I am a sociopath and I knew something was off by the age of seven… after I enjoyed stabbing a kid in the head with a pencil

…every time I ask my mother if she remembers, her answer is the same: “Vaguely.”

And I believe her. Because so much about my early childhood is vague. However, some things I remember with absolute clarity. I knew at seven o’clock that something was wrong. I didn’t think things were as important as other children. Certain emotions – such as happiness and anger – came naturally, albeit somewhat sporadically.

But social emotions—things like guilt, empathy, remorse, and even love—did not. Most of the time I felt nothing. So I did ‘bad’ things to make the nothingness go away. It was like a compulsion.

If you had asked me then, I would have described this compulsion as a pressure, a kind of tension that builds up in my head. It was as if the mercury was slowly rising in an old-fashioned thermometer.

At first it was barely noticeable, just a blip on my otherwise peaceful cognitive radar. But over time it would become stronger. The quickest way to relieve the pressure was to do something decidedly wrong, something that I knew would absolutely make someone else feel any of the emotions I couldn’t feel. So that’s what I did.

As a child I didn’t know there were other options. I knew nothing about emotion or psychology. I didn’t understand that the human brain evolved to function empathetically, or that the stress of living without natural access to feelings is thought to be one of the causes of compulsive acts of violence and destructive behavior.

Gagne was eight years old, around the time of the stabbing incident

All I knew was that I enjoyed doing things that made me feel something, to feel something. It was better than nothing.

I brought backpacks from school. I didn’t even want them and almost always ended up returning them. When I saw an unattended backpack, I grabbed it. It didn’t matter where it was or who it belonged to, it was the recording that mattered. By doing everything I knew wasn’t “right,” I released the pressure, gave myself a shock to counteract my apathy.

However, after a while it stopped working. No matter how many bags I took with me, I could no longer generate that shock. I felt nothing. And the nothingness I started to notice made my urge to do bad things more extreme.

This was my state of mind the last time I saw Syd, one of my classmates. We were standing on the sidewalk waiting to go to school when she started whining about coming to my house.

She had wanted to spend the night, but her parents refused and she blamed me. I was glad she wasn’t allowed to visit. My head hurt. The pressure had been steadily building, but nothing I did seemed to help. I was emotionally disconnected, as well as stressed and somewhat disoriented.

It was like I was going crazy, and I just wanted to be alone.

Abruptly, Syd kicked my backpack from where it lay at my feet, causing everything to fall to the floor. ‘You know what?’ she said. ‘I do not mind. Your house sucks, and so do you.”

The tantrum was pointless, something she had done just like countless times before to get my attention. But she picked the wrong day to start a fight. When I looked at Syd, I knew I never wanted to see her again.

Without saying a word, I leaned over to grab my things. We had pencil boxes with us at the time. Mine was pink with Hello Kitty characters and full of sharp yellow No. 2s. I grabbed one, stood up and pressed it to the side of her head. The pencil splintered and part of it got stuck in her neck. Syd started screaming and the other kids understandably lost it.

Meanwhile I was in a daze. The pressure was gone. But unlike any other time I’d done something bad, my physical assault on Syd had led to something different: a kind of euphoria.

Patric Gagne talks to Julia Llewellyn Smith in an exclusive interview with YOU Magazine this weekend

Patric Gagne talks to Julia Llewellyn Smith in an exclusive interview with YOU Magazine this weekend

I walked away from the scene blissfully at ease. For weeks I had engaged in all kinds of subversive behavior to release the pressure, but none of it had worked. But now – with that one act of violence – all traces of pressure had been eradicated. Not just gone, but replaced by a deep sense of peace. It was as if I had discovered a shortcut to peace, a path that was both effective and mad.

It all made no sense, but I didn’t care.

I walked around in a daze for a while. Then I went home and calmly told my mother what had happened.

“What the hell was going through your mind?” my father wanted to know. Later that evening I sat at the foot of my bed. Both my parents stood before me and demanded answers. But I didn’t have one.

“Nothing,” I said. ‘Don’t know.

I just did it.”

“And you don’t regret it?” My father was frustrated and irritable. He had just returned from a business trip and they had had an argument.

‘Yes! I said I was sorry!’ I exclaimed. I had even already written Syd an apology letter. So why was everyone still so angry?

I hated the way my mother stared at me that night

“But you don’t regret it,” Mom said calmly. ‘Not really. Not in your heart.’ Then she looked at me as if I was a stranger. It paralyzed me, that look. It was a look of vague recognition, as if to say, ‘There’s something wrong with you. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I can feel it.’

My stomach turned as if I had been punched. I hated the way my mother stared at me that night. She had never done it before and I wanted her to stop. When I saw her looking at me like that, it was as if I was being watched by someone who didn’t know me at all. Suddenly I was furious with myself for telling the truth. It didn’t help anyone ‘get it’.

It had confused everyone even more, including me. Eager to make things right, I stood up and tried to hug her, but she raised her hand to stop me.

“No,” she said. ‘No.’ She stared at me one more time, long and intently, and then she left. I watched as Dad followed her out of my room, their bodies shrinking as they descended the stairs.

I crawled into bed wishing I had someone to hurt so I could feel the way I felt after stabbing Syd. I settled for myself, hugging a pillow to my chest and digging my nails into my forearm.

‘I regret!’ I hissed. I continued to claw at my skin and clench my jaw, willing with all my might to repent.

I can’t remember how long I tried, only that I was desperate and furious when I finally gave up. Exhausted, I fell back into bed. I looked at my arm. It bled.

The euphoria I had felt after stabbing Syd was both disturbing and seductive. I wanted to experience it again. I wanted to hurt again. I just didn’t want that. I was confused and scared. I wasn’t sure how things could go so wrong. I just knew it was all my fault, and I had to find a way to make it better.

Taken from Sociopath: A Memoir by Patric Gagne PhD, published by Bluebird on April 11, £18.99. To pre-order a copy for £16.14 until April 21, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £25.