Bits of my story – How to deal with gaslighting?

This post is a follow up of yesterday’s post about gaslighting. I explained some characteristics and told some of my story. Today I’ll share what helped me to cope with the difficult relationship with my mother.

Remain defiant.

I studied psychology to have a better understanding of how people and families work. I wanted to know. The older I got, the more useless my adaptations to life became. I was still being controlled from a distance but reality knocked at my door. I needed to grow up and provide for myself. My mind was disintegrating, I had difficulty speaking, couldn’t articulate any thoughts and suicidal ideation was ever present.

I went to the school council and was referred to therapy. My mother told me not to speak about her but in the same breath she said she couldn’t listen to my ‘stories’ anymore. In therapy I first only spoke about my father and stayed loyal to her wishes, now I can speak freely about her and our dynamic. This longing to tell my truth and to piece my story together held me together. My anger, knowing the things she told me were wrong but being unable to pinpoint the lies, helped me to keep myself alive and a person outside of her.

Recognize there never will be accountability.

Oh how I pleaded to go to therapy together, even stating that there couldn’t be any contact between us without the presence of a neutral third party didn’t help. For years I wished I had a mother like I thought that mothers could be. A mom that looked out for me and that showed me love and appreciation. A mom that cared enough for me to put boundaries down. A mom that would eat dinner with me. Now I don’t believe anymore that therapy could have helped us. Nothing can. It took me a long time to accept that reality, and it did hurt when I finally let go of my expectations. Let go of the wish for things to be different. Develop healthy detachment.

In order to live your life, you’ll need to learn new coping mechanisms.

You will have to learn to trust your gut, to believe that you are in control of yourself and your life. That you are good enough and most of all, that you are lovable.

Coping strategies that I developed as a child simply don’t fly anymore. I can’t be the ‘good’ or the ‘perfect’ one. I can’t keep silent all the time, ignoring my needs. I can’t live in fear and be depended on validation from the outside world. Panic won’t show me the ‘right’ way and depression will not keep me safe in my small space. The opposite of depression sometimes seems to be expression.

I couldn’t live in a uncertainty. Being manipulated will leave you living on shaky ground, you’ll try to keep balance all the time. You’re in surviving mode. The point when I lost my mind (literally) and broke down at work into full-blown burnout was a during a meeting. This was a follow up meeting where the organization of our tasks were discussed. In the first meeting was decided that person A needed to complete tasks set B, so that C could do D. In this follow up meeting it was said the other way around.  There were other people of the team present except for me and one colleague. When I questioned these decisions, the answer was: ‘Yes we did put it that way the other time but we didn’t mean it like that’. My mind exploded. After the meeting I verified with that one colleague if what I heard was indeed the reality and she confirmed. She agreed with me that it was a very strange situation. After that I went home, shattered, I was silenced again. I could not take this anymore but was too exhausted to fight it.

“There are many different signs to recognize when you’re being gaslighted. You feel confused and crazy. You’re always apologizing, wondering if you are good enough, can’t understand why you feel so bad all the time, or know something is wrong but can’t put your finger on it. You thought one thing, they say another; you can’t figure out which is right… Having to verify reality is in itself destabilizing.” [4]

Resources.

[1] Article on Wikipedia on the movie ‘Gaslight‘ (1944).

[2] YouTube: upload on gaslighting.

[3] Online article on counsellingresource.com about gaslighting.

[4] Online article in The Guardian about gaslighting.

26 thoughts on “Bits of my story – How to deal with gaslighting?

  1. My mother was always very family-oriented, but I was far less so. She would end up doing things she did not want to do out of duty. “I can’t do such-and-such because so-and-so will be upset”. It was far more clear-cut for me, most of them I did not bother with, and those I do bother with, still, it is because they are simply good people. But I think it takes strength to make that declaration that some family members are not worth the trouble.

    My mother definitely had her faults and sometimes I struggled to get on with her, although it was never as severe as your case, I think. She redeemed herself a lot as a grandmother, though, it was a role she fitted into very well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think being a grandmother we can make up for some things we just didn’t know at the time. I also do understand that being a mother or a father isn’t an easy job. You don’t know what to do all of the time and it is a great responsibility.
      Not every mother-daughter or mother-son relationship will be ‘perfect’ and there is always friction. But what is ‘normal’ friction and what behavior does cross the line?
      I’ve spend years thinking about this and in the end I just needed to look at the effect it had on me to be sure.
      I’m glad your mother took that chance and that you gave that to her to make some changes with her granddaughter. When people put some effort in, the result can be very nice and hopeful.
      Thank you for sharing your experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think we get a lot just from discussing things with third parties.
        With my mother, I see with hindsight that we were just “normal”.
        With my daughter, it was very much abnormal. We went through experiences which other parents simply did not go through. From the age of 2 or 3.
        As you have demonstrated, passage of time makes these things far easier to articulate.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. 😅I guess this message was just meant for me. Hit me really hard.

    Anyways, I hope you are doing wonderfully well?!?😃

    It’s an honor to be here 🙇 . I hope I can make good friends with you💐

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow, that was some odd situation at work? Who are the ‘crazy’ ones there?

    I certainly get the always apologising – hubby always used to say “Why do you keep apologising?” when I’d say sorry perhaps if I dropped a teaspoon or banged a cupboard door by mistake. I think I was so used to keeping quiet, not making any noise to wake up or upset anyone………….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes! Keeping quiet is my thing too. When a door makes noise, I apologize. I walk always bare foot and on my tippy toes. Even in the bathroom I don’t make noise because I was yelled upon and was forbidden to go during the night. It’s all so crazy!
      Isn’t it weird that we have some shared experiences or effects? It feels weird to me, like I’m coming out of a haze or a shell or something. Thank you so much for commenting!
      Oh and the crazies at work weren’t the patients 🙂 It was really an odd situation. I don’t mind them saying weird things but how they make it seem ‘normal’ made me flip out. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol, I get the tip toeing around. And the funny thing was, I’d be holding my breath too, say if I had to flush to toilet – like that would help lol.
        Another thing I don’t like doing is eating an apple in front of people because of the crunching lol. And I can’t stand anyone crunching apples or crisps around me. We almost had to suck our crisps when we were small in case it annoyed dad who was on his knees, screaming at the t.v. demand his horse (s) ran faster……
        And – yes, we do have many similarities lol. If only that particular parent could get inside our heads and see what damage they’ve created, eh?

        Ha! But look at us now Kacha 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I can’t believe it, I can’t stand eating noises too. All the crunching and smacking makes too much noise!
        I was also scolded because of too loud typing lol. If she only knew what my hobby is now 🙂
        You’re very right, look at us now!
        x

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Lol. One day someone’s going to ‘take my head off my shoulders’ cos if ever I’m sitting near someone in a cafe/restaurant who’s making lots of noise, I can’t help but glare at them lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Keeping secrets, especially traumatic secrets, is very damaging. We need to be able to articulate our life story, and to have that witnessed and heard by another – someone who is accepting, non-judgmental, and who really ‘gets’ what you’re sharing with them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s is true. I’m glad I decided to go into therapy years ago. I felt that it was a necessary step for me. Although it was difficult at the beginning because I was told by my mom not to talk about her and I obliged.
      I missed that witness – like you said – during my child and teenage years.
      Articulate your life story, sharing it, can be so healing and I feel that it builds me up again.
      Also by blogging and reading the comments – like yours – it gives me the feeling that my story is being believed and that is such a great relief. You can’t imagine what weight is falling of my shoulders.
      Thank you for your nice words, they all do make a difference.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Sharing our stories with others can lesson the load so to speak. I am glad that you are able to share yours here. As a parent I have made many mistakes and I am not too proud of that fact. My parents had huge personal issues of their own before they became parents and growing up in a volatile and emotionally draining situation, can effect us in many ways. I always try to come from a place of – They did the best that they could do with the skills that they had at the time and also what was their relationship like with their parents? How did they learn to parent? Just some offerings… I am glad we are both on a journey of ‘weight falling off our shoulders’ and you are doing an amazing job 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your warm comment. I think about their childhood too, you know. I do understand some limitations. I do have compassion for my mum and I don’t wish her bad. I just need to protect my life too.
      I’m sure she did the best she could with the cards she was dealt. And I do forgive her for the things that happened and didn’t happen.
      But I will be travelling on my journey with lesser weight on my shoulders otherwise I’ll end up like the hunchback of Notre Dame. 🙂
      I wish you the best on your journey too. Glad I met you while travelling 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bless you and thank you too. I struggled to love my mother many years ago. I really couldn’t get my head around how she stayed in a situation that hurt my brother terribly. I couldn’t forgive her and then in time with a lot of work and understanding… I forgave the part of her that chose to stay ( the part of her) it wasn’t all of her. Writing my blog is healing and you must ALWAYS put yourself emotional self first. When you love yourself first you are able to love others ❤️💜

        Liked by 1 person

  6. My father used to physically abuse me as a child, and it only stopped when I was around 15. I think to him it was normal because him and his brother used to get a little beaten up when they were young because they constantly did stupid things around the house and were naughty children or something. It was only recently that I was able to use the term abuse for what happened to me because unlike him, I was always a disciplined, quiet child, afraid of him. He used to easily make threats about how easy it would be for him to cut me off and never talk to me, and that used to really get to me until I realised I didn’t need him to be in my life.
    He only realised too late what was happening, when he noticed that I stopped talking to him but that I still remained happy, and he saw me getting closer to my mother. He managed to turn it on me, and used to blame me for being too sensitive and not being like other daughters, or tell me that I was just blaming him for my own unhappy life. It was quite the blow, but I think he has been trying to change ever since then. I think I still cannot fully ignore the past and the (now that I see it) gaslighting that accompanied it.
    Your blog has helped me grow so much as a person, and has helped me come to terms with my own life and mind in so many ways, I cannot thank you enough, Kacha. I’m sorry about going on this little rant here, but I hope it makes sense. Thank you so much for sharing, once again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No need to be sorry, ever. This is a place to write, read, share things, the good, the bad and the ugly. You’re most welcome to ‘little rant’ over here.
      I’m glad to read that this post made sense to you and that you recognize things from your own life. Gaslighting isn’t easy to see – for me it wasn’t at least. What it is called is actually not that important, the most important thing is how you feel. I read that you struggled with father after abuse. That seems very normal to me, to have struggles. Of course to turn things around and to blame you, your personality for what happened is not ok. Not.
      I think a lot of healing, time, patience will be needed to mend things. As he is making an effort, he is learning from you. Accepting your message in a way. It’s good that you have a strong bond with your mother. No child or (young) adult should be alone.
      I hope with time and love things will work out for you and your family. It always turns out how it’s supposed to be, we just don’t fully understand at times.
      Thank you for your nice comment and take good care of yourself!

      Like

  7. I’m not surprised that bizarre situation at work set you off after your struggles to make sense of earlier experiences of gaslighting. It’s unprofessional to mess with colleague’s minds at any time, but I wish people would consider the potential of their actions to trigger those with trauma. We all change our minds or say things wrong, but owning up to getting confused or deciding to change things is better for everyone than saying, “Oh, we said that but we didn’t mean that.”

    Like

  8. Thank you for your support! I’m glad I did stumble upon your comment as it was in the spam (?!).
    And I agree, no one can walk on eggshells all the time. But if they just have reacted otherwise, like an adult, saying ‘ok that’s a fact but we thought about it and it seems better to ….’ that would be – like you said – owning up to it. I can handle that very well. I just can’t handle messing with my reality, I need some clarity otherwise I loose ‘it’.
    Sadly maybe but for me those things that do happen ’till now are proof to me that my childhood didn’t went that smooth. In a way that is reassuring that I’m not the crazy one anymore.

    Like

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