It was his first time in a therapist’s office. He looked around the waiting room and awarded it a nod of approval. There was a white noise machine tucked behind a potted plant in one corner. It provided soothing noise and also prevented him from hearing whatever transpired in the therapy session before his. It would also prevent anyone from hearing whatever he might say, and that was most definitely a good thing.
He picked up a magazine and leafed through it, his thoughts miles away.
Suddenly, the door to the inner sanctum opened and a young woman scurried out, barely giving him a passing glance.
The therapist appeared in the doorway. He was tall and broad. He exuded an air of confidence. He had friendly eyes. These were all positive things on his “what a therapist should be” checklist.
“Hamilton?” asked the therapist, extending his hand in greeting.
“Ham. I go by Ham. I don’t eat it often, though.” Ham gave a nervous laugh and took the proffered hand, trying to shake firmly enough but not so firmly that the therapist would think he was trying to prove something.
“Okay, Ham. Call me Nathan. I like to keep things informal. Come on in and have a seat.” Nathan stood aside and allowed Ham to pass through to his office.
Ham paused inside the doorway. “Great,” he thought. “I’m already being tested. Do I sit in the recliner, or will that make me seem too relaxed? Do I sit on the sofa or, better yet, stretch out on the sofa? Do I choose the chair with arms that will make me sit up straight the entire time? Damn! I hate making these decisions!” Turning to Nathan, he asked, “Where would you like me to sit?”
Nathan answered, “It doesn’t matter to me. I want you to sit where you’ll be comfortable. Today, it might be the recliner. Next session, it might be the sofa. You don’t have to sit in the same place every session, see? You can even sit on the floor if you want.”
“Oh. Okay.” Ham glanced again at his options and then walked to the recliner and sat. He was surprised to find that it rocked. A bonus! He gave the chair a trial run before planting his feet on the floor, halting the rocking.
Nathan picked up a folder from his desk and took a seat in an overstuffed chair by one of the windows. Ham briefly wished he had chosen that seat. “Maybe next session,” he thought to himself.
Nathan pulled a pair of glasses from his pocket, put them on, gave them a slight push to secure them in place, and opened the file. Ham sat quietly, ignoring the urge to rock. Nathan scanned the paperwork Ham had diligently completed and returned prior to his appointment, as requested.
“I admit that in all of my years as a therapist, I’ve never had anyone come to me because their life is too perfect.” Nathan looked up from the file and Ham took that as his cue to speak.
“Well, I wasn’t sure how to express my concerns and that was the closest I could come in the space provided on your form,” Ham said. Nathan waited and Ham spent a minute gathering his thoughts, gazing at the ceiling.
“It may be too perfect, but it may be a complete mess. The thing is, I’m not quite sure what happens in my life, because my mind and my life are doing odd things.” Ham tried to maintain eye contact with Nathan, but found it difficult, so he tried to look at a spot near Nathan’s head and hoped Nathan would count that as eye contact.
“Can you give me some examples?” Nathan sat, pen poised over a clean piece of paper in the file.
“Yes. I’ll start with one that can’t possibly be explained away using any logic in your psychology books.” Ham started gently rocking the chair as he spoke. “Last Wednesday, I forgot to have a client sign a very important contract at work. Without the signature, we would lose the account. Without the account, I would lose my job.” The rocking increased in intensity. “I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t sleep at all that night and I went to work on Thursday prepared to clear out my office and lose my job. As expected, I was called in to see my supervisor. However, instead of the pink slip, I am told that because of my hard work on the account, I would be receiving an early bonus. It seems the contract was signed. My signature was there as a witness! Not only that, but changes to the contract that were beneficial to our company were inserted. I made no changes to the contract.” Ham chewed vigorously on a fingernail as he awaited Nathan’s response.
Nathan finished writing before looking up at Ham. “That is very interesting. Anything else?”
“Sure. I can give you big examples or little examples. The bottom line seems to be that no matter what happens in my life on any given day, it has turned into something perfect by the following day. If I spill wine on a white shirt, the stain is not there the next morning even though the empty wine bottle is still on the counter. I know things happen, but the physical memories actually change. The memories other people have of the event change, too. I seem to be the only person who remembers what actually happened during the original event!”
Before Nathan could speak, Ham added, “I tried writing daily events down before bed for a week. I never kept a diary or journal before, but I thought that if I wrote down what happened in the course of a day, it would somehow serve as proof when things changed. The creepy thing is that the diary entries changed, too. I only have what is in my memory as proof of what happened and now, I’m beginning to doubt my own memory. Am I crazy? What’s going on?” Ham suddenly stopped his agitated rocking and leaned forward, staring at Nathan as if expecting to hear a miraculous answer.
Nathan cleared his throat and looked at Ham. “I have never run into a case like yours before, so my ideas are all extremely subjective. I am going to ask that you call me each evening and we will both write down events from your day. At our next session, we will compare notes to see if our diary entries have changed. If yours change and mine do not, that will at least give us some sort of proof.”
“At this point, I’ll try anything. What happens if your notes and your memories change, too? What happens if they don’t? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?”
Nathan leaned back in his chair, but did not take his eyes off of Ham. “We’ll cross those bridges if we come to them. For now, we at least have a plan to test before our next session. Is there anything else you would like to discuss today?”
Ham snorted involuntarily. “No, I think that’s quite enough to bring out for one day. I actually feel a little better; it’s a relief to share this with someone. I’ll just go back to work and finish out my day.”
“Fine.” Nathan wrote down a telephone number and handed it to Ham. “Call me tonight and we’ll start our joint journaling. I’m confident that we’ll get to the bottom of this, Ham. It is a very interesting situation.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” thought Ham, as he shook Nathan’s hand and walked out into the perfect day.