This is one of a series of posts doing the hard work of introspection, because if I’m ever going to figure out how to work with my disability, I have to make an effort to understand myself.
Lying is something that I guess I’ve always done naturally. Growing up, my thoughts and feelings and wants were not always good enough reasons, to the adults in my life (especially my mother), for my actions. I also have a lot of difficulty expressing my thoughts, sometimes because I feel like they’re private or that the listener wouldn’t respect them, and sometimes because I don’t really understand my own reactions. I actually remember as a little kid being presented with the opportunity, an hour beforehand, to walk in a local parade. I didn’t want to–it didn’t sound like much fun, and it was a surprise idea which I wasn’t comfortable with. I was asked to provide a reason for not wanting to join in the parade, but it was such a struggle for me, all of eight, to articulate something along the lines of “I don’t like to do things I haven’t mentally prepared myself to do; I’m not a very spontaneous person.” I ended up saying that it was ten blocks and I didn’t want to walk that far, which was an approximation of a protest against the unexpected demand on my time. They didn’t make me do the parade, but I was reprimanded for laziness.
Anyway, I don’t know if Mom was always abusive. It’s possible that when I was younger I just wanted to avoid getitng in trouble like a normal kid would. Punishments got arbitrary fairly early on, though, and I’m pretty sure my friends have always experienced my mother as “scary.” It might have been after the divorce, when a whole lot of stress got added to her life. If that’s so, it makes things easier for me to understand–a lot of what she remembers from our childhood is endless frustration because of us fucking with her stuff or being disobedient or whatever. At that point I suppose innocuous behavior can also trigger an angry outburst. For the parts of my childhood I can barely remember, maybe we can classify my mother as simply under-resourced.
Well, lying was a fantastic way to avoid getting in trouble, so that’s what I did. If I said something she didn’t like, I lied about what it was I’d meant. I distinctly remember writing some bad poetry in fifth grade containing the line “what kind of monster hates her own mother?” and similar. My mother found it–guess I’d left it lying around–and was very hurt and angry, so I told her I just wrote fictional poetry.
Lying was a great way for me to deflect or delay getting in trouble. If I lost something, assuring my mom or dad that I hadn’t gave me a chance to find it. When they were at work I told them on the phone I’d done chores I hadn’t actually done, knowing I’d do it before they came home. My siblings definitely got in on that as well. I remember throwing my report card in the recycling bin in middle school so my parents wouldn’t see it, and, later, worrying that when my younger siblings got into high school I wouldn’t be able to pull that anymore. As it turned out, we hid most of our report cards together (although not the end of semester ones, which our parents knew were coming and expected to see) because there was usually some reason for at least one of us to want to conceal our grades. Anyway, those are relatively little mischiefs, but I do remember being surprised to find out my friends didn’t do that. Or that they’d tell their parents when they’d lost things.
From Mom and probably from my dad’s extended family I really learned that my wants and experiences weren’t good enough. It’s only recently I realized that, from this, I acquired a habit of exaggerating. For example, when describing what my mom did to make me feel bad, I feel like saying “she told me X” isn’t good enough, so I will say that she yelled. When I feel like saying I was sad isn’t good enough, I’ll say that I cried. Usually this is harmless, but I do remember exaggerating the number of incidents, when reporting sexual harassment, by one. Because a senior manager touching my neck twice wasn’t enough, I suppose. Naturally, having people react in sympathy to my exaggerated experiences does nothing to help me believe that my actual experiences are worthy enough of the reactions I had to them.
For this reason it is important for me to make a conscious effort to stop lying, and for this reason it feels really dangerous for me to do so. I have to give my friends a chance to show that they will love me for who I am, my experiences and my actions and desires and fears. But I have to do it before I feel like I have proof that they will. This is something I think I’m making progress on–for example, I recently admitted, to four people, the biggest lie of my life, and none of them were angry with me. It’s a process, but it’s one of the least scary parts of me.