Friday, July 18, 2008

Cat logic

Why is it that the moment I sit down at the keyboard, the cat immediately wakes up from his 16 hour nap?

Why does does the cat insist on straddling the keyboard so that I cannot see the monitor, anus in my face?

Why does blowing a sharp gust of air on his ever-so-obvious anus elicit no response whatsoever other than a casual glance over his shoulder and a quick tail flick?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Calm Down or Else

The New York Times today published an article about how public schools are routinely and illegally restraining children with behavior problems.

I hope this works without needing registration to view: Calm Down or Else by Benedict Carey.

It all seems quite familiar.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My son, the other drama in my life.

It's been a while since I've talked about my son. What a roller coaster this has been! If you've been following along ever since day one, I apologize for the long summary here, but it *does* help explain part of my reaction to where we are now.

His last day of school in the regular General Ed program was April 5, 2008. He was identified as a Special Ed student in October of 2006, originally under the designation: ED (Emotionally Disturbed). In February of 2007 we went to UCSF for a pediatric psychiatric diagnosis, as many of his school diagnostic tests were pointing to Asperger's.

In 2004 thru early 2006 he had also been in private therapy, where he had been diagnosed with ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), IE (Intermittent Explosivity), and where we had discussed and ruled out ADHD, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and Early-Onset Bi-polar Disorder. (That last one was a bit bogus in terms of a true diagnostic test though -- that psychiatrist spent about twenty minutes with me and no more than ten with him before ruling out Bi-Polar. Whatever.)

UCSF came back with the diagnosis of Anxiety and IE, ruling out Asperger's although they said that he displayed many of the characteristics of the disorder.

The entire time he was in Special Ed at the basic elementary was one horror show after another. The Director of Special Ed, whose brother has Asperger's and who herself has some sort of auditory processing hypersensitivity, saw a lot of autistic traits in Saul. His need for deep pressure. His heightened fight or flight response when faced with a new environment, etc. By April of 2007 I had trotted the UCSF report over to my health insurance HMO to get a prescription for my son for anti-anxiety medication, as recommended in the report.

Well, Kaiser lives in its own bizarre universe, and they didn't see him as being anxious or needing anti-anxiety medication. Instead, he was put on trials of Ritalin and Adderal to control his explosivity. (I had heard the psychiatrist in another venue say that actually no young child really had depression or anxiety -- it was all undiagnosed ADD. This explains his interest in trying the Ritalin before Zoloft. Sigh.) Surprise, surprise, neither of the "impulse control" drugs worked. And he then diagnosed Saul with Asperger's and anxiety, since he could now rule out ADHD (Which every teacher Saul has ever had since 2003 has also ruled out. Sigh.)

With the Kaiser diagnosis of Asperger's on a piece of paper, the Director of Special Ed started to try to train the staff at my son's school how to work with an autistic child. Nope. It wasn't happening. No way, no how.

I had many meetings and IEPs wherein I discussed behavior management techniques (Chunk his day into discrete time blocks. Ask him to set his own goals at the beginning and end of every chunk. Ask him to self-assess his own behavior. Ignore the negative, reduce the shame, and accentuate the positive.) Nope. No way. Favorite quote of the year, by far: "I have seven teaching certificates, but even I am not trained or prepared to do such a thing." Huh? What's rocket science here?

By December of 2007, we started receiving mental health services through the county. Every professional working with him through that office started to say, "We can't tell what is going on until he gets into a different educational program. He's getting worse and worse, and they are contributing to the problem."

I used to get calls from the school every day, sometimes two or three times a day. "He's not doing his work. He's refusing to go to lunch. He's climbing the fence on the playground. We don't know where he is, but he's left campus. He' s not doing his work. Can you come down right away and get him back in class?" Over and over again.

If I got to 10:30 in the morning without a call it was a good day. On those days I could expect a call by 1:30. It was insane. If I did go down, there was often a group of adults hovering over him, shaming him, making everything worse. So even if I left him there, I was running the last thing I saw over and over in my head. I should have said this. I should call another meeting. Dammit, I can't eat lunch now, I don't have time.

During the early Spring, Dear Butcher and I had to assess various programs available to us. And some were quite scary. All had smaller classes and less rigorous academics than he's used to. But the violence of the students he'd be sitting with was scary. One program was dedicated to victims of sexual abuse. Yikes. He's got enough troubles as it is. The schools have padded rooms, for goodness sake. Why can't the local school just put in place some of the things that are scientifically proven to work? Why designate him as Emotionally Disturbed if you are not going to help him through that?

Saul had his last day of school on April 5. Then he was home for a full month until all the paperwork could get signed, so he started school at his new program, Cornerstone, on May 5. During the month of April, he got so out of control, he had to be restrained outside his therapist's office by four adults, face down (on a pad) in the parking lot for almost an hour. We were seconds away from calling in the psychiatric crisis team, when Saul became distracted enough by his father's arrival on scene to snap out of it. It was not a good month.

Cornerstone is a joint program between County Mental Health and the neighboring public school system. (It's designated as a psychiatric day treatment program for emotionally disturbed and abused children.) There's a psychologist on site at all times, and since it's co-run by County Mental Health, his psychologist at school would now be working closely with his present psychiatrist, who could even observe him in a classroom setting if needed. However, since Saul would be receiving educational services through a different public school system, we had to have *another* IEP including personnel from that school district. Basically, it's as if my public school system decided to send him to a private school -- they'll end up paying "tuition" to the other public school system in the form of a transferred enrollment. The County chips in too. OK, fine. Where's the paperwork?

At this meeting we had: Me, the Director of Special Services for my school district (and now my son's case manager), the Principal of Cornerstone, the chief Psychologist at Cornerstone, the lassroom Teacher, and a Supervisor within the Special Services Department in the neighboring school district. It was her signature we needed to get him enrolled. Another three hour meeting. Gah.

Intriguingly, the Special Ed Supervisor from the other district hit on my son's Asperger's diagnosis almost immediately. "I'm concerned about this, because we have had very little success with autistic children in this particular program. Now, we do have another program in our district for elementary-aged autistic children. I'm worried that this is the wrong placement for him." So I went through his various diagnostic tests, and his visit to UCSF, where they ruled OUT Asperger's, while two months later Kaiser ruled it IN.

The Principal said, "You know. What occurs to me in listening to you speak is that this child has never really had *any* sort of intervention. Has he?"

"Well, we've been through a lot, but, um, no. I guess he really hasn't had an intervention yet. That's part of the insanity here. He's had five aides this year and I think he had four last year. As soon as we get a recommendation, we try to act upon it, and then something blocks it. He's had all his blood tests to determine base values before starting him on Seroquel, but even the psychiatrist won't medicate until he has a better idea of what is *normal* behavior for Saul."

"OK then," replied the principal. "I agree with you Carol, that we have not had positive results with autistic children here. However, maybe we can use this placement to either rule in or rule out autism. Our psychologist seems to feel that he can be of use to Saul, and I trust his judgment. I think we should place him here."

And so they did.

He started May 5. He's in a class with nine other kids. There are four adults in the room --it can get a bit crowded-- the teacher, a mental health "technician" and two adult aides. Every day, their first writing assignment is to fill in a worksheet on "How am I Doing Today?" I feel sleepy, hungry, happy, sad, etc., and today my goal is to______. Then they get points. Every day they either move up levels or down levels, depending on their behavior. With every change in level, they get new privileges (The right to use colored pencils rather than crayons. The right to bring one object from home. The right to a McDonald's lunch with a staff member.) Everything is very consistent and very clear. It's basically everything I had been asking his current school to do for him, but at a more intense level.

He's had perfect day after perfect day. He's risen straight up through the levels, earing more and more rewards. He participates in therapy. He's (watch me fall on the floor) Played Softball this summer (with other disabled kids -- two innings, no scores, hugely modified rules, but still. A team sport??). The school doesn't call me. Ever.

He's gone AWOL twice and dropped a level as a consequence. Yes, he gets angry. Yes, he's disappointed in himself and angry at staff for following the rules. But then he's able to say, "I think I can start earning back my level again tomorrow."

You have no idea of the shock on my face when I hear him say stuff like this. I have to shake it off, squeal, and give him a hug rather than just staring at him slackjawed.

Things are not perfect. I've called the police when he walked out of the house. I've had to restrain him. He flipped out at a family party on Memorial Day and I ended up on top of him holding him in four point restraint on their front yard. And then he bit me.

However, we are miles away from where we've been.

We are moving away from restraining him at all. He can control the behavior at school and he's aware that he's controlling it there. Therefore, he should be able to control it at home. With lots of support. And on a much more extended timeline. But *HE'S* got hope that he can control it.

SO. Where are we, really, in terms of figuring out what makes this kid tick?

Well, if all of the rages, self-mutilation, obsessive thoughts, violence, and rigid thought patterns seem to have disappeared from the school setting, then it's probably not Asperger's. (Although everyone agrees that he does have some autistic traits. But not enough to push us over the line into that diagnosis.)

Both ODD and IE are only descriptive -- there's no treatment for them really except for environmental and behavioral controls. Which brings us back around to Anxiety and (ta-da!) Bi-polar. Along with a family system which contributes his flare-ups. (I'll take responsibility for whatever I can here, believe me.)

I do love it though when his various therapists (He has three now?) ask, "Is there any history of mental illness in your family?" ::laughtrack::

I'm really so proud of my son. And I'm fine with the addition and then removal of Asperger's as his main trigger. I got to learn a lot about it, and who knows, it may indeed underly some of this. Who can say? What *still* gets me angry though is discovering that putting him in The Very Environment I Had Been Asking For All Along was instantly beneficial. Why the fuck couldn't his school have set up the damn behavior chart? Why the fuck couldn't the adults there have acted like professionals when he flared up? Why wouldn't they stop talking to him in that fucking sing-song voice which they KNEW sent him over the edge? AGH! I want to go shoot someone. (OK, not really. Not a threat, that would be bad.)

I was in the office of his old school picking up his little sister sometime in late May, when the principal walked in. We both said that we had been meaning to call each other to get an update on Saul. I told her how well he was doing, and after she asked what I thought mainly contributed to his success, I said, "It's completely consistent. The kids know going in what's expected of them, and they are held to that standard. Not one that changes day to day. If something new is going to happen, the are prepped days in advance."

"Oh. Well, that could never happen here."

Why the fuck not? Ugh!! Wouldn't other children benefit from a predictable environment? Educational research says yes, they would!

On the other hand, I've been proven right that the principal is an idiot and that she is running a dysfunctional school with unprofessional staff. I knew I wasn't crazy there.

One day I'll have to write something about watching your child stretched out on a blue wrestling mat in a parking lot on a hot sunny California day, with one adult holding his ankles, one holding his hips, and a third holding his arms to the side as he spits and swears at them all while you consider whether or not hospitalizing him in a psychiatric ward overnight is a good idea. It was completely unfamiliar yet strangely comforting. I could watch and know that he wouldn't be harmed, and I could finally just be his mother.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Part Three: Wherein we question, "Who is the Rock?"

Ah, the drama of this week.

I remember living like this all the time. One more phone call. One more dissection of "What did she mean when she said that to him? Why didn't she tell him that other thing when she was saying this thing over here?" You can spend decades parsing one tale and the twelve conversations it sprouted from its twisted trunk. I know. I have.

A few months after I moved away from my family to California I said to Dear Butcher, "I have this weird feeling in my stomach, and I've been trying to figure out what's going on. I finally realized what it must be. It's the absence of a stomachache. I've had one every day for so long that I forgot what it felt like to not have one."

We fall now into the predictable pattern. My mother sends me a terse email with PROOF that she is correct in thinking that her former daughter-in-law is a creep. (And by extension that her son is not really that bad.) Ha! That'll convince you!

Which causes me to send her back an email saying "I love you; I'm not interested in abandoning all ties with you; I'm not trying to hurt you, but cut the crap already. I"m not reading confidential letters between patients and therapists even if they do prove your point. Shame on your son for giving them to you anyway."

Which causes my father to email me back saying that he agrees with me, but really, won't I just be that sympathetic ear my mother needs? You don't need to agree with her, but won't you just listen to her pain? For me? Hmm?

Which causes me to write....No. Wait. Back off. Shut up. Go away. Tell the chamber orchestra playing that ever so familiar waltz in the corner to pack up their instruments. Now is not the time to dance with these wackos.

On different days in different ways this has been going on all week.

I decided finally to try to get the other side of the story by calling my ex-sister-in-law. (I long ago decided to shorten all that crap to just "sister". I'm old enough; I get to choose my relatives.) Well, that was enlightening -- the best part being that she had no idea that DSS had been called, after my mother had been gloating "that now that the social worker has been in touch with Steph the shit will really hit the fan." We kibitzed, we laughed, we agreed that this is a whole truckload of crazy. Then she called back and things started getting weird with her, which I regret.

I sat on my conversation with her for a few hours (that's when I started writing all these posts, to try to process some of this stuff) and then decided that I had to call my Dad. I don't know who is telling the truth, and I can't spend time ferreting out the conflicting details, but I felt as if he deserved to know that in at least two stories that I had heard this week, he was being lied to.

I got him on the phone and told him that. When he tried to find out what I knew and when, I told him I wasn't playing that game. I only called him to warn him to look out, because either my mother or my brother, or both were lying. The sequence of events (whose gory details I won't bore you all with) simply do not add up.

Steph may not be telling the truth in all things, but I absolutely believe her reactions to shocking news. Being asked about a social worker sent her right over the edge. Therefore, she hadn't heard about it before, and either mom was lying to me, or brother was lying to mom when he said that there had been contact and the investigation was well under way.

At which point my mother, in all of her five foot three inches of blue flaming rage, stormed into my dad's office. He's trying to pretend that I'm not on the phone, but all the while trying to tell me what she's saying.

"Give it up Dad. Put me on the extension."

Much yelling and scuffling ensues.

My mother huffs, "What did you DO?"

"Excuse me?"

"What DID YOU DO?!"

"Hey. I'm not going to be spoken to that way. Calm down. I called Dad to say--"


"To whom? What?"


"Enough. I'll talk to you when you're calmer." Click.

We went through three rounds of this. "Screech!" Click. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

In a rather sick way, it was a little fun. "Oh, here she is again trying to yell at me." Click. "Ahhh."

Upshot of the whole fiasco is that apparently the social worker HADN'T yet contacted Steph, so my telling Steph that I was sorry to hear that she was having such a difficult time, and then my having to explain to her what I had heard (in very limited detail) was enough, in my mother's eyes, to ruin the entire investigation. "Your brother had DOCTORS lined up." And the role of the DSS is what, exactly? "Now she'll KNOW what to say." Like she wasn't going to know what to say beforehand? The social worker has to SET AN APPOINTMENT with you for the interview. Duh. It's not like the police: "OPEN UP! It's a social worker!!"

All of which left me saying, "You told me in your email that the social worker had already spoken to her. I went off your email."

"Well, that's only what I believed."

"Exactly. Which is why I called Dad to say that somewhere someone is being lied to."

"All I want to know is, why do you hate us so?"

Huge guffaws of laughter. And freedom. Finally. Peace in my chest.



That was last night. Since then. Nothing. No emails. No phone calls. And FINALLY for the first time in a week, I'm not spinning on this crap in my head. I'm not preparing for the next phone call, I'm not trying to figure out where my boundaries are.

Because I'm done. She's too much for me. And I feel no guilt whatsoever. I haven't ever felt this solid regarding her and her insanity.

I admit to feeling a little bad for my Dad. I think I'm hoping that he'll still find a way to, I dunno, think well of me? Respect me? I hope all this drama doesn't give him a heart attack either. But that's all that I've got left for those fruitcakes. Curiosity and a mild concern over their well-being. Sort of like when I walk past that koi fountain in the lobby of the old medical building. "Isn't that an awfully small place for them? Don't they get bored swimming in the same circles?" And the concern passes as I turn to read the directory by the elevators.

Part Two

A few days later Dad called me from his office phone (his office is off the dining room, but it's a private line). As soon as I saw the caller ID, I knew this would be the "Please call your mother" phone call. I took it, and we talked respectfully like adults. He apologized to me for continuing to support my brother, and said that he was the one who wrote the second check, because he's terrified that my brother will do something dangerous to him or to my mom if he says no while he's in the house. Dad's a little fucked up too, but I appreciated his calm apology.

I told Dad that I would call Mom, that I wasn't trying to freeze her out, but that I needed some time to calm down and pull myself together. However, I wasn't going to apologize to her for saying things she didn't agree with. I can try to not fight with her again, but I'm not going to pretend to believe something that I don't just to make her feel better. He agreed that I shouldn't, and he also said, "I'm not sure you have to apologize. I'm not asking you to do that. I'm just saying that she needs to hear from you, but I think she's scared to pick up the phone." Fine, no emotional manipulation there, NONE AT ALL.

So ok, I spoke to her again. Told her right out of the gate that I wasn't going to rehash the last conversation, but that I was calling to say that I was concerned that she was going through such a rough time. Immediately she hops back on to her train of proving herself right. Nope. Not playing. If that's all you got, then I have to go.

Then she pulls out of her hat the funniest thing I've heard her say in a long time.

She's going on about how evil she KNOWS her grandson's mother is, "After all, she bought him a LIGHTER for his POT."

"What?! How many teenage boys have lighters?"

"No, no. She bought it for him. She's the one who buys him his pot too. Where else would he get it?"

Bwa-HA-HA!! Huge guffaws of laughter spurt out of my throat with such force that I think pulled a tendon in my neck. (Testing. Yep. It still hurts if I touch my ear to my shoulder.) After I stopped choking and wheezing I said, "Mom, she's in her middle forties. 'A' is in High School. It's a hell of a lot easier for a kid to get pot than an adult. YOU are an IDIOT."

"Well, where would he get the money?"

"You're insane! Have you never heard of dime bag? As in ten bucks? It's sold by the joint, you know."

Much sputtering. Some more handwaving. Some yelling. I hang up the phone again.

"Where else would he get his pot?" Good Lord, I'm still laughing over that one.


In the quiet moments after the phone call, I realized that we really are dealing with a caged animal here. Challenge her convictions and she comes flying at the glass, teeth bared. Somehow over time she lulls me into thinking that she's slowly getting more rational. That one day she'll get her narcissism and mania under control. But this week. Uh uh. Nope. Truth is what you see before you. She's never been calm or sane, only the facade is still.

She is one busy gerbil though.

Part Three is where I get the other side of the story, and finally, calmly, step out myself for good.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dancing with the Rock of Gibraltar: Part One

Who really would believe that we are stuck in the SAME OLD DANCE year after year after decade? Doesn't it all get old after a while? Why then was I crying when I got off the phone Monday? I guess that's what makes me want to write about it, because I cried. (Humph. There's something wimpy in tears forcing a blog spot.)

I've been meaning to write about this, but then I've been holding off because it all seems so whiny and repetitive somehow. But it's also so amazingly otherwordly -- the turns of the gerbil wheel that is the drama of my family. Again I say, if I read this in a book, I'd never believe that people stay on this track year after year after year. Novels are about change, but not life. Not in my family.

I'll talk about the aftermath in Part Two, which I had to pull off into a separate post because this one got sooooo long. In fact, you may want to brew a cup of tea before settling into this one. I'll wait.

My mother called Monday to tell me how horrible her weekend was. Fuck me, why do you have to do this? Isn't there someone else you can complain to? My brother (now finally divorced) learned that his ex-wife was allowing his eldest son's girlfriend to sleep over and in the same room, so he called the DSS (which is child protective services in MA) to start an investigation on his ex-wife for neglect and contributing to statutory rape (Dramatic much?). My mother was positively gleeful. (I'm not sure I believe the story as presented either. I'll be interested to hear what the DSS investigation turns up.)

After a lengthy pause I said, "Wow. Well, I guess if he goes ahead and proves her unfit this is an opportunity for him to grow up and actually take responsibility for his kids."

"I don't think that will happen really. I don't think either one of them have the skills to take care of their kids." (Wait. Is that honesty I hear? What the hell?) "Of course, you know what that means. I'm going to have to be the one to raise those kids."

"Could be. You know, if you think that's where this is going, you really should just file for partial legal custody so that you'd have some say in what happens."

"I can't do THAT! I'm not going to be taking them into my house. Teenagers. All that loud music. The noise, the food. Fighting about homework. I like my life. I'm not doing that again." (And the honesty lasts for about point three seconds. Start up that gerbil wheel, here we go.)

"So you aren't going to raise them -- I thought you said that you were going to end up with them."

"Not in my house. But if your brother (I love when she does this. When she tries to explain a point, relatives often lose their names. Your aunt, Your brother -- like it's somehow my fault that they're fucked up? What is that?) gets custody of them, I'll be the one paying all the bills, taking them to classes, making sure they get to tutors. That will all fall to me."

"But you do that anyway. How is that him taking responsibility for them? You don't have any control over them or him as it is. What's different?"

"Oh no. If he gets them away from Her (She-who-shall-not-be-named) then he'll listen to me. He will. I'll be all he has."

Whoa. Red light. What?? Think highly of yourself, do you?

"He doesn't listen to you now. He doesn't give a shit what you think or what you want, as long as he's able to head off to his spin class at 5:30 in the morning. Are you going to go get them up for school? Are you going to pack their lunches? Nothing will change if they get taken away from Steph. In fact, it will all be worse. I didn't say take them into your house. I didn't say physical custody. I said legal custody. Get some legal control. Legal. Not physical."

Very huffily, "I'm not going to do THAT. File for custody. Hmn."

"Great. So once again the kids will learn that no one gives a shit about them. Their mother wants their idiot father to have them every weekend so that she can have those free. Their father doesn't want to take care of them on the weekend, nor does he want to pay $200 a week in child support. What is that: groceries? And you can't be bothered to be responsible either. Excellent."

"I am responsible. I take them to the museum. I pay for everything." (The museum. Yeah.)

"Then why does he have a judgment against him for non-payment of child support? They're garnishing his wages. For two hundred bucks. He's never going to get another salaried job again. He knows it will all be sucked up in the DOR judgment. Some responsibility there."

"Oh I know. It's awful. He's so impossible. Do you know that this weekend he came to us saying that he couldn't pay his rent (Oh shit. I know where this one is going.) so we wrote him a check for fifteen hundred, and he deposited it in an account that had been seized? His accounts have been seized! And then when we wrote him another one, he was yelling at us. At us! He's not even grateful. I don't know what to do with him."

Something nasty and vile just fell inside my chest. A hunk of rotten flesh fell from my sternum, a putrid stalactite letting loose, landing in my belly, bursting open on impact. I can feel the maggots wriggle. I'm going to vomit. But then I'd be vomiting worms. Swallow down. Swallow down. Jesus H. Christ. I can't believe I'm listening to this shit. I can't believe I'm here. Swallow down.

"Wait. You spent three thousand dollars on him this weekend? You gave him more money after you KNEW his rent money had been seized?"

"We had to." (Her Shirley Temple Voice. Little Miss Sunshine. On the Goo-oo-od Ship Lollipop.)

"No you didn't. He can't pay his rent. Make him be a man. He's forty six years old. Let him pay his own fucking rent."

"But he can't."

My head explodes.

"Oh my Good God. Cut him off. Stop it. Read a fucking book on co-dependence. Why are you doing this to him? You know what, forget about him. What about his kids? 'The Boys' as you call them. Their father is always going to be like this. Think of The Boys in their thirties. Their forties. When you die, he's going to come around to them, 'Pay for this. Why won't you support me? After all, I'm the one who took you away from your horrible mother. I need money. You need to pay.' No wonder they hate him now. They'll hate him more later. Why would you DO that to your own grandchildren? Every time you bail him out, you are condemning your grandchildren to a horrible adulthood. Can't you see that? Jesus Christ. You are helping him be this way. He's dependent on you. He's damaged. You are co-dependent together. Stop it. Step out of it. Jesus Christ."

There's a lot in here that I don't quite remember, or is too repetitive to transcribe in intimate detail. We went round and round and round. She absolutely doesn't see that she is bailing him out. She has this incredible fear of homelessness, that much is clear. "I can't let him end up on the streets" and" He can't live in a cardboard box" and "He needs clean clothes, not rags from some thrift store." Such a snob. She buys him clothes from Macy's and Brooks Brothers. Brooks Brothers!!

But my favorite line, when I kept harping back on co-dependence ( You think you can control other people's actions and emotions: co-dependent. You are addicted to the drama he brings you: co-dependent. You are made to feel as if you are the center of someone else's universe : co-dependent) was this gem. I'm not sure I can type it so that her inflection is clear.

"So I read a BOOOOK on co-dePENNdence. Then what?"

Giggling, me.

At some point I realized that this was hopeless, a mind-fuck, and a complete waste of my morning, so I started saying, "I can't listen to this anymore. It's too much. You do what you want, but I can't hear about it." And, "I can't listen to this. I'm warning you, I need to stop." And, "OK, enough. We need to change the subject because I'm not kidding. It is damaging to me to listen to you go on about this."

Said in a nasty whining, snitty tone, "Oh, it's daa-maging to YEW."

At which point, I held the phone out in front of my chest and said into the air, "I'm sorry. I've had it. I can't do this anymore," and hung up the phone.

And cried for about ten minutes. Huge gulping sobs.

I'm better now, but wow. That was a bit more intense than I had expected. What's insane, above all else, is that she's been in therapy with the same psychiatrist (whom she sees once a week and who she calls at home if she's having a crisis) since 1989. Nineteen years of weekly therapy. Nineteen years. Rock of Gibraltar she is.

Or he's a really bad therapist. Or both.