Episode 11 Transcript

11 - Patient #11-A-7 (Caleb)
By Lauren Shippen

[sfx: click of recorder]

Dr. Bright: Patient #11-A-7, Session 15. It’s been two weeks since our last session as the patient was traveling last weekend for a football game. He expressed concern at being away from his home for the weekend - he feels that his parents’ house is a calming place, a haven for him where he is able to balance his ability easily. In our last session, he was worried about how three days of consistent time with his teammates would affect him.

[sfx: opening door]

Dr. Bright: Hi, Caleb. Come on in. 

Caleb: Thanks, Dr. Bright:.

[sfx: closing door]

Dr. Bright: How was your trip?

Caleb: It was okay. Tiring. 

Dr. Bright: I’m sure. What was most tiring about it? The football playing? Or the people?

Caleb: Kinda a combination of all of it. The long bus rides, the intense game, which we lost, and then, yeah, all my teammates. It was just, like, not that fun. 

Dr. Bright: I’m sorry to hear that. Caleb, are you feeling alright? You don’t look good. 

Caleb: Gee, thanks. 

Dr. Bright: Sorry. I just meant, you look a bit down. 

Caleb: Uh, yeah, I guess I sort of am. I had to take the bus here today because my parents had to go to some conference thing for my dad’s new book. And my mom won’t let me drive her car even though she knows I have my junior license

Dr. Bright: Why won’t she let you drive?

Caleb: She’s worried about all the other people in the other cars. She thinks that if someone in the next lane is having a serious case of road rage or whatever, that I’ll get road rage-y and crash. Which is, like, total bull. 

Dr. Bright: You don’t understand her concern? She’s just trying to protect you. 

Caleb: I know! But she can’t protect me from everything forever! And it’s not like taking the bus was that much better. 

Dr. Bright: Is that why you’re upset? Did something happen on the bus?

Caleb: No, not on it. At the bus stop. There’s a ton of construction in my area so I had to walk to a totally different bus stop which put me in a bad mood. I don’t really walk around the city too often because of all the people and it was just…it was pretty overwhelming. Like school, but worse because it’s all new people. And then I got to the bus stop and I felt-I- I don’t even know. Just terrible. Really fucking terrible. 

Dr. Bright: You were sad?

Caleb: Sad and angry and scared and angry and…ugh it was just. It was every color. All mixed up, messier than anything I’ve ever felt. 

Dr. Bright: Were there a lot of people around?

Caleb: No, just a few. A little boy with his dad, an old lady…and then, then this homeless guy sitting against the wall behind the bus stop. 

Dr. Bright: A homeless man? Were the emotions all coming from him?

Caleb: Uh, yeah, I think they were. Wait, how did you know that?

Dr. Bright: I- I know someone who has had similar encounters at bus stops. This man has displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder- do you know what that is? 

Caleb: Yeah, that’s what veterans have right?

Dr. Bright: It can occur in anyone who has experienced a trauma but, yes, it often afflicts those who have been in war zones. 

Caleb: So this guy was a soldier? 

Dr. Bright: I don’t know. It’s very possible. Whoever he is, he’s clearly unwell. You’ve never come into contact with someone with a serious mental illness before have you? (more to herself) I hadn’t thought how that might affect you. 

Caleb: No, I haven’t. I mean, I don’t really know, you know? Like, there are a lots of kids in my year who might have depression, or anxiety, or a million other things but how am I supposed to tell the difference between a real problem and I don't know, just normal teenager stuff?

Dr. Bright: Well, remember, all your peers problems are real. Even if they aren’t symptomatic of a larger issue, the things that you’re feeling from fellow students are real to them.

Caleb: Yeah, I guess so. But, I mean, people are always saying how stuff feels like such a big deal when you’re 16, even though it’s really not. Do you think that's- do you think that’s true?

Dr. Bright: It can be. We certainly learn to cope better with emotional difficulties as we grow older. But that doesn’t diminish anything you feel at this age.

Caleb: Sure, yeah, I get that. But it just - it doesn’t compare you know? 

Dr. Bright: Compare to what?

Caleb: To what this guy was feeling. I mean, I’d felt all those emotions before - sadness, anger, fear, whatever - but only really ever from people in my school. Like, my parents feel sad and stuff sometimes but it just doesn’t seem as dire, you know? I guess ‘cause they’ve learned to cope like you said. But this guy…he just couldn’t. It was like all the stuff I feel walking through school times, like, a hundred. And he couldn’t handle it. None of it fit anywhere inside of his body. 

Dr. Bright: It sounds like he frightened you. 

Caleb: Yeah, he did. Well, no, actually. It scared me, not him. I-I knew he wasn’t going to do anything with it. With any of the emotions, I mean. He seemed stuck. Like, totally trapped inside of his feelings and it was just- it was really awful. 

Dr. Bright: I’m very sorry to hear that. Were you able to push his feelings away at all? You’ve made a lot of progress with blocking out certain emotions. 

Caleb: Yeah, I know. But, no. I couldn’t. It all came on, like, way too strong, way too fast. And then the bus came and I got on and it all started to fade away the further I got from him. But it left a bad taste in my mouth. 

Dr. Bright: I can understand that. But it is unlikely that you will encounter this kind of emotional turmoil often. You should’t be worried or afraid. 

Caleb: No, I know. I just, I feel bad for him. 

Dr. Bright: Of course. 

Caleb: I think…I think maybe it would be nice to help people like him someday. Like, Use my ability for something good. Something productive. What. Why are you smiling at me like that?

Dr. Bright: It’s nothing. It’s just - you remind of the other person I mentioned. You two had very similar reactions to meeting what sounds like the same man. It gives me a lot of hope for the world that people like you are out there, Caleb. 

Caleb: Oh. Uh, thanks. But can you like, stop feeling that way? It feels weird - like my mom feels when I do well in school or something. 

Dr. Bright: Well, I’m sorry Caleb, but I’m proud of you. You know people can’t control how they feel, even me. 

Caleb: Yeah, okay. So this other person - are they a patient?

Dr. Bright: Uh, yes. Yes they are.

Caleb: And do they feel other people’s emotions too?

Dr. Bright: Not exactly.

Caleb: But they can do something different, right?

Dr. Bright: I’m not allowed to discuss other patients, Caleb. 

Caleb: Okay. I just - I hadn’t really ever thought about there being other people out there like me. Are all your patients like that? Like, special?

Dr. Bright: I can’t tell you that, I’m afraid. 

Caleb: Wow. Other freaks. Weird thought. 

Dr. Bright: Caleb, you’re not a freak. 

Caleb: Yeah, I am. I mean, that’s why I barely leave my house except for school and football. And why I never go to parties, even though I’m always invited, and why I have no friends - because they all can tell. They can all tell that I’m a freak. 

Dr. Bright: You feel like you don’t have any friends? What about Adam?

Caleb: Adam will figure it out eventually. He’s smart. 

Dr. Bright: So you’ve said. And he’s chosen you as a friend - shouldn’t that tell you something?

Caleb: Smart people can make bad personal decisions. 

Dr. Bright: That’s very true. Do you feel like you’re a bad decision for Adam?

Caleb: I don’t know! I mean, we get along, yeah. Like, we like hanging out, and he’s been helping me study - we’re bros or whatever. But then there’s the other thing and I feel like I’m lying to him you know?

Dr. Bright: Because you haven’t told him you want to be more than friends?

Caleb: Yeah. No. It’s- it’s that he wants that too. I think. And it feels like lying because I feel things for him and then I also feel that he feels things for me. And isn’t that cheating? That I already know? And he doesn’t? I mean, I don’t think he knows. Do you think he knows?

Dr. Bright: About how you feel? I don’t know, Caleb. What have you told him?

Caleb: Nothing. And that’s the problem. I want to tell him- I want to tell him everything. 

Dr. Bright: What’s holding you back? If you know that there’s a good chance that your feelings are reciprocated, than it seems worth the risk to tell him how you feel. 

Caleb: No, I mean, I want to tell him everything. About me. About my ability, about my issues with anger. All of it. I mean, he deserves to know, he’s my best friend. I mean is that crazy? That we’ve been hanging out for two months and he’s already the best friend I’ve ever had?

Dr. Bright: We can become very close with other people very quickly depending on the circumstances. Sometimes those fast-made relationships fade as quickly as they formed, but sometimes they create bonds that last forever. Which do you think you and Adam have?

Caleb: I don’t know. I think- I think he might know me better than anyone else ever has. Even without knowing about my problem. Like, he gets that I get really angry sometimes. And I think he knows that I get angry when he does. Because I’ll feel him start to get angry and then I’ll watch him try to control his face so I can’t tell. Like, he thinks whenever he looks mad, I get mad too. I mean, he does get this kind of look about him - like, his eyes narrow and his eyebrows kind of scrunch up and his lips go, like, really thin, so, you know, even if you’re not me, it’s really easy to tell when he’s pissed. But when I’m around and someone says something that gets him riled up or he’s talking about politics or, like, whatever, he’ll try to smooth his face over so I don’t see that he’s angry. Which is, like, so dumb because obviously, him pretending doesn’t work, I can still feel it, but. He tries. 

Dr. Bright: It sounds like you’re thankful for that.

Caleb: Yeah. I am. I mean, I don’t want to get into any more fights and Adam’s anger is, like, so strong sometimes and it feels so much like mine that it’s hard to push away. But when I watch him try to hide it, it kind of, like, breaks the spell - it makes me smile.

Dr. Bright: That sounds like a good friendship to me, Caleb:. You’re both considerate of the other’s feelings. 

Caleb: Yeah, exactly. Like, when I went away for the game, he made me this mix to listen to on the bus. Because he knows that sometimes spending a lot of time around my teammates can bend me out of shape a bit. Like, he’ll usually meet me after practices and just start cracking jokes - like he knows I’m coming down from something. And it really helps. Because, as much as I love football, there’s always, like, you know, a bit of whiplash after playing where I have to adjust to not being in that sort of, group feeling, you know? And so, anyway, so he made me this mix, with all these little notes in it, and told me to listen to it because he couldn’t be there to snap me out of “dumb football mode”. That’s what he calls it. He doesn’t know anything about football. 

Dr. Bright: Adam seems like a great friend to you. How well are you balancing things with him currently? You said his anger is sometimes hard to separate from yours, but is that true for all his feelings?

Caleb: Um, I don’t know, really. I always know what’s mine but sometimes we get, like, so in sync that it doesn’t matter what I feel and what he feels. I think maybe we’ve grown so close that it doesn’t really matter whose emotions are whose, you know? 

Dr. Bright: And how do you feel about that?

Caleb: Well, I like it most of the time. It’s nice not to have to fight against someone’s feelings. Like I’ve said, his just fit into my body really well so it’s less like having emotions pushed on me and more like, I don’t know, welcoming them in. 

Dr. Bright: That sounds nice. 

Caleb: Yeah, except…

Dr. Bright: Except?

Caleb: Well, I can tell what’s mine but I can’t always tell what’s his, you know? Like, the feeling that I have for him - the feeling feelings…sometimes it feels like it’s doubled, like the butterflies just start multiplying and going crazy and it’s really, really nice and really weird but…how do I know if any of that is coming from him? Like at all? What if it’s just my own feelings getting out of control? I mean, even when I’m alone, even when he’s not around, there are some big feelings that just don’t fit right. Like they’re too big. And that’s happened before, but it’s so much worse with this. And isn’t that just, like, teenage hormones or whatever? Like, my dumb brain making a big deal out of nothing? Or is there something seriously wrong with me?

Dr. Bright: I don’t think there is anything wrong with you, Caleb:. It sounds like you’re in-

Caleb: No, I know what you’re going to say. And that’s - I mean, even if that we’re true, which I’m not saying it is, like, how can I trust that? I know you say that everything I feel and everything everybody else feels is valid, but when I’m feeling all of it, doesn’t it kind of cancel itself out? I mean, what if prolonged exposure to other people’s emotions has made me totally delusional. What if nothing I feel is actually real?

Dr. Bright: But you said you still feel these things when you’re by yourself. Shouldn’t that tell you that those emotions are your own?

Caleb: Yeah, I guess. But, I just…

Dr. Bright: You’re scared. 

Caleb: What? No, I’m not. Okay, yeah, I’m scared. 

Dr. Bright: What are you scared of?

Caleb: I’m scared that this feeling will go away. And I’m scared that it won’t. I’m scared that if I told him, it would ruin everything. 

Dr. Bright: I hate to tell you, Caleb, but feeling that way isn’t unique to you and your ability. And it won’t necessarily get easier with age. There’s always the fear of losing someone. Or of losing a feeling.

Caleb: Yeah, I know. But most people aren't in this particular situation. 

Dr. Bright: That’s true. But you know yourself, Caleb. Better than a lot of other people your age and better than some adults I know. You have to trust yourself. Think about other crushes you’ve had, or even other times that you’ve felt strong emotions both in yourself and from other people. How does this compare?

Caleb: It’s- it’s bigger than any of that. And it is fucking terrifying. 

Dr. Bright: And what do you think would be the best way to handle it?

Caleb: To tell him. 

Dr. Bright: That’s good, Caleb. That’s very brave.

Caleb: But I was serious before, I want to tell him everything. 

Dr. Bright: Why do you feel that’s important?

Caleb: Because honesty is important, right? In a relationship? I mean- not that, like, I don’t even know what label he’d want to- never mind. Look, I just mean, I’ve already been lying to him so much. I’ve had a head start in every conversation we’ve ever had and that’s not fair. If I’m going to tell him how I feel, I think it’s important that he has- that he has all the pertinent information before he makes a decision about me. 

Dr. Bright: I think that’s very wise, Caleb:. 

Caleb: You do? But, how do I have that conversation? How do you tell someone you have superpowers?

Dr. Bright: You had that conversation with your sister didn’t you? I know your parents were there, but you did most of the explaining, isn’t that right?

Caleb: Yeah, but she’s my sister. She has to love me, no matter what. He- well, what if he doesn’t believe me?

Dr. Bright: It might be a good idea to include your parents in this conversation, if you’re really serious about having it with him. 

Caleb: Ugh, no, I don’t want my parents explaining it to him. That’s so embarrassing. 

Dr. Bright: Your condition is not completely unheard of in the more established medical community. I can give you some literature on empathy and mirror touch synesthesia, which is a somewhat related, documented disorder. You can use those to present the concept to him and then take it from there. 

Caleb: You’re really on board with this?

Dr. Bright: You didn’t think I would be?

Caleb: No, I mean, the only other time we talked about it was in my first few sessions and you said I should never tell anyone about it. 

Dr. Bright: I do believe that it’s best to keep the subject between family and close friends but, Caleb, you’ve made remarkable progress. When I said that, I wasn’t sure how much your ability would affect your life. I deal with much more serious cases in this office - people who have very extreme abilities. You are not one of those people. I think you should be able to live a largely normal life. And having your parents and sister know about your ability has been immensely helpful to you. I think bringing Adam in on it might help you even further. 

Caleb: Oh. Okay. Wow, thanks, Dr. Bright.

Dr. Bright: It’s my pleasure, Caleb. Now, let me dig up some of that information and we can go over it together so you’ll be able to explain it to Adam…

[sfx: ticking clock]

(time passes)

Dr. Bright: Alright, Caleb, take a little bit to think about it and talk it over with your parents - don’t rush into anything, but I think telling Adam is something you can achieve in the next few weeks. Does that sound good?

Caleb: Yeah, that sounds great. 

Dr. Bright: And if you want to bring Adam in, have me explain some of it to him, you just let me know. 

Caleb: Yeah, okay, thanks but that would also be, like, super embarrassing. Taking a guy to your therapist is not great first date stuff. 

Dr. Bright: Fair enough. Just call me if you need anything okay?

Caleb: Yeah, I will. 

[sfx: opening door]

Dr. Bright: Good. Oh, and Caleb? At which bus stop was it that you saw that homeless man?

Caleb: Oh, it was, um…it was Maple and First I think. Why?

Dr. Bright: I just want to keep an eye out for him. Have a good one. 

Caleb: Yeah, you too. Bye!  

[sfx: closing door]

Dr. Bright: End of session 15. My hope is that by the time the patient graduates high school, he will no longer need to attend sessions with me. While I do have some trepidation about telling more people, based off the conversations I’ve had with Caleb’s mother, Adam seems like a responsible and trustworthy young man. I think including him in this part of Caleb’s life could be a huge step forward. 

[sfx: click of a recorder]

[music & credits]

Lauren Shippen: Thank you for listening to The Bright Sessions. The show is written and produced by Lauren Shippen. The voice of Dr. Bright is Julia Morizawa and the voice of Caleb is Briggon Snow. All our graphic design is by Anna Lore. To hear Adam's mix for Caleb and for other bonus material, visit thebrightsessions.com Special thanks to Elizabeth Laird, The Harrington Family, and all of our Patreon contributors. You too can become a patron of The Bright Sessions and support our second season while getting some pretty cool rewards. Just visit patreon.com/thebrightsessions. If that's too much of a commitment, you can make a one-time donation by clicking the odnate button on our website. Every littel bit counts. And please leave a review for us on iTunes. It helps us stay on the charts so other people can find us. For any questions or just to say hi, email us at thebrightsessions@gmail. Thanks for listening and stay strange.