WHY I BECAME A COUNSELLOR by Annabel Giles age 59 and 2/3rds
A few years ago, I made the mistake of getting older. I had enjoyed various glamorous careers over the past 30 years: model (dull but lucrative), tv presenter (fun but for the young) and novellist (interesting but lonely) but it wasn’t until I hit my 50s that I realised I still had to keep earning money for quite a few years to come.
Not only had the government raised the age I get my huge state pension (currently around £8,000 a year - don’t knock it but don’t rely on it) to 66, but I’d made the critical error of being single too, so had no-one to share the bills with. Now I’m no mathematician, but as the current life expectancy in the UK is around 81, that’s an awfully long time to be paying for gas and electricity and so I decided to train for a Proper Job.
I have no ‘A’ levels, no University degree and a very short attention span. I find a lot of people who aren’t the same as me very annoying, I am a hardass who doesn’t cry at animal charity appeals and I abhor selfish parking. I was just as surprised as everyone else, therefore, when I chose to train as a counsellor/psychotherapist.
Well, it’s a job you can do sitting down, and nobody can force you to retire. And joy of joys, the older you look the wiser people think you are, and even if you only qualified last week you still look good at your job.
(I should add here that having had an erm interesting life, I’ve had masses of therapy over the last 30 years and reader, it works.)
I loved college, I bloody loved it. Not necessarily the group bits, like listening back to other’s tactless opinions of you and having to write a journal about who you’d like to stab this week, but oh, the knowledge!!! Suddenly the whys and wherefores of human behaviour began to fall into place and I began to understand what makes us who we are.*
So I’m now fully qualified, and I have my own private practice in Brighton and London and I even have clients on Skype, who I’ve never met but know intimately. I’m not exactly your flowing linens and big wooden jewellery type of therapist, and I’ve never sat with my head on one side sighing empathically either. I’m very basic and make it very clear that I’m a human being rather than a guru. With my knowledge and their courage we find the truth, talk about it, cry about it until we can laugh about it, and then come up with a better plan.
It’s an infuriating job and an inspiring one. It can be draining and frustrating, and compassion fatigue (“look, just bloody leave him”) is kept at bay by having proper breaks, long baths and special treats. But it’s also a privilege to watch someone get better, and I get to witness the determination and resilience of the human spirit on a daily basis.
So now that I’m older and not necessarily wiser but armed with a few more facts, I’ve decided that it’s OK to write about what I see and know here, from time to time. It’s your turn to listen while I talk!
*it’s all your parents fault, and if you really want to do the best thing for your kids, don’t have any. Just kidding xxx