Pretending to have cancer to get back with your ex-girlfriend. Just another Monday at the office!
And they call me crazy?!?!
My ex-boyfriend and one of the emotional vampires I have dealt with recently told me that he, at the incredibly young age of 25, had lung cancer in May, just as I was recovering from surgery for a much smaller health problem. Before this, I had not spoken with him for almost a year, aside from a few snappy exchanges on facebook when we attempted to be “facebook friends”. I recently decided to deactivate my facebook account. I was quite horrified with the way it was colonizing human behaviour before I discovered this.
Since my mom died of cancer, this would have been a practical choice to cause me great concern. I guess it made sense because I had recently had a physical “health crisis” of my own?! And it worked like lucky charms – as soon as he told me he had lung cancer I decided to become close friends with him again, despite the 2000 mile distance between us. One day, he posted a picture of some cancer-infected lungs on facebook. When I commented on it, making some reference to his own condition, assuming he had “come out” about having cancer if he was posting photos like these to his public facebook account, he quickly told me not to say such things – he had only told me and “a few select people”, not including his family. He was going to face this alone, without a caregiver for the first time in his life. I was proud of him.
We messaged each other back and forth for a few weeks. He was living in some strange situation that involved a seventeen year-old girl and a former prisoner/drug dealer. He had quit smoking! He asked me questions about cancer, which I knew the answers to, after having learned quite a lot about the disease while my mom was sick for two years. He talked about himself a lot, and provided me with several “short stories” he had written for me to “review”. It felt a little to familiar, as I was scrambling to write my 2 deferred papers, so I let him know I was recognizing this pattern that had characterized the dynamic of our relationship. He actually admitted that he had been being quite selfish, and read an essay that I wrote! Not only that, he told me he liked it! It seemed that we could be friends, and that if, goddess forbid, he did die, he would leave this world with my friendship. He doesn’t have many friends. His open cocaine and heroin use during his early twenties pushed people away. He had no desire to meet new people, but he was great at pointing out their faults.
A couple of times he told me he was “feeling really sick”, and thus to please excuse any “strangeness”. I guess this was a reinforcement strategy of some sort? He told me that “he was not long for this Earth”. Whenever I tried to ask more about his condition, he did not respond. I probed a bit, but told him he didn’t have to talk about it if he didn’t want to. He didn’t.
We continued to converse until I decided to place a temporary moratorium on facebook a month ago, that has now become permanent.
When a family member contacted me to tell me he had tried to commit suicide twice in a few days, I imagined that he was on his death bed, or had received some terrible news from a doctor. I imagined that he was on chemotherapy and missing his eyelashes. This family member told me that he had requested to speak to me – only me. “He said you were the only person in the world that he could talk to.” At a “strangely” coincident time, he began sending e-mails to me telling me that he was going to enter the psych ward, telling me that he was “incredibly manic”, and the style of his writing made me believe him. A flood of e-mails came in, also saying, “I wish I could talk to you. You are the only person in the world who would understand what I’m going through right now.”
I decided to call. To my surprise, he seemed to be in good spirits. I asked him to tell me about his current “state of mind”, and reasons for trying to take his own life, but he said he was feeling fine now…but let’s talk! I told him a bit about my life, and I spoke of my magick garden and the strange phenomenon of opium poppies growing in people’s front yards here – a great irony, when Canadian soldiers are dying in Afghanistan over opium crops used to make heroin – there are 10,000 heroin users within about a five block radius here on the notorious “Downtown Eastside” of Vancouver. Somehow he managed to draw from this that I was under the strong influence of opium. I had smoked a little B.C. bud and blue lotus before I called, just a couple of puffs to settle myself down.
“You sound so different,” he said.
“Really? Maybe because I still smoke a lot and you don’t!”
I think at that point I had already realized that I “sounded different” because of how much I’ve grown since we were together. I found my voice, and no longer had anyone around me belittling the things I said, my research, my scars, etc. (Recalling one of his lovely statements at the end of our relationship – “no one will ever be with you again with those scars all over your body, look at you! hahahaha.” I said something about people changing over time, but he seemed quite…awed. I let him know that I had been feeling a little nuts myself, not able to sleep or concentrate very well – I exaggerated this a tad, trying to let him know – it’s normal to feel a little crazy sometimes, to not be able to sleep for a few days now and then. It allows you to see things from different perspectives. You have to try to concentrate on the light side instead of the darkness below.
“Let’s talk about you now, though!” I said, “Why are you trying to kill yourself? What did you do?”
He told me that he had put several cigarettes out on his arms, so he guessed that didn’t really count, but he had been thinking suicide while doing it. I did not realize the strange paradox that lay therein. He had lung cancer. He had quit smoking…
As for the second attempt to end his life, his male roommate had found a canister of white powder in “some park or something”. He let Evan* try it out, knowing that he would put anything up his nose if there was some possibility it would get him high. (This is why we broke up, if you haven’t read about our history on this blog.) Evan* realized it was amphetamine of some sort as it gave him a great deal of energy. He decided to inhale as much as he could at once, with the goal of “making his heart explode”. Much to his dismay, this only led to much vomiting.
I tried not to “lecture” him, the way I did when we were together. I told him about the beauty and the Earth and how critical minds like his are needed in this world. Then I asked about his illness – the cancer.
He seemed confused for a minute, and then mumbled something about getting a bronchoscopy in the distant future. This did not seem like the usual treatment for lung cancer, as it is the weed of cancers, but I let it go, especially after he told me that it was very hard to talk to me on the phone – that he couldn’t help but put on a good face, or good tone, I suppose. I told him I had homework to do and we said our goodbyes.
That evening, I wrote the post on emotional vampires, with memories of my past with him as well as that with other friends who sucked my energy dry after speaking with them – it felt like I could tell him the sun was going to stop rising tomorrow and he would laugh nervously and say, “uh-huh”, and then forget about it. It was a very odd conversation.
Evan* rarely reads this blog, but he decided to that night, and assumed the “Emotional Vampires” post had been solely about him (he’s a bit of a narcissist!), even though certain points I made did not reflect our conversation earlier in the day at all. I actually had a friend from the distant past in mind, who I also spoke with that day. After the two calls, I was down for the count – “no more work for me today!” My mind was quite bent, and as I often do when it is, I wrote. I wrote something humourous to lighten things up a little.
My e-mail inbox started filling up again. However, I opened the first message and only read the first few lines about how he had been offended about the blog post. I wrote back without reading any further, explained myself, told him I was quite horrified with the way he was treating his body, considering his incredibly serious health condition, and offered other healing advice.
Then I skimmed the e-mails. Gross. As he did last year to justify his drug binges to me, he brought up a woman I slept with before him and I were serious. A familiar feeling crept up from my toes as he distorted and confused situations from four years ago, right before my own suicide attempts. Yes, we were living in a rat-infested residence at the time. Yes, I participated in some “illegal” drug use with him. Yes, I escaped by having relationships with two other men at the same time, during which he would break out the hard stuff – crack and heroin. When I arrived back at the apartment, where I kept the bulk of my clothing but nothing else, he would blame me for having caused him to turn to hard drugs. Perhaps, in part, I did, although I don’t think you can really blame these sorts of personal choices on others. He never understood this, though, and after I had overdosed on Lithium and he called me at the psych ward to tell me that he had pawned his guitar for crack/heroin money, and almost did a break-and-enter with a “crack whore” before her pimp came along and sent him away, I broke up with him.
To put a long story short, we had an on and off relationship that was much more of a friendship than a true love relationship. I met him, initially, during my first hospitalization, and moved in with him because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. He eventually was sent to rehab, we broke up, got back together, etc. I actually counted down the minutes until he would leave when he came over for a visit before we moved into the rat-hole together. I didn’t like being affectionate with him. I wasn’t physically attracted to him, I couldn’t really talk to him – you know, really talk – and I preferred to be alone. We had been through some tough experiences together, and in the end, this kept us together for almost two years. I grew to care about him deeply and love him, but much more as a friend than a lover. He was very critical of my academic work – compared to his masterpieces in the psychology and philosophy departments – and told me that if I didn’t lose weight he wouldn’t be able to have sex with me anymore – he would have to go elsewhere to satisfy “those” desires. Clozapine, the antipsychotic the doctors put me on after the Lithium incident, made me gain almost 50 pounds. I gave up chocolate, went to the gym everyday, and got into quite the rigid schedule. I could only carry on the charade for so long – it was inevitable. I’m not a gym person. I’m a smoker. I like chocolate and candy.
The fact that he still, to this day, cannot recollect how horrible he made my life while I wrote my thesis and graduated, (when I arrived home to tell him that I had officially finished my degree!…he said, “hm, that’s nice, I’m not, I’m completely f***ed regarding school, now you have time to help me!” while spending hours a day bargaining with him and trying to get him to stop using “hard” drugs, kills me – not nearly as much as it did when we broke up, but I still care, I can’t help myself.
Cancer?!?!?!? We could be friends again.
Today, Alarryyk posted some witty comment on his facebook wall, and the third series of e-mails came arrived in my inbox. I told him to stop harassing me. Then I logged into my facebook account, temporarily suspending the moratorium, and gave him a little taste of his own medicine, re: digging up the past and making below-the-belt comments. His response? Threats to post nude photos of me on the Internet, other more subtle and cryptic threats, the claim that “no one but my immediate family” thinks that I’m half-sane or wants to come within a few metres of me, and that I’m a “child who will never change”. (Projection, much? One of the psychological theories of behaviour that I have observed many times, and thus somewhat believe in.)
When Alarryyk caught wind of these threats, he sent him an e-mail, and they had a conversation. Alarryyk warned him what the consequences of such “XXX” Internet activity would be, and told him it was probably too close in time to our break-up to jump into a friendship. Evan* expressed that these were blind threats to stop me from spamming his facebook page. Fine. He sent Alarryyk one last bizzare e-mail that we couldn’t quite comprehend, but it seemed to hint that he thought he had driven a rift into our relationship. Like I said – narcissistic. And apparently, sadly unaware of what a true partnership and union of love entails.
However, being analysts of texts ourselves, Alarryyk and I did a little forensic e-mail/facebook analysis when I got home from school. Alarryyk told me Evan* came off as reasonable, and I was quite surprised. We started going through the e-mail exchanges, noting when his tone changed considerably and he fell into fantasies about four years ago, the time just after he met me at the psych ward, and imagined I was an innocent little girl that he could “save”. Then, we logged into my soon to be no more facebook account to see what he sounded like about a month ago, right before I logged off for at least the rest of the summer.
There, we discovered one message from him, sent after I told him I would not be using facebook.
“Oh, ‘G2′ fill you in about that health thing. It’s been over for about three months now, the treatment cessation. There was just a whole in my lung and some pleural fluid was leaking out.”
I began speaking with him, according to this time frame, a month after his physiological crisis was resolved! That is, if this was not made up as well – I will never know! He did not have lung cancer. He was never “not long for this world”. He told me he had one of the deadliest cancers in existence to get me to talk to him. The extensive photo albums of pictures of us on his facebook page, and the fact that all of his “short stories” were quite obviously about different versions of me – including one about a male student with a B.A. (hons.) in sociology who grew up in my neighbourhood, and one about a bisexual woman throwing herself off a bridge before some dude could save her – should have been a tip off. This fellow is still just slightly obsessed…but
…I have a soft spot for cancer and people facing death. I felt like helping someone through an illness after I was recovering from my own.
I cannot believe it.
Operation Shock and Awe, Part II!: My ex-boyfriend pretended he had cancer so that he could have a relationship with me again, even if just a friendship – it would lead to more and there would be a “happily ever after” – for him.
This is one of the sickest ploys I’ve ever been subject to. I cried for days when I “found out” he had cancer, along with tears I was crying because of other pressures I was facing at the time. But it was a lie! The boy was crying wolf once again. But cancer-wolf? Now that is just plain twisted.
I don’t have anything else to say about this right now. I am relieved that he is out of my life again. I’m more incredulous than angry. What would the DSM call that? “Munchausen’s” or “Malingering”?
I’m not a fan of Mondays to begin with. But, the world is my office – this is just another strange tale of mental/societal breakdown to file away for the time being, that may turn into the inspiration for a sociological project one day.
Please tell me if you’ve had a similar experience – perhaps this is a wide sociological phenomenon of some sort. Or perhaps I was in such an antipsychotic-induced haze for two years that I did not realize I was “with” a man boy willing to go to such depths to manipulate people. I must say, among all of my wonderfully crazy friends, I’ve never heard of anyone experiencing a fake cancer scam before…
Yes, I better do that filing away now.