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When Doreen Orion explains her peculiar predicament to others, from fellow psychiatrists to police officers, they often look at her funny -- wondering what she's done to bring this strange little tragedy upon herself. Orion does have some reason to be annoyed by this presumption: After all, she didn't ask to be stalked for eight years by a former patient who'd convinced herself that Orion was in love with her. Orion treated the patient she calls "Fran Nightingale" only briefly, and gave her no indication that her passion was in any way requited. Yet Fran, living in her own delusional world, was able to read into ordinary actions the telltale signs of love -- and was merely baffled when Orion responded to her overtures with restraining orders and threats of jail.
Clearly, Orion didn't ask for it. Or did she? As loath as I am to blame the victim, Orion is the kind of victim you can't help but blame a little. I Know You Really Love Me is the story of two obsessions, not just one. Orion has been as obsessed with being stalked as Fran evidently is with stalking her, and it seems clear that Orion's obsession has exacerbated the problem from day one. She transforms Fran's mild entreaties into potentially deadly threats; she mutates her own life into a melodrama, living like a celebrity besieged.
Just as Fran, a schizophrenic, is convinced that everything in the world (including Orion's mythical love) revolves around her, so Orion is convinced she herself is the center of the universe. Oddly enough, during part of the time she was being stalked, her boyfriend (and eventual husband) had a stalker, too. Orion manages to make even this story revolve around her. Utterly oblivious to the potential dangers Tim's stalker might pose to him, she complains endlessly that he can't seem to take her stalker any more seriously than he takes his own, which is (at least at first) not at all.
It's hard not to empathize with poor beleaguered Tim. After all, it's not uncommon for patients to develop strong feelings about their therapists, ranging from pure hatred to pathetic puppy love. Freud, at least, had the insight to realize that his lovelorn female patients weren't intoxicated by his charms -- they were, rather, transferring onto him emotions meant for another. Obviously, Fran's "love" is something more than this. But it is not as extravagantly "bizarre" as Orion (and her book publicists) would have us believe.
Orion's lack of empathy with Fran hurts her in the end. Even she admits that her aggressive response to Fran's stalking -- obtaining a series of restraining orders and calling in the police at the drop of a postcard -- may have simply exacerbated Fran's strange obsession, and that it might well have been better to simply adopt a posture of "detach and watch." One can only hope Orion does a better job reading her current patients' minds than she did reading Fran's -- or, for that matter, her own. -- Salon