Not too many people will come to make a confession about their dark past. But a brave Kenyan, Wanja Kavengi, has shared her dark past, the struggles she went through in her quest for sympathy. Wanja shared her troubled past on her Facebook platform on Saturday. Here is what she said:
“The story of Wanja Kavengi will never be complete without the chapter where she pretended to be someone else on the internet for some years. And no one else can write this chapter better than myself, today, on my birthday.
From the strongly negative perceptions I held about myself and the world around me, including low levels of self-esteem, high levels of self-hate and feelings of worthlessness, I became a selfish, manipulative, pathological liar with a bloodthirsty craving for attention and admiration from others. This begun very early in my teenage years when I would feign crippling sickness to get sympathy from my teachers and fellow students. When in form one at Njabini, where I was a peak solo verse performer in the music festivals, I suddenly pretended I was sick one cold morning and masterfully wore the act for several days until I was admitted to a local dispensary. The goal was to receive loads of sympathy, attention, special care and also avoid classes. I evilly enjoyed the worried students coming to see me in the dorm and cajoling me to eat like a baby. I wanted affection and I chose devious methods to get it; and so instead of “getting better” my “condition” “got worse” so that I could have even more of their attention. My acting was so superb I had to be referred to MP Shah hospital, Nairobi, for further treatment of my mysterious ailment. The concerned school director and a fellow student took the trip with me and I, still in character, pretended to have fainted the whole journey. I was wheeled into the emergency room on a wheelchair as I was “unconscious”. I simply had my eyes closed as if I were sleeping and refused to respond to any requests to wake up. But the nurses couldn’t be fooled. They had seen many unconscious patients and I was nothing close to one. It only took a light pinch on my nipple for me to reflexively open my eyes and sit up.
“Kwa nini unajifanya?” (why are you pretending?) one of the nurses asked me, slightly pissed off. Seeing that I had been caught, I had to quickly devise a plan B. I instantly feigned confusion and amnesia. I didn’t know where I was, who I was, or what was happening. I was assigned a ward and a psychiatrist came to see me. He asked me my name and I lied that I couldn’t remember it. He asked a few other questions that I can’t recall but I either lied or feigned total memory loss. I was then checked into a mental health facility for a few weeks where I acquainted myself with people who had various mental illnesses like insanity, depression, schizophrenia, and others who seemed pretty normal to me. I was 15 years old at the time.
After getting discharged, I couldn’t go back to Njabini. The school wanted nothing to do with a lying, manipulative student like me. They had been informed that my sickness had all along been a performance and this was not the kind of performance the school was after.
No sooner had I settled into my new school than I begun exhibiting antisocial behaviours. I was a kleptomaniac, my hands itched for other students’ and teachers’ properties and I was most popularly known for being a thief. I lied extensively to teachers and the few friends I made about my life and home, and I feigned sickness again twice on different occasions. I was suspended for my misdemeanours twice and the third strike would have been a permanent suspension. I had to change my behaviour because to be suspended from school would have meant to be suspended from home as well. I eventually stopped my thieving ways but my pathological lying prevailed, and it spiked years later during my time as a catfish on Facebook.
This was a well orchestrated plan. I deliberately, consciously, chose to use photos that weren’t mine and passed them off as my own. I had no intention of showing my real physical identity because I felt ugly, and indeed, I was ugly, and my ugliness showed through my deeds and thoughts, especially towards others.
I perused the internet for a photo that would serve my deceitful purpose and found one of a good looking, light-skinned babe who looked absolutely nothing like me, and I used the photo as my profile picture. Within minutes I received a flood of “likes” compliments and messages (mostly from men) praising “my” beauty. I had never received that kind of attention in all my lonely, miserable life and I liked it, and I determined to keep it that way for as long as I could. I cleverly found more photos of the same person and used them frequently to keep up the façade. I fraudulently cultivated a Facebook life and duped many with my false appearance. As I started making online friends, I had to create lies about myself, my background, my work, my family to be consistent with the kind of pictures I displayed. I developed a close association with three or four of these online friends and we would talk on the phone but I still operated under false pretense. Some men showed interest in “me” and one of them sent me some money which I selfishly received without caring how he would feel when he’d find out that he had sent money to the wrong person. The most deplorable, outrageous lie I told was to two of my then friends, that I had been diagnosed with cancer. This was extremely manipulative and sociopathic of me. To fake a serious illness that has killed and continues to kill many, an illness that has left families devastated, broke, grief stricken and traumatised, just to squeeze sympathy and attention from well meaning friends, was beyond satanic. I was so demented I used every insidious trick to exploit their kindness for a few minutes of undivided attention each day. And their sympathy I did get. Their regular check-ins, concern over my “poor” health, and even plans to help me cope made me feel devilishly good. Just like in high school, I wanted affection and I chose devious methods to get it. And just like my first high school, these friends immediately cut me off when they found out that my sickness had all along been a performance. Even though I was an adult, I hadn’t grown up.
But a thief has only forty days, and my fortieth day was nigh. I had managed to fool many, but not all. The arrival of my downfall was enabled by the more discerning friends. They didn’t buy the bullshit I sold. They could tell something was amiss. They traced the origin of “my” photos and found their true owner, a fashion blogger in the USA, and spilt the beans. Such news spread fast on social media, and in a matter of hours stories of Wanja Kavengi the catfish swirled around every local Facebook station like tornadoes on a mission. This was the juiciest story of the week for many, and heartbreaking, shocking and betraying for a few who “knew” me. Either I had deceived them so expertly, or they had trusted me so innocently, and to find out that I had been a catfish through explosive online revelations must have hit them hard. I lost friends that could have had become good friends.
My real identity became a topic of speculation for days, with different people theorising different possibilities of who I could have been. Some said I was a man, some argued I was a woman, and others suspected and accused specific persons of the crime. Stories were exchanged in comments sections and blogs were written in my dishonour. Predictably, when shit hit the fan, I deleted my Facebook account and went under for over a year. I’m glad I was found out because had I not been unmasked, I would have kept on catfishing as I had trapped myself too deeply in my own web of lies to liberate myself.
I opened this account when I returned and I’ve since been careful not to repeat the same mistakes. From time to time I remember the people I cheated and feel ashamed.”
- I am a young Kenyan interested in new media and dissemination of news and information as it unfolds.
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