Truth or Lie – Trauma and the Fear of Being a Liar
CW: mention of trauma (no details though)
I have been struggling lately. As many of you know, I don’t really share those kinds of things on social media, publish long emotional posts on social media or reach out for support. That is not how I work, that is not something I have ever done or will ever do. I like to be protective of me, and I dislike being vulnerable in a way that a response to what I say can hurt me. I always struggle and I have gotten used to it. And I am not going to give you a post filled with sadness or anxiety now. But I want to talk about one thing that I have been very confused about lately: the truth and how to tell if you are lying.
Truth and Lies
I am always speaking my truth. I don’t hide who I am. And I openly talk about my mental illnesses, my physical illnesses. And I am quite open about my past. I am also never hiding my political views or my opinions. All this might make it seem like I know my core, who I am, what I want from life. I am reflective after all. But I am like everyone else: I filter things. I don’t always let all of my thoughts come out for everyone to read and interpret. Things might seem well-worded and coherent, but in my mind, it is all a bit chaotic and not as clear at all. And when I am mentally unwell and struggling, those coherent well-worded reflections seem like lies to me. And I get confused about what really is the truth and if I have been lying all along.
I am not really a liar. I think that people tell lies for many different reasons: for their own selfish benefits, to not hurt someone, to get out of a situation they messed up or for attention. Everyone lies sometimes. I have done so as well. The biggest lie I ever told, was when I was 14 or 15 years old. I told people that I have had an abortion. I knew in that moment that it was a lie, and my motivation was that I didn’t want to be seen as the only virgin among my friends.
It was wrong to tell that lie and eventually I came clean. Mostly because people called me out on it. While I think I am pretty good at white lies (“How are you?” – “I am alright, thanks!”), I really suck at big lies and I feel guilty pretty quickly and come clean. You can also really easily tell that I am not telling the truth, hence me getting called out for the abortion lie.
So I generally tell the truth, or just say nothing at all. I don’t want to hurt other people and I don’t really want attention for things that are untrue. So that is how I think about myself. I either tell the truth or don’t say anything at all, or I might tell a white lie here and there. But when it comes to some things of me, I struggle to follow this logical conclusion. And I am constantly asking myself if I am making things up or if I am telling the truth. This is mostly related to my trauma.
Lying About my Trauma?
I often wonder if I am lying about my trauma, or at least parts of it. I know that I have been emotionally and physically abused as a child. And I also know that I have been sexually, emotionally and physically abused as a teenager. But memories of sexual abuse as a child are new to me. I didn’t have any memories of it (apart from nightmares here and there) before my mid-30s. So of course I am questioning if the things I am having in my mind and that I have told very few people in detail about, are the truth, or if I am making it all up.
But if I were lying, wouldn’t I know that I was lying? I mean, don’t you need to consciously construct a lie in your mind, for it to make sense and so you don’t deviate from it in the future? I don’t know if you could subconsciously lie about something this terrible, without being totally aware of that you are lying. And I am not even talking about distorted memories, but actual lies. So I often wonder if I am lying, and if I would actually know if I was lying or not.
And then there is also the problem with the intention and motivation. Why would I be lying about that sort of thing? Thinking of it rationally, it would probably be attention. I mean, people lie about all sorts of stuff to get care and attention from others. And I told that big lie as a teen after all. But I got caught back then, so why hasn’t anyone caught me now?
The thing is, I genuinely don’t want attention for my mental health issues and mental illnesses. I don’t want to be that fucked up person that everyone belittles and is sorry for. And if you read about the things that I have shared about my trauma on this blog, there are no details to be found. As a matter of fact, there are only two people who know any sort of details from the sexual childhood trauma: my husband and my psychiatrist back in Sweden.
But what if it is for attention? Maybe I am having these things in my mind and share them with my husband so he takes care of me. But then, wouldn’t all the other traumas already be enough? I wouldn’t have needed to trump any of that, at all.
One of the major issues that I have with those sort of memories is that they have only come to me in the last five years or so. Yeah, I have sometimes had images in my mind about sexual abuse as a child, or bodyparts of adult men and felt a total disgust about my body. But I thought I was sick in my head and my mind was blurring together abuse from childhood with abuse during my teenage years. It just didn’t make sense, and it doesn’t make sense now: why would I not have remembered before, and how come I don’t have any emotional connection to those memories?
Lying About the Dissociative Identity Disorder?
And then there is the Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I feel like I am making that up too. I can’t really not have been aware of the disorder until I was in my mid-30s. Like, it is such a severe illness, I would have noticed. And there are so many explanations as to why I would be faking it. I have supported people with DID and seen how they have been acting. I had some knowledge about the disorder.
And back when my system cracked and I became “aware”, I told some of the people who caused the new trauma what it had done to my mind. And I know that I told them so they would grasp the severity of the hurt that they caused me. But I am aware of the motivation then. I didn’t have to tell them, but I did. Was that because I needed attention? Was I lying for attention and to hurt them? Or was I telling them the truth?
There is just so much that is confusing with DID. And I often find myself in a place where I think I am lying about it and just pretending to be different people. So I am trying very hard to follow my thought processes. Like, is there a thought that I should act like a “little” now so I get what I need? Or should I act like a sexual teen so I can please my Master? Do I control and orchestrate this? But again, if it would be a lie to hurt the people who have hurt me some years ago, why can’t I stop now? My emotional conclusion is that I am a compulsive liar, and that I have created this web of lies that I can’t get out of now. So I just continue to lie.
There is a huge disconnect here though. The reason why I want to find out if I am lying, is so I can stop. Because I don’t want to be a liar. I want to be true to myself. And I don’t want to have even worse trauma than the trauma I clearly remember. I don’t want to have DID or be severely traumatized. I want to be normal, well however normal you can be if you have bipolar disorder. So every now and then I try to stop “lying”. What happens is that I can keep it together for a day or two. Then I get another flashback or I “switch”. If I was lying, wouldn’t I be able to stop too? Unless I am a compulsive liar and that is my actual illness.
Questioning my Thoughts
Now, logically, I can dispute all of these thoughts. I have written a long post about memories which explains that none of us have clear memories of anything in our lives. We make things fit our own narrative of our lives, so we don’t need to question who we are. The thing is, the memories that I have, they are making me question my whole life, my sexuality, my behaviour. And my desperate tries to make them seem like lies could be an attempt to hold on to my narrative.
And not only that. Most childhood abuse survivors first remember their trauma and understand the severity of it later on in life. It is when a new trauma happens, or when the brain deems things to be safe enough to remember. But even then, your narrative gets questioned. You would have to change your whole view of yourself, your family, your life. That is why a lot of people who have been through complex childhood trauma actually minimize their trauma. And if you have been abused, especially emotionally and mentally, you think of yourself as weak anyway. And bringing that perspective into adulthood, you’d of course think that you are just overreacting, maybe even lying. Because that is what weak attention seekers do.
One of the main symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder is amnesia. That means that you can not remember your most severe trauma, and a lot of times you don’t know what other alters are doing. That would very much explain why I wouldn’t remember some of my trauma. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember most of my childhood, and I can’t place events chronologically. And when I do have memories (movies in my mind) come up, I have absolutely zero emotional connection to them. So of course I’d think that I am just making those things up. Because wouldn’t someone feel anguish about those things having happened to oneself? Only, they didn’t happen to me. They happened to other parts of me.
Sometimes I hear myself say things that I think are lies. I can’t grasp the idea that that it is someone else telling their truth, using the same body that I am living in. It is just so confusing, and fucked up. So I would just listen to myself explaining the terrible details of things in a child’s voice, with a child’s vocabulary, sensing feelings of anxiety and despair that are not mine. But how is that even possible? Can’t it just be me, pretending to be a child, telling lies? Or logically, I am co-conscious with a child alter.
I know the theories. I know what logically, based on reason and information, makes most sense. And that is why I often speak my truth on this blog and in other areas where I feel that my voice can make a difference for other survivors, and spread awareness and information about complicated mental illnesses. But when I am sitting alone, and I am struggling emotionally and mentally, I question myself. And I always end up with the conclusion that I am a compulsive liar and that I should stop existing if the only reason for people’s attention and care are my lies. Those moments of weakness, of despair, of invalidation of my own pain, are part of my truth too.