Confessions Of A Recovering Catfish – Part Two

I never considered myself a catfish until it was recently pointed out to me. I mean, my profile picture was me. I told people the truth regarding where I lived, what I did for a living, the nuts and bolts of my everyday life. But it pretty much ended there. Beneath the veneer of respectability I created a version of myself who was cooler, wittier, more outrageous than the very plain person sitting tapping on their phone.

I escaped into a fantasy, online world where everybody loved me and thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. I became increasingly detached from reality and the people who really mattered. Harmless half truths snowballed to become whopping great lies. I became a master at mind games and manipulating situations to my advantage. I let my family down, I let myself down. I was spiralling out of control. Always down.

It all came to a head when I met someone online who was a bigger catfish than even I was. They, too, were who they said they were. They posted photographs and lived a life but, beneath the seemingly tranquil surface, was a twisted, unhinged mind. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. This catfish was hooked. I felt sorry for them as I was regaled with stories of how crappy their life was and how badly they had been treated by others.

I wasn’t prepared for the blizzard of emotions they blasted me with. They said I was the most incredible person they had ever met. They adored me, they worshipped me, they loved me like they had loved no other. To my eternal shame, I fell for their honey coated words. I was like a rabbit caught in the headlights. I knew it was very wrong but I craved the attention, the adulation, the incessant accolades and adulation.

They was a she of course; and she was very clever. She plucked at my heartstrings like a concert violinist. About her terrible marriage and abusive husband; her eating disorder and self harming; her suicidal thoughts and erratic mood swings. I was the only one who could save her. And if I didn’t do so then, well maybe, bad things would happen her. Maybe one day I would message her and she wouldn’t be there.

Looking back on it all now, I shake my head at my own naivety and gullible nature. I ended up hating her and part of me still does for the damage she caused me and my family. But not as much as I hated myself. For since it ended I have battled thoughts of revulsion and loathing towards myself. I have beaten myself up day after day after day. Even though I have been forgiven by my loved ones I still struggle to forgive myself.

My catfish days have also damaged my relationship with God. I walked away from the church and largely shun organised religion now. I avoid interaction with other Christians as so many of them let me down. I am also better placed now to see beneath the superficial friendships and faux concern of church life. I don’t read my Bible, I don’t talk to God, I don’t even know if I am a Christian anymore.

Most of all I let myself down. This blog is my attempt to put things right, to use my writing skills for good and seek to warn others of the pitfalls that I plunged blindly into; I want to help others and, by doing so, help myself. To put the past behind me and forge ahead with the people who matter. To cast aside the baggage of shame, guilt and despair. To rebuild and resow. To emerge out of the darkness and back into the light.

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

59 thoughts on “Confessions Of A Recovering Catfish – Part Two

  1. It is so easy and natural to fall into a trap online as I did a few years ago also.
    I left my terrible marriage, job, state, everything because I believed what a man told me online.
    He was Nothing like his online persona at all.
    I had to relocate to Ohio, take everything I could with me and escape him. He stalks me to this day. All because he catfished me
    And I fell for it. All of it.
    I hate.myself and him for what choices I made.
    Now I’m suspicious of people online and I try to be as transparent as I can so that people don’t get the wrong impression. I don’t accept odd friend requests anymore nor do I fall into peoples tricks or games.
    Great post!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I applaud your honesty…and completely understand your difficulty in forgiving yourself for what you did. I went through a not dissimilar situation, and I too found self forgivenezss very difficult. It still comes back to haunt me from time to time, but someone in the know once asked “Do you believe God has forgiven you?” I replied “Yes”. “So”, said my friend, “You consider your own opinion more important than God’s?” And he left it at that. Ever since, when I start to think “I can’t forgive myself” I remind myself that if God’s foirgiven me, then who am I not to forgive myself.
    I’m not sure this will resonate with anyone who isn’t Christian, or who struggles to believe God has forgiven, but it certainly worked for me.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. fatdormouse is right. Not to forgive yourself when God has forgiven you is like saying that Jesus’ death on the cross may have paid for everyone else’s sins, but somehow yours are different. Release them! And please don’t fall for the other lie – that you don’t need “organized religion” and they don’t need you. We need one another! I don’t know where I would be without my brothers and sisters and their prayers and encouragement. Are they perfect? No, but neither am I, and neither are you. But the One who IS perfect has told us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves. So if one church doesn’t seem to be doing what it’s supposed to, go to another one. Look for people who are genuine, humble, seeking God, and loving one another. That’s where the healing is. … in my not-so-humble opinion. (FYI, I’m working on that.)


  4. Oh, you need to give yourself a break! We are all human. Look into your heart for answers and then let this go. We’ve all been there in some way. I’ve made peace and you can, too. Give yourself light.


  5. A lot of our sins and the past weight that come with them can bury us. We can dig up, ironically, every excuse and reason there is to hold onto this burden. We punish ourselves because we fell, and we fell hard. We allow the pain from others to scar us and it is tempting to use that pain others inflicted as a weapon to explain why we are the way we are. I actually have a post about church coming up tomorrow as it is my birthday week and people seem to enjoy discussing the topic. It is not an easy one to read. I’ve experienced bitterness and I know what it means to be ashamed of myself. In both circumstances it made me run from people and God. I still had a relationship with Him but I was never fully honest with Him about my thoughts and feelings, I cloaked those, tugging them away with vague chats. He knew the truth of course, but when He finally revealed what the issue was, both times, I could not run away from what was in front of my face. There is always hope, I want to encourage you with. God works in many ways and the main thing He needs from us can start as a simple desire and then effort. Never lose heart, my friend.


  6. I think to a degree most of us tend to show the best parts of ourselves online. In reality I can be quite a reclusive and moody person if you ever met me. I just don’t think it’s constructive to show this side of myself online. I started my blog to showcase my poetry and write articles. I didn’t think I would start publishing a lot of fiction as well, but so far WordPress for me has been a mostly enjoyable affair, and I’ve met some really good genuine people here. In fact I’m enjoying it far more than Facebook, which I’ve started to lose interest in.

    I have met people who try to get your sympathies, and often they have a rather tragic tale to tell. I tend to be quite guarded with people like that. I end up wondering what their game is. If they seem to be having a tragedy every few days it tends to stretch my belief to breaking point. These days I’m quite suspicious of anyone who is trying to communicate with me, if I haven’t prompted the communication. I guess being online for a while does that to you.

    Any image anyone puts up of themselves could be something they found online, so I always take most profile pictures with a grain of salt. I like my privacy so I always tend to use an obviously fake one (for example, that’s not me holding a lightsaber).

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes I just finally checked my email today, I can be a bit lazy with checking it… I’ve read all the instructions, and I’m confident that I’ll read all the chapters and be able to comment in the time frame that’s been given. I’ll start tomorrow after I’ve been to the dentist. I’m looking forward to reading it 🙂


  7. What an awful beast we’ve created, where people with good intentions can be deceived, and people who truly need help go without, perhaps because the rest of us have become more wary. It hurt to read about what happened to you, because years ago, I was that woman trapped in an abusive marriage, filled with despair and suicidal thoughts, engaged in self-harm and an eating disorder. But my situation was very real, and the support of my blog readers meant everything to me, and was very healing. To think that there are others out there who pretend that their situation is the same, to seek attention or whatever their motive, is disgusting. Likewise, I have learned that reaching out for support online when you really need it can also open the door to people with bad intentions, who pretend to help and support you, but really only intend to do more harm. The internet is not a safe place. Too many people wearing masks. Every photo I post can be stolen and reused by the wrong person. Every thought I express here can be copied, ripped apart, used against me in some way. I hate it, and yet, here I am, because I have nowhere else to be in real life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes there are good people out there, but there are predators who will prey on people if given the opportunity. Sometimes it’s difficult to work out which is which.

      I’ve thankfully become quite good at recognising the fake ones. I’ve had problems in the past with stalkers so I tend to be very suspicious of everyone early on that I meet online. Which is quite sad if you think about.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sad yes, but I get it. I’ve also had issues with stalkers and pretenders, and have learned to be more guarded and careful about what I choose to share.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. This is so honest that I find it refreshing to read, even as it is also painful to know how deeply this affected you and your family. In the past my own online reaching out became unhealthy many times and also damaged my real life relationships.

    When I first heard the term catfish and saw the TV show etc. I was surprised to learn there was another meaning for the term beyond how I’d been using it. But first a disclaimer: I am NOT trying to tell you what to think or how to examine your heart, please don’t take it that way. I chafe inside when other Christians try to ‘fix’ me!!!

    Just want to throw this thought into the hopper to be milled over!

    Where I live in Middle America one of our strange and little known colloquialisms is to call some types of self-made successful entrepreneurs ‘catfish’ because ‘they gobbled up the crap nobody else wanted and got fat.’ A wealthy scrap metal dealer in a neighboring village would fit that description. His property is horrendous, cars and things piled everywhere. He grabs unto all the junk no one else wants, and now he is worth millions–he got fat, like a catfish, gobbling up the stuff others rejected.

    In examining my own behaviors with others, and relationships, online or other, that turned toxic, I think I may have done this type of catfish thing. I saw other people being treated as the ‘crap that nobody else wanted’ and I just wanted to make a difference, make them know they were wanted by someone and did have value. It was still costly. But viewing it that way makes it a bit easier to forgive myself for doing it.


  9. This is difficult. You are owning your part in the situation. I too lost my faith in the Christian way. I am not sorry, but it is still a loss to be grieved not guilty (IMHO). Bottom line… I admire your strength to face your “stuff” and to keep moving forward!! 🌟


  10. Your honesty is extremely refreshing and encouraging. We are all royally messed up, and some of us know it. 🙂 I’m grateful to you and Fionnuala for sharing your story.


  11. Creativity takes courage and so does honesty. I appreciate your unflinching transparency and wish that more people would let go of the highlight reel that social media spawns.


  12. I commend you on your bravery for sharing so honestly. I understand what it feels like to be caught up in a situation and to unintentionally perpetuate it until it feels like there is too much momentum to stop it. I’m glad it seems you are on the healing path now.


  13. See? I knew it wasn’t a closet hobbit fetish that was Your Big Secret. Now that the whole internet knows, though, I’m sad to be correct.
    Also, I understand your reaction and self-deprecation. Time is the best healer overall; a better is self-forgiveness. I recommend using a professional to specifically address the negative emotions so you may meet them and then release them.
    You’ll still be bothered a bit at your gullibility, but not so much that you’re cringing on the floor and shamefully hiding from those who know.


  14. A tad bit of humor. When the internet came out my mother was a nazi. Said everyone online was fake and not to speak to anyone. I never did chat rooms or anything. Honestly I can barely keep up with real life. Anyway one day while playing Pogo she met the man of her dreams. Never met him but he was married but she’s been in love with him forever. The day she found out he lied about his age she was furious. My sister and I both asked her what did she expect people can pretend to be anything they want. She got super mad and if we even bring up how if situation was reversed and we had online love of our lives she would call it fake. When I respond to your blogs it’s always a prompting about God. And unless you no longer believe Jesus was God’s son and came to take away our sins you are still a Christian!


  15. Thank you for being vulnerable and honest. Your story is relatable; many of us will encounter a period of our life when we feel we’re spiraling completely out of control. However, most of us don’t admit our shortcomings the way you have, and that’s always the beginning of your next step. We can’t move on until we see what we had to overcome. Excellent read.


  16. i don’t know what to say, and yet i feel compelled to. i’m sorry, of course. that this happened is awful, that someone could do these kinds of things to others is awful, and i’m sorry you’re suffering. i admire your writings, however, and what i’ve taken away from them is that you are, at the core, a decent person. i hope you come through this and find things are better on the other side.


  17. Let’s be clear about the difference in guilt and shame. Guilt is healthy. It lets us know we messed up. Prevents us from messing up again. Same is when we are beating ourselves up for things beyond our control. My dear fellow human, I have all the compassion in the world for your struggle. Through some intense struggles of my own, I walked away from the church. And I realized that God is inside me and always has been. God is inside you too. We aren’t bodies with a soul… we are souls with a body. ❤️


      1. Well, the first time wasn’t voluntary. I was 6 and I got kicked out of Sunday School for singing Heaven Is a place on Earth by Belinda Carlisle. They clearly had no appreciation for the most epic key change of all time. 😁

        But by choice, when I was 21. So 13 years. I can remember sitting in church when people would be worshipping and “feeling the spirit” and I worried that something was horribly wrong with me because I just didn’t feel anything. Except for extreme fear that someone might notice that God didn’t come to me the way He did the others.

        But it wasn’t that. I just wasn’t meant to experience The Divine within the confines of organized religion. And perhaps you aren’t either. ❤️


          1. Since I wrote this early this morning, I’ve heard the song twice.. it was in the background when my aunt called me earlier and then it came on as soon as I walked in the grocery store. Then, I was just reading about my galactic signature (Mayan dreamspell calendar, interesting stuff!) and my interpretation literally said “your job is to bring heaven to earth”. Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” – Albert Einstein ⚛️


  18. It sounds like the woman you fell for was kind of a narcissist. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’ve heard a lot of people say things similar to what you said here about the church. I definitely understand why you feel that way, but I think it’s important to remember that organized religion, the church, they’re not God. They’re just a group of imperfect humans. They have good and bad in them, and sometimes the hypocrisy can be hard to take. I don’t think that you should judge Christ by organized religion though. Jesus wasn’t a hypocrite. He didn’t preach hate or walk around judging people and turning his back on them the way so many “Christians” do. Jesus is all about love, forgiveness, and helping others. You don’t have to be a part of the church to be a true Christian, in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Harley Q2, Anyone who is very quick to open up to you emotionally… that should be a red flag. If you notice the majority of the conversations are centered on their traumas. Notice the pattern that exists around discussions of trauma. For example, a starving single mother talks about how she has no money for food, you send money.. don’t hear from her for a little while and then when you do, she begins the conversation by building up your ego and waits a day or two (or not) before she hits you up for more money. Your life, your experience and how you are doing only comes up briefly.

      If you don’t see them engaging with a lot of friends besides you on social media… if they have less than 25 friends and all of their friends have less than 25 friends… if you notice any small inconsistencies (which will inevitably become apparent in time). Always ask for the opinion of a trusted friend and be aware that you may not like what they have to tell you.

      Liked by 1 person

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