Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How deception affects us

On Mondays, usually I try to catch the show House. Some days I watch fully engaged while other times I'm multi-tasking with dinner and being online. Tonight was the latter, but I managed to get the gist of the episode about a woman who became ill (not sure why she came to the hospital initially) and was a blogger. Apparently, she blogged about everything in her life, and at one point, there was an argument between she and her boyfriend? (maybe husband?) about blogging every nuance of her life. He didn't want her to blog about what was going on in the hospital or what she might possibly have (he felt like her blogging had become a form of entertainment only for an audience), but she differed, feeling like she needed to let her readers know.

Fast forward to the end. The girl was no longer dying of lymphoma like everyone thought, but rather House found clues through her blog about her symptoms. Then, he promptly asked her about what kind of bowel movements she had. A bit mortified and puzzled why he was asking her this, she answered. House explained the diagnosis--the catalyst was switching to a vegan diet which caused gastrointestinal problems which just snowballed from there. Then, he asked her why she held this important information from them and her blog readers. Of course, the girl's answer to that was who wanted to read about her feces? Lastly, House said this (this is not completely verbatim but close) right before he walked out:

"It's okay to have secrets as long as they are not going to hurt you. They are what keep us warm and fuzzy."

So this brings me to my latest adventure. Over the course of the last few weeks, I had to be a bit of a "spy" at work. I had to visit some other nearby dog facilities to get an idea of how they were run, what they featured, how filled to capacity they were, and most importantly how our facility would be different. Though we had already done a CMA (comparison market analysis) and knew information from my boss's clients, you never get the full picture unless visibly touring the facilities.

After visiting the first facility, I had this horrible sense of guilt. I felt awful that I was disguising myself the way I was, because the girl giving me the tour seemed so nice. It was obvious she thought I seemed like a very thorough, concerned owner, and she mentioned that I was her longest tour. When I got back to the office, I really wondered whether I could tour another facility. It took me a full week to mull this over.

After thinking it over, I decided to go visit the other two facilities. This time around, I found it much easier. It was as if I convinced myself that this wasn't a bad thing. I felt like a sly, smooth pretender. There was no longer an unsettled feeling but rather a settled comfort. I was surprised at how easy it was for me to be "deceptive" the second and third times around. It was almost like everything I said rolled off my tongue, and I became the role I was playing so well. A true actress, indeed.

This whole experience reminded me of my early ED days. Despite treating my parents like sh$t, I still felt horribly guilty for lying to them about my behaviors, whether I ate or not, whether I was manically exercising or not, etc. I think there was an instance or two where my dad asked about purging, and I vehemently denied it. What happened as a result of this? I convinced myself that I had to lie, that the deception would only hurt them more than me, that I needed to be even more secretive--a better actress.

Clearly, the problem with this logic or lack there of it was that by continuously lying, I just furthered myself into more self-destructive ED'd behaviors. The deception hurt me worse than anyone else.

Obviously, there are differences between these two lies. In the first scenario, I was not hurting anyone nor myself, whereas, in the second one, there was a lot of damage done.

I don't have any enlightening comments but that it is important to realize how deceiving ourselves can hurt us. Whether it is that we will be happier at X pounds, that we really don't need nourishment of any kind, that just "getting by" is okay, that starvation and overexercise is an okay way to quell our anxieties and stress (in a sense neurochemically, yes, but in the long run, not), that an ED will not kill us, think again. It is often difficult when your head is just full of ED mess, but I think it's the little things that count. That by every lie we are able to thwart aside, that it is a step toward eventual healing.

Note: *My acting was not completely intentional--that I thought about everything I did and the outcomes. Rather, it just seemed "normal" to me, a way of survival. Much of this is a hindsight type thinking.


Finding Melissa said...

Wow - I really relate to this; and, over the years, became increasingly aware of the damage that lying can do, not just in concealing something that you might need help with, but in eroding your sense of self and any self esteem. At the height of my eating disorder, I felt like I had trapped myself in lies and was always waiting to be exposed. I felt like a terrible person; yet the level of fear was so great that telling the truth was unbearable.
Now, like you, I struggle with any form of 'deception'; and, I suppose it's working out the right balance - which it sounds like you're well on the way to doing!

M said...

I was never good at lying ... I would outright declare whatever behavior, proclamation, craziness ... and soon discovered that people don't like confrontation.

I think parents, husband, loved ones find it easier to deal with manipulation and/or lying than outright "this is what I'm doing, and I can't/won't/don't want to change ... and you can't make me." People metaphorically (and sometimes literally) walk away and drop it ... leave you with your eating disorder in an uneasy unspokenness.

I think that's the most enabling, destructive thing at play in chronic, long-term eating disorders. Everyone has a tacit agreement to avoid, accept, deny, minimize ... and the eating disorder continues and worsens. It's a fragile dynamic ... b/c patients need someone to push them, hold them accountable, challenge the familiar and the uncomfortable boundaries of sitting with change (or even initially accepting it) ... but not so much so that the patient walks away from help, signs out of programs AMA, shuts themselves off from people and the only potential for help, especially b/c once you're all deeply "in it," deception is pretty difficult to discern from the truth ... everyone has normalized the dysfunctional.

Carrie Arnold said...

I, too, totally relate to this. I blamed my lying and deception on other people (ie, I wouldn't have to lie about eating if my parents wouldn't be hovering so much and always asking if I ate). At first, the lying is awful and disgusting and I hate myself for it. But later, it comes as more second nature.

I've always been a pretty good liar because I can see lying as pretty similar to writing stories. I can spin a storyline out of thin air. It's a skill that can come in handy, but I'm not exactly proud of it.

I didn't get to catch House and now I'm going to have to watch this episode online.

Kim said...

Like Carrie, I've always been a pretty good liar. It's the fiction writer in me. I kept a private journal for a long, long time and would really only tell the truth there. I thought it wasn't safe or wise to share the real me in public. Often, I was angry or upset or whatever, but I put on a smile. I've only really let go of this in the past couple years. I've started just being me and, it turns out, people don't mind much. I've found I rarely write in my journal anymore. I take that as a good sign that I'm being authentic and honest.

Tiptoe said...

It's good to know that others can relate.

Melissa, yes, that trapped feeling is awful. I hope we don't have to suffer through feeling that anymore.

M, I totally agree with you about people normalizing th edysfunction which just keeps you more immersed in ED.

Carrie, I think that's what scares me the most about all this is how second nature it can become. And sometimes, it isn't as easy to change as we think.

Kim, that is interesting about not writing in your journal anymore but makes sense too.