Locked in a ward of an Arizona psychiatric hospital, the patient called Fran looked harmless, even ordinary. Meeting her, psychiatrist Doreen Orion had no warning that Fran suffered from erotomania, the bizarre mental disorder that causes stalkers to believe their victims are in love with them–and no inkling that she would be the next target of Fran’s twisted, dangerous mind.
Now Dr. Orion reveals how she has been spied upon, accosted, and hunted for eight years, living in fear of her life and the lives of those closest to her. Changing her address and job, getting restraining orders and having Fran arrested, have all failed to end Fran’s obsessive behavior, which continues to this day.
Recounting the ordeals of Madonna, David Letterman, and scores of others who have been terrorized by stalkers, Dr. Orion alerts potential victims to this increasingly deadly disorder–and tells what society must do to protect us all from those who would kill for love.
~synopsis from Goodreads
This is a true story told from the point of view of a psychiatrist who gets stalked by one of her patients. Fran Nightingale believes she’s in a relationship with Dr. Orion, even though there was never any suggestion of one. For eight long years Dr. Orion struggles to protect herself and her fiancée/husband Tim (they got married in the midst of all this). She attempts to get into Fran’s mind to understand how to get her to let go of this silly notion that something was going on between them. The problem is that Fran has erotomania, which means she becomes obsessed with someone and believes they are in love with her. These delusions often lead to stalking the person they are in love with, despite being told directly to their face and indirectly by the person’s actions that they are not interested in a relationship.
The reason why I even picked this book up to begin with is due to the fact that I knew someone who had these tendencies. I wanted to understand what was going on in their mind, why they were so fixated on one person and wouldn’t believe that there was nothing between them. It was a pretty eye opening tale of what happens to a person when they end up being the one an erotomaniac sets their mind on.
I ended up learning a lot about not only erotomania but one of the things that happens to someone who is obsessively attached: stalking. I’ve seen portrayals on television before but had no idea the lengths some people go to. Dr. Orion talks about the stories of countless others who suffered at the hands of their stalkers. Some of the stories can even scare you. Even when these victims get restraining orders, it still doesn’t stop the stalker from following them or even finding them when they try to move.
What really got to me is how little the law could do to help a person when they are being stalked by an erotomaniac. At the time of this novel being written, laws had not caught up with this mental illness. While some states had passed laws that protected the ones being stalked, many of them were behind. People had the false notion that a stalker is only dangerous when they threaten their victim. This is not always the case. Once the stalker/erotomaniac gets triggered by something life changing (loss of employment, loss of a loved one, their victim getting married, etc.), something inside may snap. In one deadly instance, Laura Black’s stalker Richard Farley came into her place of work with nearly a hundred pounds of guns and ammunition. He killed seven of her coworkers and injured four, including Laura.
Due to cases like that (including some celebrities that have been stalked and killed), laws have been changed to protect people from getting hurt. This includes stiffer sentences for repeat offenders to prevent them from getting away with their pursuits for years, like in the case of Dr. Orion with Fran.
I don’t know what current laws are (this book was published in 1997), but I’m sure that due to Doreen Orion and many other victims speaking out like this, a lot of the loopholes were taken care of since. Of course, there’s no way you can change a person who has erotomania, but after reading this many can find ways to protect themselves and their families and friends. This isn’t necessarily an easy read, it is pretty intense and can even frighten you. I found it more absorbing due to a personal desire to understand. If anyone is dealing with a stalker or an erotomaniac, this is definitely one of those books you want to read.