Sociopathic Empathy

Who needs therapy when you have Medium.

When I was a child I was a sociopath.

I was emotional, but I didn’t empathize with people.

I remember getting kicked out of pre-school for it.

I can only imagine what my parents thought then. Or were they dishonest with me? In fact, maybe one of them was just like me, just too busy to talk to or coach their struggling child through this rough patch in life.

A kid was on the concrete of the play area outside, heavily shaded by Pigeon Plum trees. He was crying over his skinned knee, crying like he’d been mauled by a bear cub.

I remember laughing — just a little giggle at first.

I was laughing at his reaction, not because he got hurt.

Two teachers swarmed him. His cries grew bigger and with it, my laughter did too.

I couldn’t help it.

It was the drama in it, like watching a soft core porn and not chuckling over the actors terrible delivery of their ridiculous lines — this kid was milking it, making sure everyone heard about his poor knee.

I remember one teacher staring at me in sheer terror — this is the makings of a serial killer crossed her mind, I’m sure.

The other teacher called me over and asked what I was laughing about. I didn’t have an answer. I shrugged.

“Are you laughing because he’s hurt?”

I shook my head and shrugged again.

A four-year-old couldn’t muster the words: “He got a little scrape and he’s screaming like he’s been hit by a car.”

I can see how sickening it might seem, but the inability to formulate the right words at the right time plagued me until I learned to write.

As I got older, something changed. It started around puberty, then heightened after having children.

Maybe it was always there. Maybe I hid from it because it hurts so badly.

At first I thought it was because my brain likes to put me in everyone else’s situation. At first I was grateful — it seemed like one day, out of the blue, I was able to understand people. And if I was patient, if I deliberated the words before they left my lips, I could do a lot of good with it. I could help those who were willing to listen.

I’d watch a movie where the heroine loses her family in a car wreck. That’s relatable, I could lose my family any day in the same situation. But I could feel it, like it already happened. Like the three beautiful girls sleeping upstairs and the man I’m lying up against on the couch really are gone.

Sometimes it comes in waves. Sometimes it sticks.

The upset woman across from me at Starbucks, I can feel her heat in my core. I can feel her blood pressure rising inside me. I can feel her tears well in my eyes.

Why? What happened to the girl who couldn’t properly emote? The girl who couldn’t form the words to save the image of her “sociopathic childhood” to the family who never got over it.

People don’t change. Everyone knows that.

I don’t know what this woman is saying, she’s speaking Spanish. I’m not looking at her. My earbuds are in, but I feel her pain.


Is it payback, or was it always there? Waiting for me to saddle myself with enough love to test my humanity, test my ability to raise good, non-sociopathic children.

Well, it’s there now.

I avoid social situations. I avoid intimate relationships outside of the ones that take all my energy to maintain.

I sit in the mall and work with earbuds or in random, standalone Starbucks’s, pecking away at my keyboard.

I make small talk but avoid getting close. It’s about as social as I can get.

I take the time to sit and talk with my children when they do something wrong. I try to listen with patience and understanding, trying not to feel too much so I don’t break, rendering myself useless.

Was that the goal? To make me a better human being? A better mother? Wife? Daughter?

Is this a gift? A curse?

A blessing lined with razor blades. Let’s go with that.

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