Life is hard and more often than not we find ourselves questioning our very existence whilst walking through it. As tough as it may be, there is hardly anything more rewarding that the self-knowledge accumulated from one’s own ability to overcome unfortunate predicaments.

There are times in life, however, where pain takes over and sadness clouds our judgement and our cognitive abilities to the point where logical thinking and crisis management evades our power.

Personally, I always defined myself as a non-believer, a skeptic; devil’s advocate even, when it comes to questioning and exposing people and practices that claim one’s future can be foreseen.

I would doubt the abilities of psychics, mediums, fortune tellers, magicians and whatnot and even go as far as to make fun of people who choose to address their issue not on a therapist’s couch, but through a deck of tarot cards or a cup of Greek coffee.

I had seen Fotini Katsaneris on social media before; I had befriended her on Facebook after a colleague of mine had a house cleansing. Her style didn’t fit into the stereotype I had associated with psychics; she wasn’t a dark, gothic, mysterious, scary persona that keeps to herself. The bubbly proud-to-be-Greek blonde image could not sink in, and I definitely was disturbed with the use of the thymiato, the cross and religious icons alongside decks of cards and upside down cups.

Even though I do not see myself as religious – having been brought up believing it is a sin to mix religion with the occult – Fotini’s practices confused me.

At the same time, I couldn’t get over the number of troubled people hitting her up for a reading or comments raving about her flytzani (cup reading) abilities – the most recent addition to her services list.

It wasn’t until a rather confusing turn of personal life-events and a disagreement with a friend over whether going to Fotini is the right approach to deal with their mental health issues that I decided to book an appointment for a reading.

“If she can figure out what’s gone down in my life, read my past and see into my future given that most of my personal information is exactly that, very personal – I’ll let you have it,” I said, adding that I would most likely come up with an opinion piece naming and shaming all the tricksters out there.

The plan was to go in wearing my big smile, act like nothing is bothering me and make sure I am not giving away too much; perhaps even try to confuse her.
The moment I stepped into her apartment, she picked up on my mood – which on that day couldn’t have been worse due to a series of unlucky predicaments – and made me sit down until I was completely relaxed.

Even though I was hiding it well, she saw right through me and subtly described exactly was was going through my head and inside my stomach. I advised myself not to fall for it and kept playing it cool.

The journalist in me started dropping questions even before she had asked me what my full name and date of birth was to go on with the first reading.
I told her how her bright white-pink-grey home filled with icons was confusing me, considering what we were about to do.

“It does not confuse me at all,” she said. “I believe in God, in his power. I’m Greek Orthodox and I pray all the time. I prayed before you entered my space and I will pray again the moment you step out.

“The icons and the incense are for my protection. As much as some people in our church insist this is evil, at the same time they can’t deny this kind of energy exists. Some people are more in tune with it than others. I can feel it around me because it is real. I don’t use my ability to harm people but to help, or at least help people put their thoughts in order. Sometimes it is draining and a procedure that can affect me deeply, especially if the energy that comes with a person or a place is dark. I find that God and prayer helps me shake that off and protects me.”

Within a few minutes we were already going through my first card reading using the oldest deck of playing cards I have ever seen.

“People are surprised I can tell which cards come up but I’ve done this thousands of times and if you look closely you can tell,” she explains whilst I’m trying to decipher the cues.

“This deck belonged to my aunt. I learned this from her. It’s really old and I like its energy.”

Fotini actually spent the time to take the cards of importance aside and go through what she “felt” they meant.

“I won’t necessarily give you something nice, that will make you happy. I will just tell you what I see. It could be unpleasant. And it is.”
With that certainty, she took notes of what she saw my current state of mind was, asking me to cut the deck again, and again. She insisted on who the people that appeared in the reading were, and what their relation to me was.

I still acted as if I was leading the most boring life and that nothing in particular was bothering me. She disagreed and went on to describe my emotions and angst about very specific things one by one. She then went on to describe my family situation, which is not typical and I have always kept to myself.
She couldn’t have known the nature of my relationship to members of my family in Greece even if she had stalked me on social media, even if she personally knew my relatives here in Australia.

I thought she got lucky. She kept taking notes pushing all the cards that refer to the past aside.

“What’s in the past is in the past and that’s where it belongs. You shouldn’t worry yourself about what happened. You should focus on the present and the future. Focus on what matters for you.

“This is what is tormenting you the most,” she said, drawing a single card and placing it on top of the others.
At first I tried telling her that this is just an old issue, resolved, insignificant even but I gave her the benefit of the doubt and ‘allowed’ her – out of curiosity – to do a separate reading on that card (by that time I was secretly begging for it).

She predicted a woman of age contacting me and bringing me good news. An old couple she said that I would see again and be happy. I could only think of my aunt and uncle but in her opinion, we aren’t related. I only recalled this ‘hit’ less than a week later as a woman of age I’d met through common acquaintances had asked for my number and messaged me in the middle of the night, telling me she had missed me and asked to catch up. I was very fond of her and her husband and enjoyed the company of their children, but never in a million years would I have thought these people would remember me let alone reach out. I thought I would never cross paths with them again.

Fotini confronted me with many deep-rooted perceptions I have for the world and myself. She confronted me bringing up facts and feelings I keep hidden from everyone else. She told me things I did not want to hear, but while she was talking to me she was also giving me advice on how to “take away the focus from other people and direct it back to Nelly”.

What surprised me is that even though sometimes I acted as if the information she was passing on was irrelevant she would insist on her reading but at the same time her energy and the way she elaborated on and interpreted the information was so calming.

I was looking at her – she asked me not to take a photo – and all I could see was a normal woman.

It felt like I was visiting a friend in their home; she was simple, undone. I don’t know how she will perceive this comment but I prefer her in person than on social media. She felt real. At some point I started believing her statements and caught myself wanting them to come true.

“Listen,” she said interrupting my train of thought. “We want to believe that what we want to hear is true, that it applies to us. So we tend to let go and wait. But it’s up to us.

“The questions we pose and the feelings we get during a card reading apply more to the what and why. What do I want to know? Why do I want to know? Why do I feel this way? Answering these questions truthfully is what we should be doing. Understanding ourselves, what it is on the outside we choose to be defined by from time to time and taking control.”

She understands that people going to psychics are seeking reassurance or help for a stressful period, that they might be going through bereavement that is clouding their thoughts.

They place that power into her hands and the supernatural, perhaps because it is easier than taking action but she tries to make them take that power back and recalibrate it.

“It’s important to deeply understand what burdens us and know ourselves. If we can’t pick us up, who will?

“Sure life sometimes causes confusion, often preventing us from finding the will to do so. People come to me and sometimes they want to soothe their pain even if they already know the answers. We are all connected, Nelly, and this power flows. We have energy, auras. Some people are more open and they can see the energy, understand and manipulate it.

“When people are hurting; they are vulnerable. Sadness can significantly slow someone down and sometimes their energy is blocked. I try to help them see what the universe or their mind, their intuition already knows but the eyes or the body can’t cope with. A real psychic is a healer and a guide.”

I’m listening to her while she prepares another deck, one that she has made based on the tarot philosophy, but extended it to over 150 cards, adding her own interpretations that apply to the modern world.

“Anyone can do tarot for me, but how do the meanings apply clearly to the problems people are faced with today? So I’ve made my own deck and I don’t let anyone touch it.”

I look at the deck and it doesn’t seem dark or magic, it looks more like a game. I go along with it and choose 28 cards that Fotini mixes up and then places in some astrology-based formation. It’s a two-layer spread.

One of the first pairs is the health card and water, and it’s negative. “You don’t drink water Nelly. Why are you doing this to yourself? Drink more water!” She didn’t ask if perhaps I’m not drinking enough, she stated it.

An hour before I left my colleague sitting next to me had made a point out of me not having touched my water. Indeed I was carrying the same small bottle from home to the office and vice versa since Monday morning. It was Thursday evening. No refills. That’s me. My mum still calls from Greece to remind me to drink water . . .

In the couple of days before my reading, I was onto something that was upsetting me. I hadn’t told anyone about the person involved, the nature of my own actions and how it had upset me.

Fotini laid down a little spread and again, told me off: “You are doing this (she was very specific). It involves a person that looks like (insert accurate description), is related to you in this way and this interaction is affecting you deeply.”

She described the situation to the point I was embarrassed and insisted I removed myself from the equation. She couldn’t have known about that unless she was watching my every move. Again I found myself wanting to act like she was wrong, but instead I let go.

She told me many things, some I already knew, and some hard to believe that of course I can’t share publicly but my readings were far more exciting, to the point I am starting to doubt myself.

I was sitting in an unknown woman’s apartment, me, fixated on critical thinking, breathing in the words of a psychic and feeling better hearing things I already knew or was too scared to accept come out of her mouth rather than mine.
Does searching for ‘otherworldly’ solutions make acceptance easier for everyone?

“There are so many things in this world that we can’t understand, Nelly,” she told me as if she was seeing right through me. She did that quite a bit.
“We don’t fully comprehend time and space yet. We can accept what we see, but we can all agree there is only so much we are allowed to see. If you were to tell people 5000 years ago that the earth is round, what do you think would happen?”

We all have questions and as mundane and trivial as they might seemingly be at their core, they hide much more serious issues to be dealt with. Human beings are very complicated and usually choose to ask about more simple matters when they see psychics, which reflects on very complex issues having to do with how they carry themselves through life.

“People want answers. I offer what I see. That may be good or bad. The difference between a spiritually gifted person and an impostor is that the first will encourage the person in front of them to seek help within. To face the issues and the deeper nature of the questions inside them. To use the predictions to think. To assess and reassess, not to take off and run life accordingly.”

Fotini wrote down what she saw. Series of events. The nature of those events, initials, numbers, dates, signs. Whether it was on the cards or inside the darkest darkness of my cup (she said it was the least clear she’d ever seen) she showed me and I have to confess, I could see it too. Not because I wanted to see it but because in that coffee-smeared mug there were clear numbers and faces and other recognisable symbols.

“Sit back and wait for it,” she told me, laughingly informing me I would find myself messaging her within the next few days.

“As for the rest of it, a true psychic leads a searching person to become independent, on a path of self-discovery. Even if I offer you, or whoever I see answers, you still have to work on what these answers mean to you and why they make you feel the way you feel.”

I haven’t yet messaged Fotini about her reading, only to inform her that my story is being published. “Write whatever you want about me,” she said, “I know it can’t be bad.”

She took a risk, since part of me booked an appointment to prove to myself that there’s no substance to such practices but I’ve already come to work three times waving my phone from a distance screaming “Oh, my God. You won’t believe what happened.”

What has happened is I’m actually drinking water now. What has happened is that I’ve stopped doing what was making me upset and that was only 1/10 of what she ‘prescribed’. I left her apartment feeling better and shifted my focus onto myself again.

Am I converted? One thing is for sure, some people can see right through you and regardless of the means, they can make you feel better, and own up to your responsibilities.

If it had to take being confronted by a psychic to get me back on the right track, so be it.

Fotini Katsaneris with fitness queen Kayla Itsines. Photo: Instagram