The Tumultuous Years of Ambiguity (Part 2): The Sociopath Next Door
In part 1, I described the difficult transition we were going through, but to heap trial upon tribulation, we also had to deal with the most malevolent person I have ever encountered (in real life anyway).
We don’t talk much about “the neighbor”. It was terrible and seems like such a wild story . . . but it’s all true.
Of course, I am not a psychiatrist. I can’t make an actual diagnosis of sociopath. But she definitely fits the description, so we’ll just go with that assumption.
She seemed sort of particular and demanding at first. She didn’t want the kids to touch her decorative rocks. She wanted the neighborhood dogs silenced. She wanted Caleb to help her shut down the drug dealers living at the corner. Caleb always listened sympathetically to her goals and gave her suggestions (which she never took), but as her methods became more bizarre and aggressive he tried to distance himself and avoid her.
Then she turned her attention to the widow living on the other side of her. The widow worked nights and her four boys (aged 14 – 22) were left unsupervised. They mostly worked on cars in the driveway and played loud music, but that was unacceptable to the sociopath. She came to us with her plan to force them to move. She was going to file multiple police reports in the hopes that they could be proved a “public nuisance”. Caleb explained that this type of tactic would not really work on a property owner in a residential neighborhood and besides, what our neighbor really needed was some kindness, assistance, and understanding.
Caleb was angry with the sociopath. She was picking on a widow and he was going to protect her. At that time he judged the sociopath to be just a bully – she simply needed someone to stand up to her. He flagrantly supported the widow and loudly opposed the sociopath’s bullying.
This was about the same time Caleb returned to work after his hospitalization.
After months of constant police visits, a small claims suit, and calls and letters to the widow’s employer – the widow had enough and moved. Two other neighbors also moved to get away from her. Although she was not directly harassing them, they became concerned about her demands to support her activities and did not want to become a target.
She now turned her full attention on Caleb. This was during the final months he was attempting to continue working. His world was beginning to crumble as he held stubbornly to his job. He was not about to be pushed around by this bully! After all, he was an Airborne Ranger!
She started off with high-powered spotlights and video cameras aimed in our children’s bedroom windows. These scared the kids and Caleb started off with a pleasant request that perhaps she could turn the lights a bit so they did not bother the kids so much. Her response was to increase the wattage. Caleb’s next response was to go over and threaten bodily harm if she did not remove the lights and cameras. She wrote that down.
She told us to fix our fence. Caleb responded that we would pay for half of a replacement fence. She replied that she did not care if there was a fence and would not participate in replacing it. Caleb took down every other board and informed her that our half of the fence was gone, she could do what she wanted with her half.
She nailed blue plastic tarps to the fence frame.
She began to accuse Caleb of vandalizing her property. The police were summoned several times a week. By now, Caleb was not working. He would yell at her that we were not moving, that she did not know who she was dealing with, and that he was not afraid of the police.
She added this to her notes – then filed for a restraining order.
Caleb did not challenge the restraining order – he didn’t want anything to do with her anyway . . . it seemed pointless. We probably should have talked to a lawyer, but at the time we were spending so much time and energy on doctors and the health investigation. This seemed like just another of her annoyance tactics. We were wrong!
Once the restraining order was in place, things got really nasty. She was able to summon the police almost daily. They always arrived guns a-blazing and oozing aggression. They thought they were protecting a poor single woman from a dangerous, mentally ill veteran.
Needless to say, the lights and cameras aimed at our house along with daily, aggressive police visits did not help Caleb’s PTSD symptoms. It may even account for his “off the charts” stress reading at the neuropsychiatrist’s.
While I was juggling the normal demands of work, kids, and housekeeping, I was also supervising the medical investigation and trying to help my husband and children feel safe in our home.
Once we received Caleb’s diagnosis, I filed my own restraining order against the neighbor. I thought I could legally make her stop the harassment. Oh boy, was I wrong!
I was granted the order, which stated that she could not point her lights or cameras into our windows. It proved unenforceable. The police stated they could not prove where the cameras were pointed and refused to take any action.
As punishment for the restraining order, the neighbor put a sprinkler next to the fence remnant and aimed it at the eaves of our house. She left it running for days and flooded our yard. Surely something could be done about this, right?
The first officer who came out was very sympathetic to our situation. When the neighbor refused to come to the door, he turned her house water off at the street. I guess he got in big trouble for that. When I called again the next day I was told there was no law against what she was doing and they would not come out.
The police eventually told me that they would not come for any more of my calls and perhaps I should consider moving!
Caleb’s physical and mental health continued to deteriorate under the strain. All of our kids were showing signs of stress as well. I finally decided that enough was enough and we had to move.
It was the bottom of the housing crash and we could not sell the house for even a quarter of what we owed, and with our reduced income (not only had Caleb retired, but I had cut back to part-time to take care of him) we could not even afford the payments . . . a fact that finally persuaded Caleb to go with my plan.
As we walked away from our first house; Caleb disabled and retired, me working part-time, it seemed so tragic. We felt as though everything was lost.
But the story was not over.
Once we escaped that environment, we were able to rest and heal. We started to gain perspective on all that happened. We began to adjust and cope with our new reality. After a few years, Caleb was able to get some help with his PTSD and gain some stability. We eventually even bought a new house that fits our budget and is so much better than the one we were trying to hang on to.
God has brought restoration and blessing.
Isaiah 61:3 “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”