We get one-to-one therapy, here, once a week, and are encouraged to seek support from staff. Each of the care assistants is given two or three patients to keep an eye on during their shift. They’re supposed to coax us into talking through our troubles, which should help us understand and come to terms with what’s going on in our heads.
Ascot House has its own jargon, and this process is called “catch up”. “Do you want a catch up?”, a kindly care-assistant will ask. The local accent makes this sound like “ketchup”, leaving me utterly bewildered, and Dylan paralysed with hysterical mirth (a sign of how much he’s recovered.)
My confusion seems appropriate, given how uncomfortable it makes me feel. In fact, ungratefully, I feel imposed upon. I’ve always squirreled away difficult and upsetting experiences, thinking that I needed to get on, and couldn’t afford to be paralysed with horror at my own past. Why would I want to? It’d only be upsetting. “Fancy a ketchup?”, I’m asked. “Christ, no!”, I reply, “You must be mad!”
This repression has become second nature to me, so that dwelling on things seems deeply unnatural, almost inconceivable, and there doesn’t seem to be anything to talk about. Talking is like trying to prize open a heavy iron blast door that’s rusted shut and is so covered with brambles and leaf litter that you never knew it even existed. It lifts great clods of unreflective feeling, laid down over years and years, as it comes.
However, Ascot House wants patients to challenge themselves as much as possible, and, as I’ve decided to give this programme a go, I’ve promised myself never to refuse a ketchup. We need to be re-socialised, and if it does nothing else, ketchup forces us to engage with other people, although I wouldn’t go so far as to reveal any of my secret feelings or thoughts. That would be a step too far. They must remain closely guarded.