Transcript of 16th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Olivia Stillwell, Tuesday, June 16, 1998 at 5:00 pm.

Ms. Stillwell: Hi, Doctor B!
Dr. Balis: Good afternoon, Olivia. How was your trip?
Ms. Stillwell: How was it? Well, it was definitely not an ordinary vacation. There were some tense moments, but all in all it was pretty good. I have a lot to tell you. But before we get into that, I have something for you. We were in the Smithsonian gift shop, and I saw this little inspirational plaque. I bought one for myself and one for you. I thought it might help lift the spirits of your other clients.
Dr. Balis: Thank you, Olivia. It's very nice of you.
Affirmation Image
Ms. Stillwell: I like what it says: "Get in a positive mind set; develop guiding principles; recite affirmations; set goals; and produce daily outcomes." I've sort of taken this on as my personal mantra. I put my plaque up on the wall in my bathroom so I can read it as I get ready for work in the morning. I thought that maybe someone else might enjoy it as well.
Dr. Balis: Thank you, Olivia. I appreciate your gift.
Ms. Stillwell: Doc, I did something wild and crazy on my trip.
Dr. Balis: Oh?
Ms. Stillwell: Yeah. I got a tattoo. It's a little heart with a teardrop. Do you want to see it?
Dr. Balis: Where is it?
Ms. Stillwell: Oh, don't be a chicken, Doc! It's on my top rib, directly under my left breast. I can't wear a bra yet, but I promise not to flash you.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. What brought this on? Normally, you're pretty conservative.
Ms. Stillwell: Steffy got me drunk, and we were playing truth or dare. I chose dare. My dare was either kissing her for a full minute or getting a tattoo.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Stillwell: Well, at least it's small and inconspicuous. I'd hate to be an eighty-year-old woman with a Tweety Bird tattoo on my ankle.
Dr. Balis: That would be a bit odd.
Ms. Stillwell: I did something else kind of crazy on my trip., I looked up my grandparents.
Dr. Balis: Really?
Ms. Stillwell: Yeah. I was so scared, Doctor Balis. I really was. I spent a whole day trying to get up the courage to contact them. Steffy was totally against it. She said I was opening Pandora's box and that I wouldn't like what I found. I don't know, though.
Dr. Balis: What happened?
Ms. Stillwell: Hmm? Oh, I looked them up in the phone book. They never moved away, so it was easy to find them. When I called, I didn't tell them who I was. I just pretended to be taking a survey. Once I verified who they were, I was too shocked to say anything else and just hung up. I decided to put the ball in their court. I wrote a letter telling them who I am and that I'd like to meet them. I didn't get all mushy or anything. I was very matter-of-fact about it. I gave them the phone number and address of where I was staying, and the rest was up to them.
Dr. Balis: Were you worried that they might not respond?
Ms. Stillwell: Why wouldn't they? I'm their granddaughter. It's not like my mother died yesterday. This is twenty six years later. Why on Earth wouldn't they want to meet me? But to put your mind at ease, they did respond.
Dr. Balis: Oh?
Ms. Stillwell: Thanks for being so supportive--I thought you'd be the one person who would encourage me in this. You needn't sound so incredulous. You kept telling me to think about my mother and explore those feelings. Well I am! Now my father is furious. Steffy thinks I'm making a huge mistake. And Jordan...well, Jordan thinks I'm only going to find sadness and pain.
Dr. Balis: I'm not trying to be discouraging, Olivia. I just want to know what happened and how you feel about it.
Ms. Stillwell: It's just...this is so hard. It's so much harder than I thought it would be. I can't believe I'm crying over this.
Dr. Balis: Here are some tissues.
Ms. Stillwell: I thought that meeting them would help fill an empty part in me. But it didn't. It just made it worse.
Dr. Balis: I don't understand.
Ms. Stillwell: I thought it would be like walking into an instant family: Pick two grandparents, add one lonely girl, mix well, and voilà--instant family. But it's not that easy.
Dr. Balis: It never is, Olivia. Relationships take time to develop. There is no such thing as an instant family. This is going to take a lot of work. By entering their lives, you have reminded your grandparents of the loss of their daughter.
Ms. Stillwell: But it's not my fault! It's not my fault that she was raped and got pregnant. It's not my fault that she had a nervous breakdown. It's not my fault...why do I have to pay for it?
Dr. Balis: No, it's not your fault, Olivia. But I think there is a lot of guilt going around. I believe your grandparents feel guilt for leaving their daughter alone in the house when she got raped. You told me that your father felt enormous guilt for not being able to protect your mother from the rapist. He felt so much guilt that he married your mother and adopted you. So it is to be expected that there would be some difficulties in trying to restore your family. Don't you think?
Ms. Stillwell: I guess. And they, my grandparents, got rid of me so they wouldn't have to deal with that guilt on a daily basis.
Dr. Balis: It's possible.
Ms. Stillwell: They are going to have to deal with that guilt. I deserve to have a family. It may not be the picture perfect family, but I need more than just my father. I need to know who I am, I need to know my heritage. So I've decided to move out to the East Coast. You might want to pick your jaw up from the floor, Doc. I'm very serious about this. I can easily get a job as a contractor. I have money saved up to handle the move and immediate expenses.
Dr. Balis: I see. And how do your grandparents feel about this?
Ms. Stillwell: They aren't too keen on it, but they said they'd give it a try.
Dr. Balis: And your father?
Ms. Stillwell: He hugged me for a long time, and we cried together. He said that he doesn't want me to go because he'll miss me, but he understands why I need to do this. He offered to call some friends out there to help me get a job, but I told him that I want to do this on my own. I really want to do this on my own.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Stillwell: This will be a chance for me to make it completely on your own.
Dr. Balis: Are you scared?
Ms. Stillwell: I'm scared shitless, Doc. Oops! Sorry, didn't mean to cuss. This is my chance to make it or break it. Moving to another big city won't be too difficult, but it will be lonely. I'll have to rely on my grandparents for help with some things, like where the good neighborhoods are and where the red-light areas are. I'd hate to end up living next door to Marion Barry's crack dealer. He was sent to jail on possession charges, you know.
Dr. Balis: I've heard some of the stories about the mayor of D.C.
Ms. Stillwell: Yeah, and they reelected him when he got out of jail. Amazing! Anyway, I wanted to thank you for putting up with me and my neurosis and quirkiness. I know that's what you get paid to do, but I think you did it because you really cared about me.
Dr. Balis: I do care, Olivia. I'm glad that I've been able to help you. Please e-mail me at some point and let me know how you are doing. I'd be happy to provide you with some references for good therapists out in the D.C. area, if you would like.
Ms. Stillwell: Thank you, Doctor Balis. I'd really appreciate that. I'm not sure what I'll be able to afford when I get there, but I'll definitely keep in touch. I don't want to make this a permanent move, but who knows?
Dr. Balis: Good luck, Olivia. I wish you the best.
Ms. Stillwell: Goodbye, Doctor Balis. Thank you for everything.
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