Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 2/14/97

Saturday, February 8, 1997

Sunday, February 9, 1997

Monday, February 10, 1997

10 am. Fourth Session with Peter Hossfeld. Peter came in today and we discussed the results of his MRI brain scans. I spoke with Dr. Hardaway, his neurologist, late last week and he told me that the radiologist confirms that there is no evidence of cerebral tumor. There is some evidence in the coronal section scans that there is an oblate irregularity at the lateral cerebral fissure near the temporal lobe. I told Peter that while it is not conclusive, the irregularity is consistent with a diagnosis of epilepsy and, then again, is within the realm of the variation found in a typical healthy brain. Peter was not very satisfied with my report. He still feels that, in some deep way, he has had a profound mystical experience connected with the afterlife. He thinks that the brain studies and my diagnosis is just an attempt to deny the profound but supernatural state of being which he has experienced. He believes that I seek a scientific explanation because my mind set, befuddled by western medicine and science, won't accept a true mystical experience. But Peter is concerned that a diagnosis of epilepsy could impact his employment and his driver's license. I explained that the Americans with Disabilities Act prevents an employer from firing an employee over a medical condition so long as the employee is able to perform the job with reasonable accommodations by the employer, and I left the driver's license issue to his own judgment. Peter lost consciousness again last week. He described in some detail what the episode was like. Since he has had three occurrences so far and since all of them happened while he was in front of his computer monitor, I theorized that it might have to do with the monitor's flicker frequency or a combination of the monitor and the fluorescent lights at SII. While Peter was not receptive to the suggestion that we conduct an EEG exam at work near his monitor, he did say that he would take the monitor home to experiment with at his house and see if it brings on another episode.

Tuesday, February 11, 1997

12 pm. First Session with Eliza Raven. I got a message from a rather gruff and apparently hostile unidentified male making an appointment for Ms. Raven at noon today. All I knew about her was that she worked in the direct marketing department at SII. Elizabeth Josephine Ravenski, 20, appeared on time and came and perched rather nervously on the edge of my chair. She calls herself Eliza Raven. The gruff male voice on my answering machine was her fiancé Luke. Apparently she is phobic about initiating contact with strangers over the telephone. Luke, while not very sympathetic to her discomfiture, does much of her calling for her. I have to say that from Luke's somewhat hostile tone on my message machine, I can't imagine he is an extremely competent social secretary. But Eliza credits Luke with getting her into therapy, although perhaps she is giving him that credit because he made the phone call at her request. Eliza is a short and stocky woman, with a pleasing appearance. For this session, she dressed conservatively and monochromatically in a gray skirt and a long black sweater. Her hair is black and her complexion is quite fair. What was particularly striking was her eyes--they were this intense violet color which is quite unnatural. She was obviously wearing colored contact lenses. I had the sensation that she was able to hide behind her contacts just as many can hide behind their glasses. She was agitated during our session, nervously fidgeting with an embroidered handkerchief which would appear and disappear from this giant stuffed black purse which she clutched. She nervously twirls her hair around her forefinger, sometimes sucking on the end of a curl. She persistently crossed and recrossed her legs and kept trying to pull lower the extremely modest hem of her knee-length skirt. As she reeked of cigarette smoke, and her fingers were slightly yellowed, I assume that she is a smoker. Being a smoker in San Francisco places you in a category tolerated only slightly better than lepers. Every day I see pathetic knots of smokers huddled in the doorway of each office building in town, commiserating with each other over the change in laws which suddenly evicted them from their offices while they indulge their habit. Perhaps her nervousness during our sessions could be attributed to her inability to light up. Beyond being phobic about using the telephone, Eliza herself has not given any particular reason why she is seeking my help. The content of the session itself mostly involved traumatic memories of her mother while Eliza was between seven and nine. Deteriorating relations between Eliza's parents led to some domestic violence and culminated in her Mother's sudden disappearance. Eliza described going through a symbolic burial of her mother when Eliza was about nine. She describes the period after her mother left as a happy one for her--she became closer to her father and, together with her older brother Isaac, took on some of her mother's responsibilities. Eliza clearly idolizes both her father and her fiancé Luke. Her father was a musician and actor who gave it up to raise his family. However, Eliza described her maternal grandparents as both very wealthy and supportive of Eliza's parents marriage. Apparently, not enough of that wealth trickled into the marriage to stop Eliza's father from dashing his dreams and taking on more pedestrian work. Several times during the session, Eliza broke into tears. Mostly these tears were triggered by the memory of a particularly egregious childhood injury. Eliza recounted the occasion when her mother forgot Eliza's seventh birthday. Her mother came home late and was confronted by her husband. They had a loud and angry fight which brought young Eliza out of her bed to investigate. Her mother responded to Eliza's entrance into their bedroom by taking Eliza back and spanking her. The injustice of this act resounds in Eliza's tone of voice even today. Actually, sometimes Eliza has almost an old fashioned cadence to her speech--a rhythm from another century. When she said goodbye, for example, she said, "Farewell good Doctor Balis." I refrained from saying in return, "Ta Ta."

4 pm. Twenty-Ninth Session with Sylvia Bows. Sylvia is consumed with the facts concerning her ouster at SII. She believes that Lloyd Major, President and CEO of SII, has installed one of his homosexual lovers in her place and has interviewed members of her staff to gather information against Sylvia. Sylvia described it picturesquely as Lloyd conducting a witch hunt with Sylvia as the witch. But Sylvia is not without ammunition with which to fight back. Tony, a seventeen year old intern in Sylvia's department, was dazzled by Lloyd's attentions and was seduced into his first homosexual relationship. When Lloyd tired of Tony after about a month, he left Tony traumatized and visibly upset. Tony made Sylvia his confidant. So Sylvia has a powerful weapon against Lloyd--his homosexuality is not well known and, more importantly, Tony was a minor at the time of the affair. The weapon is effective only if unused, however. Sylvia told me that Lloyd made his fortune by patenting some weatherproof textile material. She believes that he views SII only as a toy that keeps him "cool and technologically hip." I expressed that it was disconcerting to be working for a company someone views as his toy. Sylvia described Lloyd as that "rollerblading, snowboarding son of a bitch." I remember getting a memo from SII when I first arrived, inviting me to Friday rollerblading on the Embarcadero with Lloyd Major and his gang. Not quite my speed, so I declined. Sylvia sent Rene to talk to Richard and send him her hellos. Richard had apparently tried hard to communicate with Sylvia, but had been intercepted by Tom. Richard told Tom that Sylvia was in trouble at work, but Tom decided that Sylvia should not be told while pregnant. Sylvia also told me that Rene disapproves of her efforts to reconcile with Tom. But Rene realizes the difficulty of raising children alone, having done so with Robert. And Rene knows that Sylvia was very much in love with Tom at one point. When I asked Sylvia if she still was in love with Tom, Sylvia became quite agitated, said "It's different now," and suggested that we end the session.

Wednesday, February 12, 1997

A fax arrived today from the Anonymous Faxer. At last, my strategy worked to get the Anonymous Faxer to reveal a method of making our communications go both ways. He has included an e-mail address as an image burned across the back of a broad-shouldered male character. For now, the image is not nearly as important as the door that it opens. The e-mail address that he gives is I'm sure it is a pseudonym--HAL being a reference to the HAL 9000 Computer from 2001. I've been thinking about how to best approach Hal and I think the simpler the better. So I've sent an e-mail that says hello and asks if I can help him. I have so much I want to ask him, but I don't want to scare him off. With the opening of two way communication, I have reclassified The Anonymous Faxer as a patient (albeit a non-paying one) in all my records and files.

5:15 pm. Telephone Conversation with Luke Howard regarding Eliza Raven. I had a brief but unpleasant conversation with Mr. Howard, Ms. Raven's fiancé. Mr. Howard was upset because Eliza apparently had a "crying fit" after our session yesterday. He did say that crying fits were the reason that Eliza is seeking my help. He threatened me with a good talking to by his lawyer if I don't keep my sessions to an approved list of topics. I would have told him to go to hell, but he hung up too fast.

Thursday, February 13, 1997

9 am. A Letter from Eliza was slipped under my door this morning. She apologizes for Luke's telephone call yesterday and excoriates him for his conduct. But beneath the words, I get a sense that she's proud of him for standing up for her. She said a few interesting things in the letter--one, when threatening to use the absence of sex to punish Luke, she admits that she has a stronger sexual drive than he does and feels that it is really punishing herself. She also says that she is on medication of some type, although I wasn't aware of her taking any medications. She writes little haikus and limericks at the bottom of the letter. She also writes about talking to herself rather than to others as a way to calm herself and solve problems.

4 pm. Thirty-First Session with Anna Green. Anna came in depressed because tomorrow is Valentine's Day and Martin is in Michigan. Anna wants to jump on a plane and go visit him. She is busy this weekend with work, but she is talking herself into going next weekend. Anna wants to just surprise Martin--showing up when she's not expected. For obvious reasons, I've always thought that type of surprise was a mistake, but I didn't think it was appropriate to plant seeds of doubt about Martin's fidelity to Anna--I would have sounded more like a jealous, churlish suitor than Anna's doctor. To prepare for her visit, Anna went to a leather, chains, and whip store somewhere to buy something "appropriate" to wear under her coat, a coat which she would shed immediately after surprising Martin. But Anna was surprised by what she saw at the leather store. Anna is really quite naive about the sadomasochistic community in San Francisco and their practices. She saw porno actors with nipple and penis clamps, and believed they couldn't be real. She understands exploring fantasies in sexual relationships, but doesn't appreciate how consuming the realization of a fantasy can become to some people. Most of the sadomasochistic patients that I've seen in the course of my practice have disdained what they referred to as "vanilla" sex and identified themselves as either a "top" or a "bottom." I think Martin's desire to be a "bottom" is going to run a collision course with the realization of Anna's fantasies. Anna described a recurrent sexual dream which results in nocturnal orgasms. In the dream, she is forced to have sex by a powerful stranger who overwhelms her. Anna is ashamed of this fantasy because she thought of it as a rape fantasy and believes that rape is a horror. I tried to reassure her that rape is about violence and her dream is not. Rather, her dream fantasy is about powerlessness and surrendor. In fact, it seems as if both Martin and Anna are going to want to occupy the role of "bottom" next week. I wonder how it will play out. I urged Anna to be as honest and direct as possible with Martin to try to avoid a whole predictable series of disappointments.

Friday, February 14, 1997

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