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Archive for January, 2007

I was a contractual therapist with a church-affiliated non-profit agency, and they had dispatched me to an office in a church on the edge of the city. “Office” is a generous label; I suspect if I had not been there, they would have been using it as a utility closet. It was winter and since I worked evening hours, the place had been dark and deserted long before I arrived for my “shift.” There was a “security” man (I use the term loosely; he was the brain-damaged relative of a church member, and he used to look me up and down, seemingly assessing whether I was fit to be in his church; if I were thoroughly covered up, he would nod; if I wore less than a turtleneck and long skirt, he would smirk and shake his head) who prowled the perimeter of the building and grounds, but he did nothing to add to my sense of security. It was a creepy place to be, alone at night.

The agency that employed me had an undergrad psychology student to do telephone “intakes,” meaning that he screened the clients I would be seeing. He asked about things like chronic mental illness, suicidality, substance abuse. Because this interviewer did the intake questions and the scheduling, I would welcome new clients into my office/closet without ever having had even telephone contact with them.

On this particular evening, I opened the door to see a clean-cut, casually dressed man, in his mid-twenties. His name was Guy. He didn’t look me in the eye, even when he shook my hand. This, and something about his aura of fearfulness and extraordinary strength, made me uneasy. He wasn’t very tall, but portrayed a large presence due to his musculature. Very thick, roped body type. And short, very curly brown hair, which I suppose pushed my “aw, a cute little boy” button. That’s probably the only thing that made me feel comfortable enough to bring him in and shut the door. And maybe that was also the thing that made me overlook (until he sat down and took great pains to position it) the large, heavy gym bag he carried in his left hand.

It could hold a gun. Or knives. Rope. No, duct tape. And chloroform.

I began with the initial interview and assessment, as Guy’s eyes avoided mine, instead casting furtively all around the little room. He was depressed because he was having trouble with his live-in girlfriend. She had many complaints about him and was threatening to throw him out. They had a child together, a toddler. He showed me a picture of his daughter, and for the first time, he looked right at me, to see my reaction. She was gorgeous, indeed, and I told him so, and he blushed, then put his head back down. He continued talking about his depression and life at home. And I tried to stop looking at the gym bag. We agreed to work together, seeing each other once a week.

I saw Guy and his gym bag for only about four weeks. When he would get angry while talking about his girlfriend, the veins in his neck would stand out and he’d clench his fists, in ways that made me glance at the gym bag, which I sometimes forgot about as I got to know him better. His love relationship continued to deteriorate, and it became clear that he would need to move out of their apartment. He decided to go to a neighboring state where he could find work and where he had some relatives. I was sad to end our time together; I had come to care for him, and he was making progress in therapy. At that last session, I finally said to him, “Guy . . . what do you have in that gym bag?”

He blushed only slightly and said, “My dirty clothes. I work construction, and I come here right after work. I thought it would be disrespectful to come here all dirty, so I stop in the gas station down the street and wash up and put on clean clothes.”

I felt about this big. Here I had been thinking that this sweet, vulnerable man-child was possibly capable of harming me, indeed that he may have been coming to our sessions armed and dangerous. And instead, he was being astonishingly considerate and respectful of me. Shame on me.

Then we continued our “termination” session. At the very end, I said to him, “Will you be seeing your mother when you move back to Pennsylvania?” I knew they weren’t close.

“No. Ever since what happened with my step-dad, she doesn’t want anything to do with me.”

We had only focused on the here-and-now during our brief association, so of course I had to ask what had happened.

“I beat him to death with a baseball bat.” In the remaining few minutes that we had, Guy elaborated only enough to say that he had been in prison for five years for that crime. I don’t remember much else of what was said in those last few minutes as I shook his hand and wished him well.

The next day I called the intake worker, David, and suggested a change to the initial phone interview. “Hey, David,” I said, real friendly-like, “I want you to add a question to the intake form” (I could almost see this eager, conscientious, wannabe therapist on the other end of the phone line, preparing to write down my suggestion verbatim). “I want you to add DID YOU EVER MURDER ANYONE WITH A FREAKIN’ BASEBALL BAT?!” I told him the story, he apologized profusely . . . No harm was done. But I would have liked to have known that.

Years later, in my private practice, I decided that I won’t meet male clients alone for the first time at night when there aren’t other people around. Sometimes that means I can’t accept a particular client. Oh, well. They can take time off, or come in before work, or whatever, if they’re that motivated to see me. After I get a sense of them, usually just a session or two, I will give them an evening appointment if that’s more convenient.

And of course, I don’t ask someone who calls for the initial appointment, if they’ve ever murdered someone with a baseball bat. I just casually go down my list of innocuous intake questions, and somewhere between “on any medications?” and “any known allergies?” I ask, “Ever had any trouble with the law?” That should cover it.

file under: &Work &Can’t Make This Stuff Up

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The whole time I’ve been dealing with WTF Disease, two things have remained rather constant: I have said that I believed I was as likely to be diagnosed by a blogger as by a medical professional, and I have longed for someone to look at me as a whole, at the big picture, at my history as well as my current symptoms.

Finally, I believe there has been somewhat of a breakthrough. You may recall that recent lab reports indicate that my Vitamin D level remains curiously low. Just this morning I received an email that may shed some much-needed light on my condition. Dr. mrtl, who has been following my case for months, and who does know my background in a way that other medical professionals do not, has offered her considered opinion that my Vitamin D deficiency could be due to lack of sunlight. Of course, everyone who knows anything about Vitamin D knows that this is possible; the mystery was, how could that be, when I get about as much sunlight as any middle-aged woman in the mid-Atlantic region. Dr. mrtl may have solved this mystery, with her speculation that my gigantic ass is, in fact, blocking the sun, preventing me (and perhaps countless others on the Eastern seaboard) from experiencing its life-giving properties. If you live anywhere near my ass, you might want to get your D-level checked.

(Yes, I know that I will attract quite a circus of pervs who arrive here after searching “my gigantic ass;” but it was worth it, you know?)

OK, for real. I mean, the above is for real, that’s what Dr. mrtl said. But the other doc I saw today had no clue. But she seemed smart, and kind, and she said — wait for it — no other doc has said this to date — “I am going to do some research and see if I can find something that would tie all these things together. Call me on Friday.” Translation: “I give a rat’s ass. I’ll see if I can help you.” So, that’s good. I’ll let you know when I know something.

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Sunday Post

lilypond

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” — Benjamin Franklin

And some song lyrics, because I know how you love to read song lyrics 😉

Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
Yesterday is a promise that you’ve broken
Don’t close your eyes, don’t close your eyes
This is your life and today is all you’ve got
and today is all you’ll ever have
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes

This is your life, are you who you want to be?

from “This is Your Life” by Switchfoot

Ephesians 5:15-17

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Even though I’m often preoccupied with thoughts of WTF, I do sometimes think other things. Brilliant, profound things, of tremendous value to mankind. Or not. Here are a few recent ponderings . . .

  • I ate an embarrassing number of Oreos. If you people (Jif, LG) would buy normal size Oreos, I would not do that. But if you insist on buying “mini” Oreos, I can’t be responsible for how many I eat. Haven’t you ever heard the expression, “take two [hundred], they’re small”?

  • You know how the little muscles in your thumb sometimes twitch, and if you pay close attention, you can actually see your thumb moving, involuntarily? And it’s actually kind of cool? Yea, well, when that happens in your triceps, your quadriceps, your transverse obliques, your soleus and your latissimus dorsi and uh, oh yea, your eye . . . cool, not so much.

  • Cleaning out some papers from the desk drawer. This was written about two years ago, when LG was playing school with Biscuit:

Dear Mrs. Fairchild,
Biscuit got an F in chours [chorus]. He will not pay attention or sing. I am concerned there is a problem at home.
Sincerely,
Ms. [Teacher]

  • I think my favorite tagline on a blog is Twixie’s “your mind may be somewhere else but your ass ain’t.” Spoken like a good teacher.

  • LG, in her never-ending effort to be more grownup than I want her to, has taken to calling me “Mother.” I was “Mama” for several years, and that was my preference. Thanks to the influence of peers, in about second grade, I began to get “Mommy,” with “Mama” reserved for when she is scared, sick or sleepy. But “Mother?” Maybe I’ve spent too much time in blogworld, but that sounds about half like a dirty word to me. Or like half a dirty word.

  • I just wrote a short, but angry, venting email to someone, about another someone, and before I could send it, it disappeared! The screen was still there, the address and the subject were there, but the words just evaporated from the screen. I’m thinking that was a sign I should shut up. At least for now. So I will. You ever have things like that happen, you seem to get a sign that you ought not to do what you really want to do? I get that a lot, in various forms. I guess that means it’s rather often that I want to do what I really ought not to do 😦

  • I like Queen Latifah. But sometimes I worry that I won’t handle it well if I ever meet her. What should I call her? Queen? Your Highness? Ms. Latifah (that can’t be, if she wanted to be “Ms.,” she would have named herself that)? Dana? That seems a little presumptuous . . . oh well, I probably have a little time to figure this one out . . .

  • LG asked me the other day what WTF stands for. We’ve never really said. I mean, of course assumptions have been made. I told her, “Where’s the frog?” because WTF makes me very hoarse, like I have a frog in my throat. But that was kinda lame. What else might it stand for?

  • “Defensive” is the only “name” you can call someone that, even if it’s not true up to that time, the very act of their telling you that you’re wrong . . . sorta makes you right. Kinda.

  • I think blogging makes me spill. Not like Lynn. I mean really spill things. Like red wine (yes, I, too, love Jesus but drink…) on my Follett software company (you know who you are 😉 mousepad; chicken noodle soup on my new keyboard. It could be WTF . . . but I don’t think so. I think it’s blogging.

  • I haven’t documented this in any professional journal (yet), but years ago, in collaboration with a client, I came up with a very reliable test for depression in women. The SLT. The “shaved leg test” for depression. I asked this client how her mood was, on a scale of 1 to 10 (standard depression question), and instead of answering, she put her leg up on the chair, pulled up her pant leg and said, “See!? I shaved my legs!” And I knew exactly what she meant. She was doing better. For women who do shave (wax, whatever) their legs, the level of leg hair can be a very accurate barometer of mood. I need to do more research before I publish.

So, what have you been thinking?

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(a theological discussion of intercessory prayer)

I was telling Jif about what I’d seen on “Ellen” one day last week (btw, Ellen is the best anti-depressant I’ve encountered). There was this 88-year-old woman, Gladys, that Ellen called on the telephone, and Gladys says, among other things, “Listen, I’ll be honest with you, I love Jesus, but I drink a little . . .”

Jif: See, that’s just like me. I love Jesus, but I drink a little, too.

Susie laughs

Jif: And Jesus loves ME. This I know . . .

Susie: Yea, Jesus loves you. But I’m His favorite.

Jif: I . . . don’t think so. In fact, the last time I talked to Him, He didn’t even know who you were . . .

Susie: Oh, yea? Well . . . well . . . DAMN! That would certainly explain a LOT! DID YOU AT LEAST POINT ME OUT TO HIM?!

Jif: Yea. I did.

Susie: Well. Now maybe we’ll get somewhere . . .

Seems we had a bit of a failure to communicate there, Ratsasstafarians. Now we should be OK. Keep praying.

(And if you didn’t hear Gladys on Ellen, go there now. I promise you’ll laugh.)

file under: &Family &WTF Disease &Sharing

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Sunday Post ~ “The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.” — Mark Caine

Psalm 107:13-16

file under: &Sunday Post

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Biscuit Friday ~ Happy Hour

happy hour

Enjoy your weekend. And remember to bark, sniff, scratch, hump, and pee on mailboxes responsibly.

(No VBDs were harmed or intoxicated during the making of this post.)

file under: &Biscuit

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