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Do you say I’m only trying to help?

She was very earnest when I first met her.

I have these terrible headaches. Nothing has helped so far. I know you can fix it.

With all the zeal of a man on a mission I set out to establish a diagnosis for her chronic headaches. Having examined her I performed lots of tests in search of the elusive cause. When no diagnosis was forthcoming we tried a bunch of empirical treatments. After a few days on each prescription she stopped them all for reasons including ‘side effects’, the cost of the tablets or inconvenience. Each excuse was more inventive than the one before. It became apparent that whatever the cause of the headaches we were not going to ‘cure’ them. So I tried a different tack, I recognised that she was bored and unhappy. Perhaps if she dealt with her dysphoria her headaches would be less of an issue. But with each suggestion for addressing her unhappiness she would come back to:

I can’t do much with these headaches.

And yet the odd thing is that she seemed cheerful and able to function perfectly well despite headaches spanning many years. I came to the conclusion that I was the unwilling partner in a game of ‘Wooden leg‘. The lesson was to recognise the invitation to join in the game at the outset and to consider the possibility that my part in the game was I’m only trying to help you.

Picture by Kevin O’Mara

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