Transcript of 9th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Peter Hossfeld, Monday, August 4, 1997 at 1:00 pm.

Mr. Hossfeld: Oh god, what a week!
Dr. Balis: What happened?
Mr. Hossfeld: My life has absolutely gone to hell, and I mean it literally.
Dr. Balis: How so? I thought things were looking pretty positive for you, last time we spoke.
Mr. Hossfeld: You would, I suppose. But here I've lost my guru, lost my lover, and lost my job--and I feel like I'm losing my mind.
Dr. Balis: Wow. I knew about your guru, but the rest...I'm sorry I was out last week. I had to take some time off for a family situation. But let's talk about some of this. Your lover, your job, and your mind? How did you lose your job? Did they give any explanation?
Mr. Hossfeld: Well, sort of. They'd been putting in crappy performance evaluations for a while, just to cover their butts, but it's like as soon as they knew I was sick, that I had something they could pin a name on, that's when they pounced. I mean, I thought they were trying to be extra nice, and accommodate whatever problems I was having. And I was feeling bad about letting the side down and all--I was really trying to pull it together in the last week or so, to make up for lost time and get the project back on track. But somebody in upper management must have said "Fuck it. Can his ass." So they call me in and give me all this mealy-mouthed mumbling about how I wasn't meeting productivity goals--I mean, Jesus, I was in the hospital, what did they expect? But there was nothing about recognizing that I'm a human being, not one of their damned machines. They made out like it was nothing to do with my condition--they just had to cut some payroll expenses, you-know-how-it-is. They even said they'd hire me back if things picked up--what a load of bull. The project they had me working on had nothing to do with their fluctuating fortunes. It was the millennium bug, for God's sake. What does that have to do with things picking up? It's coming down regardless--don't they realize that? But it was like they were reading a script--and they didn't even have the courtesy to write a new one for the occasion. They just read me an old form letter they had lying around.
Dr. Balis: That's certainly bad news. How did it make you feel, being fired?
Mr. Hossfeld: Totally worthless. I mean, what am I good for, if I can't even keep a job? If you don't have money coming in, you're shit on the street. Nobody wants to come near you. You're not going to be seeing me anymore either, because I've lost my coverage.
Dr. Balis: Your insurance will continue for awhile under Cobra, so I'm sure we can keep these sessions going for at least three months, and I'm confident we can work something out afterwards. I really don't think you need to worry about being able to get a job, either. From what I hear, companies are fighting each other to get experienced programmers--you should be fine. But how are you feeling physically? You look better than the last time I saw you. Are you taking your medication?
Mr. Hossfeld: Yeah, when I sweat I medicate my shirt. I'm taking anti-seizure stuff, and antibiotics for my hand. But I don't know...
Dr. Balis: Are you having any more seizures?
Mr. Hossfeld: How should I know? I wake up feeling like I've been kicked in the head. Did I space out or is it just the meds? I never remember the seizures themselves, just what I was feeling right before--sometimes it's really beautiful...
Dr. Balis: Yes, I remember you started out inducing them deliberately. I thought the romance had worn off, though.
Mr. Hossfeld: Oh, don't worry, I'm being a good boy, taking that poison every day. And it's kind of interesting riding a bike everywhere in this town. As if the hills weren't enough, now we've got cars and cyclists mixing it up in the streets, with this Critical Mass thing--somebody tried to kill me with their car last Friday, guess he thought I was some kind of activist or something. I felt like telling him, "Hey man, I'm a driver too, I just can't use my car right now." I mean, I could relate to where his rage was coming from, you know?
Dr. Balis: Uh, let's try and avoid the most intractible political problem of our day and keep the focus on your major problems, okay? You said you thought you were losing your mind. What do you mean by that?
Mr. Hossfeld: I guess it sounds strange coming from me, huh? You never thought I had much of a brain to start with, did you?
Dr. Balis: Come on, Peter. You know that's not true. While I may not agree with you on everything, I've always respected your intelligence. Why don't you tell me what the problem is?
Mr. Hossfeld: It's like I've got Alzheimer's or something. I can't remember things, and when I try, everything's all screwed up. You know those consciousness-expanding guys, always saying that you only use ten percent of your brain power? I think I'm down to about two percent--just one step above a cauliflower. I feel so goddamn stupid, no wonder they fired me.
Dr. Balis: There's no need to beat yourself up over that. Tell me what you did that was so stupid?
Mr. Hossfeld: Well, since I got back, I didn't think I was doing so badly at the job thing this last couple of weeks. Programming's something you don't need much brain at all to do, just a little pea-sized lump the size of a rat's brain. And I was tuned into it, my little rat-brain was humming down the maze like a good little rodent--all I want is my food pellets, honest. Oh, yeah, you want to talk about stupid? I was really touched at the concern they seemed to show. Okay sure, it was obvious I hadn't been pulling my weight, but they were being so nice about it. It made me want to try harder. it really did. Then--wham. I'm out on the street going, "Duh. What did I do?"
Dr. Balis: What did you do?
Mr. Hossfeld: You mean afterwards? I guess I just wanted to crawl into a hole. I never thought something like this would affect me; I know it's all just an illusion anyway. But then, I've never been fired before. I try to meditate, and the same scene just keeps repeating itself like a mantra. I can't get past it, no matter how I dodge around in my mind.
Dr. Balis: Relax, it's perfectly normal to have unwelcome thoughts recur. It's how your brain processes traumatic events. If you don't fixate on them, they will fade away. But what's this about "losing your lover." Are you talking about Serena?
Mr. Hossfeld: We weren't lovers, I told you that. And that's what I tried to tell Eliza. But she kept on about her "evil influence" and "herbal poisons" and how I'm so lucky she's gone. I mean, that woman did a lot for my spiritual growth, but Eliza gave her no credit at all. And aware as she is in lots of ways, she absolutely refuses to admit that she knew me before--or anything about our past life together in Babylon. After I worked so hard to get it all figured out, I can't understand why she won't help me heal my karma. All she wants to talk about are her terrible feelings about herself. Then when I try and contradict her and say how she's not that bad, and what's the big tragedy, she gets all pissed off at me--I'm not giving her credit for her feelings or something. It's like she basically wanted to have a fight or something.
Dr. Balis: So you broke off the relationship because of this?
Mr. Hossfeld: No, that just started off the evening. I can't believe it. For days, I'd been thinking of her constantly, wondering if she would call. Then when she finally did, I was so excited I could hardly talk, so naturally my hand starts to throb. And when we finally got together, it was like our moons just went into Saturn or something. First of all, I'm suddenly in all this pain--the hand was giving me problems just thinking about her, but when the doorbell rang it was like a spike was run into it. And there she is, looking terrible, like a refugee or something--I know I shouldn't be talking, but I always thought of her as healthy and beautiful, you know? And then we sit there and start talking--it should have been so easy, but I don't know what happened. I felt like she was blaming me for something. I don't know if it was something I did, or maybe didn't do but should have, but in spite of wanting to cover her with kisses, I had to perform this deadly Punch and Judy show with her, and watch it from outside. And we start arguing about the stuff that happened the last time she came over--remember I told you how she trashed the plants? Well she had a whole different version of how it went, but I could hear myself stupidly insisting on my own. It was like I was trapped inside a robot, and had to watch it act like a total jerk. But that was my body, even though I couldn't get through to it. I was feeling weird that day and I guess I really don't know what the heck happened. I just hope it didn't go the way I think I remember it.
Dr. Balis: How was that?
Mr. Hossfeld: It's like she was increasingly desperate as the evening went on. We started talking about this and that at random, but it was like nothing clicked. She kept looking at me, like she was wondering if this was the same guy she knew. Then she tries to kiss him.
Dr. Balis: Him?
Mr. Hossfeld: Sorry--the robot, me. She puts her lips on that stony face, and nothing happens, it's like there was an inch of rubber between us. And I can't see how she could have done it, but she put her hand on know.
Dr. Balis: Your penis?
Mr. Hossfeld: And squeezed. It was so unexpected. So whorish. This is too much for the robot. He jumps up wearing a frozen mask of shock and horror. Awful words start coming out of his mouth. She gives a sort of shriek, grabs her stuff, and runs out the door. And all the while I'm rattling around inside this monster, yelling: "How can you be such a brute? She's in tears. Follow her and make sure she's okay!" But the robot just stands there and listens to her footfalls dying away.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Do you often feel as disassociated from your body as that?
Mr. Hossfeld: It seems like I have lately, but I'm just lying around, not doing anything, so it's hard to tell. Maybe it's the pain flaring up that makes my body seem like such an uninviting place to hang out. It seems better if I just lie there with my arm up and don't try to do anything.
Dr. Balis: You can get medication for pain. If you want, I'll prescribe some. Your regular doctor should be the one in charge of this, though. Are you seeing him regularly?
Mr. Hossfeld: Sort of. There's not a lot they can do, except give you pills and more pills. And now you're trying to give me more--what happened to "Just Say No?"
Dr. Balis: It's your call, Peter. I think it's possible you might be suffering some kind of drug side-effect, so from that point of view it would be good to limit further medication until we track it down. On the other hand, it's hard to enjoy life if you're in pain. I'd be glad to talk to your neurologist about substituting anticonvulsants. I don't think the antibiotics are a problem. But I'll check the literature for combination effects just to be sure, okay? I'm sure we can find something that works for you.
Mr. Hossfeld: I'd like to believe you're right about that, I really would. But I'm afraid this goes much deeper, and there's not much hope for me; I'm just one of Nature's failed experiments.
Dr. Balis: Come on, that sort of thing is not going to get you anywhere, is it? You've got a lot going for you, just give yourself a chance. We'll be able to talk some more about it next week.
Mr. Hossfeld: Oh, time to go?
Dr. Balis: I'm afraid so.
Mr. Hossfeld: Goodbye, then.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye Peter.
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