Maladaptive coping mechanisms.

What are yours?

Here are mine:

  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Escapism
  • Oversleeping
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lethargy
  • Apathy
  • Sociopathy
  • Lying

Today I'd like to talk about that last one.

I am an amazing liar. I do not take any pride in this. If I felt I needed to deploy a falsehood for the maintenance or mitigation of my mental illness, I used to do so not only without compunction but with such virtuosity that I believed myself more often than not. My ability to speak with complete confidence about matters I know nothing about has served me well, and that skill likewise empowered confabulation.

I'm off drinking, and my life is the better for it. I cannot say enough about the benefits of complete sobriety. It's been hard, but doable.

I'd rather quit drinking a thousand times than give up lying. It's so much harder, and so much less rewarding. Lying protects the people you love. Lying protects yourself. Lying hurts no one, except myself, and I have an infinite capacity for self-wounding. Lying allows me to maintain the illusion of my high-functioning, pretty little life surrounded by people who loved my lie. I'd rather lie than be hurt, shamed, and unloved.

Or so I thought. When I lie, I'm saying that I hate myself. Regardless of what I represent specifically, I'm saying that I so despise who I actually am that I cannot show that to people who love me. The real me is not worthy of love, so I lie to keep others around me. Then the brain turns on itself, and I realize that by lying to those I love, their love actually becomes a lie. Thus the real me receives no love, even if that love would be freely given. The real me has no love, so I lie some more. And so every day, hour by hour, lie by lie, I pull myself farther from the authentic compassion which I so desperately need.

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I am done. I cannot and will not lie anymore. So I come clean, bit by painful bit, until perhaps people will see the truth and give me what I need.

The only big lie I have yet to repent is to my parents. I have lied to them for five years, at significant personal and emotional cost.

I am a smoker. Not a death-wish smoker (although perhaps I do have a death wish), I smoke about half a pack per day. I only smoke outdoors, even in the dead of winter. I don't see the point of smoking indoors, frankly. I smoke to break from the horrible things that go on in my mind constantly - for those five minutes it's just me, the fire, and the smoke.

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It has kept me alive, and keeps me alive even as it kills me.

My grandfather died of lung cancer almost ten years ago. He started smoking when he was 16. He was 90, and quite robust. The cancer ate at his lungs, then spread to the rest of his body, ravaging him and killing him even before he actually died. He was my mother's father, and my mother was his favorite child.

Two days from now, I am going to tell my mother (and my father) that I smoke. I am terrified. Three years ago, if given the choice between never seeing my parents again and coming clean, I would be paralyzed with indecision. I have had consistent panic attacks and nightmares of being found out. Every single time I have seen my parents for the past five years, I have worn a nicotine patch and gutted it out, sometimes for weeks. Not only do I hide the smoking, I have to hide the patches. My suitcases are full of used Nicoderm patches and shredded wrappers, because I couldn't dispose of them inside the house, or even in the hotel. I dreaded every visit with them because I knew I would have to lie more, and lie just as well. I started coming up with excuses not to come home, or not to have them visit.

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I love them, and they are the best parents a poor bipolar boy could ask for. I'm out to them as bipolar, as a recovering alcoholic, and as someone who's had suicidal episodes. They have loved me unconditionally for twenty seven years. I can't lie to them any more.

Quitting is not an option right now. Please don't bring it up. But I have to tell them.

But I'm still fucking terrified.