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Psych Ward

Psych Ward: The Scorpion

Mac Gargan returns to therapy following his separation from the Venom symbiote

By Tim Stevens

Macdonald “Mac” Gargan is an adult male who appears to be average to somewhat above average weight. While he appears to have recovered some physically following his separation from the symbiote known as “Venom,” there remains evidence of the wasting that occurred while the two were bonded. It is unknown at this time what, if any, are the lasting physical effects of the union and subsequent separation of the client from the alien being. However, preliminary tests seem to reveal no such maladies.

While normally this would be good news, it is a bit problematic given Gargan’s current presentation. As Venom, the client presented as if he were almost several different people at once. This writer is not suggesting that it was Dissociative Personality Disorder (DPD), but rather that the symbiote had so disrupted Gargan that he literally lacked a personality. Thus, he was pure id, responding to every stimulus without any tempering, resulting in wild mood swings and dangerously inappropriate behaviors. In contrast to those previous sessions, Gargan now seems to be a very consistent baseline. However, that baseline is a deep depression that, on occasion, seems to render him almost catatonic. A physiological explanation, even if it was just a partial one, presents more options to bring about the client’s recovery. As it stands now, the only option seems to be talk based therapy with a client who appears, at times, to have difficulty even forming thoughts and, even when he has them, seems almost too hollowed out to share them.

This, of course, presents diagnostic difficulties. While it is certainly clear that the client’s separation from “Venom” was a traumatic event, it has triggered such a severe reaction in the client that it is difficult to begin to make predictions about the progression of any mental disorders he may have and/or when he may become more coherent.  

The writer can, however, speculate based on previous diagnoses—as long as it is clear that these are only guesses at what might the client might be going through physically and mentally at this time. In earlier sessions, this writer speculated that Gargan’s response to the symbiote was like an addict’s response to his or her drug of choice. In moments of lucidity, he could acknowledge that the symbiote had affected him in ways he was uncomfortable towards and frightened of, but the moment the alien being exerted control again, this rational part of Gargan would be sublimated, replaced by a creature of boundless desires that often included cannibalism. Based on this hypothesis, it is possible Gargan is experiencing a sort of withdrawal that is demanding so much of his body’s resources; his cognitive functioning is severely impaired. While this extensive a withdrawal reaction is not typical it is not unheard of—and, moreover, makes a certain amount of sense as Gargan was more or less continuously being fed the “drug” since he merged with it.

If this is the case and the withdrawal process does not kill him—a real possibility—we may see a return of his prior-to-bonding personality: self-interested, greedy, and obsessed with revenge, especially against J. Jonah Jameson and the costumed adventurer Spider-Man. Also possible is that this may represent rock bottom for Gargan and upon regaining more cognitive functioning he may request or seek out further therapy options to try to reform, or, at the least, talk out what happened to him while he was bonded to the alien being.

Until such time as the client reaches such a baseline, however, all that can be done is attempting to engage him and monitoring him for physical and mental signs of either recovery or further degeneration.

On January 19 Doctors Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli will follow up with Macdonald Gargan. Please review file AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #652 for their notes on his condition at that time.

Tim Stevens is a Mental Health Supervisor currently pursuing his Psy D. who has experience working with individuals with substance abuse and addiction issues, as well as people who have survived traumatic events.

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