Gaslighting

I had an epiphany over the weekend. I have always been obsessed with finding out the facts of what happened when there has been a problem; who was responsible for causing the issue where applicable; then finally trying to piece everything together to get as close to the truth as possible. The facts are important to me.

Over the weekend, my ex was collecting the kids when he made a comment about how I had not taken the time to tell them about a message on WhatsApp. It stopped me in my tracks. I turned around and asked him which message and when he had sent it. He told me he had sent it the night before at around 11pm. I told him that I was sleeping then and as it had been a busy morning, I had not been on my phone. I said to him that it was not that I had not taken the time, it was actually that I had not seen the message as yet. (I don’t have blue ticks enabled, because of him.) No apology was forthcoming, nor any retraction of his statement. (The implication to the kids being that I hide stuff from them that their father wants me to show them.)

This is one of numerous times where these small things have happened. One of many times where I feel extremely angry for such a small incident. One of many times where it is vitally important to me to get the story straight, from my perspective. To ensure that the other party absolutely understands my view.

This time around, it occurred to me that it was a big reaction to a minor incident, which is always a clear indicator of something else going on below the surface, where I am concerned. So, I dug a bit. It hit me like a tonne of bricks that the issue is that I have struggled for most of my life with either my mother or my ex gaslighting me. It makes me feel crazy and unhinged. When I know that X happened, but they deny it completely and utterly and explain it away with Y. And it leaves you questioning yourself – did I imagine it? Have I really forgotten so many of the details? Do I just have a skewed perception of reality? Did I really say that? Did I really promise that? Did I really behave abysmally? And so on and so on.

It is sometimes such a slight variant of the truth, that you shrug it off as something that you probably did mix up in your head. Sometimes, it is a massive skewing of the truth, like when my mother told me that she didn’t try to commit suicide, she had just passed out from low blood pressure and too much brandy. She was extremely angry with me for having taken her to hospital. She explained it away with such vehemence and anger and repeated denial that it took me just under 30 years to work out that she had been gaslighting me for all this time.

Because of this crazy-making behaviour, it has caused me to be overly anxious about the truth. About being told the truth and about telling the truth. It extends into my social life, my life with my children and my life with siblings and parents. It was present in my life with my ex.

The thing about my ex was that some of the time, he did not acknowledge the truth. He would argue it until he was blue in the face. He would randomly draw in other people to “verify” his argument. Statements like “in other families, this is how things are done”, or “Other adults do not behave as badly as you do. You behave like an inconsiderate child.” If that didn’t work, then he would just flip his rationale, sometimes to the polar opposite of what he had been saying. I would point this out to him and he would tell me I had misunderstood him all along. I was often left flabbergasted by this. Not to mention, feeling completely off-balance and wondering how I had got all of it so wrong. He would argue very convincingly. It must have been me that got it all twisted up.

So now, I remember large tracts of conversations, where certain facts are thrown in. I get anxious when I forget details or mix them up. And I react strongly to anything I perceive as the truth being manipulated in anyway. Gaslighting. All because of this little thing called gaslighting.

 

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