a copywriter and editor. She has been published in Best British Short Stories 2014, The View from Here, The London School of Liberal Arts, Hypertext Magazine (USA) and most recently Litro. She helps run PowWow Festival of Writing in Moseley, Birmingham, where she also attends a weekly writers’ group.

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