Transcript of 16th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Rachel Tanner, Friday, August 14, 1998 at 3:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Rachel.
Ms. Tanner: Hi.
Dr. Balis: How are you?
Ms. Tanner: I almost canceled again today. But since I missed last week, I didn't think that would be too cool. I'm not doing that well.
Dr. Balis: Why do you say that?
Ms. Tanner: I just got back from the memorial service for my mother. Today was the anniversary of her death--three years. It was pretty intense. I'm glad we did it, but it brought out a lot of emotions both good and bad.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Tanner: Michael, Gram, and some other friends were there to honor her. Michael and I had been working on this for a year, collecting photos, rehearsing some music.
Dr. Balis: I didn't realize you wanted to honor your mother in this way.
Ms. Tanner: Michael played that Eric Clapton song, "Tears in Heaven," and I sang with him. I held it together until near the end, until the song went, "Beyond the door there's peace I'm sure, and I know they'll be no more tears in heaven." I made the mistake of looking at Gram and lost it. The one thought that makes my mother's death okay is that she is no longer suffering.
Dr. Balis: There is some comfort in that.
Ms. Tanner: Anyway, speaking of suffering, I'm having trouble. I might have to stop seeing Carla.
Dr. Balis: Why is that?
Ms. Tanner: I can't get past my contamination thing. The fact that she seems willing to continue makes me feel even worse. She says she understands, but how can she? I'm not sure anyone can comprehend this OCD curse. It's a nightmare. It sucks.
Dr. Balis: I can hear your anger and frustration, Rachel. What happened with Carla?
Ms. Tanner: Remember in our last session, we had a discussion about kissing? Well, I tried letting Carla kiss me. That was last Friday, which was why I didn't show up for our session. I'm sorry I didn't call. Anyway, she tried to kiss me. I heaved. I couldn't handle it. I told her it was something I ate, but she knew I wasn't being truthful. She pushed her way into the bathroom while I was cleaning up. That's when I came out to her. I told her about you, and therapy, and Prozac. I told her about my washing rituals and how I thought I was getting better. But...
Dr. Balis: You are getting better.
Ms. Tanner: Yeah, right.
Dr. Balis: You have shown a lot of courage in the risks you've taking lately. However, as you face new situations, you relinquish control, and that is when you are most vulnerable. You might have to learn to flow with the unpleasant sensations until you become less anxious. That's not an easy thing to do.
Ms. Tanner: I'll say. Why did it make me gag, though?
Dr. Balis: Your mind convinced you that it would make you ill, so your body followed suit. Rachel, I'm not sure that this reaction is enough to stop developing your relationship with Carla. I...
Ms. Tanner: She didn't seem to mind the ugliness of the episode. In fact, she still wanted me.
Dr. Balis: Did you try to continue?
Ms. Tanner: She was so patient and open, listening and asking careful questions. I calmed down enough to think about how I could refocus.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Tanner: I hopped into the shower.
Dr. Balis: Good replacement behavior.
Ms. Tanner: And do you know what? She joined me. I'm really glad she did, because I regained some of my confidence.
Dr. Balis: But you still have doubts about being with her?
Ms. Tanner: In my worst moments, yes. We can't even kiss, for Christ's sake!
Dr. Balis: "Can't" is a strong word. There is no reason why someday you won't be able to kiss. Kissing is a very intimate act, but it's not the only one. I think what's more relevant is: are you able to let her kiss places other than your lips?
Ms. Tanner: Oh yes! It seems like in the shower, I'm able to let a lot of things happen. At least that's how it worked out the other night. Sometimes, I feel like I am her little sexuality experiment, like she is studying me. I've been mostly the receiver, if you know what I mean. She seems content with that, for now. I think of things I'd like to try with her, but I'm afraid.
Dr. Balis: She could be your little sexuality experiment, too. You laugh, but I'm halfway serious. It's just something to think about. Let's go over some of your fears. Would you say that contamination is number one?
Ms. Tanner: Yes. But I'm also afraid that I might not be able to please her.
Dr. Balis: She will probably help you with that. It just takes good communication.
Ms. Tanner: I'm afraid that if I open the floodgates, so to speak, she might insist on something that makes me uncomfortable.
Dr. Balis: And you fear that she wouldn't listen to your objections?
Ms. Tanner: That doesn't sound like her, does it?
Dr. Balis: Not from what you've said so far. But I can understand why you would be apprehensive. Rachel, I think some of the fear you're experiencing exists in all new relationships. As you explore intimacy, you'll find out what feels right to both you and your partner. It's a good opportunity to express what you like and don't like. Take advantage of Carla's willingness to listen.
Ms. Tanner: Maybe you are right. It could be that we are just two people getting to know each other. I'm curious about her, too.
Dr. Balis: Rachel, do you want to be able to kiss her? We can work on that if it's important to you.
Ms. Tanner: It isn't really high on my list. It just upsets me that I found something else that I'm not able to do.
Dr. Balis: Not yet.
Ms. Tanner: Right. Obviously, we were able to get around that. She really knows how to...well, never mind. What I want is not something you can help me with.
Dr. Balis: What's that?
Ms. Tanner: I want to go public with her.
Dr. Balis: Showing affection in public?
Ms. Tanner: That too. I want to tell people about her. I want to hang out with her at school. I can no longer just be a student around her. Here I was in her sexuality class, and she was talking about the clitoris and how some female hyenas have such big ones that they look like penises. And I was squirming and throbbing in my seat thinking about the things she did to me the day before.
Dr. Balis: I can see how that would be distracting.
Ms. Tanner: I feel like she was talking to me and me alone. It was like she was letting everyone else eavesdrop while she tortured and teased me. One day, we were both so worked up after class, that we could hardly make it to my house without ripping each other's clothes off. That was a good session! But I don't know. I just don't like the feeling that I have to hide. It is hard enough coming out about OCD. Now I'll have to come out as a lesbian, too?
Dr. Balis: Keeping secrets takes a lot of energy and maintenance. How does Carla feel about going public?
Ms. Tanner: Do you know how some people have a work persona, but then when you get to know them socially, they are totally different? She doesn't seem to be one of those people. I always see students hanging around her. She is just a strong, confident person. I don't think anyone would be able to guess about us. But I'm not sure she would care if people knew.
Dr. Balis: She must have tenure.
Ms. Tanner: Doctor Balis?
Dr. Balis: Yes, Rachel?
Ms. Tanner: What if she dumps me?
Dr. Balis: Hmm?
Ms. Tanner: What if I'm just her current plaything? What if I'm her naive little semester fling? One in a series and all that. God! I would freak!
Dr. Balis: What brought these thoughts to the surface?
Ms. Tanner: I'm just wondering and worrying. It's what I do best, you know.
Dr. Balis: Is Carla a lesbian?
Ms. Tanner: Haven't you been...isn't it obvious?
Dr. Balis: What do you know about her history? Has she ever been married? Are you her first female lover?
Ms. Tanner: We didn't get that far. I think she knows more about me than I do about her. Our relationship is kind of built on sex. The first time we really talked was when I spilled my guts, literally and figuratively!
Dr. Balis: Good pun. Seriously, though, you may be the first woman she has ever been with. And there's a possibility that you'll end up dumping her. Besides, from what you've said so far, except for the kissing incident, it sounds like you have enjoyed being with Carla. You have good sex, you're able to relax, and you opened up with someone in some really healthy ways. Think about what you have gained from knowing Carla.
Ms. Tanner: Wouldn't this make being dumped just that much more tragic?
Dr. Balis: You can use the experience as a stepping stone to better relationships. Maybe she is doing you a favor. But it sounds to me like she genuinely cares about you and you have no reason to doubt your friendship.
Ms. Tanner: Except for this doubting disease with which I seem to be afflicted. I guess I can talk to her.
Dr. Balis: During our last session, you mentioned wanting to make a connection with someone, wanting to know someone spiritually and physically. Haven't you done this with Carla?
Ms. Tanner: Yes, but I'm not ready for it to end.
Dr. Balis: Then make the most out of it. I hate to repeat myself, but there are many risks in getting to know someone. Getting rejected is, unfortunately, one of them. Is Carla worth the risk?
Ms. Tanner: So far. I really, really like Carla. She's allowed me to open up a vault that's been sealed for a long time.
Dr. Balis: Keep that in mind. Did you get a chance to write since our last session?
Ms. Tanner: No, I've been too distracted. I have a new hobby. Her name is Carla.
Dr. Balis: I understand. What about your yoga practice?
Ms. Tanner: I do it on my own now, at home. The class is pretty expensive. Gram was complaining about it, especially because she was pinching pennies for her trip to Germany.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Tanner: It was pretty fun being alone in the house. I could get used to it, except it's way too big for just one person. It always seems kind of empty without Michael and Mom around.
Dr. Balis: Do you ever think about moving out?
Ms. Tanner: Yes. I also think about working again, but not as a manicurist. I see your nails have deteriorated, by the way.
Dr. Balis: By contrast, yours are looking the best I can remember, Rachel.
Ms. Tanner: Thanks. I might start looking for a part time job, something at the college would be perfect. I'll let you know.
Dr. Balis: I'm sure you will. It's time to end the session, unless you have something else?
Ms. Tanner: I'm done. And Doctor? I like what you said about stepping stones. It makes my future sound like it's going to get better.
Dr. Balis: It will, Rachel. Count on it.
Ms. Tanner: Thank you.
Dr. Balis: See you on August 28th. Take care.
Ms. Tanner: Goodbye, Doctor.
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