Transcript of 2nd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Samuel Eldrich, Thursday, May 28, 1998 at 2:00 pm.

Mr. Eldrich: Hi, Doc.
Dr. Balis: Hello, Sam.
Mr. Eldrich: How was your Memorial Day weekend?
Dr. Balis: It went very well, thank you. How did yours go?
Mr. Eldrich: I was hoping you'd ask, actually.
Dr. Balis: Why is that?
Mr. Eldrich: Well, do you remember how we were talking about my grandparents? Well, of course you do. If nothing else, you have those notes to refresh your memory. Anyway, the whole significance of veterans who had given their lives for their country made me think of all the veterans who died in the past. And that, in turn, led me to thinking about Granddad.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Eldrich: It was weird. I'd tried to just put him out of my mind for the longest time.
Dr. Balis: Why was that?
Mr. Eldrich: Well, when he died, I fell into this really deep blue spell. I didn't go as far wasn't as bad as last week, but I still felt this all-pervasive sense of sadness that really started to carry over into the rest of my life. It affected my attitudes about a lot of things. For the most part, it was like all of my feelings were devoted to grieving over him. When it came time to deal with the rest of my life and how I felt about it, I didn't have any capacity left to feel. It was like I was numb inside all the time. Most people would probably have seen something wrong with that.
Dr. Balis: But you didn't?
Mr. Eldrich: Not really, no. I'll admit that it felt a bit weird to not really feel anything. Well, I guess I did feel things, but my feelings were pretty indistinguishable from the sadness I felt over Granddad's death.
Dr. Balis: Do you remember having any positive thoughts at that time?
Mr. Eldrich: No. I'm sure there were plenty of them, but they didn't fit with the overall mood I was in. I've noticed that when I get really sad, I stop remembering the good things and only remember the things that make me sad. Maybe that's why I can spiral down so easily once something really bad happens to me.
Dr. Balis: It's not uncommon to remember only the bad things during a depression.
Mr. Eldrich: So you think I'm really depressed?
Dr. Balis: In our last session, you made it sound as if the suicidal urges continued to arise far after your grandfather's death.
Mr. Eldrich: Yeah, they did. I went on numb for about three months. Then one day, right before finals, I told myself, "Okay, grief time is over. You're not going to spend the rest of your life feeling sorry for yourself and missing him, so just get over it. You've got finals to study for, so get to it."
Dr. Balis: And did it work?
Mr. Eldrich: Yeah. From that moment, I was completely grief free. I know that's not how it's supposed to work. I know that most people can't get over their grief like that. But you have to understand that the feelings most people spread out over years, I concentrated into three months. It was basically the same amount of grief, just experienced all at once. Besides, if I didn't pull myself out of it then, I might have sunk as deeply as I did last week a year sooner.
Dr. Balis: Did you notice your grief slowly diminishing or did it stop right after you decided to stop grieving?
Mr. Eldrich: It was just one day. It didn't look like I was going to feel better anytime soon unless I took some pretty drastic steps. So I took them.
Dr. Balis: Have you had any grief flashbacks related to your grandfather's death?
Mr. Eldrich: Yeah. That's why this Memorial Day was so weird. I started having all these memories of him. He was the shortest guy in the whole cavalry, yet they gave him the tallest horse. A lot of the guys in his unit laughed about it, and from what I know of Granddad, he probably laughed, too. He always had a good sense of humor, though he'd always tell the most wretched puns.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Eldrich: But what stuck out most in my mind was how generous he always was. When I was thinking of all the veterans who gave their lives for the country, I thought about Granddad giving his life for his family. All his life, he slaved at the insurance business that he started up to provide for his family, and he went out of his way to be fair to people. He also provided work for family members that were hurting at his business, but that eventually backfired on him.
Dr. Balis: How so?
Mr. Eldrich: Well, the details aren't really that important. It boiled down to one of Granddad's nephews stealing his business away from him.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Eldrich: It was a terrible shock. The whole family couldn't stand the guy who did it. To this day, we don't speak of him. He's one of those types that does absolutely horrible things to you, sends you a card and some flowers, and expects everything to be all right again so that he can take you to the cleaners some other day.
Dr. Balis: Have you ever talked to this nephew?
Mr. Eldrich: Not really. He's my mom's age, so I haven't ever really had any personal dealings with him. I know that no one on my mom's side of the family can forgive him for what he did. And why should they? He's shown no signs of true remorse whatsoever. He never gave back the money he gained or anything. He never even said he was sorry to anyone's face. He always hid behind those damned cards.
Dr. Balis: I can see that you have strong feelings about him.
Mr. Eldrich: You bet. And I know at least three people who probably would be physically violent to him if they ever came near him. That was one of the reasons he wasn't even invited to the funeral.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Eldrich: Yeah. It wasn't just a case of a minor family squabble; that bastard cheated Granddad out of everything he'd worked his whole damn life to build! I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that...well, not like that, anyway.
Dr. Balis: It's okay to express your feelings in here. This is a safe zone where anything short of physical violence can be explored.
Mr. Eldrich: So I can rant and rave and scream if I need to?
Dr. Balis: Yes, you can. But only do it if that's what you feel you need to do.
Mr. Eldrich: Okay. No drama shows for your benefit or anything.
Dr. Balis: Exactly.
Mr. Eldrich: I can deal with that. Anyway, when Granddad's nephew screwed him over so nicely, it was like he took away Granddad's soul. He couldn't be nearly as generous with us as before--he had a lot less to give. He trusted too much, and that was what killed him. That, and he loved too much. Damn it! Do you have any more tissues?
Dr. Balis: Here's another box.
Mr. Eldrich: Thanks. Like I was saying, he was just this wonderful guy, and he ended up with practically nothing to show for it. It just shows you how fair life is.
Dr. Balis: Sometimes, it's not fair.
Mr. Eldrich: It makes you wonder what being good really does you in the end. But then, I remember how people perceive each of them. Granddad died as the family saint and martyr, while his nephew is seen as the Judas who we all wish would go out and hang himself.
Dr. Balis: So your family still has these intense feelings toward this nephew?
Mr. Eldrich: Some do. The ones that were involved in the business with Granddad, like his son, my uncle Jim. He would rip the guy limb from limb if he could. My mom still won't speak of him. But I guess I've given up hating the guy. I wrote a poem about it once. It really helped clarify things for me in my head.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad that you've been able to give up the extreme negative feelings.
Mr. Eldrich: Yeah.
Dr. Balis: You had said that all these memories of your grandfather's death and the circumstances around it triggered feelings within you. Can you talk about that?
Mr. Eldrich: Oh, yeah. Well, for example, last Sunday when I was in church, I was wearing the watch he'd given me. It was the watch his cavalry unit chipped in and bought for him when it was his time to sign off. It meant a lot to him; I couldn't believe he gave it to me.
Dr. Balis: Please, go on.
Mr. Eldrich: Well anyway, as I was sitting in church, I looked down at that watch and realized that I never felt like I was properly dressed up without it. Then I realized who had given it to me--our family's saint and all that--and I took a quick stock of myself and how I compared to him.
Dr. Balis: What did you conclude?
Mr. Eldrich: That compared to him, I'm a failure. He was never so weak as to need professional help with his problems. He could deal by himself. He was strong enough to do that. With all the economic and family advantages I have over him, you'd think I could get through it a lot easier, that I'd have the strength to deal with emotional challenges. You know?
Dr. Balis: What do you mean by all the economic and family advantages that you have?
Mr. Eldrich: Well, he grew up with just his mom in a time where being a single parent was a terrible thing in society's eyes. And here I am with my two parents. My dad alone can provide everything my family wants and needs. But Granddad had to go to work when he was just a teenager to support his family. He sent support checks to his mom until she died. He had to spend a lot of his energy just to get by. He should have barely coped, yet he did just fine. And here I am, safe and secure, and I can't get over a simple death or someone being put in a nursing home and not remembering me.
Dr. Balis: By having gone through so much adversity from such a young age, your grandfather had to keep building strength within himself to constantly deal with the situations around him.
Mr. Eldrich: I guess I had my first taste of adversity at a relatively advanced age compared to him. I haven't had the practice in dealing with bad times like he did. I'm not nearly as used to bad times, and when they hit me, they seem like a much bigger blow. Is that what you mean?
Dr. Balis: You've led a different life.
Mr. Eldrich: Yeah, I guess. But I still feel worthless when I try to live up to the standards that he set.
Dr. Balis: His standards don't apply to you. Right now, you're working on building a foundation of coping skills that will help you cope with life in the future. And you're allowed to develop at a different pace from your grandfather and in a different way than he did.
Mr. Eldrich: While I guess it's nice to know that; it's still hard not to feel inferior to him.
Dr. Balis: I understand, and I think we need to work on that. Are you feeling as badly now as you were when you first came to see me?
Mr. Eldrich: I'm still really low, but I'm not thinking of killing myself in the near future, if that's what you're asking.
Dr. Balis: When you think about suicide, do you have a particular plan on how to end your life?
Mr. Eldrich: No, I haven't sat down and figured out how to off myself.
Dr. Balis: Does suicide seem like a real possibility to you?
Mr. Eldrich: No. I'm not going to kill myself. I'm just feeling like it wouldn't be any great loss, you know?
Dr. Balis: I am trying to assess if you pose a danger to yourself. I'd like you to promise me that you'll give our sessions together a chance to work before you consider something drastic, all right?
Mr. Eldrich: Of course. That's why I'm here.
Dr. Balis: Good. I think that you are suffering from clinical depression and we have some drugs that work exceedingly well for people suffering from depression. Depression is a disease. It isn't your fault, just like getting the flu isn't your fault. And it can be effectively treated with a combination of medication and therapy. So I'd like you to think about taking medication, and we will return to this next time, okay?
Mr. Eldrich: All right, Doc. I guess our time is up?
Dr. Balis: I'm afraid so. You mentioned some poetry; if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to take a look at it. I'd also strongly recommend that you keep a journal of what you're feeling. You don't have to show it to me, but I think it will be helpful for you to track your progress.
Mr. Eldrich: Okay, that sounds fine to me. I'll try to bring you that poem next week.
Dr. Balis: Very good. I'll see you next week, then.
Mr. Eldrich: Yeah. Until then, Doc.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Sam.
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session

Button to Samuel Eldrich's Transcripts Transcripts of Samuel Eldrich's Communications
Button to Samuel Eldrich's Patient File Samuel Eldrich's Patient File

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