Transcript of 8th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, May 2, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Tom, hello there. Come on in and have a seat.
Mr. Darden: Hi Charles. Thanks.
Dr. Balis: So, what did you think of the concert?
Mr. Darden: It was all right. They were a lot more garish than I expected them to be. The "girl" who played bass was...interesting.
Dr. Balis: To put it mildly.
Mr. Darden: And what about that redheaded guitar player? She looked like some sort of hideous melting wax figure under all those stage lights.
Dr. Balis: The makeup? Yes, I noticed that, too. What did you think of the music?
Mr. Darden: It was quirky. When they started playing the Sesame Street tune, I had to laugh. Only in San Francisco, you know? I wasn't paying too much attention after the first couple tunes, mainly because my mind was reeling from being around so many people.
Dr. Balis: I noticed after we greeted each other at the door that you sat down with a couple of people in a booth.
Mr. Darden: Yes. That was Rob and Jennifer--they work on the Help Desk with me.
Dr. Balis: Wasn't Rob the one who broke up the fight at the Bull Market a couple of weeks ago?
Mr. Darden: That's right. We all grabbed the booth in the corner and talked about work and how we're getting screwed-over again. Rob is up for a promotion as team leader, and when Doris Meckle on the Help Desk found out he was getting it, she threw a fit. Apparently she felt that position was hers. So Rob heard through the grapevine at work that Doris went to Human Resources to file a sexual discrimination charge against Dave Torriello, our manager. Can you believe that? First of all, no one on the Help Desk likes Doris. Second, she's a stuck-up ass-kisser who does nothing at her cubicle all day but call her boyfriend and shove matzos crackers down her throat. Third, she has the most obnoxious laugh of anyone I know. Imagine Fran Drescher from "The Nanny" trying to laugh with a Kazoo in her mouth while someone was choking her and you have an idea. Rob is furious, and he should be. He's far more experienced than Doris and a lot more likable. He found out from Dave today that he's going to have to re-evaluate the team leader position.
Dr. Balis: So SII already has put pressure on your manager to lean towards Doris?
Mr. Darden: It would seem so. Rob said that if she ended up getting the position over him, he was going to counter with an age discrimination charge against Dave.
Dr. Balis: Sounds ugly.
Mr. Darden: Just another wonderful day at SII. Fucking job. It's not worth it. We're the hemorrhoidal sphincter valve of the company. Everyone--even our own employees--walk all over us. And we get paid nothing to show for our misery. I wish I had changed majors in college when I had the chance.
Dr. Balis: Did you leave the concert early because you were upset about what was going on at work?
Mr. Darden: Oh, you noticed that?
Dr. Balis: I saw you get up and leave while your friends stayed. Did something happen?
Mr. Darden: I guess so. The crowd, the just got unbearable for me after a while. I started feeling ill. Well, not exactly ill, just extremely uncomfortable.
Dr. Balis: Can you describe the sensation a little more?
Mr. Darden: Driving up there, I was okay. I was actually looking forward to it. But when I pulled into the parking lot, I began to feel queasy, like I was anticipating the doom of being out in public. It's the same feeling you get just before you reach the top of the first hill of a roller coaster. Your stomach is churning wildly in preparation for the impending physical forces your body's about to endure. I waited in the car for about 15 minutes, petrified. The longer I waited, the more people I saw in and around the club, which made me feel worse. I didn't want to get out, and I started and shut-off the ignition several times trying to decide whether or not to just leave and go home.
Dr. Balis: What made you finally get out of the car?
Mr. Darden: I saw Rob and Jennifer pull up. It was an enormous relief. Finally there was someone there I recognized. I was still very uptight and nervous, but at least I could be around them and blend in. We walked in together and Rob and Jennifer went off to grab a booth. That's when I saw you and we said hello.
Dr. Balis: I see. How did you feel once you were seated with your friends?
Mr. Darden: I felt a lot better. Some of the pressure was off. It was easy to tune out our surroundings and pretend that it was just the three of us, chatting away like we do at work. It was only later, towards the end of the concert, that I started to get nervous again.
Dr. Balis: Why is that?
Mr. Darden: I'm not sure. During the concert, I knew that most of the people in there were focusing their attention on the band, so maybe that made me feel more at ease. But when it was close to the end of the performance, I slowly began to become ill again. I started to feel very claustrophobic--like the world was closing in. I tried to remain focused on Rob and Jennifer's conversation but the anxiety was overwhelming me. At one point, I distinctly remember imagining that the band had just finished, and then the crowd all at once turned around and looked at me. Everybody was completely quiet, staring me down, waiting for me to do something--maybe perform for them or say something eloquent. It was very frightening. That was all I could take. I shot up from the booth, said my goodbyes to Rob and Jennifer, and left as quickly as I could.
Dr. Balis: How did Rob and Jennifer react to the way you left?
Mr. Darden: I don't know. They think I'm a little eccentric anyway, so I don't think it surprised them. I made up some excuse about having to get something to eat. I don't think they thought I was really hungry, but they didn't argue.
Dr. Balis: Did the nervousness cease once you left?
Mr. Darden: Almost immediately. I felt relieved and completely relaxed. Actually, I was sort of hungry, so to avoid being a liar, I went to this 24 hour place across the street and got some dinner. But you remember how I was telling you that strange things seem to happen the times I decide to go out?
Dr. Balis: Yes.
Mr. Darden: Well, after I left the diner, I was crossing the street back to my car and I noticed a couple of police cars pulling up. Two officers walked through the back entrance to the club. Did something happen after I left?
Dr. Balis: I heard there was a fight and one guy got arrested.
Mr. Darden: Strange. I think it was the same cops who maced the guy at the Bull Market. Anyway, it was just another instance in which I bailed out of a social situation in favor of my boring, lonesome existence back at my apartment. At least it wasn't as bad as the wedding.
Dr. Balis: The wedding?
Mr. Darden: Cherie Thorpe, a girl I used to work with and sit next to in the sales department, invited me to her wedding a couple of months ago. I accepted the invitation, bought her a wedding gift and planned on attending. I think I accepted the invitation more to force myself into overcoming my fear of people than to watch her exchange vows, although it would have been a nice gesture of friendship to show up.
Dr. Balis: You didn't, I take it.
Mr. Darden: Oh, I was there. I just didn't go inside the church. Can you believe that? I get dressed up, spent a half hour trying to wrap her present, drove forty miles from town to get there, and only then do I decide to chicken out.
Dr. Balis: Was it the same pattern as the concert, the same feeling of anxiety?
Mr. Darden: Yes. I was fine until I actually arrived at the church. The church parking lot was packed. Gobs of people I didn't know meandered about, chatting with each other, and then went inside. Suddenly, I was consumed by fear. I drove around the block about four times, trying to build up the strength to park and face these strangers, but I couldn't. Instead I drove a few miles down the road to where the reception was being held. There were a few people setting up decorations and caterers were preparing food when I walked in. I set my wedding gift on a table that already had some presents on it and I left.
Dr. Balis: Did Cherie confront you later?
Mr. Darden: Yes. I knew she was disappointed with me. Rob was supposed to go with me that night, but he got sick. If he had come with me, I think I wouldn't have had a problem. Anyway, I used that as an excuse to Cherie, but I could tell that I had let her down. I let myself down! Why did I do that? What's so difficult about walking into a church and sitting down and watching a wedding? Why do I have these problems interacting with people? No, don't answer, Charles. I think I should just go now.
Dr. Balis: I'd really like to discuss this with you further if you'll let me.
Mr. Darden: I really need to go home, Charles. I'm sorry.
Dr. Balis: That's all right. Should I expect you next week at the same time?
Mr. Darden: I don't know. Can I give you a call later on? I think I need to sort some of this out on my own for a little while.
Dr. Balis: As you wish, Tom. But I think I can help with that. Take care, Tom.
Mr. Darden: Bye.
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