Even now, I adjust the image in my head, the term. Not stalked. Researched, I preferred to say. I knew where she lived and how many children she had. When she got a divorce, and the kids’ names and ages appeared in the court records, I felt a tingle of glee, just for knowing, which made me feel a little sick. My heart sped up as I scrolled through those records or ones from the county recorder’s office online. Available for anyone to see, I told myself. Public records.
I was seeing Dr. Smith—Karen, I called her, later—because I had bipolar disorder, she claimed, and maybe something more drastic and dark, like a smidge of a personality disorder.* Mental illness tended to run in my family in the way kudzu covered everything south of the freeze line. I wondered if I had some illness: anything to explain my way of existing in the world. But that was later. For now, I was sick and in need of care.
According to Robert Muller, Ph.D., professor of psychology at York University, and the author of Trauma and the Avoidant Client, there are five kinds of stalkers. They are overwhelmingly male, lack skills to negotiate basic social interaction, and frequently stalk their victims as an act of revenge. The victims are overwhelmingly female, like my psychiatrist. The types include, in order of ascending creepy magnitude: rejected suitors, intimacy seekers, socially incompetent stalkers, resentful or revenge seekers, and predatory stalkers. Most stalker fantasies include intimacy or violence. They’re mostly of average to above average intelligence, tend to be well-educated, and just over a fifth of them stalk due to mental illness or related factors; the rest do it for anger, retaliation, or control, and they are incredibly good at rationalizing away inappropriate behaviors. Women are far less likely to stalk; when they do, it’s with the hope of increased intimacy, erotomania, or a hope for friendship. Maybe that one was me.