My First Visit to a Shrink

Last week, in one of my low moments—and I have lots of those—I thought about getting a therapist, you know, like a shrink. I initially thought of a couple of friends I could share my thoughts with, but I wasn’t ready to leave the house. I wanted to talk to some others online but my internet access was so bad that I stopped trying to get it to work and continued to wallow in my thoughts. I remember one moment while washing the dishes; my hands were just going through the motions, doing the job of their own accord while the mind roamed in a faraway territory. The time I spent washing those dishes was the equivalent of what it takes women to dress up for a special event.

On Sunday, while normal Christians were worshiping God in church, I sat on my couch after finishing up a number of writing assignments, and thought, “Why can’t I have my own therapist?” And that, my friends, is how we’re here.

***

After crisscrossing online directories in search of a proper therapist, I settled on a woman whose office is located on the 6th floor of the Cocoa House building in Ibadan. I chose her because she was the only married woman who included her faith in her bio. There are six other men and two single women who did the same. I wanted a woman because they seem to be more perceptive in handling matters like mine and chose a married one because that means my wandering mind would have one less alley to travel.

I scheduled an appointment two o’ clock on Wednesday because I wanted to avoid the mall crowd that bombards the compound housing Cocoa house on weekends and public holidays, and renders the mundane act of parking a nightmarish experience. I also wanted to stick the therapy session in a place where it would be untouchable by Owambe* and other events like it.

***

I drove into the parking lot 10 minutes before time and spent five minutes in the car, talking on the phone to a friend who needed a favour. I filled a visitor’s ledger at the reception of the 24-storey building and for a moment considered entering a false mobile phone number. My phone had been getting unsolicited text messages from strange vendors, and that was making me paranoid about anything that requires personal information: from websites to vehicle manifestos at car parks. But I filled in my proper details nonetheless.

I knocked on the brown metallic door with Adegoke & Craig written in white cursive letters on it. It was opened remotely from the inside by a young receptionist who looked like she was barely out of her teenage years even with the heavy makeup that I think was supposed to mask her juvenileness.

“Hi, I’m here for an appointment with Dr. Adegoke.”

“You must be Mr. IfeOluwa Nihinlola.”

“Yes I am.”

“Please sit, she’ll be here with you in a minute.”

She picked the phone and informed the woman on the other end of my arrival. I took a better look at the lady and discovered my first impression about her might have been wrong. She spoke with a calmness that leaves no doubt about her maturity and seemed at home in the reception–the bland and colourless reception. There were Health Magazines arranged neatly on a glass coffee table, the receptionist’s desk was made of a material that looked like carbon fiber painted with a metallic silver to imitate aluminium and there were no blinds on the window. The chairs were the metallic kind used in banking halls that suggest that you are welcome to sit, but not welcome to stay for too long.

Dr Adegoke turned out to be nothing like I’d expected. I thought a woman who was already in private practice would have blossomed into a matronly beauty, the kind that compels you to refer to her as a ma’am. I was wrong. The woman who entered the reception—dressed in a brown midi skirt slit to a point just above knees, paired with a white shirt and nude peep toe pumps—was the kind that made you want to reflect that crass part of you by whistling.

“Hello, good afternoon”

“Good afternoon.” I stood and grabbed her hands in a firm handshake. She had long slender fingers.

“Can we step into my office please.”

“After you.”

Her office had a contrasting character to the reception. It had the regular features that I’ve become familiar with through Hollywood movies and books: a sofa by the door, with a single chair facing it, and at the end of the room was a desk that had an iMac on it. The colour of the wall was one of those pastels that even colour-savvy men like me find difficult to place; it was like washed out lemon with a tint of pink. There was an abstract painting hanging opposite the window. Beside the desk was a small refrigerator that had a jar of instant coffee on it and one cup (so Dr Adegoke doesn’t share her coffee).

She led me to the table and gestured for me to sit. I said to myself, “I’ll have to insist on using the sofa once we start our sessions”.

“How are you today?”

“Fine I guess.”

“You guess?”

“Yeah. It’s hard to be sure of anything, especially what is going on in here.” I tapped my temple..

She smiled and nodded, “Hmmm, is that why you’re here?”

“I guess.”

She opened a brown file and flipped through printouts. “In your mail you said you just want to share your thoughts with a professional. What kind of thoughts would that be?”

“Let’s get this straight: I’m neither suicidal nor depressed. I’m not even close. But I’ve got this thing where I over-think issues and it ends up having a paralysing effect on me. And sometimes it feels like I can’t even control it. My brain goes on rambling of its own accord and I feel like a spectator in a conversation my mind is having with itself. I don’t know if that is weird or not, and this is where you come in. I didn’t want to dump all of this on my friends—again, so I figured I might as well pay someone who has been trained to sit down and listen to my ramblings.”

“Okay.”

“And I don’t think I’ll have to do this forever. Once I find a wife who won’t mind her husband rambling like a neurotic in the middle of a rainy night, your services would become redundant.”

“Hmmm… and how is the search for that woman going?”

“Are we starting already? Is the first session free?”

“Come on. You won’t try to evade that question, will you?”

“I’ve not even started the search yet.”

“Why not?”

“No no no no, we are not doing this. My first session is not going to be a repeat of the arguments my friends confront me with daily.”

“Okay. You win. I’ll just note it for another time” she scribbled on a notepad on the table.

“Merci madame.”

“Did you go through the rates online?”

“Yes I did—.”

“And…”

“—I’ll like to come here an hour every week. Till I run out of money to pay you, or get a wife like I said earlier”

She smiled.“Okay then. I look forward to our sessions, and I hope I’ll be able to help you with whatever is going on”

“I do too. I really do”

“Good. Precious, my secretary, will give you documents to complement the ones you completed online. Please fill and return them by our next appointment.”

“Thank you.”

As I rose to leave she held out her hand for me to shake and asked one last question,

“Who did you inform about this decision?”

“No one.”

“None at all?”

“None.”

“Hmmm okay. Bye IfeOluwa. And by our next meeting you can just call me Moradeke. I prefer it that way.”

“Okay Dr. Moradeke. Thank you.”

I spent the rest of the day wondering if I should have told someone else of my decision to see a shrink. I don’t think therapists are supposed to induce more tension in you, but I think mine did just that.

***

*Owambe: A Yoruba word that is used to describe parties in Nigeria.

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10 thoughts on “My First Visit to a Shrink

  1. This is real. Even if it’s a fiction, I must say it reflects the thought of a lot of Nigerians who get their head so filled up with thoughts that can make them go psychotic if care is not taken. However, I hope Nigeria gets good therapist, better than the one depicted above, to help at such times. In the main time, I think religious leaders and counselors can help.
    Kudos for the write-up.

    1. Thanks Jane. I don’t know why you think is depicted above is not good enough, but sure we need more focus on mental health. And I don’t think the help of religious leaders will count for much if many of them do not submit to proper training. Thanks again.

  2. Such a beautiful piece.
    It seems incomplete, though.
    I was expecting a twist in the end or more interestingly, explaining the “metaphor” the writeup represents.

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