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Living A Lie: The False Identity All Scapegoats (and some step-parents) Must Bear

“You should write a book,” Michael sometimes tells me.

“I don’t wanna write a book,” says I. “You know I have the attention span of a gnat.”

“But you’d be good at it.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll write a book about you. I’ll write about your life for your children so they really know their father. You’ve had enough adventures for five lifetimes. I swear your Guardian Angels stagger into the Break Room after their shift, grab a cup of coffee, collapse in a chair and tell the next shift of angels, ‘Heads up, boys! He’s in rare form today. You won’t believe what I saved him from this time’!”

Michael just laughs. “Don’t bother,” he says, “my kids won’t believe a word.”

“Why not!?! Didn’t you have Father Story Time with them during visitation?” I ask.

Daddy-Tell-Me-A-Story on Saturday nights was one of my most treasured memories from my childhood. But my father’s adventures don’t hold a candle to Michael’s.

“I tried,” Michael says sadly, “but they were told that I’m a liar who’s always making stuff up. They were told that my official Army pictures in uniform were taken for Halloween and that I never served my country. They didn’t believe anything I said even when I produced documentary evidence. So I stopped trying. I rented movies and made popcorn for them instead of sharing my life stories with them.”

That just breaks my heart. But Michael has made peace with being the object of lies. It’s nothing new for him. He was born to be his family’s Scapegoat and, fifty years later, I kinda suspect remains the convenient, docile scapegoat for the misery and guilt of all his relations — blood, law, distant, close. Even when he’s not present, everything is somehow inexplicably all his fault.

How he handles it so graciously without losing his cool or loudly insisting on his innocence is beyond me and mine. While, to some extent, I too was the scapegoat of my family and the one-who’s-blamed-because-blame-must-be-assigned by my narcissists, nonetheless, my life has been one of Closure and Simplicity. No loose ends. Everything neatly tied up with a Big Red Bow on top. That’s been my life and I really liked it that way.

So when I vowed “to love and to cherish…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen” I didn’t realize that I hadn’t only become Mrs. Thompson…I’d become Mrs. Scapegoat too.

Oh, it took awhile. About seven months after our wedding, I found back-handed attacks on Michael. Heaven only knows what “facts” were being concocted about me. Within two years, my name was cited in documents submitted to the court. Within three years, I was called “bitch” on my website and thoroughly shamed for supposedly telling my step-child “Mike can’t love you anymore, he can only love me” and told in no uncertain terms to “fuck off.” I have all the screenshots. Backed-up. In triplicate!

My new identity, the new Lie I am supposed to live,  is apparently that I’m some sort of Machiavellian succubus who lured a naïve man out of the state of Wisconsin, jammed a ring on his finger and then isolated him in my lair in Minnesota.

And I have to live with this new identity haphazardly woven from gnarly strands of razor wire, full of jagged loose ends. There’s no Big Red Bow on top. There’s also no truth in it.

Unlike so many of you, Dear Readers, I’m not good at gracefully being vilified. You’ve come to Narcissism Meets Normalcy because you too were the Scapegoat. You too were lied about since birth. Everything is your fault. As Christ bore the burden on the Cross, you bear the burden of your family’s guilt, shame, blame, misery…but it doesn’t fall away at Calvary. Confusedly, you drag it through life.

The more you protest, the less valid you appear. You may disavow and proclaim your innocence one hundred times, but just like the media has demanded of our Executive Branch of Government, if you don’t disavow one hundred and one times, you’re still deemed guilty. The first one hundred times just didn’t count.

You’re Living a Lie. But not in the traditional meaning of that phrase. It’s not a Lie you created for yourself. It’s not the False Persona all narcissists weave, don, wear and defend to the death.

No, you’re living a lie created for you by others…but it’s not your true identity. It’s a phantom person. A phantasmagorical identity. It isn’t you. There’s no truth in it. That person doesn’t exist.

You’re honest. Straightforward. WISYWIG. What You See Is What You Get. Just like Michael.

When I met Michael, I knew he was truthful. How? Easy! When you ask him a question, his answer is short, sweet and to the point. Bam! WISYWIG.

Seven years later, living in each other’s pockets, cheek by jowl, nose to nose, twenty-four hours a day, nothing’s changed.

If he was a liar, he certainly couldn’t keep up the pretense this long even in his sleep. Michael talks so much in his sleep, I started jotting it all down. I may publish it all under the title Michael After Midnight.

What is so magical about “short, sweet and to the point”?

Because liars have to talk. A lot. That’s because their words don’t sound truthful to them and so they assume we can feel the falsehood too. Their solution is to talk more and more and more to convince “us” but actually, it’s to convince themselves. To misquote Shakespeare, “Methinks they doth protest too much.”

When I was a little girl, my mother told me, “Lenora, if you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said. Tell just one tiny lie and it will balloon and mushroom and pretty soon, you won’t be able to keep all the convoluted details based on the original lie straight in your head. So just tell the truth the first time.”

I figured that was pretty good advice and have always followed it. My brain functions like a spreadsheet. Straight columns, straight rows. I couldn’t follow the convoluted twists and turns of a lie if I wanted to.

One of the hardest parts of recovery from Narcissistic Abuse is to cling to what you know to be true about yourself. In a culture where the law states “you’re innocent ’til proven guilty” but where the media, the masses and the tabloids all believe that any and all dirt about a person is obviously true, it’s hard to say, “No. Actually, I’m not bad. I didn’t do {fill-in-the-blank}. I didn’t say {fill-in-the-blank}. I would never even think the vile words being put in my mouth, much less say them. It’s not in my character.”

That’s damnably tough. You’ve Lived a Lie foisted upon you for your entire life and now you grasp your Good identity with both hands and hold on tight! You’re in for the fight of your life!

The hardest part is to do it privately and not to try to convince the narcissists, the liars, the sycophants, the trusting children and all the rest that you are a Good Person and that the lies are just that: lies. Falsehoods. It’s incredibly hard. Somehow, Michael does it with so much grace.

But I don’t have his grace. I’ve held my tongue for seven years when really I wanted to protest, to scream! To tell my adult step-children…

“You’re all intelligent so, please, think it through. Dare to challenge what you’ve been told. You know it doesn’t make sense.

You always ran to your father, jumped into his arms, knocked him over, gave him big hugs.

Would you really love a bad man?

Would a man who was so loving, so pleasant, so caring, who fed you so well at visitation pretending that he wasn’t hungry so there’d be enough food for you really ‘abandon you’?

Would a man who lived on peanut butter, crackers and caffeine in the semi truck really ‘not support you’? Not come to see you in the semi when he was back in Wisconsin? He called ahead and came to see you. But the nest was empty and the birds flown, many times.

C’mon! Think it through! Dare to challenge all that brainwashing.

You’ve had one helluva raw deal in life. Your parents were never well suited to each other, but your dad isn’t the type to ever leave a child of his under any circumstances. He worked sixteen hour days in the machine shop to give you every good thing. But when a woman moves on and says “get thee out,” well, the husband/father has no choice in the matter. Out he must go.

To this day he talks sadly about seeing his two eldest children in the upstairs window of the house, crying and waving, on the day he was kicked out. It was the saddest day of his life and he still grieves over it. (The youngest was just a babe in arms or maybe not even born yet.) He went from seeing his children every day to every couple of weeks or so.

Alienation followed. He exhausted every option for protecting his children in court. The family court system chewed him up and spit him out, just as it does to all men. All fathers are ‘deadbeats’ to the court. The court doesn’t recognize any father, any man as good, dedicated, loving or hard-working.

Then he got really sick. Terminal.

There are support Summer camps for children whose parents have cancer. There are no camps to support children whose parents have Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis. Has anyone offered you any empathy? Because you deserve a ton of empathy and you have it, from me. Your young lives have been wracked by pain no child should ever have endured.

But there’s been so many lies told about Michael and me, particularly surrounding his move to Minnesota.

When did Michael move to Minnesota? October-ish 2011.

Why did he move? Because he almost died in Eau Claire choking on lung protein and no one in that house came to his aid. They were all drunk and laughed at him! He needed a calm place to live.

When did Michael and I meet? Not til 2012! Ergo, I did not lure him out of the state of Wisconsin. Not Machiavellian. Not a succubus.

After Michael moved to Minnesota, how many times were you able to see your dad? Once. Christmas 2011. (You never knew he starved himself and hoarded every dime for months to buy you each one present and to cram his fridge full of food. You’re old enough to know now.)

After we were married, you saw your Dad as often as you wanted to come! Who do ya think facilitated that, eh!? It was my house. My car. Who do you think bought his Android so you could communicate and text with him daily? Me. My door was always open. I bought you toiletries, toothbrushes, tampons. All the stuff you needed. I was happy to provide it ASAP but a little surprised no one came packed these basics for weekend visitation.

When the youngest said, ‘When you married my Dad, you married me too’ I responded, ‘You’re absolutely right.’ It was so profound, I was blown away and remain astounded by the depth of that wisdom in someone so young.

God may’ve not given me the gift for hospitality,  but I tried. I may’ve worried too much over the meals, cried too hard during movies and tried too hard but at least I tried to make your visitations as pleasant as possible. I even sent food home with you. Cookies and pizza. Remember? We made the pizza together. I should’ve set out the mozzarella to soften before grating. I didn’t have a pizza cutter so we cut the slices of pizza with my kitchen scissors! Remember?

When I twice saw the two eldest beating the youngest in the chest, I told Michael who told them to knock it off and bought them stuff to bribe them. Remember? January 12, 2013. A day I’ll never forget. The day the sheriff served your father with papers during visitation. He wouldn’t have known we were at Denny’s unless at least one of you arranged it. Betrayal and public humiliation during visitation. It can’t get much worse, much lower. But I’m sure there were strong forces at play; maybe coercion. I could see it in your silence.

Such profound silence when your father and I offered to take you into my pleasant home, to fight for custody. Silence. It wasn’t a ploy on our part. We just wanted you to be happy. We planned to re-model my townhome and enclose the loft so each of you had your own comfortable and mold-free bedrooms.

When I learned about the cutting, I told Michael who told the custodial parent how to handle it with grace. ‘The cut wrists are merely expressions of pain. Cutting starts with pain in the heart. Don’t focus on the cuts. Don’t do wrist checks. Focus on the heart.’ The cutting started years and years before Michael knew about it. Before he even left Wisconsin. He realizes that now.

It was I who discovered Parental Alienation. It helped Michael make sense of it all. Finally he understood why everyone was so two-faced. Why he was as kind, loving, supportive as possible…yet still seemingly hated behind his back.

For years, I’ve played Devil’s Advocate for you. Never against you. For you.

I was playing Devil’s Advocate for my step-children the day Michael paced the floor, thinking outloud: ‘The two eldest seem to hate me. They’re disrespectful. I won’t force them to talk to me if they’re so angry and I won’t take verbal guff. If I only talk to the youngest, the beatings from the older ones will be worse than ever. I’m worried. Better I just step away. They’ll be grown soon. Maybe then they’ll figure things out. Maybe they’ll want a relationship with me…then.’

Michael and I visited Social workers on your behalf to see if there was something, anything we could do to make your lives better.

I addressed the envelope containing the August 2015 letter Michael wrote to his youngest. I had the horrible responsibility to break the bad news to him when it was returned, unopened, marked ‘Return to Sender’. He had to bear all the hatred because ‘Dad couldn’t be bothered to write to me’. But he did. He did write to you!

He sent it to your last known address in Oshkosh. They kindly forwarded it to T**** where it was returned. Unopened. Didn’t the people in T**** ever tell you “Dad wrote you a letter”!? Here’s a picture of the envelope.

He never, ever sent a letter saying he didn’t want to see his children. That’s a stupid lie. 1) It’s not in his character to do something so vile. 2) He wouldn’t be that stupid. He wanted to keep custody.

For years, I’ve kept tabs on all of your lives. Kept your dad updated and informed. He liked that. Sparkles when he hears about your wins, your successes, your educations, your jobs, your relationships. Nothing else makes him sparkle quite as much as hearing about his children. He’s so proud of you. Of all of you.

But he won’t tolerate drama. The trust is no longer there. Vile words are hard to unsay. I saved them all. Screenshots. You can’t snap your fingers and un-say what you’ve said to us and about us. Trust, once given freely, is hard to earn back when you worked so hard to lose it. When you slap someone across the face (verbally), you can’t blame them for staggering backwards.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying my damnedest to take care of your father.

My epitaph will read ‘She tried, she tried, she tried, she tried and then she died’.”

But I suppose I am, and always shall be, the Step-Mother from Hell. It was assigned by people who don’t know me from Adam. I sure as heck didn’t earn it.

Well, one of my step-children is beginning to “git it” and that’s really, really nice. Maybe there’s hope after all.

Whether you choose to believe truth or not, generally speaking, is your prerogative. But truth is truth, whether you choose to believe it or not. Just because a fact is inconvenient or you don’t like it, doesn’t make it false. Society these days doesn’t seem to understand that!

But, generally speaking, people who need a scapegoat in their lives will never “git it” because they don’t want to. Well, if they need a Scapegoat that badly…!

Whaddya say, Scapegoats All? I guess it doesn’t take up too much of our time. We’re living, rent free, in their heads.

“God, give me the Grace…” to live with the lies told about me but not to mind too much.

Photo by The Consortium

Living A Lie: The False Identity All Scapegoats (and some step-parents) Must Bear

Lenora Thompson

For five years, "Narcissism Meets Normalcy" has followed the real-life, ongoing story of freelance writer, Lenora Thompson, and her readers’ healing journey from narcissistic abuse to healing, peace and happiness. In August 2020, Lenora launched a new blog, "Beyond Narcissism…And Getting Happier All the Time" as she and her readers explore the new world of peace and happiness. "Beyond Narcs…Get Happy" is 100% reader supported! To learn more about Lenora, her husband Michael’s heroic fight against Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and to subscribe to her other writings, please visit Thank you!

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APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2019). Living A Lie: The False Identity All Scapegoats (and some step-parents) Must Bear. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Aug 2019
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