Lying and Coping

CW: Sexual abuse, drugs abuse, dissociation.

How many times do you think you lie in a day? I consider myself a very forthright and honest person. I kind of wear my heart on my sleeve (in case you haven’t noticed). But there was a time when I lied to keep myself sane. All throughout my teen years, lies would come out of my mouth before I even had a chance to think about what I was saying. I lied to put forth a veil of normality. But in reality, my life was falling apart.

My teen years were marked by chaos. Between my elder brothers drug and alcohol addiction, my bullies and the general absence of my father I found myself desperately unhappy. Often it fell to me to keep the family together. I remember many times when my mother would talk to me as though I was her therapist, asking for my advice on her relationship with my father and how to handle my brother’s issues. It was me who convinced my parents not to kick my brother out after his escapades. I was dealing with far more responsibility than any teenager should have to. To top it off,  I was having ever more frequent night terrors and flashbacks about the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. And at school I was being tormented by bullies who threw rocks at me and made voodoo dolls of me. I hated everything about my life. I felt safe nowhere.

So I started to lie. People would ask me about my family and I would make up tall tales about how great things were. Even when the truth was rumoured around my school about my brother’s drug use I continued to lie. I made up stories about using drugs with my brother to make it seem like I didn’t care and I was fine with it. But I wasn’t fine with it. I was terrified of drugs and the horrors they had thrust upon my family. I was trying to control my feelings by controlling the story.

This effect was especially strong when talking about my sexual abuse. I needed to talk about it. It was consuming my inner world. But I felt so much shame about the truth of the situation. So I told my partner and friends who I disclosed to that it was a person from my neighbourhood who I didn’t know anymore. It was a strange form of dissociation. Lying about the ugly truth that I had been abused by someone in my family was making other people party to my denial. This is just one way that my lies were destructive.

My lies lead to me losing many friendships. People didn’t like the dishonest person I had become. There are so many people who I hurt who I haven’t spoken to since; people I have never been able to explain to myself to. It is only through the benefit of years of therapy and hard reflection that I have come to forgive myself for my lying. I used to punish and beat myself up for it. But now I recognise that I was a child who had very little coping resources or support. I coped in the only way that I knew how. And that was to lie and live in a fantasy world where things were not as they seemed.

In a strange way, the coping mechanism of lying served me well (despite the destruction it caused). Lying got me through my turbulent teens until I was in a place where I could finally start doing the work to improve my mental health in a real way. Lying had helped me to cope where I had no other recourse to cope. It made me feel safer and more in control of my destiny. And now that I am grown and much further along in my recovery journey, I am thankful to the lies for keeping me around but I am proud to say I no longer partake in this coping strategy,

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