Transcript of 7th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Sharon Lough, Friday, January 9, 1998 at 10:00 am.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Sharon.
Ms. Lough: Hi, Doctor Balis. It's really coming down out there--this rain is just relentless. I feel like I'm in Seattle.
Dr. Balis: Yeah. It's pretty bad. I'll be on vacation the next two weeks. Hopefully, it's better there than here.
Ms. Lough: Lucky you. Didn't you just have two weeks off?
Dr. Balis: I haven't been seeing a lot of patients over the holidays, but I still had a lot of work to do--dealing with HMO's is never easy. I'm really looking forward to actually getting away--trust me, this vacation is badly needed. So our next session will be Thursday, January 29th at 10 am. Is that all right?
Ms. Lough: Jeez, you shrinks have it made. Although it must be hard work having to listen to so many whining neurotics. Yeah, it's okay.
Dr. Balis: Good. How were the holidays?
Ms. Lough: Okay, I guess. The only thing I like about them is that I don't have to work. It wasn't so bad this year.
Dr. Balis: The holidays trigger depression for many people.
Ms. Lough: I'm depressed year-round. Here, you asked me to bring you some doodles. Here they are.
Dr. Balis: I see. Thanks.
Ms. Lough: I spent Christmas watching the Sister Wendy Marathon on Public Television with Robin, Charlotte's husband. We spent New Year's Day watching the South Park marathon. It was a real bonding experience. We worked on bad impressions of Sister Wendy and Cartman--the fat kid on South Park. Rob has a great sense of humor.
Dr. Balis: Sounds like you've been spending more time together.
Ms. Lough: Well, Charlotte is caught up in her social whirl. She's almost frenetic in her constant activity. It's like she can't stand to have a blank space in her calendar. She has so many exclusive parties and "oh-so-cool" people to hang out with, she just doesn't have time for the likes of the "vanilla" world. Rob and I are left at home to rot our brains with bad television and eat cheesy poofs.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lough: Vanilla means non-S&M--normal people who have sex in the missionary position the way God intended, you know?
Dr. Balis: I see. You seem to have a profound distaste for the S&M community.
Ms. Lough: Yeah. Don't get me wrong--I'm all for civil rights and everything. They can beat, electrocute, pierce, and smear fecal matter on each other all they want, but I'd like to be spared the lurid details. Charlotte's very in-your face about her sexuality. I get sick of listening to her go on and on about what she did to whom.
Dr. Balis: Do you find it distasteful or merely annoying?
Ms. Lough: I'd have to say annoying. It's almost adolescent in a way. Menopause is a sort of mid-life adolescence, accompanied with all the hormonal fluctuations, mood swings, attitude, and irritating behavior.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Charlotte seems to get much of her identity from the S&M community.
Ms. Lough: It's the focus of her life. It's all she talks about. Charlotte's very eager to proclaim S&M as her sexual identity. And she's changed a lot. Rob and I have been talking about that, and he's rather dismayed, not just by her activities but her demeanor, her personality. He compares her to a new sorority girl, with all the name dropping, party-going, and that "cooler-than-thou" attitude. She's changed her appearance, too. She now has this bright carroty-orange colored hair and dresses more provocatively than she ever did before.
Dr. Balis: Does her overt sexuality make you uncomfortable?
Ms. Lough: It just really grosses me out. It's repelling. But maybe I wouldn't feel that way if it weren't for my own sexual hangups. I don't know.
Dr. Balis: What do you mean by that?
Ms. Lough: Well, sexuality is supposed to be healthy, right? And I've been pretty asexual since that know? The one the year before?
Dr. Balis: Are you referring to your suicide attempt?
Ms. Lough: Yeah. What I mean is that sexual desire is supposed to be normal. Everyone is entitled to their sexuality, and it should be a positive thing regardless of age. But it seems that any representation of human sexuality puts me off.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. When you see a suggestive advertisement in the newspaper--like some of the Calvin Klein ads, for example--do these images disgust you?
Ms. Lough: No. Those images are distant and...I don't know, antiseptic somehow. Sexual images in the media don't really bother me, except to make me self-conscious about my weight.
Dr. Balis: Do you think you have a weight problem?
Ms. Lough: I've gained a few pounds. It's so embarrassing. Rob really likes to cook.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. So sexually suggestive themes in the media don't repel you, but Charlotte's overt sexuality does. Why is that, you think?
Ms. Lough: Because it's real. It's immediate. It's right in front of me, and it's disgusting. And Charlotte's not exactly a super model. I know it's not politically correct, but she wears some revealing outfits and they aren't...uh, exactly becoming on her. The sight of her sagging breasts falling out of her blouse is enough to make me gag. People stare at her, and it's not a flattering kind of attention. Sometimes, I think she looks grotesque--she's this heavy-set middle-aged woman in clothes which are much too tight, acting like a vamp. It makes me sick.
Dr. Balis: Why is that?
Ms. Lough: I already told you, because sex grosses me out. Don't they teach you to listen in shrink school? Maybe you should take notes or something.
Dr. Balis: Don't be defensive. I am listening, Sharon. What I'm trying to get at is why sex disgusts you so much.
Ms. Lough: This discussion is starting to disgust me.
Dr. Balis: We don't have to continue this right now, if you'd rather not.
Ms. Lough: How about those Niners?
Dr. Balis: This is a serious issue, Sharon.
Ms. Lough: I'm glad that sexuality isn't an important part of my life anymore. My amateur armchair psychologist spin on it is that my sex drive led to my downfall. For me, sex always led to drugs, alcohol, and other compulsive behavior.
Dr. Balis: Other compulsive behavior? Such as?
Ms. Lough: I used to be bulimic. I don't want to get into that now. I stopped doing that because some of my back teeth fell out. Anyway, sex is this powerful, destructive monster--like the things that came out of Pandora's Box. I let out a little sexual desire, and then all the other bad things come out--all the addictions and compulsions--and get out of control. I've tried celibacy once before, for two years, and it was an enormous effort. It was like this monster inside me had to come out. And now that I'm a burned-out druggie slut, the beast is gone, and I'm better for it.
Dr. Balis: That's an interesting analogy.
Ms. Lough: Not terribly original. It's kind of tired and trite.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lough: It's better to live a sexless existence, like a neutered cat. That's what Rob and I are--two neutered cats. We get sensual pleasure out of eating and watching TV. We're simple, happy creatures.
Dr. Balis: Are you happy?
Ms. Lough: No, but sometimes I like to pretend I am.
Dr. Balis: What do you mean by that?
Ms. Lough: When I can stop obsessing about all my troubles, I'm kind of happy. I'm content. I think the secret to happiness is self-delusion--divorcing one's self from reality as much as possible.
Dr. Balis: Quite philosophical.
Ms. Lough: I think it's from spending so much time with Rob. We hardly saw Charlotte over the past few weeks. She just popped in and out when she felt like it. It was weird, you know? She came and went as she pleased and acted like we were guests in her house. It's unfair to Rob--that she can have her cake and eat it, too.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. And how does that make you feel?
Ms. Lough: I identify with Charlotte's frantic search for this sexual something to fill a void. But I also empathize with Rob, because he is clearly Charlotte's second choice now. She only sees him when she doesn't have a more pressing engagement with her leather-and-rubber clad friends. She's like a man who's left his aging wife for a younger, more attractive woman.
Dr. Balis: Another interesting analogy.
Ms. Lough: Don't belittle me, Doctor Balis.
Dr. Balis: Please don't get defensive, Sharon. I wasn't belittling you.
Ms. Lough: Sounds like you're making fun of me.
Dr. Balis: It was just a comment. It wasn't intended as an insult.
Ms. Lough: I suppose I'm too sensitive.
Dr. Balis: Is something else bothering you?
Ms. Lough: You're staring to remind me of that fag shrink I went to see in Pacific Heights. He was a really smug little prick. And I was so desperate for someone to talk to. I told him...I told him more than I should have. I told him what my father did to me. And he obviously thought of me as nothing more than a bad joke.
Dr. Balis: I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with your previous therapist, Sharon. But I'd hoped that you could separate him from me. Not all therapists are alike.
Ms. Lough: Now you're patronizing me.
Dr. Balis: That's not fair, Sharon. And it's not true.
Ms. Lough: This is a mistake. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. I'm leaving.
Dr. Balis: Sharon, please don't...Sharon? Sharon?
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session
Button to Sharon Lough's Drawings Sharon Lough's Doodles

Button to Sharon Lough's Transcripts Transcripts of Sharon Lough's Communications
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