Hello readers! I have a dilemma.
I submitted a paper to BioRxiv today with a coauthor’s name on it. Problem is, I’m not sure that I’ve been communicating with this actual person- I’m not sure the person who’s been answering the emails I have sent is actually him. He hasn’t wanted to discuss science with me at all, and this is an established full professor of pathology at UCLA. The subject material in the papers I sent him is interesting, relates to his field and also his business (he is part of a company selling a probiotic) and I’d expect him to have some kind of comment on the analyses- but there’s nothing. There never has been, which has always made me so suspicious, but the email address I’m using for him is the one on his UCLA web page. And when I phone him, I seem to get him. I asked twice today via email for detailed comments, before I submitted the papers, and I got stuff like “it flows nicely”, and “excellently written”. I wanted to get some indication of the flaws of each paper. At least the second one, the more time-critical one in my mind because it relates to the pandemic, has only my name on it, so that one should go through- but it leans on the first paper.
Now, I admit I’m paranoid, and I’ve had past nightmares about a stalker interfering with my ability to communicate with others, especially through written media (but also via phone calls and voicemails). It’s a very long story, but now I’m really worried that I put a coauthor on a paper that he’s never seen and has no ideas about, and that it will get flagged and withdrawn for that, and not just that, but he will think badly of me and not want to work with me in future (it’s really bad form to put someone on a paper and try to publish it without them being able to comment on and agree to being on the paper!).
I’ve written before about this possible stalker, more than once. I am calling these pieces, which are sprinkled throughout this blog, my “Hamlet’s play” series, and the most disturbing of these are Checkmate and A New Year, and Some Old Thoughts. I’ve thought and thought about this person, and who she might be, and while I have a hypothesis I have no way to test it. I can’t accuse this person openly, as I have no proof, and since they are married to a celebrity, they have a lot more power than I do. If I were to accuse them directly of the really egregious kinds of abuse I’ve suffered, or think I have (again, I have no proof, just traumatic memories and what feels a lot like PTSD) I will seem like the crazy stalker. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this person is harmless, I’ve never been attacked, and it is simply my brain playing tricks on me.
It is most likely that my colleague knows who I am and has actually been in contact- I mean, it would take enormous effort for someone to get access to my emails or his emails or both of our emails in order to impersonate him, and the emails I am getting come from his UCLA account. So I am probably worried for nothing. But I can’t help but think that, somehow, my stalker has offered bribes or other inducements to get others to cooperate, and I remember in 2016 people I didn’t know were often in my office, and more than once I caught a woman I didn’t know messing with my work computer.
It’s really, really hard to relax when one’s brain keeps entertaining them with this sort of information. Well, there are two possibilities: either nothing has happened, and I do not have to fear this stalker at all/any more, or something has happened, I have been bullied (at least in this instance, where I am isolated from other scientists, since I communicate long distance primarily via email), and not only have I lost opportunities to ask for help, other researchers have also lost the opportunity to talk to me and perhaps be inspired by what I have to say. I’m not stupid. I have good ideas. I would have liked to investigate my own ideas, the ones I am providing in hypothesis form in the BioRxiv paper, rigorously and well. It’s entirely possible that these opportunities were stolen from me- not just in this instance, but since I was a graduate student in 1996 or so and a pushy woman I didn’t know kept forcing herself on the computer I was using for email, insisting she needed to gain access to it before I could log off. Everywhere I’ve worked, I have had interesting or innovative ideas which I would put into an email and share, or made requests for help, and I always wondered why no one ever replied, or if they did, it was mostly with only a sentence or two. Is it just that everyone is busy with their own work, or… ?
I guess I find out if the archive managers contact my colleague and he has no idea about this paper, or that I’ve been in “communication” with him all these years. If he remembers me and has indeed read it, then I have one less thing to worry about. I’m not going to rest easy until I know it’s going through and even though that doesn’t mean I’ve never been bullied, at least I can feel a little more like it’s not still currently happening to me. It would be nice to feel safe again. This is a recurring theme with what comes up when I talk to my therapist, and so I’m aware that these fears I have might be unfounded and not literally real things… but my suspicions keep on prodding me, and bringing up the fact that what I fear is possible, if someone with ample time and money hated me enough to stalk me and sabotage my career. If my stalker did the things I outlined in the two above referenced blog posts from this site, and my other posts about her, sabotaging my career would not be the worst thing she has done.
I guess I find out- by waiting to see what happens now.