Strangers Among Us


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Hello Luvs,

I am writing today about a topic that I had hoped to never write about. But it has come to my attention and the attention of several support group leaders on Facebook; that there are imposters trying to infiltrate our support groups.  This is a sad story and one that should never happen.  Anyone who runs a support group for any illnesses, including and especially the chronic pain illnesses, needs to be aware of this situation.

I opened up Facebook a week or so ago, only to feel relieved in a way, that none of my support groups were affected by this “fake” person who pretended to have RSD/CRPS. This intruder into the CRPS community had befriended over 600 people on Facebook in over a period of just about 3 years.  She started her own support group and then the worst happened.  She gained  the trust of many people who are suffering with the horrible chronic nerve pain of CRPS.  She pretended to have the disease and pretended to have “cured herself”. This is unforgivable and preposterous to say the least.  I had no idea about any of this until last week when all of the news broke.  Her account was found out about and she disappeared.

She disappeared but not before taking with her dozens of trusted CRPS patients photos and videos.  She asked them to make videos and send them to her and photos as well. She wanted these videos to be showing how they “worked through their pain and pushed through it”.  She told several people in her support group that on the delicate and sensitive flaring areas of Skin that has been diagnosed with CRPS/RSD; they should rub sandpaper! She wanted photos and videos of them doing this.  Also, just to inform you that this practice is horribly wrong and could cause terrible pain, progression of illness and even worse, infections.  She told a person to “pull on their RSD/CRPS riddled fingers until the pain was excruciating” and told them that this would “help them cure their RSD/CRPS”.

This “fake” was a well known figure in the RSD/CRPS community for these past few years.  She had some telltale signs that I notice right away and thus the reason I vet my support groups very carefully.  She had no real photos on her Facebook page and no family pictures or friends.  Nothing “personal” stood out, from what I hear, on her page.  She never showed herself in a video or a Facebook chat or video either.  If anyone has ever watched the Television show called “Catfish”, that is one of the biggest clues to being a “fake” or a “Catfish” account. When you befriend someone on Facebook please be sure to check out their profile. Also, it doesn’t matter if they are friends with some of your friends, it can still be fake.  Look for the signs of “realness” and of being a true person online. Look for achievements, and milestones, family and other photos (as I stated above) and don’t befriend anyone that you don’t feel comfortable with.

Please understand that most of the support groups are wonderful on Facebook. They are run by loving and caring patients living in pain also.  Feel free to check out the group admins. pages also.  Look them up and see who they are and if they are shown as having a true Facebook account as well. Feel free to ask questions before you join a group, to see what the person believes about your illness(es).  Check to see  if you believe in the same ideas, or not?  The people living in the pain community have seemed to me to be so caring and always wanting to help a fellow sufferer.  I think this is where the story gets so dark, because this “fake” person tried to gain the trust of people who are kind and caring and suffering.  We are all trying to make sense of these illnesses and the pain that they bring, how could anyone “pretend” to have something and then hurt people who’s trust they’d been given freely?

These are questions that I cannot answer nor fathom.  This “fake” person was finally exposed and the authorities were called.  There’s not much else anyone can do because she/he or they, closed down their Facebook account, their support group and took all of the photos and videos with them. Wherever they’ve run off too, we will never know.  We don’t know if that person will show up again and now people will be afraid and looking around every corner for someone like this; wondering who to trust now?  But if you are requested to do anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing, don’t do it.  Unless you know someone online and have done a face chat video with them, or met them “in person”; don’t give away anything personal in the form of information, videos or photos. But please don’t give up on the support groups because there are many that are loving, kind and very helpful.  I am so thankful that this person did not make it into my support groups.  I remember the name and remember “her” asking to be in my groups and I felt hat something wasn’t quite right.  I declined her entry into my groups. I declined her friend request. I am just lucky in that respect, because many of my dear friends who are very careful; were still affected by this imposter into our RSD/CRPS community.

I’m concerned for the people who were hurt in my communities. This person was relentless in her “pushing” people to do things that were painful in order to give them false hope of a “cure”.  She said that she herself had been cured and that all of the things she told them to do, she had done and this is how she got well.  We all want hope and so these people were desperate for some kind of relief. With our pain medications being taken away weekly and more people being denied appropriate pain relief; I can see how this can happen.  But just be very careful and don’t give up on the support groups but be selective in your choices.

The CRPS communities are left now with a bigger wound to heal.  They feel vulnerable and duped. People are trying to wrap their heads around the idea that their photos and videos are out there somewhere and they don’t know where? Please know that if you were a part of this scam, it is not your fault.  The imposter was very “good” at what she was trying to achieve. She was sly and deceitful in her endeavors to trick a community of pain sufferers.  Please be assured that the Police have been alerted and Facebook security also has been told about this.  There is not a lot that they can do except to try and make sure this doesn’t happen again.  We all have to be a part of that! We all have to keep our eyes and ears open without getting too paranoid or hurting more people in the process.  Don’t accuse anyone if you are not sure, because that’s happened to some RSD/CRPS patients as well.  That has got to be a horrible feeling and it appeared that the people who were wrongly accused have regressed and so we have to be so careful not to be one way or another.  Just be on your guard but not overly suspicious of everyone due to this situation.

Here is a link to another article written by someone else regarding this subject:  http://www.blbchronicpain.co.uk/news/facebook-crps-faker-pretend/

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Support Groups,Chronic Pain, And Why Kindness Matters


 

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When we are in pain, it sometimes can be hard to see another persons pain as well.  I have founded and am Administrator for several Support groups online. Some are for chronic illnesses & pain. While others are for fun and socializing. I’ve noticed that my group for people who love Cats,”The Scratching Post”; is very different than my other groups that are in support of people living with different kinds of pain. The reason that they are so different is because people who are just there to hang out and talk about the silliness of Cats  are usually thinking more positive thoughts and they’re in their happy place. Those of us who struggle with pain, may feel a various number of emotions. We bring those emotions into the group setting. Luckily, in the support groups that I run; I have not had any trouble with drama, in-fighting or bullying whatsoever.  I tend to think that it is because I have been the sole administrator and I take care of anything and everything Before it happens. I always check the “new requests” very thoroughly. I try to keep my groups safe from harm or any kind of researchers that want to “study” us/them. I have had people pretend to be someone who is in pain and they request to join my support group online. A long while back, I had a few interns from various countries, who wished to “study” the persons with CRPS or Invisible illnesses, so they tried to join one of my support groups. I have not ever asked their reasons because they don’t even get that far. I just don’t let them join my groups.

A few of the the ways that I keep my groups safe are by doing a few simple tasks before allowing someone to  join. I look for “signs” on their pages and I ask them several questions via private message. If their page is bare, without even a cover photo or profile picture; I don’t even pursue their request to join. If it just looks a bit “private” but they’ve been on Facebook for several years, then I ask them the questions that I will post below for you. If they have a few friends in my support group(s), or if they are referred by someone in the group; I usually just welcome them to the group and don’t check much more. I will ask the person who referred them or the people they have as their “friends”, if they know them well or if they are just an acquaintance?  Here are a few of the questions that I ask a prospective new member in one of my online support groups:

  • First I will make a statement something like : “Hello, my name is Suzanne and I’m the founder/admin. for the group that you have asked to join (then I name the group)”.  Then I’ll say, “Please don’t feel singled out, because I ask all prospective members the same questions. I like to just get to know you a little bit to make sure that you are in the right group for what you want/need.”
  • Secondly, I will ask them How did you find this group? What were you searching for?(Because my groups are mostly private, which means they can be seen in name only but the posts are private)….this also helps both of us make sure that they’re in the right place.
  • Then I might ask, What makes you want to join this type of group? Do you live with __ or __? (*Chronic illness, invisible illnesses and/or RSD/CRPS), or are you a Caregiver?
  • Next, I will say “When were you diagnosed? Where do you live?”
  • Then I will check everything out and usually allow them to join
  • If they don’t or won’t answer any of the questions, I don’t allow them into my groups. There are many other groups out there and I just want my members to feel safe.
  • If their page has zero information, zero photos and nothing that you can see whatsoever, that is a bad sign and I just usually “ignore” that request to join.

Some ideas for Administrators and moderators of groups already ongoing are:

  • Check the group regularly and just look over the new posts as they come in. Respond as soon as possible.
  • Look for abusive language &/or aggressive behaviors
  • Watch for a person that may be “picked on” or who has the anger of the group “dumped” on them. Act accordingly to figure out and fix the problem.
  • If you have spoken to someone a couple of times and they are rude to you or other members, it’s time to take them out of your group for the members’ sake
  • Ask for help, as I just recently started doing. I just couldn’t be everywhere and do it all. I asked for volunteers, for people who wanted to do some of the things that I cannot keep up with. Such as checking out all of the new members. Watching for any abusive, nasty or negative language or posts; and then telling me about them. Then I can decide whether to delete the post or talk to the person. Either way I will speak to the writer of those kinds of posts; it’s just a matter of before or after I delete it. My new moderators have the choice if it is a very abusive post to just delete it and tell me who and what, later.
  • Make sure that if you do ask for help, you choose people that you relate well with. Also persons who you have known for quite a while and you trust them and their judgement.

Unfortunately, many of us with Chronic pain issues and illness,  don’t always have the most supportive families or friends. These types of people also try to show up in groups to find out information for the “family”. That is another article in and of itself about Malignant Narcissist’s or abusers. If you have a supportive family, that is half the battle; it’s wonderful for you and that alone can help with your healing.

Whether you are a founder/administrator, a moderator or a member of an online support group.  Try to think first before you write, or at least before  you hit the “send” button. Remember that in Facebook support groups, you have the chance to go back and delete what you have written. Just in case you were terribly upset (we all can feel that way sometimes) and you want to get rid of your post before another person’s feelings get hurt or worse. Never carry private or specific information from one group to another. If in doubt, always ask the administrator(s). If you want to re-post an article or something similar, then go to the original Website  where that article was posted and share straight from there. This way you aren’t taking a post from one group and sharing with others. Usually  it is impossible to “share” between private groups anyways; but just in case.

We all continue to learn and grow in our lives each day. I’ve made mistakes before and I try to make amends or change whatever I can, so that I don’t repeat the error of my ways. I do my best to think first before I react or say something to another person, whether they are a friend or foe. Regardless if they are online in a group or out in the world in some kind of group setting. We are all humans and everyone feels hurt when someone is downright rude or is treating us badly. I want to add that if you are going to comment either way about something that someone has said, written or done; always be sure that you know all of the facts first. Don’t just read one line of something that someone has written, and then make a rude or cutting remark.  Don’t try to guess what someone means when they write a sentence or two in a group post online.  Sometimes the short or hastily written words cannot depict the true feelings, ideas or thoughts of a group member.  Keep in mind that some people are better at expressing themselves with spoken words and others are better at writing. Try to not get bothered by the small things, and think about what the “tone” of the words feel like to you; even if you might’ve said it differently.

When all is said and done, remember that we all inhabit this internet world together. We need to be as kind, loving and gentle as possible. There are always times when we say or do the wrong things. What we do afterwards, or the next time; is what matters most. Be kind and remember that the person you are upset with may have a whole mountain of issues, illnesses or problems that you don’t even know about.  That doesn’t give them the right to abuse or hurt you or others in any way. But just get away & remove yourself from the situation whenever possible. It never hurts to explain yourself, if  you feel that someone has gotten it wrong or judged you wrongly.

Lastly, please remember in the support groups for chronic pain, illness, grief, abuse survivors etc….these people are hurting a bit more than the average amount.  Try to be understanding and be a good listener, especially in a support group.  Give hurting members; those who are in much pain either physically or emotionally, a little leeway. Remember to be gentle and kind.  If you felt hurt by the actions or words of another member in your support group, step back for a moment and think. If you forget and then  realize that you retaliated against someone in a group, because you felt angry or hurt; try to make amends. Try to put yourself in someone Else’s situation, if you know it. If not, then try to just be thoughtful of others feelings. Treat them how you would like to be treated.  Remember that Kindness matters!