Saturday, 7 February 2015

The Psychiatrist's Chair

Oliver had built up his practice over many years. His well renowned discretion made him extremely popular with affluent celebrities. He had lost count of the number of times tabloid journalists had offered him outlandish sums of money for an insight into his casebook. All they wanted were a few quotes from the couch or the suggestion of a syndrome that could be attached to a well known face. Oliver, however, remained tight lipped. He had listened to enough celebrities, at a very generous rate per hour, to ensure that he had no need of any of the grubby cash incentives offered to him by the sort of person who called him in the middle of the night and spoke in hushed tones.

Of course he had stories to tell: plenty of them. He had, over the years, seen every sort of quirky mental issue imaginable - as well as a few that even the wildest imagination could not have concocted.

This afternoon's appointment really intrigued him though. He had seen the distinguished gentleman on several occasions previously, but there was still plenty of work to be done to uncover the source of the man's issues. Part of the problem was that much of the previous session had been spent talking about his wife's eating disorder, rather than than man's difficulties. Although Oliver had found the problem interesting and was happy enough to listen to the description of the unusual diet he really wanted to probe the mind of the man himself. It was undoubtedly one of the more interesting cases he had come across; so many layers to be unwrapped; so many issues.

There were a couple of obsessive compulsive traits which were interesting on their own and, while one feature of behaviour was common enough, one was particularly unusual. Then there were the phobias. Ornithophobia was fairly common, but the other one was one that he had never encountered before; nor was he able to find any reference to it in any of the medical journals. If he could get to the bottom of this it could pave the way for international fame - not just because of the prominence of his patient. This could be the chance to name a syndrome!

First though, he'd have to find the cause of the problem and that, so far, had proved elusive.  Oliver had initially thought that it was a classic case of a childhood trauma. However, discussions about the gentleman's life growing up were lacking in any evidence of discomfort. There were memories of his grandfather, who he remembered fondly as a happy character who enjoyed his food. It was probably his grandfather's influence that instilled his love of music, particularly the violin. In fact the only possible clue from that particular link came from his grandfather's smoking habit, possibly indicating an inherited addictive personality. This gentleman's issues were far more complex than a simple tobacco craving though. Oliver decided that he would have to delve deeper; much deeper this week.

There was a knock on the solid oak door and Oliver walked across the plush carpet of his office to welcome his client. He had done away with receptionists long ago. The fewer people who were involved in the practice, the fewer tongues there were to wag to the press.

"Good to see you again, Oliver," said the gentleman, shaking Oliver's hand warmly.

"It's good to see you , sir," he replied, with a slight, dignified bow of the head. As he bowed, he glanced down at the gentleman's tailor made trousers. He noticed the large bulge and smiled to himself. The obsession with carrying things in his pockets was clearly continuing. "How's the wife?" he asked, hoping to get that discussion out of the way early this week, to allow the session to continue without being sidetracked.

"Oh, still the same, Oliver," he replied, "I've got as sweet a tooth as the next man, but I just don't understand how she can eat that day after day. And it makes her fingers dreadfully sticky. And we've had to take on an extra two apiarists just to make sure she has a constant supply of the stuff. The baker's a bit upset as well. He thinks the fact that she constantly spreads the stuff so thickly is a reflection on his loaves. It's all very difficult indeed." The gentleman sighed and thrust his hands into his pockets nervously. A few seeds fell to the floor.

 "I thought we'd try a little hypnotherapy today, Sir, if that's okay with you," Oliver continued. "I think it might hep us to get to the root of your difficulties. It seems to me that there may have been an event so dreadful that you have completely blocked it from your consciousness so that all you're aware of are the dreadful phobias."

"I'm willing to try anything," said the gentleman, settling himself into a large, leather armchair.

Five minutes later, his eyes were closed and he was mumbling quietly to himself. Oliver decided to start simply, with the obsessions, before moving on to the phobias.

"What would you like to do today?" he asked, quietly.

"Count," replied the gentleman eagerly.

"Okay, let's count," continued Oliver, smoothly. "What shall we count,"

"Money," said the gentleman quickly, "always count the money. Must make sure we have enough money. I have a special house you know, just for the counting. We must always make sure we have enough money."

Oliver looked at the obviously wealthy gentleman relaxing in his chair. 'Why the need to check on the state of his funds,' he wondered. 'Surely this was one person who never needed to check his bank balance.'

"What is the money for?" he enquired.

"Seeds," came the quick reply, "We can't run out of seeds,"

Ah - a link at last. Oliver wondered how the compulsions of money counting and filling of the pockets with grass seed could possibly be tied together. He investigated further.

"Okay," continued Oliver, gently, " tell me about the grass seed."

The gentleman visibly stiffened in the chair and his hand went to his trouser pocket. "Where are they?" he gasped. "Are they here?"

"Are who here?" asked Oliver, a little shocked at the fear in the man's voice.

"They're coming aren't they?" the terror stricken man continued. "Quick cover your nose. I'll throw this seed to distract them." And with that he took a large handful of seeds from his pocket and scattered it around the office.

Oliver sat back, amazed at what was taking place. The nation's leader was cowering behind his leather chair, grasping hold of his nose and flinging seed around the office as if his life depended on it.

"Who is it?" asked Oliver, " Who are you afraid of?"

"They pecked off her nose you know. We'll be next. They're after all of us,"

Another piece of the jigsaw was falling into place. It seemed the man had witnessed some sort of bird attack on another person and that had lead to his aversion of all things ornithological. Oliver was delighted with the progress. He had to press on. Now, if he could just work out why he was terrified of pastry products his work would be complete.

"It's okay, your majesty. They've gone."

"Are you sure," whispered the King, still hiding behind the chair.

"Yes, Sir, quite sure. They took off. I can see them way up high!"

"A pie!!" screamed the King, diving for cover, "NOOOOO! the singing. Stop the singing. Two dozen of them hiding under the crust. Get them out! Get them out!" he screamed, before collapsing unconscious behind the sofa.

"Well, that was a very successful session," said Oliver, after reviving the King and bringing him carefully out of the trance. "I think we made some real progress. I have a much better idea about the route cause of the problems. We can certainly begin to work on that next time."

"That's excellent news," said the gentleman, sipping his cup of tea and nibbling a biscuit. He felt completely drained, but had no recollection of the events from earlier on.

"Another biscuit, Sir?" offered Oliver.

"No, thank you," the King replied, "I'd better not. My better half will only complain that I've spoilt my appetite again. I think she was preparing a special tea. She's got a new batch of clover blossom honey and some crusty bread."

"I'll see you next week," said Oliver, as he showed the King to the door.

"Yes indeed," the King replied, " I'll look forward to it, " and he shook Oliver warmly by the hand,  pressing his usual tip into the psychiatrist's palm as he did so.

Oliver closed the door quietly and looked at the coin: always a shiny sixpence. 'Perhaps,' thought Oliver, 'we'll address that next time.'

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