“With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben, Spiderman
On Sunday, my husband and I went to ‘return’ something that I was gifted at a conference. We wanted to exchange it for something else. Of course, we didn’t have the receipt. If you’ve never done something small like this, returned something without a receipt even though the store sells it, or shoplifted a candy bar, or kept extra change you were given, or kept something you’ve found – you’re an impressive person (not sarcasm). And if you have, you might think, that’s not that bad. You’re just exchanging the item. It’s unopened, in good condition. In the parking lot, my husband turned to me and said “do your thing babe.”
It was a bit like giving an addict a hit.
Manipulation, lies, and situations I control or have to talk my way out of are where I am most comfortable. It’s where I excel in life. Except… that isn’t how people are supposed to behave. I’ve catfished people (only now learned the term) at least three times since I was 13. I have the diary entries about it. Granted, I wanted to stop the whole time. I knew it was wrong I simply couldn’t stop the avalanche once it started, and I had nobody to turn to. I downgraded (sort of?) to lies that had a kind of catfishing element to them late in high school after learning a few painful lessons.
And I was doing it (telling those big story lies) until less than two years ago. I’m tempted to lie right now. I can feel it. I’m scoping for victims. I don’t do it intentionally and I don’t know why it happens. None of this is meant as an excuse but simply an explanation of what I struggle to truly understand. I guess the important thing is that I’m not currently doing it. I realized tonight that I drink excessively to quiet that need… and I didn’t drink today.
This is the first time in a while I have felt truly defective, broken. What is wrong with me that this is something I think of doing? Or something I feel like I need to do? Sometimes, I feel like I’m beyond help. I have the potential of being a horrible, evil person. I am a lot closer than most. I have done awful things and I’m not ever too far from that line. It teases me and I play with it and occasionally cross it but for 654 days I’ve essentially behaved myself. Alcohol quiets the need and I get by with small things – hiding things from my husband. Embellishing stories. Nothing that would hurt him or anybody. I can’t do that anymore. Not consciously.
Maybe… just maybe, I’m the fucked up one in my family. Maybe my parents had a golden boy and I’m the fucked up one – and I’m seeing this all wrong. I’m so. incredibly. good. at fucking with people. But its frowned upon – for obvious reasons. I’m not stupid. I know that this part of me is the monster in children’s bedtime stories, the cautionary tale of what happens when you lie. I’ve never identified with the good guys.
I need some way that isn’t destructive to deal with this and get it out. And ideas are welcome. I’m smarter, and more observant, and more manipulative than 95% of the people I meet. For fucks sake, Dave tells me I’m a horrible liar. HA! I laughed out loud at that one. If I can convince one of my closest friends I’m an awful liar… when I’ve lied my way through my whole life!? When he knows and believes the remnants of tales that I’ve spun. Even though I didn’t tell them to him myself, I’m not one to throw myself under any passing buses.
I fit in. Somehow I figured that out. Those who see me, who know me, who I’m closest to… do they even know me?
How do you know who you are when you’ve spent your whole life pretending to be someone else?
I have constructed entire storylines, realities, and worlds and I’ve gotten people to believe in them, in me, as their main character. I have refined them and perfected them. I’m not proud of this. The part that hurts people. But I am proud that I found a way to survive, by creating my own narrative.
How far do I go? How much do I share? I’m so petrified to talk with A. I feel like I need a lie detector or some sort of policing – more safeguards. To protect people I love from me. I truly identify with the chained up werewolf, who locked himself up for the safety of others. How much can I show her until she’s gone? Until she’s like – nope, fuck this, I’m out. My husband, sometimes, I think, doesn’t even know the real me. Yet he has hope for me. He believes I have changed. And in ways I have – but there is this dark, dark, core inside me. When I’m hurting I transform. My heart goes from beating human muscle to rock hard black diamond. And I don’t think it will ever change – I don’t know how to change it. But he shouldn’t trust me. He doesn’t say that, but if I was him, I wouldn’t trust me. Sometimes I feel like a ticking time bomb. He caught glimpses of the true me and had the unfortunate luck of falling in love.
Lately I think of running away and isolating myself to protect those I love. When I feel like this, it takes all my effort to watch every word spoken or typed. Any slip, or any opportunity to play any game, is food for that monster.
Manipulation and observation – they are skills. Skills I have in spades and that are maxed out at level 10. Skills I can (and do, sometimes without realizing it) use as a crutch. They are how I blend in. How I survived and its turned into a way to get my ‘fix’, but also my default when I feel threatened. Alcohol makes things calmer, but my husband wants me to quit drinking, he’s worried, rightfully so – and I don’t really think the sentence “I need to drink so I don’t lie to you, hide things, and manipulate you” is going to cut it.
How do I live my life with these skills but without using them? Without hurting people? A once told me that it was the closest thing she had ever seen to a real life superpower. How do I channel this insatiable (right now) desire to manipulate, this need, without hurting? I don’t want to hurt anybody else. I’ve done that enough. I am thankful for my remorse and my ability to empathize because it makes me feel human. I don’t want to hurt anybody. I didn’t want to hurt anybody then. I simply want (and wanted) to stop hurting.
This desire to manipulate, to lie, to steal, to fuck with people – it always appears when I’m hurting the most. Sometimes, like now, I don’t know where that hurt is – I can’t pinpoint it. I was watching a documentary on lies and catfishing and people are like “how can someone do that?” I don’t understand that confusion. This hurt, lying, it transforms pain into this adrenaline rush. I even want to attempt it with A – someone I’ve always respected as an intellectual equal (do you know how many therapists I have manipulated and I can’t seem to pull things by her… but I haven’t really tried because I was all committed to this process and now I basically force myself to go). I find myself wanting to see how far I can push her. White lie here, white lie there. It’s my pattern in action. It’s the perfect opportunity really for us to work through this… but its not like I’m going to be like – “so I want to lie. I want to tell you things that aren’t true. I want to transform this hurt into lies. And if its not with you, I’m going to go out and desperately find a victim, because that’s my pattern. And I hate all of this about myself. And it’s probably better for everyone I love if I simply leave and hole up somewhere.” Yea, right.
I tell little lies all the time. Sometimes, I’m aware of them. Sometimes I’m not. I can’t help but feel like I’m about to fuck this relative stability up – but I’m wholly anticipating and eagerly awaiting the reaction. I thrive in chaos. I turn into this eager, destructive force, and whirlwhind by everyone around me. And somehow people stick around. Like, why!? Are they nuts!? I’m Regina George in Mean Girls watching everyone fight each other, calmly standing in the eye of the storm until the sprinklers come on.
I think A is my mental match. I don’t think she has gone as far as I have, but she has alluded to sharing some of the same traits. I hope she is, because things are about to get messy. I can feel it. I’m losing my grip on that side of me. The shadow is falling over the side of my heart.
And this post feels so conceited – but its true. I am that person who walks into a room or situation with a goal, assesses it, changes her plans on the fly, and walks out with whatever I needed before anybody realizes I was even there. Its why when I told my boss, Dave, that I didn’t want to go to this event tomorrow night for networking and a work purpose – a really big important event with a big important client… he said “But I need you to go. You will get what we need. You always get what we need, and they don’t notice until its too late.” Going to this event is going to feed that side of me even more, the side that has been beating at its cages since returning something we shouldn’t have two days ago.
So do I embrace these desires that run under the surface, buzzing like an electric current? Do I unleash them and finally feel satisfied and free again? Even if I know the high isn’t long lasting and I have to go to greater and greater lengths to feel comfortable? Is this a distraction? From what, if so? Or do I stifle these desires? And force conformity and a totally honest, cold turkey, stable life… a life that feels so foreign to me.
I not only returned the object, I got cash for it. With no receipt. I’m fucked.
Post-Post Thoughts: I had a lot of feelings of shame rise with this post but I’m not taking it down. I need to discuss this with A and often I get the confidence to do that from flushing my thoughts out here first. Plus the accountability. She says to fully heal we have to embrace the darkest parts of us. This is the dark other side of me, the black diamond in place of my heart when I’m hurt. I’m afraid she will either dismiss me outright as too much, or maybe treat me as a fun science experiment. But know that I’m ashamed of who I am and until I figure this out, I’m not going anywhere fast. I just don’t want to hurt anybody else (and I have taken full responsibility for past hurts and reconciled or at least apologized to many parties, for the record).