“Nothing could be taken for granted. Women who loved you tried to cut your throat, while women who didn’t even know your name scrubbed your back. Witches could sound like Katharine Hepburn and your best friend could try to strangle you. Smack in the middle of an orchid there might be a blob of jello and inside a Mickey Mouse doll, a fixed and radiant star.” 

―    Toni Morrison,    Song of Solomon

I have said before that I spend a lot of my time involved in running two on-line mental health support groups.  This is something I purposely keep very separate from my blogging, so it doesn’t get mentioned very often.  But in order to understand some feelings going down, it is necessary for me to think through some things that happened at the end of last year.  That’s when I was deceived.

Over a year ago I joined a support group for people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  It was run by a man who lived on the west coast of the United States.  It seemed a really good, supportive group and I quickly made friends with a lot of great people, including the man who ran it.  Some time later I was asked to become an admin on this, and several other groups the man ran.  I liked what he was doing and felt I was in a good position to do this, and so agreed.

To cut a very long story short, time eventually revealed that this man wasn’t who he said he was.  Actually he was a woman, living in another part of the United States, creating an extremely fanciful, but false story of who she was and why she was running these groups.  Mayhem quickly followed and people who I thought I knew, and people I thought I could trust, suddenly turned against each other, including against me because I was now involved in running the groups.

On top of this I had become (what I thought was very close) to another woman also involved in running the groups.  I had believed everything she told me about herself and we had chatted for literally hours over some months.  Unfortunately I seemed to be perhaps the last person to realise that actually it was mostly lies.  Because I had believed her what she had told me, I lost other friends, some of whom I have since re-connected with.   I lost her frienship, because I couldn’t accept the way that she lied to me.  It turned out that she was in on the whole scam with the original woman.  To my horror, some thought I was in on the scam.  I wasn’t.

I now run groups away from these original groups, but including some of the people badly hurt by this whole deception.  I set them up because I was concerned about the hurt that people were feeling but thankfully am pleased to say that these groups have now pretty much moved on from the hurt of last year.  Although I think it is fair to say that it made us all more cautious of whose story we believe.

On-line support groups are a very important means of support, communication and connection with the outside world for many people isolated by mental illness.  Unfortunately there will always be bad groups around and it becomes essential that those who join are very careful in who they trust.  The thing is that for many people with mental illness, and especially for those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) who find it difficult to trust people at the best of times, it is already hard to trust.  That’s usually one of the reasons they lost connection with the non-cyber world (I hate the term real world).  The other group that I run is for people working to recover from self harm, and those people also tend to be vulnerable and in need of a safe place where they can be understood.

I am committed to what I do but I have to admit that I sometimes find myself a little skeptical now until someone proves to me in some way that they can be trusted.  I find it sad that I have become that way.  I don’t want to dis-trust people.  I never have.  I hate that I have to try to check people out before they join my groups, but last year’s events aren’t an isolated case.  There are constantly people who want to wreck something that for so many people is a good, and sometimes life-saving thing.

It was a long time ago that a friend gave me some very good advice, which I hold to today.  At the time I was concerned that another friend had been lying to me and asked him how I should treat what I suspected were lies.  He told me to treat the person as if what they say is true, until I had clear evidence that it was otherwise.  It was simple, but very valuable and it has stayed with me for many years.  I have used it in my working life, and in my personal life, and now I try to always use it in the groups I run.

Being deceived can be a sure-fire way of shutting us down and making us refuse to trust anyone.  When I was deceived last year, especially by the second woman who I really thought had become a true friend, it was tempting to simply retract myself from all social media.  Not trust anyone who I couldn’t see standing right there in front of me.

I think now days that I am pretty careful about who I connect with on social media.  I don’t see the point in connecting with total strangers just for the sake of adding more ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ to my list.  I don’t need hundreds of so-called ‘friends’.  I get concerned for people who do.  And I hate how Facebook use the term ‘friend’. While I am fortunate to have many who I know I can trust, I regularly encounter people who have hundreds of ‘friends’ but not one they can turn to in a moment of need.  To call these people ‘friends’ is just crazy.  Facebook is simply fooling people.

How do I tell who is worthy of my trust?  A very unscientific means of gut feeling.  Sometimes that gets it right, a few times it doesn’t because there are constantly people out there who want to deceive.  But I’m always learning and always delightfully surprised when someone turns into a true friend.

I could have turned my back on all this last year, and I know many who did.  Many people were very badly hurt by people they thought they could trust, some to the point of harming themselves over it.  It has been hard to keep going at times, because sometimes instinct tells me to guard my heart and mind almost over zealously.

People will continue to hurt me whether through social media or in day to day life.  Unfortunately it seems to be human nature, but the gains I have made through staying on-line have been amazing.  The good people far outweigh the bad thankfully, and so I choose not to harden my heart but to continue to treat people as I would want to be treated… with the truth.  The good I receive from connecting with people on-line far outweighs the bad.  I choose to be careful, but open to the goodness that comes my way.  And right now, there is lots of goodness.

“What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of human beings, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the sufferings of the injured.” 

– Bukhari


19 thoughts on “Deceived

  1. John Richardson

    Shakespeare said, “Love all, trust few, hurt nobody.” I believe that is well said. However, having people you can trust who will at least tell you the truth as they see it, is of extreme value. I think celebrities have a real problem with this. Many of them seem to rely on the folks they knew them before they became rich and famous. I tdo hink there may be a few guide lines that help you. A truthful person will tell the truth even if it hurts them. I’d look for this in your converstations and relationships with others because I think it says a lot about them. If a person is constantly telling you things that always cast them in the best possible light and seem to be able to explain away anything that has a potentially negative effect, take some time getting to know them. I think you should consider what a person has to gain from a relationship with you. If is friendship and good converation it may be one thing, but if that friendship leads to money, power or increased social status if might be something else. You might also consider what you’re trusitng them with. If you’re betrayed on small things that are of no real value to you it might actually be a good thing because you will have learned an important lesson about that person. If you’re trusting someone with knowledge that could serious hurt someone else then you need to be extremely cautious. I think you’re friend gave you good advice and in my experience I’ve found that many times what you expect from a person is about what you get. I think I’d take it slow and easy and see where each invidiual relationship goes. Of course, before taking my advise you need to understand I’m pretty gullible myself. I think there are worse faults. Forgivess also helps, including forgiving yourself.

    1. I completely agree with you John and also that gullible is by far not the worst trait you could have. It raises all sorts of useful questions for us about what and who we regard as friends, as well as where we choose to put our trust. Yet again, this experience is not one I’d wish to repeat, nor would I wish it on anyone but there have been some useful lessons for me. And being able to forgive myself is one of the big ones. Thanks John. 🙂

  2. Sharon thomson

    i was deceived online by a man i met through a group. i trusted him and told him a lot of personal things. i think i did this as i was newly diagnosed and he had the same difficulties that i did.

    I am far too trusting and never sure if someone is genuine or not. I usuallly end up being let down.

    I am in a fantastic group, but was wary for a while, not sure whether or not to trust these people. I made the right decision and have made some really good online friends, who are going through the same thing that i am. I have not come across another person who has the difficulties that i do, so the group is invaluable to me.

    Your blog is fantastic Cate and has given me something to think about 🙂

    1. Trusting people is always a hard one for us to learn, but it sounds like your mistake in trusting the wrong person has paid off and you have learnt from it. That’s great and I’m always glad to make people think. 🙂

  3. Bourbon

    Unfortunately I too come with a story of deception. When I was blogging over at there was a very disturbed young lady who pretended to die 3 times. Once from suicide, once from anorexia, and once from cancer. The first time it nearly killed my best online friend at the time who was already in hospital with pneumonia caused by a very bad eating disorder. To hear one of her close friends at died nearly sent her to the edge. Even today I see this person around. She has become very well known in the online world for her fake deaths. It is scary what some people will do to get some attention.

    1. You’re so right. It is very scary what people will do and how they seem to have not a hint of conscience. They seem to ignore that people at the other end of a computer are real people who are often vulnerable already.

  4. Well, you know where I am with trust at the minute, Cate. You also know why. I’ve been badly burned so many times now that there are days when all I can see is scar tissue.

    That said, I’m extremely glad that I can and still do trust people I haven’t physically met – and you above all others know why… 🙂 xx

    1. Yeah, I completely understand. I know that scar tissue runs deep but like you say I also know there are excellent reasons to still trust the right people we haven’t physically met. The hard part is sorting right from wrong. ❤

  5. Therein lies the problem with the internet. I’m sorry this happened to you! It’s happened to me before but not on the same level.

    I think it’s great that you run some support groups! I know of some people who have found a lot of help using online support groups 🙂

      1. I agree!

        If people are going to lie online then they’re not good people.

        This reminds me of a documentary called Catfish. It addresses an issue similar to yours in the sense of someone created an elaborate online lie.

        I used it to talk to my youth about how they need to be careful online 😛

  6. Trust is a difficult issue for those of us who trust too quickly or trust the wrong person because we believe they’re like us — they’re who they say they are. Then the red flags go up and lies eventually come to light and we’re hurt, disappointed and disillusioned. Two things I’ve learned: If you listen, people will tell you who they really are (“I’m mean,” one guy I worked with said, but I didn’t believe him because of his demeanor. After working with him for a long time I discovered his basic nature was truly one of a mean individual) and if someone repeats something about themselves over and over again, it’s a lie (like in one of Shakespeare’s plays, “Methinks the woman doth protest too much.”)

    I still trust too easily, but I’d rather do that and keep my heart open to what could turn out to be a good relationship rather than harden my heart or close it off due to the pain generated by liars and deceivers. That’s one of the reasons why I try to take my time in reading the various blogs on WP. I’ve got many still bookmarked, although I’ve not been in a frame of mind lately where I’m able to read any, to start at the beginning and work my way through to the present. In doing this, although I see many people following certain bloggers and liking what they write, and see that sometimes these very people are ones whose blogs I follow and/or have become friends with, I stop reading, or if I’ve begun following, I stop because I believe they’re lying. Some blogs I started following but had to stop because it was harming my mental/emotional health — I just couldn’t deal with what they were blogging about. It’s no reflection on those bloggers. Yet I can think of three right off the top of my head that I know in my heart are liars, even though they’ve received many awards, have many followers and write fantastic stories — but that’s just it: they are fantastic, in the literal meaning of being a fantasy.

    I’m sorry you had to experience this, Cate!! I’m sorry the other people involved in these groups for real reasons were hurt, too. It sounds like things turned out for the good in the end for the true people and I’m glad all of you have changed things around and are still there to support each other!! I’m proud of all of you for sticking it out, coming back together and continuing to support and help each other — especially after this painful ordeal!!

    1. Hi Kathy, You make a very good point about listening to what people are saying. I think sadly we listen to what we want to hear people saying and so get deceived. I also agree with you that it is important to choose wisely the blogs you follow. I have found exactly the same thing and have chosen not to continue to follow some for the same reasons. It makes me sad that people feel the need to lie in any context but unfortunately it seems to be human nature. I hate that. 😦

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