It’s all about Me…once a week


The only difference between arrogant self-absorption and healthy self-expression is whether the listener is being paid to hear you or not.

I get the occasional visit from a nurse who works in mental health. The purpose of her visit is straightforward: she comes to hear me talk all about me. Me, me, me.

Every time she leaves, I choke on the embarrassed conviction that I’ve been outrageously self-absorbed. This poor woman turns up to sit in front of me for over half an hour, where she smiles and laughs in appropriate slots, as she listens to me talking all about…whatever I want to talk about. Which is usually a dramatic retelling of my thoughts and activities over the last week. (Much like I do in this blog… But let’s not get too Freudian.)

Despite the guilty feeling I have at the end, visits from MentalHealthLady* are my favourite of all the post-natal professionals that come — not because I have a need to indulge myself in arrogance, but because the talking and laughing that’s to be had with her makes it feel like I’m just hanging out with a friend.

The other consultants and nurses who visit are primarily there in Timmy’s interests, either to assess his development or to discuss parenting concerns with me. But MentalHealthLady’s happy to talk about the characters of Harry Potter, or about the delight of Scottish accents.

She’s not there for Timmy. She’s there for me. And after a week of Baby Immersion, where all I do is for Timmy, all I’m asked about is Timmy, and/or how I’m coping with him, and all I think about is what Timmy will need from me next, and when he’ll need it…a conversation that can be all about me (or Harry Potter) is a kind of self-absorption that makes me enthused about being alive, again.

Still, the exchange with MentalHealthLady has particular parameters that differ from what it would be if I were just ‘hanging out with a friend’. If it were just a social meeting, it would be rude of me to talk only about me. Etiquette would dictate I also ask about her week and her thoughts, and let her have turns at directing the conversation. But in this relationship, that would be inappropriate. I don’t have the privileged position of being allowed to know MentalHealthLady’s inner workings — behind all the laughs and frivolity, I’m just her client. So because what feels like friendship doesn’t appeal to friendship etiquette, I come away from each meeting with the feeling of self-absorbed rudeness.

There’s not a great deal I can do about it though, I suppose.

I could end the meetings. MentalHealthLady has already submitted her professional opinion to relevant Others, stating that my mental health is good, and I’m progressing well with parenting. She’d said to me that even so, she can continue to visit if I’d like her to. It would be on-going assessment to make sure I continue to be okay.

I didn’t care what she’d call it. I just wanted to keep having the enjoyable times with my friend-for-hire. So, because I don’t need her services…I could end the meetings…

…No. Don’t want to.

That leaves the alternative: suck up the guilt of self-absorption, and just enjoy the opportunity to chat and giggle with MentalHealthLady, and if the guilt or self-absorption overwhelmed me, release the pressure on my conscience by blogging about it.

Clearly, I chose the alternative.

* not her real name


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