Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 10/10/97

Saturday, October 4, 1997

Sunday, October 5, 1997

Monday, October 6, 1997

Tuesday, October 7, 1997

11 am. Sixth Session with Decker Jenkins. Decker came in transformed from the way I last saw him. He was well-dressed and groomed--he still shaves his head but it seems to enhance his appearance. He seemed cool and confident--a long way from the very nervous and introverted man I last saw. He was joking and smiling a lot. He was obviously very relaxed and made direct eye contact throughout the session. To be honest, he made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but I'm not sure why; perhaps it is because I still think it probable that he bears some responsibility for his mother's death. All of the above notwithstanding, Decker appeared a bit tired, which may just be a consequence of his recent traveling. Decker stopped taking his medication, as I suspected, and Simian has returned. However, to hear Decker explain it, Simian seems to have gone through a major personality change. Now Simian is no longer a force for evil, but rather a somewhat considerate old man who happens to live in Decker's head. Decker now realizes that on some level Simian is just a reflection of himself. He says that Simian will allow him to make his own decisions, although he feels free to comment on them when he disagrees. Decker is resistant to taking medications and says that he doesn't think it necessary--that Simian is under control. I told Decker that I wouldn't force him to take the medications, but we agreed that if things degenerated from Decker and Simian's present state of calm truce, Decker would start somatic treatment. At the beginning of the session, Decker made an elaborate show of thanking me for being his friend. But his thanks degenerated into a display of some slight hostility for what he feels is a one-sided friendship--i.e. he considers me a friend but I'm in it strictly for the money. Decker told me that when he was going through his mother's possessions, he found a bank statement in his name. On researching further, he discovered that a savings bond worth about $250,000 was on deposit for him in a bank in Chicago. He went to Chicago and got a cashier's check. It turned out that the money had been deposited when he was born by his father, a man named Anthony Parish. Karen had always said that she didn't know who his father was, so Decker was surprised to find that he even had a known father, not to mention one who had settled such a large sum of money upon him. Apparently, Decker contacted him and they spent some time together in Chicago, although we didn't get that far in the story. Decker made an appointment for next week. Decker gave me two of his poems to read together with some doodles. The first poem seems to be about self-mutilation from a character who might be Simian--a dying old man. The old man finds pleasure in the pain that he inflicts--pain perhaps meant for Decker, whose is just another aspect of himself. The second poem seems characteristic of a sufferer of early childhood abuse. The poem talks about victims and pain and the need to hide the pain and keep a solemn face turned towards the world. It also seems that there is a revenge element to the poem--the victims waiting to return the favor of the pain back on the abusers. There is a prayer for godly justice, which might reference Karen's death--"Those who live by the sword, die by the sword."

1 pm. Second Session with Rachel Tanner. Rachel came in with a misshapen scab on her nose about an inch long. She explained that she had compulsively and repeatedly scraped her face until she broke the skin. She said that this wasn't the first time. She still looked like she wasn't getting enough sleep, although she didn't appear disheveled. Rather, it was the dark circles under her eyes. Her cuticles are still obviously red and swollen. I believe that, in addition to OCD, Rachel is suffering from clinical depression probably triggered by her mother's death. I began a suicide assessment, and Rachel indicated that she had suicidal ideation but no present intent. I was concerned that Rachel might have found our last session disturbing, and she confirmed that she hadn't scraped her face in a long time and that she was having some difficulty sleeping, but she also said that she wasn't counting as much. While I'd like to take the credit, I haven't done anything yet which would have reduced her counting. I did try some basic relaxation exercises during this session in an attempt to allow Rachel to see that she could conquer some aspects of her OCD if she desired. I have to give Rachel a feeling of being in control. I believe that Rachel's obsessions are a manifestation of a woman trying to gain control over a world where she had lost so much. She couldn't control the events leading to her mother's death, but she is able to gain some control through rituals. I want her to see that she can gain that control in other ways. So I asked her to concentrate on just keeping her hands still, and she was able to with some application of effort on her part. She told me about a panic attack brought on by some birds bathing in a swimming pool in which she was about to swim. Rachel has a fear of contamination--the thought of bird lice and the floating feather that the birds left on the water was just too much for her. Rachel obviously knows that she has a problem and is beginning to see that she is losing function because of it. But I think that Rachel is willing to work quite hard in therapy. When I talked about the loss of freedom that the OCD has occasioned and how she must feel trapped by the disease, she broke down and cried. I guess I panicked a bit, because I gave her the tissues and impulsively gave her the sheep which Christina had brought me back from England. Rachel seemed to genuinely like the sheep--it seemed to make her feel a bit better--so perhaps I found it a good home after all. I hope that Christina won't comment on its absence.

Wednesday, October 8, 1997

4 pm. Twenty-First Session with Katherine Lippard. Katherine was in an exceptionally optimistic frame of mind for today's shortened session. Even my imprecations of caution brought little more than a good-natured laugh. However, there was something unfocused, almost flighty, about her excitement. She is about to leave on her trip to see her mother again, and she expects her "fact-finding mission"--interrogating her mother--to provide her with all the answers to the questions that bedevil her about the past. She's expecting that her mother's answers will click everything into place and that she can stop being "a hurt little girl." She has methodically prepared for this trip, giving a long list of all the chores that have been completed to allow her to experience the freedom of vacation without being tied down by the responsibilities. Katherine will be away for our next session, so we scheduled a new appointment for the 22nd of October.

5 pm. Nineteenth Session with Alex Rozzi. Alex met Katherine Lippard outside of my office over the last few weeks and they've formed a friendship of sorts. She gave him Jake's business card after seeing some of Alex's drawings, which thrilled Alex. He was very happy that someone thought he had some artistic talent. More than that, Alex has become a big fan of Katherine--mostly in admiration of her controlled, focused, businesslike persona. He contrasts her with his mother and Katherine comes out on top. Alex told me that he had sabotaged his modeling career. Alex was working with Nala on a modeling show for Macys and he ended up physically assaulting one of the other models--he decked some guy who was deliberately provoking him. Apparently, the other guy admitted that he had been yanking Alex's chain, but of course Alex had already savaged his modeling career. All the advertising work that he was going to have dried up. I spent some time trying to give Alex the tools that he needs in order to control his violent temper, and I thought that this time, Alex really regretted his actions. The lure of the modeling career being yanked away so precipitously might have really made an impression. Alex is still getting threatening mail related to his planned testimony against Benny. He's turned all of it over to a lawyer who has contacted the district attorney. Alex seems remarkably unperturbed by it--he seems like he is looking forward to his opportunity to testify against Benny. We spoke about Alex's grandfather--whom Alex always refers to as his father--and I tried to elicit some positive memories. Alex said that when he was about six, he remembers hiking to the top of a mountain with his grandparents and flying kites with his grandfather. He remembers his grandfather had a big smile and that they were all happy. Alex became quite emotional over this memory, although it had no dramatic content--just a time when they were all happy together. Alex told me that Roly has descended to depths of wretchedness such that even Alex doesn't really want to be around him anymore. Roly is homeless and acts erratic and crazy. Alex sees himself in Roly in a "it could be me" way. But Alex recognizes that Roly isn't interested in accepting help right now.

Thursday, October 9, 1997

4 pm. Fifty-Eighth Session with Anna Green. I questioned Anna closely about the sexual permutations of her relationship with Kathy and Martin. Given Anna's history, I was concerned that she was going to be pressured into performing sexual acts with which she was not comfortable. Anna had previously told me that she was uncomfortable with the idea of performing homosexual acts, so I was curious how she would reconcile those feelings with the reality of her current three-way relationship. I was somewhat surprised to learn that, although Kathy has performed cunnilingus on Anna, Anna has not reciprocated. Predictably, Anna feels quite guilty over this, and I assume that she will soon revert to her previous patterns and find herself performing sexual acts solely to please another. Interestingly, it became apparent during our session that, although Anna believes otherwise, Kathy is not truly a full member of this trio. Martin and Anna are the couple, and Kathy is an adjunct. She sleeps in a separate bedroom and apparently only engages in sexual activity with Martin while Anna is present--unlike Martin's & Anna's sexual practices with each other. It doesn't take much ability at prognostication to realize that the current situation is not very stable.

5 pm. Twentieth Session with Christina Herald. Christina confided in me that she has become the confidant of one of her students--a fifteen year old Catholic girl who believes she is pregnant. As Christina described the problem, I had an opportunity to see her work herself up into the beginnings of one of her panic attacks--not a pretty picture, actually. Her respiration became shallow, her face became flushed, and her hands shook. Christina was effective at mastering her emotions and stifling the panic attack, although afterwards she still looked fairly miserable and more than a little embarrassed. It took a considerable act of will for her to regain control of her composure, and even so, she felt the need to go home and take a nap after our session. I wonder if it was merely pride which kept her from really working herself up. Christina's natural inclination to make other people's problems her own has found expression in the difficulties of her probably pregnant student. Christina is understandably concerned about the ethics of her position. Even in a situation where the student was clear in her desire for an abortion, I can imagine a Catholic family raising holy hell over a teacher's assistance terminating their underaged daughter's pregnancy. How much worse if the student is conflicted herself about her desires? I didn't need to say it, because I could see that Christina was not about to impose her own feelings about how she'd deal with the situation on her student. And, frankly, that would have been about all the advice that I could give. While she can give information about the options available, Christina has to allow the student to come to her own conclusions about what course of action is right for her. At the beginning of the session, Christina really frightened me when she brought in a tiny and quite adorable kitten. I was certain that she meant the cat for me. Before I had a chance to make a complete fool of myself, Christina explained that the kitten was in her care and that she was not going to foist her on me. But I ended up holding the kitten during most of the session and at the end, though, I found myself making a quite self-destructive request to be kept informed about the availability of the kitten. Like I need this? It was an exceptionally appealing kitten, though. Mostly, it remained curled up on my arm, purring like a vacuum cleaner.

Friday, October 10, 1997

4 pm. Twentieth Session with Thomas Darden. I have a really bad feeling about this session with Tom. He seemed buoyant and full of enthusiasm for this trip at the beginning of the session--more up, in fact, than I'd ever seen him. He had undergone a revelation that had allowed him to conquer his negativity and face the rest of his life with a new sense of acceptance for his own identity--a new perspective on everything. But it was clearly an act for my benefit. When I called him on it, it seemed clear that even he didn't believe what he was saying, although it seemed like he has made undisclosed plans of some sort. When I questioned him on those, he said that there was nothing concrete. I urged him to take everything in small, manageable steps--a suggestion he rejected with a certain derision. Then, just before the end of the session, Tom told me that he greatly admired and envied the clarity of thought and the peacefulness sometimes reported in those who've made the decision to commit suicide. Before I could talk to him further about what he meant, he was gone. I don't really think that Tom is suicidal, but I am concerned that he may have resolved on some form of action without thinking through all the consequences. I hope his trip helps give him some perspective by taking him outside of his current life circumstances.

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