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Munchausen's is ruining my life...

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Munchausen's is ruining my life...

Postby k626 » Sun Jul 19, 2015 6:27 am

I've recently established that I have Munchausen Syndrome. It started that whenever I got sick or had an injury I wanted it to be worse than it actually was. Then I started faking being sick to get the attention. I don't overplay it much with my parents as they aren't really the type show empathy/sympathy over anything. It's mostly with my friends (now ex-friends). I told them I had cancer (and I wished I did... messed up I know) and it brought us really close together as they wanted to help and be there for me. It wasn't one-sided as I did a LOT for them and helped them through their stuff, but I was lying. Each time I felt a tremendous amount of guilt but I just couldn't stop myself from taking it one step further each time. Eventually I took it too far and they knew I was lying about something even though they didn't know what exactly. One of them called me to come over and when I did, everyone was there and they said they knew I wasn't being truthful and had to cut all ties with me. None of them will acknowledge my existence and I've completely ruined these relationships and they were the most important ones I had. I finally started seeing myself having a good life and now that's over. I know I'm a terrible person for lying to them and no one will know the guilt I have from it. I really did love them more than anything but I couldn't control myself. I'm pretty sure this all stems from not getting enough attention as a child and going through some abuse (a lot is fuzzy and I don't know everything that happened but my father was on drugs and an alcoholic and not a good person). I just want to not have these feelings anymore and live a normal life of wanting to be healthy. Most people pray that nothing is wrong with them and I constantly wish something would happen. Anyone in a similar situation or found something that's helped? I really want to just talk to someone who's going through something similar and won't judge me.
Thanks
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Re: Munchausen's is ruining my life...

Postby kittymiffy » Mon Aug 03, 2015 11:23 am

Hello.

I don't have Munchausen's (I've got a complex mental health diagnosis consisting of several interlinked anxiety disorders, including OCD), but many years ago I had a friend who was given a diagnosis of Munchausen's after she had been hospitalised several times after doing some extreme things to herself in order to attract the ministrations of healthcare providers. It came to a head when she stole a friend's insulin kit and she ended up in (as far as I can recall) a coma. In her case, that incident became a tipping point for the better. She received quite intensive psychotherapy and I think she was also given an SSRI, such as Prozac or the like.

I mention her because I saw similarities both her trajectory and yours. People with Munchausen's often receive pretty short shrift, and I think the reasons for this are usually pretty straightforward. Most humans don't like being lied to, and this is compounded when the friends and family of a Munchausen's sufferer have been put through significant worry - that their loved one may be dying or desperately ill, only to discover that this is not the case. In the case of my own friend who had Munchausen's, when her "illnesses"' became serious, I worried constantly and, of course, myself and her other friends went into "rescue" mode.

I'm trying to be very careful about the kind of words I use to describe the inevitable fallout when someone with Munchausen's or Factitious Disorder is a part of someone's life, because my post isn't about wagging fingers or judgments. There are no winners for either the person with Munchausen's or their friends and family. It has a stigma to it, perhaps in an abstract way, like Borderline Personality Disorder can have, and I think this is because the disorder doesn't just damage the sufferer, it affects everyone around them. But by the same measure, in the same way that people have had to look closely at ways to begin to empathise with the less savoury elements of BPD and see the illness as causing the problem rather than the person causing it, it would be good for all if there could be a step-change in the way both loved ones and health professionals interact with a Munchausen's sufferer. This isn't the same as saying that what amounts to unacceptable behaviour should be passively accepted. My late ex-partner suffered terribly with uni-polar Bipolar Disorder (he didn't get lows, but often became manic with psychotic episodes). Once, when he was hospitalised he began ranting and shouting right in my face on the psychiatric ward. After ten minutes of this, the ward sister pulled me to one side and said "it doesn't matter how mentally unwell a person is - whether they are psychotic or not - you should never put up with unacceptable behaviour. If he does that again, just say 'I am going to walk away and come back later, hopefully when things are a bit calmer, and we can talk again'". I never forgot that advice, and in most cases, the rule is a fair one. I know it sounds obvious to say it, but the prolonged deceit and manipulation that Munchausen's sufferers often engage in falls under the category of "unacceptable behaviour", because they behaviour is abusive.

I don't believe friends and family should turn their backs on a Munchausen's sufferer, but when people do distance themselves, it is to protect themselves from further hurt. A bit like me needing to turn away from ex partner when he was raging at me. But I didn't turn away permanently, either with him or my own friend with Munchausen's - and one strategy in trying to rebuild bridges that you may have broken is to, over time, really try and gain an understanding of your disorder with objectivity and to share what you've learnt about the way people who are actively suffering with Munchausen's with your friends and loved ones. This isn't an overnight thing. Even the most enlightened people can struggle to comprehend mental illness, and from my own experience with my friend, I only really began to empathise with her plight once she had a) agreed to receive help from psychiatric services & b) once I got a grasp that her dishonesty and fabrications were being powered by a disorder that at the time she was not able to control.

You are not a horrible person. Your Factitious Disorder is a mental illness, and your illness has lead you to behave in ways that people simply find almost impossible to comprehend. What concerns me about your post is that whilst you say you want to change, you haven't mentioned anything about what you might consider doing to address this properly in a concerted and serious way. Losing all of your friends and your social connections through this disorder is a big deal, and I'm sure you know that. The language you use when you talk about your disorder has similarities between the way an addict talks about their drug of choice. In the same way that one of the cardinal indicators of addiction is the loss of friends and family due to the addiction, your Munchausen's is activating enormous losses for you, whilst you are clearly still feeling the pull of feigning illnesses for the empathy and attention it might offer you. Using the addiction analogy again - addicts often have to hit rock-bottom before they address their illness, and what worries me is that you are at risk of following a similar pattern with your disorder. My friend hit rock bottom and when all was gone she had no other option but to get help. Your post suggests that you still have options, and perhaps it is time for you to really think about seeing your doctor and allow other people - professional mental healthcare workers - to help you to begin to unburden yourself of a disorder which is to all intents wrecking any chance of a normal life. The potentential prospect of even toying with this idea I could imagine is terrifying, but I need to be clear that Munchausen's can and does regularly kill those who suffer with it. Each cycle becomes more extreme in the pursuit of getting a fix of empathy and people have become so detached from their own rationality they have ended up mutilating themselves internally and externally.

The need for attention, love, empathy, affection are all essential to humans - there is nothing strange or peculiar in needing those things, but, as you know, there are healthy and unhealthy ways of receiving - and giving - those emotions. I can't speculate on your past, and whilst your past is important from a psychotherapeutic stand-point, from a practical perspective what should matter most to you right now is the present and perhaps slowly trying to accept that, ironically, you do have an illness, and from your own account that illness sounds very much like a Factitious Disorder. If you are in constant pursuit of being ill, of wanting to be ill, or most worrying of all, making yourself intentionally ill then this is inevitably going to make you feel deeply unhappy - even though you might erroneously believe that illness is your key to happiness. I had a stroke in 2005. Believe me, real, life threatening illness is not something that would make you happy. This is because whilst ever you are manufacturing your "illnesses" you are in control of the outcome of your "illness". When you are genuinely ill and your life is endangered, all control goes out of the window. Many people with Munchausen's become so extreme they do make themselves gravely ill and sometimes die by manifold means. Your ability to control that kind of outcome is nil, and like the boy who cried wolf, would you really want to be genuinely desperately ill and dealing with it alone because your friends and family didn't believe that you were really very poorly? Please try and make a first step before you risk sliding further and further into this disorder. You are worth so much more than a made up illness. Once you really let people in, you are honest with them, and they listen, you will receive the right kind of attention, and you have a hope of learning how to love yourself. Your friends will respond positively eventually if they know you are trying to get well again. And if they don't respond favourably then perhaps it might need a leap of acceptance on your part that mistakes, however small or large, are part of what makes us, that they can't join you on your new journey and you can make new friends.

All of these good things are a possibility if you take that first small step, but whilst ever you remain fantasising about feigning more illnesses you will remained trapped in a cycle of destructive behaviour that risks damaging your mental even more through issues like depression. I really wish you the best. You need to put your trust in someone and take a leap of faith - even if you leap in small steps to get there.

Best wishes,

Matthew.
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Re: Munchausen's is ruining my life...

Postby ktv13 » Wed Aug 12, 2015 6:48 am

This response was spot on and was very helpful to me as well. Kudos!
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