November 21, 2011

More on Gaslighting

I've been mulling over my post on Gaslighting, and wanting to write a big post tying it all in with how I perceive the women of the Catholic Church are gaslit by the hierarchy, particularly when it comes to the seeking of roles for women in that power-structure. Stay tuned for that. Obviously, there is a larger reason I'm still mulling this all over, dear readers.

But then, this post today sent me back into accessing my own personal situation. Anyone who has ever been in any sort of abusive relationship with a parent, boss or lover should definitely take the time to read the entire thing. It's incredibly eye-opening and well-written. And now I'm dying to re-watch Rosemary's Baby.

Some specific points about my experience with gaslighting. One thing I found that was done to me quite effectively was the use of my own words— as they would pertain to any negative mental state or character flaw I perceived about myself at a given moment in time — to be used over and over again as ammunition and turned into defining traits.  And of course, they must be true — because I myself had said these things about myself! So at one time I had remarked that in my teenage years, I had had difficulty admitting when I was wrong, but had worked hard on overcoming it. These words would later be used to prove that I  "could never admit when I was wrong." It was now one of my defining traits. Similarly, I had been reading a book on cognitive behavior, and remarked that sometimes "my thought patterns didn't reflect the true situation." This would be used as evidence whenever we were having any sort of disagreement that I was "delusional" or "distorting things." Over and over these words were thrown at me like heavy knives...chosen carefully, because they had come from my own mouth at one time. Combined with a family history of mental illness, it wasn't hard to slowly convince me that I was "unstable." This is how gaslighting works.

I can really understand the misogyny involved in this sort of abuse — “You need a power differential (patriarchy, for example) for true gaslighting – it relies on power and stereotypes.”(Captain Awkward, from her blog)  In a typical heteronormative abuse model, for example, this form of emotional abuse is often levied against women by men, and it works precisely because of prejudices about femininity and masculinity — that women are nervous, hysterical, less prone to intelligent reasoning, and need protected and corrected by a rational man who is not swayed by his emotions. (Ahem, Catholic Church, Catholic Church!!!) Which is what makes it so shocking to me that another woman, a lover would do this to me. But the power differential was something that was clear from the beginning, a red-flag if you will.

I'm grateful for the year-and-a-half of therapy that has helped me in healing and reclaiming my spirit. The road is long, but I believe healing is possible.

November 17, 2011


It's been three months since my break-up with The Nurse, and I'm still accessing the damage, as it seems. While reading one of my favorite blogs, I ran across an article that stopped me dead, about a term I hadn't heard before: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term “gaslighting” comes from the play Gas Light and its film adaptations. In those works a character uses a variety of tricks, including turning the gas lamps lower than normal, to convince his spouse that she is crazy.

So there is a name, a name for what could bring me from the height of self-confidence to the depths of suicidal depression — to the shock of all of my closest friends — in just a few short years. When I read this list, I saw myself clearly in it. From the very very beginning, where I was repeatedly humiliated in public, but it was brushed off as me being "overly sensitive"  to more recently where repeated negative messages were used to try to re-write my narrative — gaslighting slowly destroyed my confidence in myself and in my own sanity. The good news is, I'm not crazy. And, if you see yourself in this list, you probably aren't either.

Signs of gaslighting include:
1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself
2. You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
4. You're always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend,, boss.
5. You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
6. You frequently make excuses for your partner's behavior to friends and family.
7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
10. You have trouble making simple decisions.
11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person - more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
13. You feel as though you can't do anything right.
14. You wonder if you are a "good enough" girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
15. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.

Part of the gaslighting effect is thinking that no one will believe your story, that the abuse never happened. I have been told that I am crazy for so long, I have started to believe it. And I'm not trying to smear anyone's name — just honestly speak my truth and acknowledge it, for my own healing.  I'm just trying to get back to that very different person I used to be — the self-assured woman I was when I met The Nurse who would never have let myself be bullied. I am working on forgiving myself as's still a long road. But having a name for this is so helpful.

November 09, 2011

Long weekend

I've got my apartment to myself tonight. The kids are off with their dad and on this blustery and cold rainy day, I'll be enjoying a little downtime. I'll also be packing my suitcase for my long weekend away with The Librarian. I hope I'm feeling better — my doctor just prescribed a new allergy medicine that I'm picking up tonight that I hope takes care of this god-awful itching I've had for weeks now. It's truly horrible. I hope it doesn't make me too...sedated. A sedated date is no fun! So, between this weird itchy anxiety and my nervousness about this weekend, my heart is beating pretty quickly. Ca-thud, ca-thud, ca- thud! I'm all nerves right now! I guess I would say...I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to getting out of town and spending time with a lovely woman I hope to get to know better. Oh, and she has a 4-legged roommate that I can snuggle with a little too and fill up a little of the dog-shaped hole in my heart. That will be nice. Somehow, all of this feels healing to me, because I'm feeling totally trusting right now, and I don't really see any reason not to despite being so hurt in the past. I think that's a really good sign. I still believe in the innate goodness of most people. And when I think about The Librarian and this weekend together, I feel peaceful.

November 07, 2011

5 years

Dear Delle,

There have been long periods where I had felt like I had lost my connection with you...wondered if you were simply 'at rest,' or focusing your spiritual energy elsewhere — like on Ramona whom I would expect you would be watching over ceaselessly. But lately I have heard your voice vividly, loudly even, so I know you are still with me. Maybe more so because of the struggles and heartbreaks that I have been through — that I know you could relate to so very well. I remember fondly our conversations about men and I wish I had the chance to come out to you before you died...but I know you read it in my knew I think, what I wanted to tell you. You were just that...intuitive.

I'm really grateful that you are with me still...and I know you weren't keen on me referring to you as my "spiritual mother," (ok, ok...SISTER!), but you were the same age as my bio-mother after all. Please continue to pray for me on my journey. I will think long and hard about what it is that I am looking for next time before I write you any "lists," because I know you will give me whatever I ask for. Thank for all of the valuable lessons, even the ones learned the hard way. Sometimes there is no other way to learn, especially for stubborn bitches like us, eh? But I got it, I got it now.

I finally watched "For Colored Girls." I don't think Tyler Perry fucked it up too bad at all — you would have really liked the screenplay. I should probably buy it because I'm surely going to be watching it over and over, even if it is damned depressing! Wish I had the poster that hung in front of your door...or any of your art for that matter. More pieces of you in my life, because I miss you so much.

I know now that the times where I couldn't feel you in my life is because I had also lost myself. I had given myself away, just like the woman in blue. Can you believe that shit? After all I'd already been through? I know you can't. I can't either. I don't know how shit like that happens .... I was blindsided in a moment of terrible weakness. But I'm getting my act together, I promise. Not since that scandalous high school boy have I let someone drag me so damn low. I promised I'd never let that happen to me again...but here I am, picking up the pieces again. I will do whatever I have to do to protect myself and heal. Still I rise, Still I rise!

The good news: I'm surrounding myself with goodness. Quality people who are just: nice. Gentle. Peaceful. Kind. Oh, how I have longed for simple kindness for so long. I am learning that it is not something you should have to beg for! It should just come naturally. I am trusting that good things are on the horizon for me, so please keep praying for me Delle! My heart is remarkably resilient, I am finding. Or maybe I am just that romantic fool who refuses to give up on the notion of 'happily ever after.' Sigh.

The girls remember and talk about you often. Big M is in high school now and Little M is in 5th grade. Please also keep them in your prayers as they struggle with all of the challenges of adolescence.
And I'll be praying for Ramona and Gregory too.

All my love,

November 06, 2011

Alla my stuff

Someone almost walked off wid alla my stuff. Those were the exact lines that came into my mind this week after I stumbled into a trap set for me.

the whole time it waznt a spirit took my stuff / waz a(wo)man whose ego walked round like Rodan's shadow / waz a (wo)man faster n my innocence / waz a lover i made too much room for almost run off wit alla my stuff.

I kicked myself hard for a day or two for falling right into the trap set for me, for the Big Bad Bully is intent on only one thing: getting a reaction out of me. And I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. The goal was to get a reaction out of me — and I reacted — with all the hurt and anger that was apparently right there on the surface. It was easy after that, to paint me as "unglued" and "crazy." Just as she'd done to many of her exes before me. Surely I should have learned some lessons from the exes-painted-as-crazy-and-or-obsessed that had come before me. Don't play her game.

i want my stuff back / my rhytums & my voice / open my mouth / & let me talk ya outta throwin my shit in the sewar

I'm grateful for a strong support system that can help me find the tools to navigate a new world where I need to protect myself from bullying behavior, and get control of my own need to react to provocations. It's so important to learn that what we share with a lover has got to be a managed and equal transference of energy, love, spirit, and gifts that bring growth to each other. You can give and give and give ... but you can't give away all of your stuff.

my stuff is the anonymous ripped off treasure of the year / did you know somebody almost got away wit me / me in a plastic bag under their arm / me danglin on a string of personal carelessness / i'm spattered wit mud & city rain....

My stuff is a that wasn't recognized or valued, most importantly by myself. You can't give yourself away without your own permission, after all. I'm grateful that grace continues to show me things in a new and beautiful light, accept my own shortcomings, admit my own mistakes and learn from them and step boldly forward with a heart full of hope.

* with credit to Ntozake Shange from her poem 'somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff'

November 01, 2011


A little push-back came through from the Obama administration today when the Department of Health and Human Services revoked a long-standing grant to the Conference of Catholic Bishops that had previously been in awarded for it's work on human trafficking. The gov't decided that ultimately, despite the good work the agency was doing, their refusal to refer rape victims for reproductive services was not in the best interest of the victims — and their needs could be better met by other agencies without such hangups.

While the Church believes that "all sexual encounters be open to life," in the words of Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the Catholic Bishops, it is naive at best to expect the government to contract with an organization that has a serious and controversial limitation supported by a belief system that is not even held by the majority of it's own church members.

I remember when I was in 7th or 8th grade and we had do a persuasive speech project and stand before the class. The deacon's daughter gave a speech on abortion, and argued the point about rape — stating that it was clearly not the unborn child's fault, and therefore, the "child" should not be punished. It sounded totally logical, of course — but didn't take into account the trauma that a rape victim experiences. I'm guessing that most of our 7th grade class couldn't conceptualize that kind of pain. But now that I'm older...I know a few more things about myself and even about some of the kids I grew up with. I know that some of the girls I went to school with were family members. Raped. I know that I had blocked out my own sexual abuse and wouldn't remember it until I was 17 years old. I know that as a mother...and a child who was raised by a single-parent....every child should feel wanted. And I know that while abortion is certainly not the best case scenario, it's also not "intrinsically evil" in every circumstance.