Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 06/19/98

Saturday, June 13, 1998

Sunday, June 14, 1998

Monday, June 15, 1998

Tuesday, June 16, 1998

4 pm. Sixth Session with Lisa Benjamin. Lisa came in with red splotches on her face and scabs on her forehead. She also presented a tired, worn-out appearance. I immediately suspected that she had started using methamphetamine again. She told me that she picks at her face when she becomes anxious, and she's anxious because she was spotted at the Lusty Lady by Scott Collavito, an employee at SII. Lisa is afraid that he recognized her. I think it likely that he did not. She was wearing a long, red wig and the context of a gyrating stripper is so far removed from the casual interaction he would likely have with a secretary at SII, I think it's likely that he didn't spot her. But Lisa is worried that either she'll be embarrassed or her reputation at SII will be shot. She admitted to taking more speed, and said that some part of her likes the idea of being a stripper addicted to speed--a dramatic negative self-image combined with some dark imagery. Lisa also told me that she had a long conversation with her mother where she admitted that she was working as a stripper. I always imagined that the prospect of parents discovering their occupation would be a particular fear of most sex workers. But instead of a traumatic scene, her mother was remarkably accepting of what Lisa does. Lisa softened it somewhat by gaining her mother's respect with a bit of the documentary that she had already edited--her mother believes that Lisa is performing as a stripper to get close to her documentary subject. Somehow, the notion that it's all in the cause of art has made the seamy side of Lisa's activities more palatable.

5 pm. Sixteenth Session with Olivia Stillwell. Olivia made contact with her grandparents during her trip to Washington, D.C. While she said that it wasn't an instant family reunion, something obviously clicked between them. Olivia surprised me near the end of the session by saying that she's decided to move to Washington, D.C. and start over again--on her own this time and far from her father's influence. She doesn't think it's a permanent move, but she has no immediate plans to return. I told her that I'd be happy to recommend some good therapists in the D.C. area, and she thanked me for the work we've done together. It's always a little painful to lose a patient suddenly. All of the unresolved issues will just have to remain unresolved, at least during my tenure. But I hope that the time we've spent together will enable Olivia to be a little better equipped to live independently. I wish her only the best.

Wednesday, June 17, 1998

5 pm. Fiftieth Session with Alex Rozzi. Alex's pet rat, Darla, is sick from apparent poisoning, and Alex believes that Regina is responsible. He's sworn revenge, although he wasn't specific about what actions he's considering. I'm hoping that the veterinarian will rule out Regina's involvement. Alex believes she did something to Darla when she trashed his studio over two weeks ago. If I had to posit Regina's involvement, all I can imagine is that she may have left some poison down and Darla hadn't eaten it until now. But perhaps Regina isn't involved. Alex generalized his difficulties with Regina to difficulties with women, generally. He complained about Camille sidling up to him at the Alliance, being extra nice. And Alex also spoke about Sharon Lough taking Tony away from him. Alex said that he was tired of leaving messages for Tony that were never returned. So he went over to Tony's house one day and discovered, through a haze of marijuana smoke, Tony and Sharon having sex with each other. Alex said that he understood how Luke felt when he happened upon a similar scene between Alex and Camille, although I pointed out that Tony wasn't Alex's boyfriend. Alex is taking it personally and he even voiced a scheme to substitute himself for Sharon in Tony's affections. Alex calls Sharon: "Little Miss move in and take over." He also described her as "odd", although he wasn't more specific. We spoke about Alex's prostitution days. Alex raised those times to show his willingness to use sex as a weapon against Sharon. I reminded him that those days are behind him, a comment Alex interpreted to mean that I thought he had lost his nerve--he was ready to rise to a challenge. I reminded him bluntly about his reaction last week to the comments of the man who used to pimp him, and I elicited tears. Alex confided that he had sex with Luke and that he unconsciously adopted a defense strategy, common in his prostitution days, of detaching himself emotionally from what was happening to his body. Alex and I talked about how people aren't black and white--that people are rarely all good or all bad. That's part of the complexity of interacting with others. I urged Alex to remember where he was a year ago, as opposed to where he is now, and to remember the remarkable progress he has made in that time. Alex acknowledged the progress but said that he still has a host of conflicting feelings that he'd like to resolve.

Thursday, June 18, 1998

2 pm. Fourth Session with Samuel Eldrich. We're at a dangerous time with Sam. He's been taking Zoloft for a couple of weeks now, but isn't yet feeling any effects. What he is feeling is a dissatisfaction with therapy generally. Sam is trying to hold tightly to his cherished notions of being a worthless individual. He can't conceive of another way of thinking about himself--which is particularly interesting given the delusional nature of his current self-perceptions. Clinical depression sometimes leads patients into a particular mode of thinking which is easier to fall back into than learning new cognitive rules. I believe that even after the Zoloft has taken effect, it will be necessary to use cognitive therapy to teach Sam another way of thinking about himself--giving him useful thoughts to put in place of the old, destructive ones. As we spoke, Sam's voice became low and almost menacing with anger. He took the position that his true personality was the defective one that was low on serotonin. I took the position that his depression was the result of a physical chemical problem in his brain that the Zoloft would address, much like insulin assists diabetics. Sam tried to make a distinction between purely physical problems like diabetes and personality altering attributes such as those caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. That's a slippery slope that many far wiser than Sam or I have struggled with for some time. I found it interesting that Sam is fighting for a continuity of personality traits which he then uses as part of his argument for being a defective, and thus worthless, individual.

Friday, June 19, 1998

10 am. Twenty-Second Session with Sharon Lough. Sharon was in a wheelchair for this session. She told me that she's stopped going to work and has filed for disability insurance. Since she has no savings, if she doesn't qualify for disability, she's in trouble. We spent most of the session talking about Charlotte and a new age religious cult, PSI, which she's joined. When faced with the final divorce papers, Charlotte is procrastinating. Instead, she cajoled Rob and Sharon to join her at a concert put on by PSI, using dinner afterwards as a lure. Sharon described the concert and it did sound dreadful, full of sanctimony and pop psychology wrapped in a cultish religious context. Afterwards, Sharon found herself at a dinner with all the members of the PSI group. She took Tylenol with Codeine recreationally, and then proceeded to drink substantial quantities of alcohol. She remembers bits of the evening that are quite embarrassing--I suspect that the parts she's forgotten are even worse. But Sharon feels that she acted so rudely that it's unlikely Charlotte will invite her to another new age event. Sharon has a prescription for Vicodin which she says she hasn't filled yet. She also admitted to smoking marijuana with Tony, socially, although she skirted my questions about whether or not they've begun a sexual relationship. I'm concerned that Sharon will utilize the free time she now has to engage in self-destructive behavior. I've cautioned her against abusing her pain medication and drinking to excess. For her next session, I've asked Sharon to compile a wish list of things to do that aren't precluded by her disability.

3 pm. Thirteenth Session with Rachel Tanner. Rachel finished up school. She told me about an incident which disturbed her. She went into a public restroom and saw an unflushed toilet filled with someone else's urine. Smelling it--and the fact that she was able to smell it--made her believe that contaminated urine molecules were infiltrating themselves into her body. She felt panicky and left hurriedly, without using the facilities. I told Rachel that I didn't think it was very serious--just one of life's daily challenges which she has to learn to face. We talked about trying to overcome that particular fear, and I think Rachel believes that she now has the tools to confront that same situation in the future. Near the end of the session, Rachel offered to give me a manicure. I'd never had one, and I didn't see any particular harm in it. In fact, I thought there might be some benefit in giving Rachel control over somebody else's hands. But when she actually had my hand in warm soapy water and was caressing it, I found it strangely erotic--even sexually so. I got the impression that was Rachel's goal; she seemed to be trying to sexually stimulate me through a manicure. It made me uncomfortable--I felt as if I was being unprofessional. Rachel seemed to enjoy my unease. She asked if she could give me a manicure concurrently with all her sessions. I, of course, declined.

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