Transcript of 3rd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, March 21, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Tom. Come on in; sit down.
Mr. Darden: Hi Charles.
Dr. Balis: How have you been?
Mr. Darden: Pretty productive. Raped some teenage girls. Killed a few hitchhikers. My refrigerator is chock full of dismembered parts of my neighbors, and I'm busy writing the Silence of the Lambs sequel. Lecter struggles to become a vegetarian. Very touching.
Dr. Balis: Uh...
Mr. Darden: Don't mind me. I'm just in one of my pissy moods.
Dr. Balis: Something you want to get off your chest?
Mr. Darden: What is it with society anyway, Charles? Who has the right to dictate what is and what is not suitable social behavior for a person to engage in?
Dr. Balis: What do you mean?
Mr. Darden: Okay. I'm watching TV, right? I know, it's a stretch for me, but hey, "broaden your horizons" is my motto. The news comes on and there's this story about a 29-year-old Gulf War vet who steps into a burger joint, walks up to the counter, asks for some fries and then pulls out a couple automatic weapons and rips through the place like he's just breached Saddam's fortress.
Dr. Balis: I read about that. Twenty people dead, seven wounded, worst killing spree since the McDonald's massacre about 15 years ago.
Mr. Darden: That's the one. Anyway, the reporter interviews some of the guy's neighbors. She's asking them the basic psycho questions: how did he act? What type of person was he? Blah, blah, blah. And the neighbors would respond with things like, "Well, he was always real nice, kind of quiet--kept to himself. You know, we always knew something wasn't right with him." You see?
Dr. Balis: See what?
Mr. Darden: Come on, Charles, every time something like that happens, that's the one thing the media always emphasizes. The guy was quiet. He kept to himself. He was a loner. What the hell does that have to do with anything, Charles? Who are they to make generalizations like that? What gives them the right to make a correlation between being a loner and being a psychopath?
Dr. Balis: Tom, it's okay. Try to calm down.
Mr. Darden: Calm down? Do you know what it feels like, Charles? Do you know how it feels to flip through ten different channels and have each one of them label you as a fledgling mass murderer just because you don't fit the norm? And who the hell decided what should and should not be the norm, anyway? I'm a decent person. I have morals. I pay my bills on time. I hold the door open for old women. I stop on red and go on green. Why should I be treated any differently than anyone else?
Dr. Balis: Are you being treated differently?
Mr. Darden: Of course I am! I've always been treated differently, damn it! Ever since I was a kid! You ever sprinkle Ritalin over your Wheaties growing up, Charles? They pumped my ass full of that shit. All because I didn't fit the norm. Teachers back in the 80s had one method of treating children, and any kid who didn't respond the right way was given drugs to make him conform. They said I wasn't paying attention. They said I was anxious. You know what, Charles? I was a kid, nothing more. In fact, it was a doctor like you who suggested I get turned into a fucking zombie.
Dr. Balis: Tom, I'm here to help. I think you know that. You wouldn't have come to me if you didn't feel you needed some of my assistance. You have to trust me. I'm not about to simply prescribe you drugs and then send you on your way. And I'm certainly not going to force drugs on you. What you're telling me now is a very crucial element of your life that must be further explored. There was known abuse of Ritalin propagated by professionals who should have known better. When were you first prescribed Ritalin?
Mr. Darden: About six months after Dad died. My Mom had already been sending me to a shrink. I hated it. Every day after school, I had to go and see this woman. She always wore these really horrible looking floral outfits and smelled like my grandma's bedroom. You ever see "The Sound of Music," where they're all dancing around in clothes made from curtains? Bingo. She did absolutely nothing for me. All we ever did was play checkers and Connect Four and then she'd throw a few ink blots on the table and ask me what I saw in them. It should have been obvious to everyone why I couldn't keep my mind on my school work. My Dad had just died, for Christ's sake. All I ever thought about was death. I remember looking at all my classmates one day when suddenly they turned into skeletons. I used to believe that I had x-ray eyes, that I could see through them. I could see through the whole world. It all made sense to me then. Life was a big joke, and we were all the punch line. Nobody else could relate to me. They didn't see what I saw. What those other kids saw was one big Brady Bunch rerun.
Dr. Balis: So your mom brought you to the psychiatrist because she was concerned about how your father's death had affected you at school?
Mr. Darden: That was part of it. She was also worried because I told her I had seen Dad several times in my room. I'd wake up in the middle of the night, look over at the far wall and--boom, there he was, grinning at me. The way he was grinning was horribly unnatural. His eyes squinted into deep slits in his face and his mouth was opened wider than is physically possible. And there was this strange glow around him, like someone was shining a spotlight over his head. He'd just sit there, grinning. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to take my eyes off him. It was like all the darkness in the room somehow focused on my Dad. I remember trying to scream out to my Mom but I was too petrified to make any sound. Then I'd pull the covers up over my head and close my eyes tight, as if that would protect me from him.
Dr. Balis: What would happen then?
Mr. Darden: My brother slept on the bottom bunk. I'd concentrate on his snoring--it seemed to drown out the sound of my heart thumping away. Then I'd eventually fall asleep. The next morning, I'd peek out from under my covers and Dad was always gone by then. This went on about once a week for the next month. That's when I started seeing the doctor. Five months later, I was on Ritalin and the visions stopped. But so did everything else. I had no imagination at that point. I lost about 10 pounds. I'd try to eat, but everything tasted like ashes. My grades didn't really improve. I shut down. I was on and off the drug for nearly two years. It was like they couldn't make up their mind. Finally, I just stopped taking it.
Dr. Balis: What happened after you stopped taking the medication?
Mr. Darden: I don't know. So many things were happening by that time. Mom had met the jerk she'd eventually marry, then we moved to Scranton and I was trying to cope with being the new kid at school, then I had to put up with my stepfather and all his crap. I closed inward, I guess. My grades stabilized, but I wasn't making any friends. It was not a great time to be alive. It's pretty easy to see that that's about the time I began avoiding any type of unnecessary social interaction. After I had transferred to the new school, I started skipping class regularly. You want to know which class I skipped, Charles?
Dr. Balis: Which one?
Mr. Darden: Lunch, Charles. Lunch! While everyone else was munching on soy burgers and PBJs, I was hiding out in the bathroom. Had my technique down pat. Whenever someone would come in, I'd stand in front of the urinal like I was doing my business, and I'd just stick around until they had left. Sometimes I'd have to get a little more creative if it was the principal coming in to take a prolonged dump, but I never got caught. I couldn't stand being in a cafeteria full of hundreds of kids I didn't know, Charles. It scared me to death.
Dr. Balis: How long did this go on?
Mr. Darden: A few months. Eventually, a few people even less popular than I took me under their wing. I sat at their table in the cafeteria, but I was still petrified. I couldn't get up to get something to eat. I'd just sit there and wait for the period to end. Then everyone would leave at once and I could stand up and blend with the crowd. I felt okay if I was assured I was just a number in the masses, but if there was any chance that I'd somehow get singled out, I'd panic.
Dr. Balis: Did you ever get singled out?
Mr. Darden: Well, no, but the threat was always there.
Dr. Balis: Who was a threat?
Mr. Darden: Everybody! My teachers, my classmates, the cooks, the bus driver--they were all a threat to me. I never knew how to react to attention. If my teachers called on me, usually I'd just freeze up, couldn't even talk. Or if someone yelled hello to me in the hallways between class, I'd ignore them.
Dr. Balis: Why? What do you think made you respond like that?
Mr. Darden: I don't really know, Charles. I suppose I was afraid. I didn't want to be picked on again. I didn't want to say something stupid or give the wrong answer or draw any sort of attention to myself. It was comfortable being obscure and anonymous. I felt it gave me freedom. A freedom I now have an overabundance of, I might add.
Dr. Balis: So, initially, you enjoyed the freedom of obscurity.
Mr. Darden: I wouldn't say I enjoyed it necessarily, I just felt less threatened in that state.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Darden: Sometimes, my strategy would backfire. Being very quiet and unresponsive to the things around you makes people nervous, I've found. There was a kid in the sixth grade who used to try to rile me. Sometimes he'd stick thumbtacks on my chair and wait for me to sit down. Ouch. Other times he'd criticize my Prince Valiant haircut or call me a sissy. He sat in the seat behind me. I knew my shyness really bothered him.
Dr. Balis: People's initial reaction to anything or anyone they don't understand is usually fear, Tom. His actions were most likely a result of that fear.
Mr. Darden: So I have heard so many of you shrinks say. But it was all right after awhile. I got him back.
Dr. Balis: How?
Mr. Darden: I super glued his ass to the chair.
Dr. Balis: You what?
Mr. Darden: Planned it all out. Brought in the super glue, made sure no one was looking, squirted a bunch of it onto his seat, then very casually wrapped up the tube in a piece of notebook paper and threw it away.
Dr. Balis: So he couldn't get up from his seat?
Mr. Darden: Oh he got up, all right. By the time the class was over and it was time to move on to the next period, that glue had plenty of time to set up just right. When he stood up, his pants let out the loudest ripping noise I've ever heard. I was just about out the door when he got up, but it felt great to hear the laughter behind me. The teacher demanded the next day that whomever did the deed come forward or the whole class would suffer the consequences. Like I cared. Fuck them all. Naturally the asshole accused me, but do you think that Ms. Watson believed it? Hell no. She couldn't see that I was capable of doing something like that. I was too much of a little angel in her eyes. And that's just my point. It's all about society's perceptions of you and how much they impact your life. My teacher didn't want to believe I was capable of such mischief because I didn't fit the mold.
Dr. Balis: Were you trying to get revenge on the bully or were you rebelling against the perceptions that your teachers and peers had of you?
Mr. Darden: Hmm. I guess I never really thought about that. I suppose maybe unconsciously I was sick of everyone else around me making their assumptions about what type of person I was, based on my lack of interaction with them. I honestly don't know. All I know is that's the only time in my life, besides my days with John, that I actually took a stand on something.
Dr. Balis: John?
Mr. Darden: My stepfather.
Dr. Balis: Ah, yes. Well, it appears our time is just about up. Would you mind if we discussed him next week?
Mr. Darden: Wouldn't mind at all. And, Charles, thanks a lot for today, really. I came in here acting kind of like an ass and you really helped me get a hold of myself.
Dr. Balis: Venting frustrations can be a constructive thing, if done properly, Tom.
Mr. Darden: True. See you next week, Charles.
Dr. Balis: Next week it is, Tom.
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