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.

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