5 - Expensive, incessant chatter.

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My first session with Karen ended, and she reassured me that things would be okay while scheduling another appointment in a fortnight's time. Before I left though, she asked me what I had learned about myself from that first session. I resisted the temptation to describe myself as having been eternally doomed since my very first breath as I really did want to take this seriously, and instead opted for something along the lines of, "It really has been tough from the start, and I never realised how much those early years and everything that happened in my family impacted me and my choices growing up." She seemed reasonably satisfied with that answer and didn't press it any further, making a note of it on her note pad, no doubt also to be included in my case notes on file detailing my insanity.

I drove home, stopping to pick up Madden from after-school care on the way, all the while reflecting on everything Karen and I had discussed, and I'd be lying if I said it hadn't left me still feeling anxious, perhaps even more so than before I walked into her counselling suites.

Madden has been living with me since I moved out of home when I was twenty-one years old. My stepfather was long gone by then, living with his new family and finally leaving us the fuck alone like I had always wished for, so he wasn't around to take issue with it. Even from birth, Madden never took to him. He would cry and wail whenever he was held by my stepfather, and no matter what he did to try to make him stop, Madden just wouldn't settle until someone else would take him, usually me. Or Ruben. He was a smart kid, even then.

Madden was eleven now, so he knew enough about life to know that I hadn't been completely okay since starting my new job at the school, and that I was speaking to someone about it to try to get better. He was actually the one who encouraged me to go see Karen in the first place. Having been living with me the whole time I was studying my social work degree at university, he had learned that talking to people when you're not okay can sometimes help, and his tender heart was worried than anyone about mine not being okay.

He had come into my bedroom one night asking why I had been wiping away tears while making dinner. I had thought I had disguised it well, but I'm never deprived of opportunities to witness how observant and intuitive kids can be. Especially this kid. I really should have known better than to try to hide it from him, especially seeing as I'm always trying to get him to open up about his feelings to me. Hypocrisy is not something I aspire to.

He had climbed into my bed later that night, saying, "I know you're feeling sad about something, Sadie. Do you want to talk to me about it?" It reminded me of all the times that Bree, Seth, Brayden and Hadley would crawl into my bed whenever the yelling started at night when we were younger. We would all fall asleep on my bed, huddled together while the five of us could all still fit there. When we no longer could, I relegated myself to the floor. As we grew older, they must have learned to block most of it out, so they stopped coming into my room as often, reserving that option just for the particularly bad nights, which was still at least once a week.

Madden's observation that night was entirely accurate, as usual. I had been feeling sad. Finishing university and starting work as a student counsellor in a high school was harder than I ever anticipated.

I truly loved my job and, shy of being an artist (even though I haven't done much of that since my late-teens) and selling my work at farmer's markets on weekends, I could barely imagine doing anything else. But being back in a high school when my own experience of school, particularly in the last few years, was so horrible, and hearing all things my students were dealing with was reminding me of everything that happened when I was their age that I clearly hadn't dealt with properly. The more I'd see kids at work and hear about their shitty lives, the more my own repressed memories began to surface from the depths of my mind, having been lying dormant down there for years just waiting for the perfect opportunity to re-emerge and wreak a whole new kind of havoc on my life.

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