How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Psychopath?

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED APRIL 20, 2013

The other night in my writing group I got starting writing about a woman I worked with many years ago.  I am convinced that this woman was a psychopath.  I’ve tried to write about this woman before, but I always stopped midstream because it was upsetting to think back to this time in my life.  The other night was different, maybe because I was in the safety of the writing circle, with my friends there to support me.

Later I thought, well, I’ve gotten a good start on a personal essay here, maybe I can do it, maybe I can finish this piece.  But then I asked myself:  what’s my point?  What do I want to say?  I don’t want this to be a mere anecdote, so what’s my story?

I can write the story of my year with this woman in such a way so that it sounds outrageously funny.  So what?  The reality is that I was miserable working with her.  I knew she was making up lies about me, but there was nothing I could do about it.  I couldn’t prove anything.  I went to administrators and they were sympathetic.  They actually agreed with me.  I thought they were going to do something.  But they didn’t do anything.  It’s years later and she’s still there, still working with children and their parents.  I was just grateful that the contract I was working under allowed me to ask for a transfer and (at the beginning of the new school year) the district was required to give me that transfer.  If I’d had to stay and work with this woman for another year, I would have resigned.

What is the story here?  I wish I could say something healing, but I have no such wisdom.  I wish I’d handled it better, but—as a therapist friend taught me to chant—I did the best I could with the knowledge I had.  What should we do when we encounter a person like this?  Splash water in her face and hope she melts?

My heart goes out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath.  I offer prayers for everyone, including the alleged perpetrators and their families. Good wishes and prayers as well to the people of West, Texas, who also endured devastating losses this week.

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