Another share from a good friend of mine on a personal experience share, and I could not thank them enough for putting this together for us! If you would like to write a blog share for our site please let us know and click HERE, it's about people helping people!
For the purpose of this blog, I would prefer to remain anonymous to show respect to those that have experienced pain, and also caused pain. I believe no how bad of a human being you are, there is still potential for good.
We often associate mental illness with the bipolar personality disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts, the act of suicide, self-harm, depression, and the like. The more I have immersed myself amongst the mental health community, the more these mental health issues surface and I have realized how common they are, how much knowledge people have about their suffering, medications, doctors, alternative treatments and experiences that have touched their lives. But one thing I have not come across yet is Munchausen syndrome. I am not sure if that is because people are unwilling to share their story, it is not as common as the aforementioned mental health issues, or it is a personality disorder that is difficult to diagnose thus, there are fewer cases.
“Munchausen syndrome is a factitious disorder, a mental disorder in which a person repeatedly and deliberately acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness when he or she is not really sick. Munchausen syndrome is considered a mental illness because it is associated with severe emotional difficulties. Most of the symptoms in people with Munchausen syndrome are related to physical illness – symptoms such as chest pain, stomach problems, or fever – rather than those of a mental disorder. Although Munchausen syndrome usually refers to a factitious disorder with mostly physical symptoms, the term is sometimes used to refer to factitious disorders in general.”
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The definition sounds simple enough, sort of like chronic pain syndrome or fibromyalgia that some medical practitioners do not believe exist. It is all in the mind they say. Well, when it comes to Munchausen syndrome, they would be right. But from my personal experience, it is not nearly as simple as its definition.
In 2009 I was catfished by a man who had said he received my number from a friend. Seems innocent enough, doesn’t it? Our conversation carried on for a couple of months until my birthday, this is when we had made plans to meet. He was to get on a two-hour flight from the coast and spend the weekend with my friends and I celebrating my birthday. On the way to the airport, he was involved in a collision which put him in ICU. I was absolutely distraught. A week later I received a message from his best friend saying he had passed away one hour after we said goodnight. I was so traumatized that I was sedated for two weeks. At the age of nineteen, I did not know what catfishing was, nor was it very common nine years ago because social media then was not what it is today.
As weeks went by, his best friend Michelle, kept in contact with me, always checking up on me. I found out that she lived thirty minutes away from me and we decided to meet one night. We instantly became good friends, spending weekends together, going out partying. I was quite shocked at how well we had taken to one another. For three years, we became the best of friends, thick as thieves. We were even called dumb and dumber, the two stooges, because we worked and partied together. We were the best team you could have ever had working for you. Our friendship was not only “death-defying,” we were the most well-oiled machine for any company that employed us.
In December 2011, I was contacted by another man, who also apparently lived within close proximity; ten minutes to be exact. We struck up a cyber relationship because every single time I tried to meet him, there would be some excuse. During this time, my best friend started to behave very differently toward me. Things became very secretive; I was shunned from her circle of friends, she was always on her phone, she would not share stories that best friends would usually share with one another such as dates, what she did on the weekend, etcetera. After seven months, and many hours of research, I found the man that I had been conversing with online. He had impersonated a professional boxer; all his pictures were used from Facebook and Twitter. He had even created different stories around some of the pictures according to the timeline they were posted on Twitter. I remember sitting at my laptop screaming hysterically, my mother rushing into my room trying desperately to calm me down. I called my best friend and told her that he had just been using another name, along with the boxer’s pictures, to which she responded: “Oh, are you sure?” At that moment, I did not know what I was more confused about, her lack of shock or the fact that I had just found out I had been catfished, again. This time, however, I was not going to let the person on the other end get away with it.
During the next two and a half years, I kept every picture, every message, email, voicemail, tweets, DM’s, BBM’s, everything you can think of, I filed it. I analyzed every single persons’ existence in my life; conversations, interactions, etcetera, to see if I could pinpoint the culprit. As you can imagine, this took a lot of physical, mental and emotional energy. I was also torn between the thoughts of this being someone real that I had struck a relationship with and a liar. But something incredibly disheartening began to happen. Every time my best friend was over at my house, I would not hear from this man. When she left, I would hear from him again until she came over again. Every now and then she would slip up, repeating things that only this man and I had discussed, almost verbatim. She would randomly start a conversation about a topic I had discussed with him the day before.
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You can imagine my dismay and the heartache I was experiencing as I realized what was unfolding right in front of my very eyes. I began to realize that my best friend had catfished her way into my life, and to keep me from having any real relationships with other people, she was doing it again. This was in an effort to keep me to herself, to isolate me so that I would have no one else to turn to but her. As she began to sense my suspicion, her behavior became extremely erratic and physical ailments began to occur. I think this was to distract my mind from the bigger picture and hone me back into our friendship.
One week I had distanced myself from her and suddenly she had a heart attack but did not contact me. So I had no idea that it had even happened until we spoke the week after. I had suspected something happened because whenever something happened, her profile pictures and statuses would change every few minutes to attract attention. They were always very morbid, and cries for help and attention. Let me just state for the record that people suffering from Munchausen syndrome often take medication to induce certain illnesses, and also fake medical records such as blood tests. I did not see my best friend take one pill for her heart, nor did I ever see one bottle of medication prescribed for her heart condition. I was not taken to any of her appointments, ER scenarios; anything that happened to her physically, I did not witness with my own eyes.
I was made to believe that the people we worked with hated me, called me unsociable, a snob, a bitch, and many other names. My best friend had often told me how our colleagues would trash me. in the four years that we worked together at the same company, I did not make one friend. I answered yes, no and how high, kept my head down, and did my work. Whenever I needed anything, I would consult my best friend who would then consult my superior, my colleague, or the director of the company. I was so isolated and felt so dirty that my anxiety became out of control. I began experiencing panic and anxiety attacks. I was prescribed quite a lot of medication, including antidepressants. Suddenly, my best friend was prescribed antidepressants too because she had suddenly developed a drinking problem; so I was told.
When I eventually did start dating again, she made it impossible for me. I had to separate my boyfriend from my best friend. I had to play a game of chess; one weekend to my best friend, one weekend to my boyfriend. I could not be on the phone too long with the one when in the company of the other. They would scream at each other everywhere, in front of everyone and anyone; in public, family functions, parties, in a mall. It literally drove me crazy because I could not control the conflict and the push and pull effect from both ends. I became so addicted to prescription medication that I was constantly induced with something. I guess you could say I was a functioning addict.
One night my boyfriend, my best friend and I went out to a club, my best friend went to the car and came back with a blazingly red cheek. She told us she had been mugged in the car park getting cigarettes. Again, I had witnessed nothing. The next morning she told me she wanted to go to the doctor to get her face checked out. When she came back to my house, the whole side of her face looked like it had been scraped with sandpaper. I was told the doctor had to clean the scratch marks. These were no scratch marks from a person’s nails, this looked like a brick had been taken to skin and scraped off an entire layer of skin. Of course, at work, everyone began to think we would go out and get into physical altercations which left me even more isolated.
Eventually, I had to break up with my boyfriend at the time because I could not control the aggression between the two people in my life.
She would often tell me that she speaks to guys and was not interested in any of them but would go on dates with them. The same thing would happen every time, she would find something she did not like and would never see them again. I do not even know if they existed. Until one day, at an event, she introduced me to someone she had been talking to on Tinder. I found out that she was actually talking to both him and his brother to see which one would bite first, reject that one, and go for the other brother. This cycle carried on for a while until I stepped into the picture and put a stop to it and exposed her. I became tired of all the lies and deceit. A person can only take so much.
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Toward the last few months of our eight-year friendship, I began to speak to colleagues at work about her and what had supposedly been said about me. Most of it was denied but what was even more devastating, were the messages I was shown about me. She had been discussing how close I became to the brothers I was introduced to, how she considered us as trash, and I did not care about her because I had a new man in my life. She told me outright that I could not date the one brother, but that she did not want him. Nevertheless, I was still not allowed to date him because he was her friend.
During the last year of our friendship, I began to have night terrors and physically harming myself. Once I had cut all contact with her and left our place of work, the night terrors ended. There is some speculation as to whether I was being poisoned because she had full access to my life. This is common in mothers suffering from Munchausen syndrome; they medicate their babies to make them sick so that the child has to depend on them all the time.
I ransacked my house, looking for bugs, cameras that may have been planted to spy on me; I turned the place upside down. I was extremely depressed, I had lost my best friend because I could not help her, and in trying to help her I was slowly killing myself. I wanted to believe so badly that things would change, but after eight years, I could not cope anymore. I developed my own set of mental illnesses from this, including addiction to prescription medication. My life has never been the same since.
Everyone has a story. No one chooses to wake up with a mental illness. I, unfortunately, was imprinted on by someone suffering from something extremely difficult to diagnose. It is a mental illness not often talked about, but it is a serious one; for the person suffering and those around them that may be directly influenced by their presence in their life. Not only is it dangerous, it is sad. I lost a best friend and she did not get any professional help; we both suffered in the end.
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