#depression #mentalillness #gaslighting
When I was a child I was a terrible liar.
I didn’t try it often, but when I did, my parents told me so. For a while, this discouraged me from lying.
But as I got older, lying became less of a trivial indulgence and more of a survival skill. I lied so people wouldn’t know how mentally broken I’d become. I liked to maintain family relationships. I lied to my first serious boyfriend when I was 17, told him I wasn’t an atheist so he wouldn’t leave me.
I don’t like to lie, but sometimes I feel like people leave me with no choice.
I lied to men so they’d leave me the fuck alone. I lied to professors about late papers, said I was sick because they’d never guess the sickness was actually depression.
I lied to friends. Yes, I’m okay. No, I don’t want to talk about it.
I lied to interviewers and employers. No, never about my credentials or skills. But about my feelings and identities, yes.
I lied to lovers, said I didn’t like them “that way” at all, figuring they’d exploit my feelings if they knew about them.
People–primarily men–insist that I should endeavor to always tell the truth because something-something Immanuel Kant. They say that if someone can’t Handle The Truth then I should Just Ignore Them and Move On. Even if it’s my boss. Even if it’s my mom.
When you have a mental illness, lying is often necessary because your thoughts and feelings just aren’t acceptable. Because you get tired of having to explain them to people, only to have them say, “That isn’t really justified though” or “That’s not exactly fair.” I never fucking said it was.
The most frequent lie I make is turning a negative thing into a positive. “Well, the internship wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I learned a lot and gained lots of useful experience for the future.” “Yeah, the party was lots of fun.” These embellishments and selective answers come tumbling out of my mouth so easily now that I’m not always sure that they’re inaccurate anymore.
But I say them because I was never given the space to say anything else.
“Honestly, I really hate my internship.” “Oh, but there must be good things about it too, right?”
“I miss college a lot.” “But it must be so much better to finally be done with it, right?”
People turn my truths into lies. “Come on, it’s not that big of a deal.” “You’re not really bisexual.” “You don’t really think that.”
(How dare you tell me what I do and do not think.)
If you are a white man, I can almost guarantee that you don’t know what it’s like to have everything you try to say about your own experience considered suspect by default, always in need of proof or correction or clear argumentation presented in a bulleted list. It is tiresome, and above all it is boring.
Maybe telling the truth is intrinsically “better” than lying by some measure. Maybe you think I owe it to you. Maybe I “ought” to be strong enough to either argue my opponent into silence or Just Forget About Them And Leave.
Or how about this, instead: I don’t see any reason I should have a moral obligation to tell the truth if other people don’t seem to have any moral obligation to respect it–and to respect me.