I had never heard the term gaslighting before until a couple of years ago when during a season of Love Island one of the contestants was called out for it. I remember reading an article about it at the time and thinking wow, that sounds like what is happening to me. But I never spoke about it because I was so deeply in love that I believed the issues we had was because of me and the person I was.
The definition of gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse, it is the act of manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories and the events occurring around them.
And its only now, near two years later that I see that is exactly what happened to me.
Its only now I realise I wasn’t crazy, I didn’t have ‘issues’, I wasn’t mentally unstable I was in fact manipulated and broken down to believe I was a ‘psycho’ and that things that happened didn’t happen in the way I thought, when in fact they did.
I was called crazy on so many occasions and it got to the point where when you have heard something that many times that you start to believe that it must be true. Because why would they say it otherwise?
He had a way of twisting every single moment into something different, I often questioned whether things had happened or whether I had imagined them. He would reframe conversations we had, or memories of things that I knew had happened, yet he would describe them in a completely different way, they were always retold in his favour.
One of the things I struggled with the most was how dismissive he was of how I felt. My thoughts, feelings and emotions never mattered, I was just being ‘dramatic’ or more often that not he would use them against me as proof of the flaws in my character. To the point I hated myself.
I truly hated myself and I started to hate looking in the mirror because I couldn’t deal with the version of me looking back. And I had never been like this, I had never been the most confident of people but I knew I was a good person, I had a good heart and I knew I was a loving and I cared more about others than I did about myself.
I started to question every part of my personality, I struggled to comprehend why anyone was in my life if I was truly this awful person. I started to doubt my friendships and those around me and I questioned my own beliefs. He would say things like ‘no wonder you have no mates’ and I started to believe that maybe that was true.
And what is worse? I would apologize constantly for my wrong doings, half the time not even knowing what I was apologizing for. But he had such a way of getting in my head and deflecting any negative behaviour onto me.
I never ever felt good enough, I felt like I was constantly screwing things up and making mistakes and that was the reason it was not working. When in fact it wasn’t all my fault at all.
I was told time and time again that I needed help and that I was unstable and although no one else in my life ever said this to me I started to believe that he was right. Maybe I was crazy?
I started to not even recognize who I was anymore; my self confidence was nonexistent and I felt disappointed in the person I had become. Whatever I tried seemed to push him away which in turn made me feel even worse, I had become so dependent on him that I couldn’t see a life without him in it.
At one stage I questioned what was real, I felt like I was living in some sort of parallel universe to everyone else. He made me feel any of the good times we had hadn’t actually happened, things I knew for certain he had said, he swore blind he hadn’t.
I think to the last time I saw him, he was so concerned that I was taking up two minutes of his day, he was busy, he didn’t have time to listen to me. In that moment I felt like I saw myself in the cold harsh light. And I thought what are you doing? Why are you begging someone to be in your life who doesn’t have any desire to be there.
I truly believe in that moment I saw him in a way I had never seen him before, like someone had switched on a light.
Gaslighting is real. And it happens much more than you think.
The worst part? You don’t even realise it’s happening until it’s too late and the damage has already been done.
If you’re reading this and it feels all too familiar, I hope you know that none of this is your fault, you’re not crazy and you are worth so much more.