Transcript of 1st Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Herbert Michel, Tuesday, July 14, 1998 at 10:00 am.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Mr. Michel.
Mr. Michel: Hi, Doc. Just call me Herb.
Dr. Balis: How do you pronounce your last name?
Mr. Michel: It seems like everyone has trouble with that. I get called "Michael," or when people want to be fancy and show off their high-school French, they call me "Michelle." Either way is fine.
Dr. Balis: Is your family French?
Mr. Michel: My mom's family was originally from Louisiana, but I'm a California native, a dying breed these days.
Dr. Balis: It's good to meet you, Herb. What brings you here?
Mr. Michel: Uh, nothing much. I've never seen a shrink before...psychiatrist, sorry.
Dr. Balis: That's quite all right. I've been called many things.
Mr. Michel: I'll bet you have. Hmm, let's see...oh yeah. I've been worrying a lot lately, and it keeps me up at night. Between the job, my old lady, and my busted-up rust heap of a car, I'm getting gray hairs. I've even noticed more hair coming out on the brush now. It sucks having this kind of hair, you know? Little old ladies are always telling me how nice it is, but I hate it. When I go bald--which will probably be any day now--I'll end up looking like Bozo the Clown with curly red puffs over my ears. I'll join the circus then and do kids' birthday parties on the side. I'll be raking in the big bucks then.
Dr. Balis: Is money one of your concerns?
Mr. Michel: Hey, you're a pretty good shrink! Yeah, I do worry about money a lot. I took this job because I knew it would be a steady gig and because I wouldn't have to deal with too many people. The money's not bad, but it's never enough. I thought I was doing all right this paycheck, but then I got these parking tickets...I hate those goddamn Nazi meter maids! Now I've got about twenty bucks left in the bank, and that's got to last until next week. I worry all the time, and my stomach hurts. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and go over my checkbook to make sure I have enough. This city is expensive.
Dr. Balis: It certainly is.
Mr. Michel: For a while, I used to call the bank--I'd use the thing where you press one to hear your balance and press two to hear what checks have cleared. I used to call that 800 number every day, and then I found out that the bank charges if you make more than three calls a month. Those sons of bitches! You just can't win.
Dr. Balis: How long have you been working for SII?
Mr. Michel: A couple months. I can't say I enjoy it much. It's dirty work--cleaning toilets and offices for snotty rich folks in suits. Like I said, it's only for the money. My old lady doesn't make much, and I've got to pay for damn near everything.
Dr. Balis: What does your wife do?
Mr. Michel: Wife? Ha ha. I guess she's like my wife--big old ball and chain. Lenore works for Borders Books. She doesn't make much there, she's just a cashier.
Dr. Balis: Do you and Lenore live together?
Mr. Michel: Yeah, but we hardly see each other. She works days and my job's at night. When I get home, she's asleep. That's going to have to change.
Dr. Balis: What do you mean by that?
Mr. Michel: I don't go through all this trouble to support her for nothing. What's the use if I hardly see her? She's been at Borders for a couple of months, and suddenly they put her on the day shift for no good reason. I told her to talk to her manager and make them change it. Lenore said she did, but she's so whiny and quiet-like, I bet they didn't even hear her. She's got to learn to stand up for herself, at least at work. She's so weak, people walk all over her.
Dr. Balis: How long have you been together?
Mr. Michel: Almost a year. Our anniversary is coming up; she keeps nagging that she wants a ring--she wants to get married. I told her right off that I couldn't afford that. She's so stupid, she has no clue what things cost. Lenore's the cause of these gray hairs right here.
Dr. Balis: Money can often be a source of contention in a relationship. Have you tried sitting down with her and planning a budget?
Mr. Michel: That would be a total waste of time. She just doesn't get it. She's not that smart, you know, especially when it comes to numbers and stuff. I take care of all that. She gives her paycheck to me, and I give her some money to get her through the week.
Dr. Balis: She hands over her paycheck to you?
Mr. Michel: Yeah, she was going to the check-cashing place for a while, but they take a percentage. I broke her of that real quick.
Dr. Balis: Lenore doesn't have a bank account?
Mr. Michel: Why are you keep asking about Lenore? We're supposed to talk about me, right?
Dr. Balis: We can talk about whatever you feel is important. I merely asked because you mentioned at the beginning of the session that your relationship was a partial cause of your stress.
Mr. Michel: Oh yeah, I did, didn't I?
Dr. Balis: I can't help you with the parking tickets, Herb, but I have some experience in the realm of interpersonal relationships. Relationships can be difficult. Maintaining a good partnership can entail a lot of work.
Mr. Michel: No shit! I'm the one that's doing all the work. All she ever does is whine and complain. She's like a little baby, "I want this and I want that."
Dr. Balis: How old is Lenore?
Mr. Michel: She just turned eighteen. I'm starting to think that having sex with a teenager is over-rated, even if she does have nice tits. I'd rather have a girl who has her shit together.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. How did you two meet?
Mr. Michel: Maybe I should bring her here since you're so interested in her.
Dr. Balis: You can do that, but we don't have to talk about her. What else would you like to discuss?
Mr. Michel: It's okay. I didn't mean to get on you. It's just that the more I think of her, the more pissed off I get. I'm feeling kind of pumped up now that you keep mentioning her.
Dr. Balis: Sometimes it's helpful to discuss the things that upset or anger you.
Mr. Michel: She does both of those things. God, that chick is such a pain in the ass! I mean all women are, but she takes the cake. Last week, she had a kidney infection; it's the third time she's gotten one. You'd think she'd figure out how not to get one by now. She kept bitching that she needed to go to the hospital. I don't know why she can't do that herself. I only had one day off that week, and she kept crying, "It hurts! It hurts! I need to go to the emergency room!" I got so sick of listening to her that I threw twenty bucks at her and told her to take a cab. Jesus Christ!
Dr. Balis: Hmm. I suppose her job doesn't provide health insurance.
Mr. Michel: No, and she's so fucking lame that she couldn't even get a job that did. That's part of why she wants to get married--she wants my benefits. Fuck that! They take enough money out of my check.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Michel: I met her back in Fresno. I was working at Denny's, and she took a part-time job there. I didn't notice her at first--they hire a lot of high school kids, and she's not much to look at. But she was real sweet and quiet, and she had that long hair. And how could I not notice those hooters! We moved here last year.
Dr. Balis: After Lenore graduated from high school?
Mr. Michel: No, I told her she didn't need to do that, why should she? You can always lie on a job application, they never check. It's not like a high school diploma means anything anymore. Anyway, it's like I said, she's not the sharpest stick in the bundle, and she couldn't stand her old man. She was glad to get out of there.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Michel: Enough of Lenore, okay? Nevermore! She hates it when I say that.
Dr. Balis: All right. What else would you like to discuss?
Mr. Michel: I can pick anything I want? Hmm. Okay, well, I've been worrying a lot. My...uh, my side job kind of fell through the past week, and money's been tight. And then the old lady got sick again, and...damn! I wasn't supposed to talk about her.
Dr. Balis: You have a second job?
Mr. Michel: Uh, yeah. It's kind of like moonlighting. Believe me, I need the money. With the rents in this city...
Dr. Balis: What kind of work does this moonlighting entail?
Mr. Michel: seem like a cool guy, you're not going to the cops, are you?
Dr. Balis: Everything you say here is strictly confidential except in a very narrow set of circumstances involving an imminent risk of bodily injury to yourself or another. I couldn't tell the police anything about you even if they asked me. All psychiatrists adhere to rules governing doctor-patient privilege.
Mr. Michel: Doctor-patient privilege, huh? Cool. Well, I sell a little dope. So anyway, my connection didn't come through, and I got all these fucking people calling me and asking for bud or blow, only I don't have any. I got so sick of listening to the phone ring that I pulled it out of the wall. I smashed my beeper, throwing it against the kitchen floor. It's like every phone call was lost money, you know? It was making me crazy. I scared the shit out of Lenore when I did that. She ran into the bathroom and hid the rest of the day. Good thing, too; I'd had enough of her whining.
Dr. Balis: Do you use drugs yourself?
Mr. Michel: I smoke a little pot, and once in a while I'll do a little meth, but only when I'm really tired or something. Mostly, it's just pot. And since my guy didn't come through, I haven't been smoking much either. I only have a little left, and I try to save that for when I need sleep.
Dr. Balis: Do you have trouble falling asleep without smoking marijuana?
Mr. Michel: Oh yeah! No matter how tired I am, if I can't take a bong hit before going to bed, I'm up all night climbing the walls.
Dr. Balis: Have you tried taking some over-the-counter sleeping aids?
Mr. Michel: Well, I don't really...
Dr. Balis: You can get some melatonin in the pharmacy downstairs. I've had very good results with it for patients who have difficulty falling asleep. And you should stay off the amphetamines; they really can disturb your sleeping...
Mr. Michel: Yeah, yeah. I don't like that stuff.
Dr. Balis: Melatonin or amphetamines?
Mr. Michel: What is it anyway?
Dr. Balis: Melatonin? It's a hormone. You can find melatonin in health food stores. It's available over the counter; you don't need a prescription...
Mr. Michel: Health food stores? That's not going to do it. I'll need something a lot stronger than that.
Dr. Balis: Many of my patients have used it and found it quite effective.
Mr. Michel: I'm not like your other patients. I need something stronger. A natural supplement or neurotransmitter--or whatever you want to call it--isn't going to help me.
Dr. Balis: Why not?
Mr. Michel: I was a hyperactive kid, and they gave me this had a weird name. It was some kind of downer. I think it screwed-up my insides. My mom made me stop taking it; she kept it for herself. She used to give me codeine to help bring me down--she always had it. She got it from the dentist, she was always having dental work done. Anyway, I have a high tolerance for medication. I need to take five or six aspirins just to get rid of a headache.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Do you get a lot of headaches?
Mr. Michel: Lately, yeah.
Dr. Balis: You said you had stomach problems. Aspirin can be very hard on your stomach, especially if you take high doses. You might want to switch to Tylenol. But don't take high doses of it or you can damage your liver, all right?
Mr. Michel: Okay, I will. But will you give me something to help me sleep? I really need my beauty sleep. I've hardly slept at all this week. Just look at me!
Dr. Balis: I'd like you to try melatonin first. I think you'll be surprised by how effective it can be. And if you are habituated to narcotics, this approach might be just what you need to help you sleep.
Mr. Michel: Well...
Dr. Balis: Good. Our time is up for today. I'd like to see you in two weeks. Does this time work for you?
Mr. Michel: You want me to come back? Yeah, this time will be fine.
Dr. Balis: All right, Herb. I'll see you in two week--that's Tuesday, July 28th at 10 am, okay? Take care.
Mr. Michel: You too. Bye, Doc.
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