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.
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.” 
 Article on Wikipedia on the movie ‘Gaslight‘ (1944).
 YouTube: upload on gaslighting.
 Online article on counsellingresource.com about gaslighting.
 Online article in The Guardian about gaslighting.