Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 11/21/97

Saturday, November 15, 1997

10 pm. A Chance Encounter with Peter Hossfeld. I attended an event at the Spectrum Gallery on Harrison Street, which is quite near an entrance to the Bay Bridge. I was walking to my car, which I'd left parked in a vacant lot, when I was nearly knocked down by a group of feral dogs, obviously ownerless mongrels of various sizes, colors, and degrees of reversion to ancestral type. I was startled again when I noticed Peter Hossfeld in the middle of the pack. I haven't seen Peter in quite a long time and I've been worried about him, ever since he was released by the police after falsely confessing to a murder. Recovering from the shock of my encounter with the dogs and him, I shouted his name and brought him up short. His appearance differed from the passable but indifferent style I'd been used to in him, often typical of computer programmers. Now he looked like he hadn't washed or changed his clothes in a month, his hair was snarled and stood up in peaks. His feet were bare and filthy, with long untrimmed toenails; he wore a light patchy beard; and his face was heavily sunburned, interspersed with areas of open scabby wounds which might have been impetigo. In short, Peter resembled many longtime denizens of the city streets, with the addition of a distinctly canine pong which became evident as he moved upwind. During our conversation, Peter sang the praises of living in a dog pack. He's given up on human society and is reveling in the more direct canine interaction that he's found. I thought it was remarkable, actually, how he had been accepted into their society. They waited for him to finish his conversation with me, even though he clearly wasn't leading their group. That honor fell to a large beige dog that might have been a German Sheppard & Labrador mix. Peter told me that he was named Belshazzar and that he was the reincarnation of a king in Babylon. Although I suggested it, Peter refused voluntary commitment--he called it wrapping himself in a drug cocoon--and although I'm most distressed by the turn of Peter's life, I can't say that he must be involuntarily committed. He was not obviously delusional and he was not an imminent threat to others. Peter said if I wanted to find him again, the vacant lot was as good a place as any. As Peter and the dogs left, I noticed that each male dog, in its turn, paused to urinate on certain trees, posts, and fire hydrants. After they were done, Peter followed their example, rather acrobatically lifting his leg as he did so. As I turned to go, I could see him in the distance, carefully sniffing under one of their tails.

Sunday, November 16, 1997

Monday, November 17, 1997

2 pm. Fourth Session with Jesse Trent. Maddie is eleven weeks pregnant and the paternity of the child is in doubt--it could be the rapist's. Jesse learned about the pregnancy by listening in on Maddie's telephone call to Sammy. His emotionally vulnerable reaction triggered a reconciliation of sorts--at least an understanding by Maddie that Jesse has also been hurt by recent events and a willingness on her part to accept some efforts at comforting from Jesse. I warned Jesse not to be devastated if Maddie's current openness to him changes. Such reconciliations frequently vascilate in fits and starts. Maddie might soon swing back to being emotionally distant, but the current thaw in their relations is a positive beginning. Maddie's parents are going to descend upon the emotionally beleaguered couple for Thanksgiving. Jesse describes them as not as bad as his parents, but since they are "bible thumpers," he doesn't expect much understanding from them about the choices that they are facing. Jesse was exceedingly grateful for some information I gave him about in utero genetic testing. He was unaware that they could determine the paternity of the fetus while there was still time to elect to terminate the pregnancy. I furnished him with a web address that has some helpful information.

Tuesday, November 18, 1997

3 pm. Fifth Session with Rachel Tanner. I was pressing Rachel on her apprehensions about going back to school when she fled from my office. She clearly has some strong issues regarding school that she is presently unwilling to discuss. Earlier in the session, she briefly showed me a notebook she had been writing in. Some of what she wrote questioned the logic of her assumption of responsibility for incidents affecting her brother Michael. For example, Michael said that he got a staff infection and Rachel started questioning whether it was because of something she had failed to do. Then, in the notebook, she questioned whether what she did made any difference to things that happen to her brother sixty miles away. I talked about OCD being a "doubting disease" in that the brain causes obsession over some thought or action. I remember a patient who would check to make sure that she had locked the front door ten, fifteen, sometimes twenty times, going back to check each time. I suggested that Rachel use a timer to delay performing a ritual for a set period of 15 minutes. Rachel has been on the Fluoxetine trial for 10 days now. She reports a feeling of heightened sensation, an increase in the swallow reflex, and an increase in her energy level. None of the sensations that she ascribes to the drug, however, are disturbing to her.

Wednesday, November 19, 1997

4 pm. Twenty-Sixth Session with Katherine Lippard. Katherine let loose a storm of anger directed against her mother. She made no effort to try to stem the fury of her emotions, although she always really had control. It was as if she finally took to heart my frequent pronouncements about my office being a safe zone where she could afford to let loose. And she did. She swore, and pounded the arm of the chair, and raged. Her southern accent became more apparent, as it usually does when she's genuinely upset or stressed. She called me a quack at one point, leaning on my desk and getting right into my face--quite a threatening posture, actually. When she did try to get a grip on her emotions, she took almost a full minute--but she didn't do the standard amazing Katherine suppression, she just became composed. The emotions were still there--anger and sadness. But Katherine's anger today was not an emotional show put on for my benefit--to show me how far she's come in therapy. It was genuine. Towards the end of the session, she seemed tired and almost broken. After the end of the session, she spent some time in the outer room talking to Alex before his session. Katherine is directing all her anger against her mother and sparing her father from any of it. I suspect that Katherine's father is almost a fantasy figure to her now--not a likely crucible for her anger--while her mother is very real and very convenient. Now we have to sort out why her father is spared from so much of her emotional vitriol.

5 pm. Twenty-Fourth Session with Alex Rozzi. Alex actually did read up on depression and tried to fit the symptoms that he read about with his own experience. He was particularly impressed with the symptoms of manic depression, noting a certain inflated grandiosity of thought and a running internal monologue which sometimes is symptomatic of manic episodes. However, I've seen little to suggest that Alex is bipolar. Rather, Alex seems to suffer from a mild form of clinically significant but situationally antagonized depression. I've asked Alex to take either the quazapam or the melatonin to sleep well all next week, so that we can assess which symptoms unrelated to the insomnia to determine an appropriate treatment plan. Alex consummated his relationship with Luke during a trip to Carmel--apparently a good experience. He also put out a garbage can fire accidentally started by a tenant of Ralph's who appears to be a habitual and frequent substance abuser.

Thursday, November 20, 1997

2:30 pm. Telephone Conversation with Sharon Lough. Sharon called me. Her landlord is apparently trying to evict her from her apartment and is claiming that she sexually molested his son--"inappropriately touched" is the term he used. I told Sharon that she needed to speak with an attorney who specialized in criminal law. The attorney will advise her about what she needs to do about the unlawful eviction as well as how to avoid the landlord's false charges.

4 pm. Sixty-Third Session with Anna Green. Anna was clearly agitated during this session. She is upset by the events of this past week. And more than being upset, she is clearly angry at Kathy for forcing her into a situation where she had to reciprocate Kathy's oral ministrations. While Martin was away, the pressure on Anna to reciprocate Kathy's sexual advances was intensified. Anna tried to avoid it by claiming the press of work to stay away from the apartment, but Kathy forced the issue by buying Anna an elaborate leather "Xena Warrior Princess" outfit. Anna said that she felt like she owed her and had no choice. Of course I pointed out that she always has a choice, but Anna felt the cost of exercising that choice was too great. So she allowed Kathy to play out her sexual fantasy with her. She said that she faked an orgasm to bring Kathy's lingual attentions to an end, and then it was her turn. She tied Kathy to the bed--the bondage was part of Kathy's fantasy--and tried to stimulate Kathy with as little oral-genital contact as possible. It didn't work. Anna said that the taste of Kathy's vaginal fluids sickened her and that she had to run from the room to avoid throwing up. When she returned, Kathy said that she had managed to achieve orgasm without any additional help from Anna and, since she was tied to the bed, without any manual stimulation. Anna tried to cover by saying that she got a hair in her throat. I asked if Kathy believed that Anna enjoyed the experience and Anna, surprisingly, responded that she didn't care what Kathy believed. Now, she's angry because she never got a chance to be alone with Martin since his return, and she believes that Martin and Kathy are going to be making love when she returns home. An additional complication is that Anna's parents are expecting Anna and Martin for Thanksgiving dinner, but Kathy is not invited. I assume that Kathy is going to be unhappy about that arrangement.

5 pm. Twenty-Fourth Session with Christina Herald. It wasn't really a session at all. Christina called to cancel, but said that she'd stop by to drop off Portia. She came and I now have a new kitten, just in time for Thanksgiving. I'm leaving town for the weekend, and I'm not certain what I'm going to do with this cat. Portia has grown up a bit--the cloudy blue eyes have turned gold, and the black and white fur that was fuzzy is now longer and thicker. She stepped lightly out of the carrier and sat down on the floor, blinking up at me before jumping up on my leg and then up to the desktop, where she sat on the blotter as if she owned the place. But she's very appealing. Chris looked exhausted, but she didn't really give me a clue as to why she might be losing sleep. She didn't really look unhappy, though. She said that her unspecified problem wasn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things--which, of course, could mean anything. She's working with Sarah in planning a surprise retirement party for her father. She said that it promises to be "quite the event."

Friday, November 21, 1997

9 am. I received a fax from the Anonymous Faxer. It's been a long time since the last communication from the Anonymous Faxer. I was hoping that he had found some of the answers he sought in his journey through the gay lifestyle to be found in the Castro. This latest fax has none of the emotional anguish which characterizes most of the others. Here, each of two identical cups of black coffee rest upon identical saucers. Slipped beneath each of the saucers is an opera ticket. But the two tickets are very different, even if they are for the same performance. One of the tickets is for a prime seat in the orchestra section and the other is for a lesser place in the mezzanine. A hand looks as if it is about to pick up the coffee cup which rests on the ticket for the orchestra section. The image speaks to me of romance, actually. Perhaps it is in the nature of a diary image--there is a meeting in a coffeehouse between like-minded people in different circumstances perhaps. But happily, nothing very bad seems about to happen to two people in a coffeehouse with tickets to see the opera. Since the Anonymous Faxer's primary problem after his gender confusion has always been emotional isolation, perhaps this heralds a brighter, less solitary, future.

10 am. Third Session with Sharon Lough. Sharon is dealing with the crisis of her landlord. He's accused her of "inappropriately touching" his son, mostly as a ploy to evict her from her apartment, it seems. Sharon is beside herself. She feels that everyone will believe that she sexually molested the boy, regardless of what she says, and she thinks that the landlord will be able to take advantage of her--wrongfully evict her, keep her security deposit and last months rent--by threatening to make this false accusation. I'm no lawyer, but it sounds like extortion to me. I strongly advised Sharon to seek the help of a criminal defense attorney, and she says that she will. Sharon has a friend, Charlotte, who has taken her in and put her in touch with an attorney. Sharon also has a younger sister, Linda, who lives in San Francisco and who Sharon views as the favorite child. While Sharon sees herself as socially awkward, Linda is the one who can "play the game." But Linda is nothing but a harpy as far as Sharon is concerned. Linda is caught in the common sibling trap of one upmanship, rendering her useless for Sharon's support network. Sharon describes her own primary current emotion as anger rather than depression, although she sees this as a low point in her life. She says that she first came to see me when she thought things couldn't get any worse, and now they have. But I don't think Sharon is an immediate suicide risk. Primarily, she seems motivated by revenge fantasies. Sharon was concerned that I would seek her commitment, but I basically explained that her feelings of hatred towards her landlord seemed pretty well motivated at the moment, and that as long as they were just feelings and she didn't seem about to act violently towards him or towards herself, I wouldn't seek to physically intervene.

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