Transcript of 33rd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Monday, October 12, 1998 at 12:00 pm.

Mr. Darden: Hi, Charles.
Dr. Balis: Hello, Tom. Come on in; take a seat.
Mr. Darden: Thanks.
Dr. Balis: How have you been?
Mr. Darden: A little better since the last time you saw me. Not much, but I'm better.
Dr. Balis: That's good; I was very concerned...
Mr. Darden: Yeah. I was a little concerned myself, especially after I started having wet dreams about the Golden Gate Bridge.
Dr. Balis: Hmm?
Mr. Darden: Those delicate lines, the sloping curves of steel, the chilled, polluted waters of the San Francisco Bay swirling seductively underneath...
Dr. Balis: Hmm, I think I get the idea.
Mr. Darden: There's just something very romantic about the idea of committing suicide off the Golden Gate. I guess we have Hollywood to blame for that. Of course, the city is going to make it a lot more difficult to accomplish, if they'll build that new "suicide-deterrent" fence. I'm surprised the city's actually considering spending that kind of money on people like us. It's really rather touching.
Dr. Balis: All sarcasm aside, do you still spend a large portion of your time contemplating suicide?
Mr. Darden: No. Lately, I've been spending more time contemplating all of life as a whole. Sunsets tend to do that to me.
Dr. Balis: What do you mean?
Mr. Darden: I really enjoy watching sunsets. I do it pretty regularly nowadays. The beauty and peacefulness of a sunset really sets my mind at ease. When I look into the western sky at dusk, I think to the future, to thousands of possibilities, wishing to realize my dreams for love in my life and for bigger and better things to start happening to me. When I was a teenager, back home in Pennsylvania, I lived in an apartment complex with my Mom and my brother, Alex. The residents all shared a very large swimming pool, with a clubhouse and a large balcony facing west, overlooking the pool. Late in the afternoon, either after school or during the summer breaks, I would climb the steps to that balcony and gaze at the sunset. I was very lonely even at that age, though I neither realized nor complained about it back then. The sun and I had this strange sort of bond--we were both lost, lonely souls shining brightly for all to see, only to slowly disappear against the horizon, taking our light with us, seemingly forgotten by all whom we once illuminated.
Dr. Balis: Very poetic. Why don't we delve more into that time period? What was your life like during your high school years? Were you very active?
Mr. Darden: Not really, no. I played a bass guitar in the high school jazz band for a while, but that was about the extent of my extra-curricular activities. Like I've said before, most of my time was spent at home locked in my bedroom.
Dr. Balis: Did you date?
Mr. Darden: Haven't I talked to you about this before? No, I never dated in high school. But it's not like I wasn't asked, mind you.
Dr. Balis: How often were you asked out?
Mr. Darden: A few times. I guess some of the girls grew frustrated by the fact that I never took the initiative, so they resorted to asking me out. I always turned them down, though.
Dr. Balis: Why?
Mr. Darden: I was too shy, for one thing. I was absolutely frightened of people and even more so of girls. But my shyness apparently didn't deter them all that much. I guess I was a cute teenager--I was once told I could get any girl I wanted if only I asked. It's a bit ironic that women used to approach me so much back then, but don't give me the time of day now. Life can be very cruel.
Dr. Balis: That's your self-esteem talking. If there's one aspect of your personality that's most detrimental to your social life, it's your ability to be unjustly hard on yourself, Tom.
Mr. Darden: Whatever. I just wish I had done things differently in high school. I wish I would have gone out with those girls, for one thing. Maybe I'd have more confidence in myself now. I should have accepted Jennifer's invitation to that stupid Sadie Hawkins dance. If only I didn't screw things up with her by throwing away that damned rose...
Dr. Balis: Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, Tom. What happened with the rose?
Mr. Darden: Jennifer, one of the more attractive girls in my high school, really hounded me during my junior year. And I completely blew her off. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking back on it. It's tying me up in knots just bringing it up.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Darden: On Sweetest Day, students brought roses for their boyfriends and girlfriends and passed them out in class. I can't remember the color scheme exactly. I think that if you got a yellow rose, it meant that it was from a "friend." If you got a red rose, it represented love. Well, I received a red rose that day, and it was from Jennifer.
Dr. Balis: How did that make you feel?
Mr. Darden: It made me feel confused. There were several emotions coursing through me at that moment. I'd been made fun of by my peers earlier in life, and I think that had really gotten to me. I never felt like I was ever on the same level as everyone else. And those feelings of inadequacy built up in me well into my high school years. When I got the rose and read the little card that came with it, I got the impression I was the butt of Jennifer's joke. I didn't really want to believe that she was actually interested in me. Instead, it made more sense that she sent a rose just to mock me. So I stood up, carried the rose to the wastebasket, and threw it away.
Dr. Balis: You threw away the rose?
Mr. Darden: Yeah. Can you believe that? And Jennifer was right there at the time. When she saw me do it, she was stunned. I watched as she began whispering to a couple of her friends sitting nearby, and then she started crying. She got so upset that she had to leave the classroom.
Dr. Balis: What went through your mind at that point?
Mr. Darden: More confusion. I realized I had made a big mistake, but it was too late. It was definitely not one of the proudest moments of my life. Years later, I heard she started having a long series of bad relationships. I understand she's still single now. I have to wonder how much that incident affected the way she feels about herself now. Maybe I'm partly to blame for her loneliness as well as my own.
Dr. Balis: Did you ever attempt to apologize to her?
Mr. Darden: I think I did indirectly. I told one of her friends to tell her I was sorry, but I never actually spoke to Jennifer. In fact, I don't think I've ever spoken directly to her, unless you count her answering machine.
Dr. Balis: You left an apology on her answering machine?
Mr. Darden: I guess you could call it that. This was years later, just before I got out of college. I was home one weekend, very drunk, and started thinking about Jennifer. I found out the number to her dorm at the school she was attending, and decided to give her a call. Her answering machine picked up, and I just left a message, which she never returned, of course.
Dr. Balis: What did you say in the message?
Mr. Darden: I gave my name and reminded her that we had gone to high school together. I said I really regretted hurting her and wished I had gotten to know her back then. Then I told her to take care, left my number, and said goodbye. After I hung up, I started crying.
Dr. Balis: Did it surprise you that you began to cry after hanging up the phone?
Mr. Darden: Not really. There are a lot of nasty habits that I developed in high school and have never shaken off. Most of my anti-social behavior stems back to those days. It was back then that I perfected the art of closing inward. So it's not at all surprising that I look back on those years with so much regret and pain. Can you imagine, Charles, having no friends for four years, graduating, and then moving to another level of social isolation on a college campus? It was terrible. I must admit, though, that I at least learned how to be completely self-sufficient. But I really didn't have a choice, did I?
Dr. Balis: There were choices, but I imagine you made the best of what you thought you had available to you. It's unfortunate we didn't meet ten years ago.
Mr. Darden: Well, thanks for saying so. I guess I should have sought therapy back then. But there were just too many aspects of myself that I didn't want to face.
Dr. Balis: We're about out of time, Tom. I'd like to talk further with you about your high school and college life in our next session. Would that be all right?
Mr. Darden: Sure. I guess it would be.
Dr. Balis: Very well. I'll see you in two weeks.
Mr. Darden: Fine. Two weeks.
Dr. Balis: Take care, Tom.
Mr. Darden: See you later, Charles.
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

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