“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.”
- Bad Press In Black & White (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Cate: 1 BPD: 0 (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)