family, friends, personal, writing-life

Pseudologia Fantastica

I am a compulsive liar.

I’ve not engaged in active lying for many years because I sought psychiatric help for my behavior. It began when I was in the second grade and continued well into high school and college. I can assure you all 100% that my blog is true. I channel my urge to fabricate into fictional pursuits, and I’m still in therapy. It’s fine if you have doubts because I’m accustomed to not being trusted.

When I met my future spouse, he saw my lying and allowed it to go unchecked because he didn’t think the relationship would last. Upon realizing I was the one he made it clear that I needed to get help. The thing about compulsive lying is that it’s not a full-on psychosis; we acknowledge it when we lie and own it when caught. The delusion is self-afflicted but dissipates when confronted. (Those with a pure psychopathy believe their delusion is real, they fight tooth and nail to retain the lie). When my spouse and I decided to start a family, I got help.

It’s not easy to treat a compulsive liar because we will lie in session. It took my therapist(s) many months to sift through my bullshit (they were getting paid, so it’s easier than you think) until I finally trusted one of them enough just to stop. It wasn’t an overnight thing mind you; it took two years before I was comfortable enough to share on a real level. It was well after the birth of my second child that my lying in the therapy room ended.

My childhood was fragile at the start, and when a new person entered my life without my consent or counsel, I completely detached from reality and began willfully trying to make my life something else. It was minor at first. My fantasy life turned complex (our best make-believe is when we’re kids), but I began to bring my alternate realities to life by speaking as if they were truths. When the intruding adult that I feared and resented the most declared his hatred for liars, I lied even more, and by the time I was graduating high school most peers (and social foes) knew me to be utterly full of shit.

In the military, there was no time to lie, and for the first time in my life, I had no need for it. My refrain lasted almost a year but looking back on it I see that I replaced the larger than life fibs with little ones. I hadn’t refrained I just got better at fitting in with those that didn’t lie. College was all about lying; it got so bad that I admitted to my closest peers that everything I told them about myself was a lie. I never regained their trust, and this hurt me, deeply.

When I fell in love and started a family, I realized it had to stop. I didn’t want to raise kids that might someday speak the words: my mom lies all the time. The thought made me sick to my stomach. My therapy involved more lying, but it forced me to face truths I hadn’t been willing to face since childhood.

I disengaged from the behavior completely by 2003.

Here’s the thing, compulsive lying is like an addiction. The high you get isn’t surreal or out-of-body, it’s a euphoric peace of mind that makes you feel great the moment you’re doing it. A casual conversation with coworkers, chance encounters with strangers, even conversing with those you care for–it’s about controlling reality. The problem is that when you’re in a secure place with those that love you, there’s no reason to alter reality, but you do it anyway because your brain’s been doing it most of your life.

2003 was the year I went cold-turkey (with the support of therapy, so the turkey was a bit warmer than one might think). My writing flourished. Writing down the realities that I wanted into fiction (something I was good at already) proved therapeutic. Writing for small-press comics though was very stressful mostly because I had to deal with bullshit and the urge to lie was overwhelming. My relationship with my therapist was healthy and continues today. The urge to lie never goes away. I can text or Skype my therapist at any time, and boy did I during those comics years! I skype her once a month to check in, but my text sessions remain weekly because when the urge strikes the only way to kill it is by talking it out with someone that understands.

There is no cure for compulsive lying; you can only refrain from it for the sake of yourself and others around you. It’s hard to explain that notion to those that don’t understand how compulsive lying works. We all lie in one form or another, so for most people, it’s a moral thing–just stop doing it because that’s the right thing to do. Appreciating that it’s a mental illness isn’t helpful either, as there are still people out there that will callously tell a depressed or manic person to ‘just stop worrying about shit’ or ‘just be happy.’ A compulsive liars brain evolves to function as a reality-alterer, and so it is a daily struggle just to let forever be.


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