A lot of people think of psychopaths as having a very flat emotional affect, and I know we haven’t talked for long, but that’s not my impression of you. You obviously have a personality, and a distinctive way of speaking, and so I wonder what your experience is with that perception.
People think we have no emotion, which is absolutely not true. We just feel them way turned down. If most people feel an emotion between seven and eight on a dial of ten, I feel it between zero and two. Negative emotions are background noise. We can’t tune into that frequency because our brains just don’t process enough information for them to ever be loud enough to feel or direct behavior. We enjoy things, get excited about things, like adrenaline — that’s great. I laugh with people, I enjoy intellectual discussions. A lower functioning psychopath probably wouldn’t enjoy intellectual conversation. They’d rather go and rob a liquor store. But that’s why they spend most of their lives in prison.
Do you feel at all that your psychopathy is an advantage to you? Do you feel lucky in any sense?
No. It’s not an advantage, because all neurotypes come with limitations, don’t they? With psychopathy I constantly have to figure out people, and why they do what they do, and how to respond to them. Normal people have to deal with grief and loss and pain and heartbreak, but they also have things to make them happy. I think people are pretty wired the way they’re meant to be. I don’t know that it’s necessarily an advantage or disadvantage, it’s just what you make of it. I could easily take psychopathy and make it a terribly negative thing for both me and the world, because I could make bad choices, and do terrible things. I could do that, but that’s not who I have any interest in being. Anyone can make bad choices for themselves.
Do you still see the doctor who diagnosed you, or do you sort of have any regular treatment that you do?
It’s completely self managed at this point. There’s really nothing to manage. I learn about it by reading studies. I haven’t spoken to [that doctor] since back when I got the diagnosis. It was pretty much, “Thank you very much,” and that was the end of that. We never spoke again.
And you don’t take any medication for it, right?
No. It’s just a variant brain structure. And actually we respond very differently to medications as well, because our chemistry is different, so you can expect strange medication reactions. I’ve been dealing with that. Whenever a doctor prescribes the medication, I can pretty well expect it to not work as intended.
Does that apply to something as innocuous as a cold medication?
Yeah. Sometimes cold medicines work for things like decongestants, but things like pain medication, I’ve never experienced the high that other people get. I have no comprehension of why people enjoy opioids. We also can’t get addicted to things because of the way our brain works. There are psychopaths that use drugs, but you can cut them off cold turkey and they will not have any withdrawal. They don’t have any cravings, and they can just go on with their day like it was nothing. That’s another weird chemical processing. So we just lack certain normal cues that other people have.
Online you’re very out as far as being a psychopath but is it something that a lot of people in your personal life know? Or your family?
No. They have no idea, and I’m going to keep it that way.
Do you have a relationship with your parents?
Yeah. They’re great people. They don’t know. They had a really difficult child to raise in me, and I’ve gotten older, and to them, I’ve matured into the daughter that they always wanted. I don’t really see a need to change their perceptions of things. They know me for what they need to know me for. Trying to explain psychopathy to people, especially older people, is really difficult.
With a lot of diagnoses I think the assumption would be that the more information your parents or your family or whoever has, the better they will be able to understand you, but obviously you don’t feel that way.
Well, sure, but then you’d have to have them dive into neurology, biology, understanding the wiring of the brain. And the word has so much negative stigma. Most of the time when you say “psychopath,” people immediately have a very specific reaction, and they shut down. They have absolutely no interest in hearing past evil, dangerous, killer, malicious, out to get you. The things people assume about psychopathy are crazy. Trying to explain that to someone when you’re their daughter, and they think of you as someone they know, they love, they trust, that’s going to upset their entire perception. And you may never get it back. It’s a huge risk and not one I really have any interest in taking.
When you meet new people, whether professionally or personally or whatever context, do you present them with the version of yourself that fits the situation?
Absolutely. Why tell them anything that they don’t need to know? They just need to know what they can expect of me.
Do you think it’s something that people suspect about you? Or do you think people’s perceptions are so off that they wouldn’t really know what psychopathy looks like?
No. Psychopaths use what we call a ‘mask.’ It’s basically an entire affectation of being like everyone else. We learn at a really young age that if we respond to things the way that we naturally respond to things, people don’t like that. So you just learn how to affect the behavior and how to appear like everyone else, and that’s just what you have to do.
There’s a very different version of me that goes out of the house and interacts with the world from the person who’s home with people who know how I actually am. And even with the people who do know me, and do know how I actually am, there still has to be a mask. If somebody’s spending time with me in a room, I won’t give them the impression that they’re welcome. They might say something to me, and I’ll answer them back, but I’m not going to look at them, there’s no feeling of being welcome. But to me, unless I tell you to leave, you’re completely welcome.
I have a friend who will feel like I resent her spending time with me. She’ll be like, “I’m bothering you.” You’re not bothering me. Why do you think you’re bothering me? She’s like, “Well, I just get the impression you don’t want me here.” Did I tell you to leave? “No, but are we okay?” We’re fine! You’re fine. I have to make that connection. So if I don’t do that, people feel like there’s something profoundly lacking, and they feel uncomfortable. It’s very disquieting to them.
"I think it’s important to hold people responsible for their actions, not brain formation. People make choices. Psychopathy is not an excuse, and it’s definitely not a reason why someone does bad." things.
Does that friend know what your diagnosis is?
Yes, she knows, and she tries very hard. She makes adjustments for me, I make adjustments for her. That’s the sort of mutual investment in the friendship.
I think most people are so used to feeling like they have to be people pleasers, and that everyone else should be that for them, I can imagine why it would be unsettling to be around someone who, while they’re maybe not doing you any harm, they’re not going out of their way to practice those social pleasantries, either.
Exactly. And if I was completely mask off, and something tragic happened to them, if she was lost a parental figure and came to tell me about it, I would just look at her with a flat look of, “Okay.” It wouldn’t be “Are you okay? What can I do for you?” It would just be, “Alright.” And that’s not a good response to have when someone’s having a grieving process. You have to engage. I learned very early on that there are responses that are required for people to not be very uncomfortable.
Is that something that gets easier with time, or is it something you’re always working on?
No. It’s always, always, always a pain in the butt.
You’ve said you get a lot of death threats online when you post about your experiences as a psychopathic in forums. Why do you think some people respond that way to you? Do you have any idea?
I think it comes from a visceral fear of the unknown, or fear of evil. Hollywood has desperately pushed this narrative of psychopathy. And when you’re taking away the villain, which is really what psychopaths are in movies, people get very upset about it. I don’t know if you’ve seen sites like Love Fraud or Psychopath Free, on and on and on, but there are all these sites where people go when they’re convinced their ex is a psychopath, when really their ex was just a toxic, awful person. There are millions of those, and they’re everywhere, and they come from every neurotype.
Is there anything that you feel that I left out, that you would like to add?
It’s a lot more complex than people realise. I think it’s important to hold people responsible for their actions, not brain formation. People make choices. Psychopathy is not an excuse, and it’s definitely not a reason why someone does bad things. People do bad things because they make bad choices. So instead of looking at psychopathy as this constellation of things that represent evil, just look at it as a different way of experiencing the world, and what a person chooses to do with that is on that person.
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