Transcript of 22nd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Sharon Lough, Friday, June 19, 1998 at 10:00 am.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Sharon.
Ms. Lough: Hi.
Dr. Balis: How are you feeling?
Ms. Lough: Okay, I guess. I'm getting used to the wheelchair. I filed for State Disability Insurance, but I haven't heard anything back from them yet. I'm a little worried. If I don't qualify, I'm fucked. I don't have savings or anything like that.
Dr. Balis: How are things at home?
Ms. Lough: Charlotte's a wreck. She's acting like a certifiable nut case. She makes excuses to avoid signing the final divorce papers and calls Rob late at night to cry or to scream insults at him.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lough: Rob says she's turned into a self-help workshop junkie. She met a lot of crunchy granola types in the S&M community, and they've introduced her to all these New Age scams, like aroma therapy and channeling. She goes to these overpriced weekend seminars with titles like "Finding the Love You Need." I didn't realize those workshops cost so much; they're about $600 each, sometimes more. That's a ridiculous price to pay to sit in a hotel banquet room and be lectured for six hours. I thought she was an intelligent woman, but she's acting like a dingbat.
Dr. Balis: Divorce can be a very unsettling experience, especially during middle age. It can take months, even years, for a person to recover. It's common for one or both spouses to be emotional or behave erratically. Many people turn to alcohol or drugs; others seek some form of therapy. It sounds as though Charlotte has found some measure of comfort with these workshops.
Ms. Lough: I always thought the people who organize these things were second-rate con-artists. They're just as bad as television evangelists who use guilt and emotional manipulation to fleece the little old ladies. The people who come to self-help seminars are vulnerable and needy; and these New Age snake oil salesmen exploit them just to make a quick buck.
Dr. Balis: I agree that a weekly workshop habit can be expensive, but some people find them beneficial. Don't be so quick to judge.
Ms. Lough: I had my worst suspicions confirmed last Saturday, when Charlotte dragged us to a concert that one of her groups sponsored. I didn't want to go. But she begged and nagged and offered to buy us dinner afterward at a nice restaurant, so we caved in. The concert was held in this creepy place; it must have been some kind of church. There was cheesy wood paneling on the walls, and everyone sat on metal folding chairs. On the far wall, behind the podium, there was a mural with Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Mohammed, and some other ethereal types gathered in a big group hug against a Garden of Eden backdrop. I felt like they were all staring at me.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lough: Charlotte's friends made my skin crawl; they had such serene smiles. When Charlotte introduced us to her friends, instead of shaking hands, they grasped my good hand in both of theirs and looked deep into my eyes. One of them actually knelt as she held my hand and said that I "had the aura of a wounded spirit" and asked if I was in an accident. I told her I'd been hit by a Mack truck. Her deferential attitude made me think of something I read--some aboriginal tribes revere their disabled and deformed as though they were gods. I have a feeling these fruit loops were glad to have a token cripple in their midst.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. What was the name of this organization?
Ms. Lough: The musicians--if you want to call them that--had some kind of goddess-evoking mystical name like "Persephone's Bunghole" or "Demeter's Goiter," or something equally pretentious. The group that hosted it--the one that holds all the workshops--is called PSI, which stands for "Psycho-Synergistic Idiocy," or something like that. Psycho is right. Before the performance started, they stood around in a circle with their arms around each other and jumped up and down while chanting, "Hug! Hug! Hug!" It was bizarre.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lough: The musicians played Enya-like elevator music for what seemed like hours. It was awful. They sang about every flower-child cliché you could think of: peace, and love, and whales, and tofu. It made me sick. I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom and took a couple of extra Tylenol with Codeine.
Dr. Balis: How much of that are you taking?
Ms. Lough: About four tablets a day. I'm in a lot of pain. I have a prescription for Vicodin, but I haven't filled it yet.
Dr. Balis: Are you taking any other drugs?
Ms. Lough: No, not really.
Dr. Balis: Not really?
Ms. Lough: I got high and made out with Tony a couple of times. It was no big deal. I didn't even enjoy it. It just made me stupid and horny. Now I don't even understand why I ever smoked marijuana in the first place. So spare me the anti-drug lecture, Doctor, okay?
Dr. Balis: I don't want you to abuse your pain medication.
Ms. Lough: Okay, okay. I'll switch to Vicodin, if it makes you happy.
Dr. Balis: What happened after the concert?
Ms. Lough: For their final number, they passed around this basket of instruments so the audience could participate. The head fruit loop was a short, plump, hairy guy named "Bear." What kind of stupid fucking name is that? Why didn't he just call himself "Shag Carpet?" Anyway, he went up to me first and offered me the rain stick--it's this big wooden rattle filled with little beads that's supposed to sound like rain drops when you shake it. The Head Hairball said the group wanted "someone special" to have it. I was pissed! That was so patronizing! I wanted to take that fucking rain stick and beat him over the head with it or stick it up...
Dr. Balis: I trust you didn't.
Ms. Lough: No, I took his stupid noisemaker just so he would go away. When his back was turned, I handed it to Rob. He looked at it like it was something from another planet. He passed it on to Charlotte, and she was enthralled. She shook her big stick with great enthusiasm.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Lough: I got out of there as soon as their last number was over. I was suffocating! I think I ran over a few feet with my wheelchair, which gave me great satisfaction. Rob was right behind me. He said he couldn't stand it either. Charlotte was in there forever, hugging all her friends and "soaking up the good energy."
Dr. Balis: Did Charlotte make good on her promise to take you to dinner?
Ms. Lough: Yes, but that was just another con-game. Charlotte drove us to a nearby restaurant. I was worried it would be a vegetarian place, but it was actually a decent steak house. When I got there, I realized the whole fruit loop brigade was meeting there for dinner. There was no escape. Charlotte was hoping to turn Rob and me into fruit loops, too. I was grateful for the full bar. I don't usually drink, but when Rob asked if I wanted one, I decided it was a good time to imbibe.
Dr. Balis: What did you drink?
Ms. Lough: Banana daiquiris. They tasted like smoothies; I could barely taste the alcohol. By the time dinner arrived, I had sucked down three and was working on my fourth.
Dr. Balis: That's a lot for a teetotaler, especially one taking pain medication.
Ms. Lough: You would have wanted a drink, too, if had to spend time with these loons. They were all so happy and upbeat. What awful people; they aren't fit to be called human. Guess who I saw there?
Dr. Balis: Who?
Ms. Lough: Godzilla! I saw her talking to Charlotte. That explained how she knew so much about me: she knew about the rehab and where I lived. Charlotte must have told her.
Dr. Balis: Did you talk to her?
Ms. Lough: I don't think so. I don't remember much after my fifth daiquiri. I do remember one woman saying to me that she used to be "just like me, sitting there so quiet." She said, "I hardly talked to anyone. I was so bashful. And I never wore make-up or dresses." What a bitch! She was complimenting herself while giving me backhanded insults. I told her I'd rather be an anti-social misanthrope than a self-absorbed, babbling airhead, and her tits wouldn't sag so much if she invested in a good under wire bra. She left me alone after that.
Dr. Balis: Do you remember anything else about the evening?
Ms. Lough: I remember ordering the most expensive thing on the menu to spite Charlotte, but I don't remember what it was. And I'm not sure if I ate it or not. I remember eating the tiramisu with my fingers while the other diners looked on in disgust. I was really drunk and obnoxious. When they wouldn't serve me any more drinks, I wheeled myself to the bar, banged on the counter, and yelled, "Whose cock do you have to suck to get a drink around here!"
Dr. Balis: Charming.
Ms. Lough: I had a terrible hangover the next day. Rob said Charlotte was pissed that I got sick in her car. Now I remember why I don't like drinking. It's much more enjoyable to smoke weed.
Dr. Balis: I hope you won't be doing either from now on, especially when taking pain medication.
Ms. Lough: I know, I know. After that experience, I won't have another drink for a long, long time.
Dr. Balis: This group that Charlotte joined, PSI? Are they some sort of religious organization?
Ms. Lough: Do you mean are they a cult like Heaven's Gate? That thought did occur to me. They certainly acted weird enough. I remember Charlotte saying that they specialized in training courses for salespeople and people in leadership positions. I heard a lot of people pattering on and on about "being focused on success," setting goals, and the power of positive thinking. They have a language all their own.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. How do you feel about your actions that night?
Ms. Lough: I hate the "How does that make you feel?" question.
Dr. Balis: Do you regret anything you did that night?
Ms. Lough: I cringe inwardly when I think about it. I really made an ass out of myself. But I won't be seeing those people again, except maybe Godzilla, and I really don't care what she thinks. I'm sure my behavior repelled Charlotte enough so that she won't be dragging me to any more of her special events.
Dr. Balis: I see. Are you still seeing Tony?
Ms. Lough: Yeah. Not that often. I'm not getting drugs from him, if that's what you're after.
Dr. Balis: But you smoked marijuana with him.
Ms. Lough: Yes, a few times. I just did it to be social. Okay, maybe I was kind of hoping for know, physical. I was nervous about it--about the possibility of having sex again--so I smoked a little to help me calm down.
Dr. Balis: I see. Did you have sex with him?
Ms. Lough: In this condition?
Dr. Balis: You previously mentioned you wanted to volunteer in a political campaign. Is that something you're still interested in doing?
Ms. Lough: Look at me, Doctor. I'm pretty useless right now.
Dr. Balis: Are there other interests you can pursue? I'm concerned that with a surplus of free time on your hands, you might revert to drug use and other destructive behavior.
Ms. Lough: I can't afford to do anything fun. I certainly can't afford a drug habit. I can barely afford bus fare here to see you. Do you know how long I have to wait for a handicapped-accessible bus? Sometimes I wait over an hour.
Dr. Balis: I've heard that there is a dearth of wheelchair-accessible buses. Sharon, for next week, I'd like you to compile a of things that interest you, things you've always wanted to do and that won't be affected by your disability.
Ms. Lough: Uh, a homework assignment. Shit. Well, it's not like I have anything else to do.
Dr. Balis: Good. See you next week, Sharon.
Ms. Lough: I'll be here, with list in hand.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye.
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