Gaslighting

Excuse the serious post prefacing all the fun Halloween fodder but I wanted to put this together following a conversation I had this morning with my husband.

He was telling me about a woman who went to prison for murdering her husband with a hammer. She’d been driven to breaking point by his behaviour and maybe then this behaviour didn’t have a name. It does now, a word bandied around a lot in the media at the moment: gaslighting.

It’s taken me a while to get my head around the definition of this word and now I have, it’s brought up a lot. In relation to the news story, a change in law to recognise gaslighting as a legit form of abuse has affected the sentence this poor woman has been serving. Turns out this man had been manipulating her and making her think she was crazy from the start. I hope they release her because she could so easily be me.

Just in case you’re not aware, a definition:

Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another person’s reality, by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person. ~ Dr. Robin Stern, author of The Gaslight Effect

For me that statement rings so familiar, in particular the latter point. My greatest shame in life is how far down I fell as a result of a very bad relationship. Rock bottom. I woke up eventually on the ground, looking upwards thankfully but it would have been such a relief and so easy just to take that final step and just let go.

Of course my experience is in no way as extreme as the woman in this story but that’s the point. Control and manipulation can be so insidious, so commonplace within a relationship that you don’t even recognise it. It’s like a slow gas leak, pumping poison into your self-worth.

The man I lived with cheated but told me I was paranoid when I found nude photos on his phone. He’d emotionally blackmail me into doing things sexually that I definitely wasn’t comfortable with (pictures, public places). When we went to Barcelona he managed to get me to go topless on the beach by going on and on until I felt I had no choice (I cried secretly because I felt so bad about my body then and he knew it).

Often he’d remind me I was very lucky he didn’t hit women – that I needed psychiatric help, and my own mother agreed with him (my mother despised him and would never have entertained a conversation alone with him, yet still I believed him). He’d project every single one of his insecurities and fears onto me and that’s the crock – I believed him. I questioned myself. I lost the will to live and I stopped fighting.

What’s more I believed that I loved him, that no relationship was worthwhile if it wasn’t difficult. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the thought of him now sickens me to the core. Much as I wish it wasn’t true I still bear the light scars of that relationship – but more than that: I still have work to do on forgiving myself.

I feel like a different person now and my strength probably comes from this experience but I’m glad there’s a term for it now. Or at least that I understand it. I don’t share this to be all woe is me. Many (too many) women will see themselves in these stories but we need to talk about our experiences when we can, to ensure that none of us feel alone in the things we’ve survived.

So when snobs get all high and mighty about a show like Love Island I tell them to shush because at least it’s educating the next generation on what to look out for. Maybe I’d have got out sooner or not gone in at all, if I’d know more about it then.

Peace out, fuck face.

Advertisements

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

I really want to talk about Nanette without actually talking about Nanette, which is going to be a bit hard. But going into this stand-up special with little to no knowledge about what it’s about means you’ll be hit with the power of it.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this blew me away and has remained in my thoughts ever since I saw it. I’ve also recommended it to a heap of people and I’m recommending it to you too, dear reader because I believe everybody should see it, no matter who they are or what they stand for.

Hannah Gadsby is an Australian comedian and TV writer. I hadn’t heard of her before but I hope Nanette helps the right people find her because she is brilliant. She’s astute, eloquent and her observations are both hilarious and sharp as hell. Hannah also shares deeply personal moments of trauma and it’s difficult to hear but imperative that we do. She talks about (but not limited to) mental health, being medicated, unsolicited advice (mostly from men), art history and every moment is a joy.

HannahGadsby_10.0
Not to spoiler this
but there were a couple of segments that spoke profoundly to me and one of them was about being described as sensitive. This is definitely a word that has been used to label me, particularly by my family and Hannah does a whole bit about why this has to be perceived as a bad thing – and why being insensitive would be something to strive for. Reader, I felt seen and heard in a way I can’t describe.

Hannah also talks about letting anger go and although I’ve always subscribed to the anger can be a good motivator strategy, she really made me consider this from another point of view. Honestly, drop everything and get Netflix on now, please.

What are you watching?

How to Lose Friends and Give Yourself Unnessary Anxiety For a Week

Honesty, am I right? I’m doing it here now, did I mention? Even if it’s scary or someone misreads it or thinks it’s a thinly disguised dig at them (If you think this post is about you, it probably is).

So today, let’s talk about losing or specifically breaking up with, friends. I’ve been lucky (maybe) in that I’ve only really suffered one crushing friendship heartbreak. It is akin to having your heart ripped out of your chest, or it was for me so let me have that dramatic statement.

Even though it was me who pumped the breaks on our toxic 15+ year friendship (and I’ve never regretted it), I still think about her almost daily with a sorrow that has never been matched. I ache with sadness that we didn’t make it but we never could have, the end was inevitable.

Now I have a number of GREAT friends but I haven’t seriously labelled any of them ‘the one’ because why would I exactly? I think I’m scared I’ll become someone’s property again. Yes, I know this sounds dreadful but I told you it was toxic. I was a performing circus bear for many of those 15 years and now perhaps you can see why it was doomed from the start. Bears aren’t supposed to tell jokes in a tutu and turn a blind eye to bad behaviours.

I’m scared of feeling loss again* because it really did leave a gaping wound. These days it’s no longer bleeding, it’s scar tissue that tingles when it rains. Which I can live with.

Much like shedding a shitty boyfriend after six years, living through that loss has taught me exactly what I need from my friendships now. And if I don’t get what I need, or catch a faint whiff of toxicity, I’ll be gone before you can finish humming the first verse of the Friends theme. This might sound like I value myself highly above all others and I suppose that’s true. I’m protecting myself and I think that’s perfectly acceptable.

I should be clear about what constitutes toxic for me. It’s not people with issues, everyone has those and I can handle friends that need me, for no doubt I will need them equally. It’s not drama so much, though I try to take after Mary J. Blige on that topic.

It’s, well it’s like my friend Michaela says: “Some people are radiators and some are drains” and never a truer word has been spoken. If my friend is all me, me, me and can only see to the end of their own experience then I’m afraid I’ve got nothing for her/him. Even then I think calling each other out is a healthy and honest thing, God knows I need educating all the time on things I have no knowledge/experience of.

Sometimes friendships do have a period of being very one-sided. I can be extremely selfish, with time mostly but sometimes food. I don’t share food. I may forget to inquire how a friend’s job interview/doctor’s appointment went because I’m too busy gazing into my own navel (try it, it’s not that easy) but we tend to right ourselves and balance it all back out again because that’s how friendship works.

I’ve recently fallen out with a newish pal, can you tell? I’m getting there, I just wanted to set the scene with that introduction.

So, I find myself on the other side of last week and I’m one friend down and I almost can’t believe it’s happened. Not because I’m so amazing that I can’t fathom someone not liking me, no. But because I didn’t see what happened going down the way it did, yet here I am.

I’m not going too far into this. Let’s just say I asked for some understanding on a subject I feel strongly about (diets) and got nothing but bullshit back. I even apologised in case I’d expressed myself bluntly (extremely likely) but apparently asking not to discuss something personally triggering was one step too far. So I AM OUT.

My learning curve has not left me in the position that I now find cutting people out of my life easy, quite the opposite. My anxiety means it’s pretty much all I’ve thought of since it happened. I feel physically sick when I should be singing Aretha’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I want to cry and roll into a ball. I want to lash out. Mostly, I want to rewind time to before I asked for anything and bite my tongue. Except why should I? I’m not in the wrong.

This week I lost a friend and I don’t feel good about it. On the plus side, well I asked for some understanding and that’s huge for me! I’m delighted about that. Perhaps at the end of this post is where I say, a lesson was learned here today: honesty may be the best policy, but not everyone wants to hear it. And not everyone is the person you thought they were.

<SHRUG>

*This is next to impossible if you trust someone. You have to love like you’ve never been hurt before, even with chums.

I Let You Go (Book) Review

I-LET-YOU-GO-400x618px1mayBefore I begin this, please be aware that I’m going to *spoiler the fuck out of it*.

(Pardon my French).

It’s impossible to review without letting a few things slip and since the premise of this book is built on a twist, it’s really not fair of me to just put it out there without warning.

If you’re intending to read this book then don’t read this post. Or… read it after. You might want to talk about it.

My Review: 

5 year old Jacob is hit by a car and killed on the way home from school one afternoon and the driver fails to stop. Jacob’s mother holds him in her arms as he passes on, and her life will never be the same.

Blaming herself for the accident, she feels all eyes are on her, accusing her of neglect and eventually, she leaves her home in Bristol to escape the past.

Jenna chooses a secluded cottage on a cliff in Wales to deal with her past, where she builds a new life, a far different life to the one she knew.

Meanwhile, DI Ray Stevens is on the case with his protege Kate, who won’t let the case go, even when their original campaign yields no leads.

Will Ray and Kate unravel this complicated story and finally find the driver responsible for robbing Jacob of his life – and find justice for his mother? And will Jenna ever put her guilt behind her and be happy again?

Only one way to find out!

My Thoughts:

Reading this book has opened my eyes to the concept of the ‘trigger warning’ and I wonder more than ever before about when and where they should be placed. I mean, I get that it must be hard to warn readers when you’re presenting a thriller with a twist that most of them won’t see coming but honestly, I went into this book expecting something completely different and getting way more than I bargained for.

I don’t know if I was ready to read another book about spousal abuse. It left me feeling uneasy and yes, unlatched memories I wasn’t up for revisiting.

The abuse suffered by our protagonist is way more violent than anything I’ve experienced (luckily) but Jenna’s dialogue as she realises her relationship has gone bad but doesn’t know how to leave, the heinous things her husband says to her and the way she almost loses her family forever, is all too real to me.

My own experience of psychological abuse (and it is abuse) is way more subtle and therefore harder to accept when you’re in it (e.g. “I’m imagining it, aren’t I? Maybe he’s right, I’m being paranoid.”) – but it’s still abuse. I started to read these scenes and I was like “Great. Another fucking man ruining another fucking life!”.

The book is, of course, more than that. It’s fairly gripping; the initial story is heartbreaking and it’s written quite well (but not amazingly). You might find yourself rooting for Jenna, despite the horrible accident she’s supposedly caused. You might find yourself rolling your eyes at the predictability of DI Stevens, the detective assigned to solve the case, as he battles with his feelings for a young, pretty colleague (but of course!). You might find yourself getting irritated that his wife Mags is painted in such a dowdy 2D light, despite the fact that she was an even better copper than Ray, before the kids.

And you might click your tongue at the idyllic retreat Jenna takes herself on to escape the past. Windswept beaches, a rescue dog and wellington boots. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? And just how perfect is her love interest, Patrick? So far so Sleeping with the Enemy (1991).

I know these aren’t really criticisms, as such. Just that most women escaping domestic violence don’t have the luxury of escaping to the wilds of Wales, I guess. I don’t know what I expected of this book really, if anything but it didn’t give me anything new, or thought provoking. It just turned my stomach and made me feel angry in the second half, especially when the true culprit of all the terror gets his underwhelming just desserts.

Maybe I’ve just over-saturated my consciousness with thrillers lately, and much better ones too, like The Girl on the Train. I’ll think very carefully before I read another book in this genre, even though it’s one I’m generally attracted to.

Book details:

  • I Let You Go
  • Publisher: Sphere (7 May 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 0751554154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751554151
  • Bought paperback (new)