I walk into a small waiting room, there's a desk to my left and a couch and coffee table to my right. The receptionist sees me walk and greets me with a cheery smile.
"Good afternoon sir, how may I help you?" she says with a positive attitude.
"Um, hi," I reply, "I have an appointment with Dr. Turner at 3:00."
She flips through a calendar on her desk. "Ah yes, I see you Mr. Armor. Is this your first time?"
"Wonderful." She grabs a clipboard and pen off her desk and hands it to me. "If you'll just have a seat over by the couch and fill this survey out while you wait. The survey will help Dr. Turner better understand what's troubling you. I'll go back and let him know you're here."
I take the clipboard and pen with my magic and take a seat on the couch while the receptionist walks in the back. I scan through the questions, each one asking me pointless things about myself. "How many hours of sleep are you getting? What kind of foods are you eating and how much?" I thought this was supposed to be a counselor's survey, not a junk mail personality quiz. If my sergeant wasn't commanding me to see this guy I would walk out of here in a heart beat, I don't need counseling anyway. I'll just give some generic answers, might as well give this guy something. I continue answering this five page survey, do I really need to answer all these questions just to tell this guy I'm fine?
"Mr. Armor," the receptionist says, popping back into the room. I look up from the survey and give her my attention. "Dr. Turner will see you now. Be sure to give him the survey when you enter his office."
I nod, stand up from the couch, and walk towards the office. I walk down a short hall and turn into the first door on the right. I walk into a dimly lit office with a desk facing the left wall, a bookshelf on the right wall close to the door, and a couch against the far wall across from the door. The doctor, a stallion earth pony with a brown-gray coat, dark brown mane and tail, and an hour glass cutie mark, turns around in his chair to face me. He gets up from his chair, walks over to me, and firmly shakes my left hoof.
"Good afternoon, Corporal Shining Armor," he says in a giddy English accent, "how are you doing today?"
"Fine," I respond, "here's the survey your receptionist gave me." I hand him the survey and he takes it from me, briefly glancing over it.
"Ah, thank you sir," he says as he walks back over to his chair. "Please have a seat on the couch." We both take our respective seats and he turns in his chair to face me but his attention is currently devoted to survey I handed him. "So what seems to be troubling you, Corporal?"
"Nothing, I'm only here because my sergeant told me to come."
"I see," he says as places the survey on top of his desk and rolls closer to me. "Are you sure you have nothing to talk about?"
"Yes," I bluntly reply.
He rolls himself to his desk and grabs a manila folder with several sheets of paper inside. He rolls back over, opens the folder, and looks at the yellow paper on top. I don't know what's on the paper but I do know what the yellow paper means.
"Are you sure you're not here because of your past few incidents?" I remain silent, avoiding his gaze. He holds up the papers one by one, reading what's on them. "Irritable behavior towards your fellow cadets. Skipping class because you were 'not in the mood.' Failing to turn in multiple key assignments. Refusing to maintain standard living--"
"Okay I get your point!" I snap.
He closes up the folder and sets it on the floor beside his chair. He leans forward and looks directly at me, I look away and stare at the floor. "Corporal, I'm not trying to belittle you, but you must understand that you are here for a reason. Your commanders have noticed your change in behavior, and your colleagues say that you refuse to speak with them about what's troubling you. Your mental health is of paramount importance and you have commanders who want to see you succeed, but they know that you need help. That is what I am here for."
"I don't need help doc," I answer with annoyance. "I don't need some doctor psychoanalyzing me. I'm fine, there's nothing wrong with me."
He sits back in his chair. "Shining, it may not be clear to you but it's evident to me that there is something bothering you. You have a choice to make, we can sit here for the next thirty minutes, awkwardly staring at each other, or we can both find out what is causing you so much grief?"
I cross my hooves and look back down at the ground with a scowl on my face. I don't know what this guy is talking about. There is no reason for me to be here, I don't need any help. Whatever problems he may think I have, I can handle them. But I might as well entertain his sick curiosity if it'll help pass the time. Sitting in silence with this guy isn't exactly ideal. "Fine," I mutter while looking at the floor. "Ask away doc."
"Very well. Your commanders have told me that you are skipping classes and failing to turn in assignments. Are your studies here at the academy becoming too difficult and causing you to stress out?"
"No, my classes aren't difficult," I reply, easing my face a little but maintaining my crossed hooves. "I just don't care about them anymore."
"How many years have you spent at the academy so far?"
"This is my third year."
"I see, and have you always wanted to come here or did you have another university in mind?"
"No, I've always wanted to come here, ever since I was colt," I reply. "I want to become the next Captain of the Guard for the Canterlot Royal Guard."
"Well if you have a heavy interest in the academy and a high ambition, why are you suddenly apathetic towards your studies? You must know that they are important if you wish to become the next Captain?"
I look away from the doctor and rest my folded hooves in my lap. Emotions of sadness and guilt come over me. "Reasons," I mutter.
"What sort of reasons?" he asks as he leans forward in his chair. "Are you having trouble with your friends?" I shake my head. "Do you have a marefriend or wife?"
"I have a marefriend."
"Trouble in paradise?" I shake my head. "Is there something going on at home?"
I lower my head and sink into my seat. I know the answer but I don't want to say it.
"Shining, you don't have to tell me if you're not comfortable in saying. However, you must know that if I'm going to help you then I need to know what's troubling you."
I turn my head to face him but I don't look up from the ground. What do I even say to this guy? "It's... it's my dad," I mutter.
"Your father?" I nod in response. "Have the two of you been fighting a lot or is there something else?"
"No, it's... something else." I look up at him. The doc looks at me with a soft face of understanding. I let out a heavy sigh, unfolding my hooves but leaving them on my lap. "My dad is... he's sick."
"How sick is he?"
"He has a terminal illness, something called pulmonary fibrosis."
His eyes widen a little bit as he slowly nods. "Oh, I think understand. My grandfather was diagnosed with the same illness. How did this all began?"
"Last semester," I respond. "Before I began the new school year, he was submitted into the surgery clinic to receive quintuple bypass heart surgery. We were told that his recovery would last for only a few weeks. But..." I pause for a moment, I can feel a lump begin to form in my throat. "He was stuck in recovery for the whole semester. The entire time, we didn't know if he was going to survive, there was even one close call."
"That must have been hard on you and your family."
"It was. Everyday my mom and sister would visit him, seeing all those wires and tubes attached to him. It took a heavy emotional toll on them."
"And they needed you to be the strong one?" I nod, a few tears begin to swell up in my eyes. "Do you feel like blaming them for put a heavy burden on your shoulders?"
I shake my head. "No, they needed someone to be a strong support. I had to be there for them, I couldn't show that... that I was..."
"Also in need of a strong support?" I nod. "How were you dealing with your dad's situation?"
"By skipping class, missing assignments, because what's the point? Why should I worry myself about a stupid paper when my dad was laying in a hospital, connected to a million wires and tubes, and could die at any second!?" My voice rises with every word, tears begin to stream down my cheeks. "It's all bullshit! My dad is dying and they expect me to write some stupid paper about the history of the fucking Army? I don't give two shits what my teachers may have thought or how my grade might have turned out. My dad is dying, I can't help him!"
The docs composure doesn't change, he just slowly nods. "Take a deep breath Shining," he calmly says. I sit back in my seat and breath in and out deeply, I wipe some of the tears from my cheeks. "Now, let's go back to your father's illness. Was that the reason why his recovery took so long?"
"It was the main reason, yes. Twilight and I found out this past February that he is terminal with pulmonary fibrosis. So now, I've got to deal with the fact that I have a dad that may die any day now, a mom who is about to become a widow, a sister who will have to grow up fatherless, and I might have to become the stallion of the house when I know I'm not ready to." The tears being to swell up again.
"You are carrying a heavy burden, and you just want to take it off or have someone help you lift it. Have you thought about talking with your commanders, friends, or even your family about this situation?"
"Not really. I'm supposed to be the strong one right now, I can't let my family know that I struggling to hold them up. I don't even know if my friends or commanders would understand what I'm going through. I don't want 'I'm sorry for what you're going through,' I don't want sympathy. I just want someone to tell me that they know exactly what I'm going through. Just someone to tell me, from their own experience, that it's going to be okay." Tears begin to stream down my cheeks again. The doc hands me a box of tissues from his desk. I take one and wipe my face.
"Well, I may not know exactly what you're going through, but keeping these emotions locked inside can do more harm than good." He places the box of tissues on the floor next to his chair. "Sure it's nice to have someone who can understand your pain, but sometimes you just need to get these emotions out and have someone who is willing to listen to your grief. Don't you feel better now that you finally admitted everything that's bothering you?"
I nod. "A little bit." I shimmy my shoulders around as though I just took off a heavy load. In fact, it almost feels like I did.
A soft smile grows on the docs face. "Then talk to your friends; find someone who is willing to just listen. And let your family know what you're going through, they are there for you just as you are there for them. A family that works together will overcome every storm. We are not creatures of isolation, we have family and friends for a reason." A small smile grows across my face as I slowly nod. The doc looks up at the clock above of the bookshelf. "Well unfortunately that's all the time we have for today, but let's meet again next week, same time."
"Yeah sure," I say as I get up from the couch. We both walk towards the door and the doc opens the door for me. We shake hooves before I exit. "Thanks for your help doc."
"You are most welcome, Shining," he says with a grin. "I will see you same time next week."
"See ya doc." I walk out of his office and down the hall towards the waiting room. I bid the receptionist farewell and walk out of the clinic.