Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 7/04/97

Saturday, June 28, 1997

Sunday, June 29, 1997

Monday, June 30, 1997

Tuesday, July 1, 1997

Eliza is being released from the hospital today. I wanted to have a session right away to help her transition back into her normal life, so we've scheduled an appointment tomorrow morning. I've spoken with the resident and she seemed to be doing quite well with an upbeat attitude. Obviously, I'd like to judge that for myself--Eliza is quite accomplished and could easily snow a fresh-faced psychiatric resident into believing whatever she wanted him to believe. However, based upon my visits with her last week and this, I agree with the decision to release. However, most suicides occur during the recovery phase of a depression when the patient has enough energy to actually commit the act. Therefore, I will not hesitate to recommend readmission if I feel it necessary.

4 pm. Forty-Fifth Session with Sylvia Bows. Tom's family crisis involving Beverly's mental state took a bizarre turn. Tom had talked his parents into becoming Beverly's conservators as a condition for her release from the mental facility. But Sylvia's mother took a dim view of Beverly's impending release. With Rene's malicious coaxing, Sylvia's mother, Margarite, set out to demonstrate that Beverly was not ready to be released. She and Rene visited Beverly at the hospital, armed with photographs of Grant. Margarite started out with humorous anecdotes about the child, and when Beverly was at her most vulnerable, Margarite started to excoriate Beverly with tales of possible calamities, including death, that could have occurred to Grant as a consequence of her actions. Beverly became highly distraught and couldn't be subdued by the hospital staff. So she was restrained and taken away, her release postponed indefinitely. It was a particularly vicious and manipulative story--I could easily picture Rene involved in such a course of action, but it didn't fit my image of Margarite, although I knew that she could act with an iron will. When I asked Sylvia about her project with Richard, she reacted quite sharply, in contrast to last week's session where she praised his idea. Here, she tried to distance Richard from what she was working on as much as possible. Then she caught herself and apologized. I wonder why this has become a sore point, when it wasn't last week?

Wednesday, July 2, 1997

10 am. Fifteenth Session with Eliza Raven. I had my first session with Eliza since her release from the in-patient mental health facility at the California Pacific Medical Center. Eliza was edgy, and seemed forced--although she was trying to convince me that she was making a wonderful recovery and that it wasn't my fault that she tried to commit suicide. My guess is that she had two weeks of practice telling nurses, doctors, and friends and family that she's fine, really fine, "let me go now. No, I'm not planning on killing myself, but thank you for asking." Although I don't believe that she has any current plans to commit suicide, I also don't think she has come as far as she is trying to convince herself that she has. In addition, Eliza seemed ravaged by guilt. She constantly talked about disappointing everybody and letting everybody down. It was as if she believed it was more important how everyone else felt about it than her own feelings. When she was in the hospital, she apparently saw Peter there as well, which could explain why I haven't heard from him for so long. Eliza told me before that she stopped herself from committing suicide after imagining Peter weeping at her grave. Seeing him reinforced that sense of guilt and responsibility. I should stop by and see Peter in the hospital as soon as I can. I talked to the hospital and obtained permission to allow Eliza's grandparents to have a religious ceremony involving their coven. Thirteen people came and cast something that Eliza called the SpiderWeb, which Eliza felt was extremely beneficial. And Eliza met Letitia and Mordred in person. Previously, she had only communed with them on the astral plane which, with Eliza's and Peter's experiences there, I'm starting to think of as a sort of astral chat room. Eliza got an inspirational story from Mordred--who turns out to be a ten year old boy--about a man who always had a positive attitude because he thought of life as a series of choices, and he chose to have a good outlook each morning. When the man was shot by robbers, he chose to live--and communicated his intention to the ER surgeons. I do believe that patients who are critically injured or ill can sometimes choose to live or give up and choose to die. Eliza identified with the man and said that she's chosen to live. I certainly hope so. I gave Eliza the first couple of chapters from "Rapid Relief from Emotional Distress." If nothing else, it will give Eliza a road map to a possible recovery.

12 pm. Seventh Session with Alex Rozzi. Alex is complaining of some panic symptoms and apprehension which he believes stems from the head butt incident of several weeks ago. But he is still unwilling to be checked out by his physician. Alex told me that he went on a car trip down south to the log cabin of Ralph--the trick he's been staying with for the last week or so. They came back in time for the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday, where Alex verbally mixed it up with a protester from the religious right. She believed that gays were recruited from among the youth, and Alex made the novel point that if a policy of recruitment was in operation, there wouldn't be so many unattractive men among the gay people at the parade. The recruiters would target the attractive youths. She wasn't convinced. Apropos of nothing, I remember an issue of National Lampoon when I was a teenager called: "The Gayish Issue." Part of it had roving gangs of gays who would kidnap innocent youth and force them to learn how to dress fashionably and how to decorate a room with style. They'd make them learn to cook omelettes and how to choose an appropriate white wine--stuff like that. They had a before picture of this one nebbish kid--but the after picture was an image of Jean-Claude Killy. I thought it was funny. Anyway, apparently the confrontation attracted a few other marchers and protesters and it got heated. Alex slipped away before the police arrived and started to make arrests. Alex is still upset about Benny's attempt to break up with him. Roly went to see Benny and confirmed that Dora took the baby and left him. Perhaps Benny sacrificed Alex to try to convince Dora to return to him. Alex later told me that, although he tried to get Benny to tell him that he loved him over the years, he was never successful. Alex told me an interesting story about his childhood. He remembers going to a department store with his grandmother when he was about 5 or 6, and hiding in a rack of clothes and watching in amusement while the adults panicked and tried to find him. Although Alex has tried to have as little contact with his mother as possible, she went to see him at Ralph's. Alex said that he was surprised, mostly because she made an effort to be nice to him. She apparently took my advice, and told him about Mark and herself and what Mark told her about leaving to keep her from being involved in any retribution for his criminal drug activities. Alex found none of it very shocking, except for a picture which she produced showing her with Mark at about the time that Alex was born. Alex said that Mark looked a lot like he does now. Alex also told me that he has a talent and a passion for cooking, which I was surprised to hear about. He has a secret desire to attend the California Cooking Academy. I urged him to try to pursue his ambition.

4 pm. Tenth Session with Katherine Lippard. Katherine told me a gut-wrenching story. Her father was an airplane pilot for Delta, and they moved to Atlanta when she was about six or seven. As her father moved from commuter pilot to flying national and, ultimately, international flights, he was away for longer and longer intervals. She took care of Phil, to whom she was always close. She described Joey as being her mother's son and she described herself as being her father's favorite. Phil was split somewhat evenly between them in their regard. When she was ten, her father decided to chuck it all and go to Alaska. He tried to explain to his ten year old daughter why he was leaving for good. The abandonment felt by young Katherine clearly has had a profound psychological impact on her to this day. I'm venturing to guess that her need for control stems from her powerlessness to stop her father from leaving. While Katherine was relating this story, she was beside herself--crying hard with copious streams of tears and talking through sobs. She was unable to look at me. At the end of the session, she pulled herself together, but she didn't make as complete or as quick a transformation as last week's amazing demonstration of control. I found that a hopeful sign, as if she's allowing herself to feel now. Katherine doesn't know, to this day, whether her father is alive or dead. But at each major accomplishment in her life, she finds herself wishing for her father to be proud of her accomplishment. Katherine also admitted that she was a lot more fragile than she admitted during her early sessions. She described herself as hanging by a thread, and said that the episode at Kansai could have happened any number of other times--that she was just barely hanging onto her composure most of the time. But although she still feels edgy, she feels calmer than she did. She credits an increase in self-confidence to her board of directors confrontation with Lloyd over the Apple deal, and she also credits our sessions together, which she described as giving her some "breathing room."

Thursday, July 3, 1997

11 am. Visit with Peter Hossfeld at the California Pacific Medical Center. I tracked down Peter at CPMC and went to visit him. I spoke with the resident, Dr. Victor Tessler, who I didn't know. He said that Peter had come in badly undernourished and suffering from repeated complex partial seizures, approximately once every five hours or so. They were concerned that he was heading towards status epilepticus, which can be fatal. Neurologist Susanne Gallagher was brought onto his team. She performed an EEG and did a cardiological work-up and gave a tentative diagnosis of temporal lobe epilepsy. She noted that the seizures were not tonic-clonic. She prescribed Dilantin as an anticonvulsive, 100 mg. (2 tabs) three times daily. But Peter's physical health was also quite poor. He showed considerable bruising near his upper left abdomen just under his ribs. The internist suggested that his spleen may have been involved, especially after a blood test revealed that Peter was suffering from anemia, and Peter told them that he had been assaulted. The initial concern was that he may have ruptured his spleen and was suffering from internal bleeding. But an ultrasound revealed that his spleen was intact, although enlarged. Frankly, I was shocked by how poorly Peter looked, even after a week of hospitalization. I guess even with everything that he had been telling me, I still had an image of Peter in my mind as I last saw him. His complexion is grayish and his cheeks are sunken. When he shook my hand, he displayed an obvious weakness. I detected a bit of tremor in his hands as well. I'm amazed that he was able to actually function at work in such a condition. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Serena too. She came in and forced the end of my visit. She announced that she is pregnant with Peter's child before rudely forcing me from the room. Serena is about 40 years old. She was wearing a skirt and a t-shirt. She was about five feet tall and pudgy, with very wide hips and legs like hairy little tree trunks. Surprisingly, her arms seemed quite thin. She had some unusual markings on her wrists which might have been tattoos or that Indian henna technique. Her hair was long, bushy, and frizzled--shot through with gray. If in body, Serena was unintimidating, her eyes were something else altogether. They were black, sharp and penetrating, darting around the room. It really felt like she was stabbing at me with her gaze--quite formidable, actually. Her method of announcing her pregnancy was all about manipulation and confrontation--it seemed to be used for an effect, trying to shock Peter and me at the same time, rather than as an attempt to share any joy she felt with Peter. I felt like she was using the pregnancy to tie Peter to her even more closely. With her one announcement, she seemed to accomplish many goals: to destroy any nascent relationship that Peter might have with Eliza, to thwart any efforts that I might be making to get Peter back into therapy, to accuse Peter of plotting against her, to accuse Peter of not doing enough for her, and to remind Peter just how deeply he was in her debt. I felt that it was very calculated. It is conceivable that the pregnancy is a fiction--she is at least forty years old, and Peter told me that he has infrequent sexual relations with her, and when he does, he simulates emission. And her pregnancy was awfully convenient. If she is shamming, her body shape will give her plenty of time to either really get pregnant or to claim that she has suffered a miscarriage--probably in response to some claimed misdeed of Peter's. It was also illuminating that when Peter asked her how she knew about her pregnancy, she didn't mention any pregnancy test or doctor visit. She said that she knew because, as a woman, she was able to recognize the signs. I'm not sure how I can manage to get to Peter through the formidable barricades that Serena has placed in my path.

Friday, July 4, 1997--Independence Day

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