Someone posted a question on their Facebook wall and suddenly a lightbulb popped on above my head.
Gaslighting: the paranoia is learned (that’s not the lightbulb moment).
I spent so many years fighting for my opinion, for my truth and my facts, KNOWING they were true kept the paranoia at bay. I had no idea my gaslighter was manipulative at the time, I just KNEW that he lied, just didn’t believe me, constantly contradicted me, told me I was inventing and exaggerating no matter the subject (I am a total drama queen according to him). It was just a difference of opinion and/or of life experience, a personality clash. I didn’t actually see the lies were lies until the end, when they became too big and difficult for him to stand behind.
I clung to the notion that I wasn’t crazy with everything I had. This is how I survived. It was my lifeline. I am stubborn. It’s long been a character flaw. Push me in one direction and I will push for the opposite, the more you insist the more I resist. It’s become a reflex, a survival skill. At some point during my resistance it stops mattering what it is I’m pushing back against, it becomes about the resistance alone and the desperate need for my opinion to be validated – not necessarily agreed to but acknowledging that my point is allowed to exist.
Cutting all ties with my gaslighter has been an unimaginable relief in many senses but has actually caused me to lose a particular point of reference resulting in my getting a bit lost on the whole. There is no more constant irritation that causes my guts to say “no, that is wrong, that isn’t the truth”. This is the lightbulb moment: that point of reference, the barometer of what is true and what is made up.
You could say my gaslighter finally got the best of me when I got rid of him. I sometimes feel so close to insanity it’s frightening. There is nothing to hold my values and beliefs in place. My paranoia and imagination run rampant without the framework my manipulator had set. I get so far into all the imagined scenarios that they all feel true and I “forget” which was the first, true, instinctual one and tend to focus on the “logical ones” that are only logical because they reflect previous experiences under the influence of the manipulator and not because they are based on the facts of the moment. I forget that things have changed and the people around me are not the same.
My therapist insists I continue to believe my truth, my experience. It’s hard work having to reason myself away from everything. My mind automatically creates the thoughts my gaslighter would have introduced. In the past, this would have been anticipation of what was certain to come, preparing for war. Those ideas stopped when some version of them inevitably turned into reality very soon after. But they don’t become real anymore so this process happens without anything halting it. Now I constantly have to remind stop myself and try to remember what it felt like in that moment, what facts I had then. Not the ones that appeared later, not the ones I made up as being possibilities I have no proof ever even existed, not the ones I learned were likely to be true because that is what my experience dictates but not what my instinct tells me. Fighting against my father and his twisted ways was easy, it was obvious, it made sense. All my run-ins with narcissists have made this easy in this sense. But now some of the imagined scenarios have all but taken over reality. Shaking them off to get back to the original isn’t easy, they are lost somewhere in that haystack. Tiny little needles that I can’t afford not to find.
Right now, in this minute… Actually, in the time it’s taking me to write this… I am considering getting in touch with him again all the while knowing how bad it is for me to do so.
Going back to what kills me is so much less tiring than staying away and finding my feet in a healthy situation. But maybe making the conscious decision to go back is also healthy in that being healthy is finding mechanisms that don’t harm you. I see through him now. I see how it works and what he does. He has no more power over me in the original sense. Being lost is giving him a win, it was one of his goals: Dependency. And yes, just considering that for a minute brings me back to not getting in touch ever again and not being dependant. I refuse to depend on him for anything at all even my sanity. I have to find that anchor within myself without needing a narcissist to guide me.