It's my anniversary next month. At the end of April. Yup, on April 28, it'll be a year since I bid a fond, and somewhat reluctant farewell
, to the Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma
. It'll be a year since I walked out of that building - that building which had in some ways become my home away from home - and took my first, tentative steps into my post-therapy life, just like a newly born deer trying to figure out how his or her legs work.
(I did not in fact walk home from the Centre after my last session - I got the 68 or 468 bus, but the image of the newborn deer was too good to resist. Plus, with the way some of these bus drivers manoeuvre their vehicles, and the lack of seats, I do spend much of my time on London buses moving around like a newly born animal with little awareness of his or her limbs).
Some choose to mark their anniversaries with flowers. Some say it with jewellry. Others still choose chocolates. The Centre, however, chooses to mark our anniversary with the exchange of questionnaires. Nothing says I love you - not just as a former patient, but as a useful research subject - like two ten page documents asking you about every single aspect of your anxiety.
It reminds me of the old days... So many significant events in our relationship have been marked by questionnaires - the start, the finish, and, er, more or less every therapy session in between.
The questionnaires have made me nostalgic. I have, in the past year, grown capable of standing on my own two feet and facing anxiety alone. But there are times when I'd like nothing more than to be thrown back and forth on a 68 bus as I travel down to the Centre. I'd like to sit in the waiting room, and notice that the "window" is actually a lightbox. I'd like to sink down into a comfortable chair and say and sometimes laugh about what's on my mind - and then figure out how to deal with it.
But time moves on. The questionnaires prove that. They've moved on. Being the Obsessive Compulsive Professional User of Language that I am, I find myself able to spot new questions with ease. So even though there are some of the classics there - "do you believe there are lucky and unlucky numbers?", to which I want to respond "I couldn't tell you today, it's the 13th, but I'll get back to you tomorrow" - there are also some exciting new questions. Case in point: I'm asked if I'm bothered by intrusive nonsense words, or by music. Interestingly, I am. When I go home
, I find that I words and sentences which make no sense popping into my head as I lie in bed before falling asleep. And they're always spoken by my family. I'm aware it's not actually my family saying these words, but it's said in their voices.
And most mornings I wake up with a song going round in my head. It's interesting to realise that these symptoms are common enough amongst Obsessive Compulsives to warrant being on a questionnaire. In the past, I would have worried about both the intrusive words, and the songs. When both started popping into my head, though, I must have been fairly well into therapy, because I regarded them as intrusive thoughts and didn't get into a debate about why my mind was getting occupied with nonsense words spoken by my parents.
There's no doubt that every day of my life is made easier because of what I learnt during therapy. The intrusive words and music is only one example. Some things I do now would have been impossible to do before I spent six months travelling over to the Centre every week or so. So I will of course fill in the questionnaires, and send 'em back. Cos nothing says I love you - not just as a former provider of therapy, but as something that gave me skills which make my life better every day - than two ten page questionnaires where the answers to most questions reveal someone who doesn't suffer with anxiety anywhere near as much as she did before she met you, you ol'Centre, you.