Breaking Free From Gaslighting

Gaslighting

First off, I am a survivor and not a victim.  I say that out loud to myself from time to time, because I find it helps me regain my power and control over the situation that I found myself in a few years ago (sorry I cannot give a specific timeline due to circumstance outside of my control).  Why did it take me so long to come out and write about it?  Because, it was difficult for me to put a label on it, and publicly address what happened to me, especially as, until recently, many of the people I considered extended family read my blog and knew this man.  The silly thing is, the fear of not writing this post, is a key reason why I need to.  I need to break any and all control that my former mentor, and confident has/had over me, and I need to do it from a place of serenity and autonomy, and try not to let the fear of him getting upset and isolating me any further (I still am keeping his full identity anonymous as this is about healing and not about starting a witch hunt). This is my experience as I am Breaking free from gaslighting.

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What is Gaslighting?

When I first read about the term gaslighting, I dismissed it as the latest buzzword.  A trend to label behaviour that was most likely a form of abuse and required a person to just get out of the situation.  For the most part, I dismiss labels, and by doing that I feel that I can be more fluid and not allow them to define or trap me.  However, as I recently discovered, I needed this term in my life, to come to full terms with what was happening to me, and just how bad things were about to get.  If you want a fuller description of gaslighting, please check out this link, but for the context of this post it is someone who never apologizes without making you feel guilty.  It is someone who makes you feel isolated and that everything wrong is your fault, and claims to love you unconditionally with caveats that are completely unachievable.  They lie repeatedly, refuse to take any personal responsibility, and what for me was even worse, they tell everyone that you are the crazy one.  Honestly, there were times that the magnitude of how cruel the whole situation was, I could barely catch my breath.  And being isolated from all my family friends, and not realizing how deep the isolation actually went, I would naively turn to them for help and end up making an even bigger hole for myself, by proving that I was the crazy one who was off kilter. 

All I can say, is that even though he tried numerous times to turn my partner against me, and drive a wedge between us, my partner has the most incredible B.S. detector I have ever met and he called him out for exactly what he was, and what he was doing to me.  Without my partner, I may have crumbled and gone crawling back to this man because I honestly was left with, a feeling of complete nothingness. 

Where Am I Now?

While I still feel the weight from time to time of this person’s years of abuse, and occasionally find myself asking if I am stupid or weak, I have far more good days than bad. I have incredible friends who ensure I do not feel alone, and are happy just to sit in silence sipping a beer with me if I need to, sometimes it’s not enough.  There are moments, that I dream about him, and honestly wake up believing that things are back to how I idealized they were when I was younger.  I feel this incredible calm, that maybe this nightmare I have lived is over, and I am free.  I go back and forth between fantasy and reality, sometimes worried that I will never know the truth.  I am not fully free of this man, and for my mental sanity, I have to just accept that for the time being and continue to find peace in what I can control.  And that, is how I move forward with my life, and how I can forgive myself for living so long with the mental hell of my past.  

And please, out of respect for me, and my families privacy as I continue to work through this difficult time, do not guess who this person is, or try and reach out to that individual.  There is zero good that can come from that.  And I have learned that the only person that I can control is myself.  I am not looking for apologies, answers, or even acknowledgment.  I am simply taking care of my own mental health by writing this very painful post out, and continuing to heal with purpose.

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My Holidays, My Family, My Way

In just a few weeks, my partner and I will pack up our car and begin our annual road trip south for the holidays.  It has become our tradition and something that I just couldn’t imagine not doing.  But when I tell people that we are doing this, the very first question I get asked is, “oh are you going to go visit family?”.  Well, let me just preface this by saying, my partner and I are a family.  For us, Christmas isn’t a time for visiting our family.  It is a time for us.  We go down there because we love it, it gives us a chance to relax, do whatever we want without any obligations and simply to have just a total and complete reset.  It is our Christmas Vacation, on our terms,

It’s funny though the looks you get from friends and acquaintances who just cannot imagine ever not spending the holidays with their family.  It is almost a moral obligation.  We are outsiders, again, straying from the norm.  Here’s a familiar term within my blog, I am once again an outlier in the way I do things.  Just because you have always spent time with your family does not mean that you have to continue to do that.

In my immediate family, the holidays were about obligation, and stress.  It was about dividing time between families, and scheduling dinners, and basically pleasing everyone but myself.  I was informed that I was only allowed to make my own holiday traditions once I had children of my own.  Until then, I was on everybody else’s clock.  And for a while, I was compliant.  I spent my 20’s just driving from house to house, having quick little visits and then heading home craving that celebratory drink, thankful that I survived another year without tears or having huge blowouts with certain family members.  Writing this, I honestly cannot believe I actually tolerated this way of spending the holidays for so long.  Especially knowing what I know now.  The holidays can actually be really fun, relaxing and completely drama and stress free if you choose to do it that way, and you better believe that I do.

I love many things about Christmas.  I love watching movies, baking cookies, and drinking all the Christmas cheer I can get my hands on.  I love getting dressed up for the parties, and wishing happy holidays to strangers on the street, and just the general joy that seems to be in the air.  It has a sense of wonderment and magic that makes me so happy.  But I also appreciate that I can do all those things completely obligation free when I am far away from those that have kept me locked in tradition for so long.

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Last year, we had our entire campground to ourselves for Christmas and spent the morning drinking beer, taking sexy photos and just enjoying each other’s company and the sunshine.  In the evening we got invited to a potluck for all the people who didn’t have family that year, and my goodness it was amazing!  Everyone was so thankful to be there, that Christmas cheer was overflowing.  There was absolutely zero dinner stress.  There was no bickering, no drunk aunt that was going to say something offensive and possibly ruin the rest of the night.  There was no secret sign between partners as to when the appropriate time to make your leave was going to be.  There was absolutely zero, and I mean zero drama or even a hint of it.

That is how I choose to spend my holidays.  That is how I want to celebrate this joyous time of year.  That is why I have zero qualms about driving for nearly 30 hours at a time to arrive at this little peace of tranquil perfection.  I firmly believe that the relationships in your life should enrich you in some way.  We cannot choose our family, but we absolutely have a choice in how we spend our time, and with whom.  Even if you feel the overwhelming obligation or guilt this year, try and remember to take a little time for yourself.  Spend authentic time with those that are important to you this holiday.  And perhaps you will be lucky enough to have the mindset spill over into the rest of the year.

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The Ice Queen and Finding Peace

When I was a young girl some not so lovely people started referring to me as the Ice Queen.  It was a nickname born out of my outward coldness and reserved nature.  In short, I built a wall around myself, as many children from broken homes do and I gave off a vibe of isolation and an emotionless demeanor.  This is a persona that haunted me well into my early 20’s.  At the time, I chose to embrace this being, this ice queen.  I used the cold, and calculating comfort that this identity provided me to explain my lack of tears, and my almost holier than thou attitude.  I didn’t have time for foolish games, my young self would decree, I was a queen, and nothing could penetrate my icy heart. Whenever I was feeling down or lonely, I could snap into this character and find a calm sense of power and control.  Queen’s don’t cry, especially in front of the plebs (I lament that I only learned that word recently and never actually got the chance to use it on the playground!).

So why now, when I am the happiest I have ever been in my life, does this painful memory pop into my head?  Because as it turns out, this is my default when something unexpectedly painful arises in my life.  I go into cold, survival mode, and nothing can get in.  My defense mechanism is my Ice Queen identity.

I found out a few days ago that one of my great aunts passed away, quite suddenly.  And while that in of itself is painful, it is not what triggered me.  The catalyst was in fact the text message from my mom, the person I had not had any communication with in more than 4 years.  I cried for my aunt, and my grieving grandparents.  But then, the well of tears just dried right up.  There was a cold, protective shield that went up in light of the message from her.  It was like reading a message from a complete stranger.  You quickly scan, glean the information and then process the information at face value.  It was like she was a messenger pigeon and not the person who helped give me life.

I felt confused.  Really, seriously out of sorts.  How was it possible that this person had become a complete stranger to me?  Is this what happens to normal people when they have a falling out?  Do they just become acquaintances or less?  And what’s more, was I guilty that this had happened?  What was my next move, if any?

And then, just as quickly as my brain started to wind up, it calmed (with the help of my sister of course).  The wave of uncertainty was replaced by something wondrous.  Something I didn’t know was even possible.  It was peace.  Simple, calm, elegant peace.  I’m left knowing that there is no right or wrong, or regret or lament, or really anything else.  I made a decision that brought me peace and comfort.  And the ability to live my life to the fullest, without an anchor judging, shaming or holding me back in any way.  I am free.  I am also grateful, to the Ice Queen inside of me.  I recognize now, that in the face of uncertainty she will be there, she will not let me fall apart.  She will keep me whole in the face of adversity.  I can count on her years of strength and support when I could very easily be overcome with emotion and lose control.  The fear, that used to give me pause, is gone.  And while I am grateful for the calm reminder that the Ice Queen will always be a part of me, I am hopeful that I will not have to rely on her for many years to come.

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Today I Cried…


Today I cried.  To be absolutely clear, I sobbed.  I broke down, alone, isolated with the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I screamed out, “why will I never be good enough?”.  And I covered my face with a pillow as I just let everything I had out.  It lasted perhaps 2 minutes.  My dog rushed over the second my face was visible and he snuggled.  He let me just cuddle and hold him for a few desperately needed moments.  And I got up.  I brewed some tea and I just existed for a moment.  Then I sighed and recognized that my life is moving in a direction that I can control.  And I have a partner, and I am not alone.  But today, on the couch I felt like I was.  I lost it. 
My last few posts have had a clear direction, a voice, and a reason for being written.  My confident personality has shone through and I have grown the K-Ghislaine brand into something I am incredibly proud of.  I started this blog to help me come to terms with Open Relationships and to start questioning the societal norms of relationships that are around me.  But this morning, I had troubles overcoming my shortcomings and focusing on the task at hand.  Today I failed me, in a way that actually scared me.  I wondered if I was making the correct choices, and if the business I am working on will succeed.  I questioned if I should keep writing, and I questioned if I had the right people in my life, on my team and just generally with me.  It was the briefest moment of rock bottom, but my lungs hurt from the sob and I felt so drained as a result, and of questioning that resolve that has kept me moving forward after the most recent of my life challenges this past December.
As I closed the door on the last toxic member of my family last year (or rather had the door slammed in my face) I found a relief or release as it were.  I now count the blessings of that event.  I am grateful that he cut me out, so I could be free from the toxic lifestyle that was consuming me and poisoning the rest of my life.  Aside from this morning of course, I do control my actions.  I don’t blame who I am on my parents or the hardships that are a part of my past.  The doors are closed, and I have found peace of mind to excel in my life without any of their shortcomings impacting me.
I find myself in a period of transition again.  Embarking on a journey that has high risks for my relationship and my financial security.  But it is in these risks that I am finding my stride.  I am discovering things about myself that were laying dormant.  With each word I type, I feel better.  Stronger and more focused to take on today’s task at hand.  I blog because I love it.  I absolutely adore the clarity I get from it, and the relief that it brings when I press publish.  I am an artist and writing is my preferred medium.  I forgive myself for losing control this morning.  My body needed the release and my soul needed to write.  With these two tasks completed it is time to conquer my next challenge and quiet that little voice that sometimes bubbles over, the voice that wonders why it cannot be just a little easier. 
To lose control is not something I am proud of.  But to err is human.  And the most important thing for me, is to recognize why I lost control and learn from it.  To listen to myself, and my inner voice when it calls out.  There is a strength to be found in weakness, and today I got caught ignoring my needs.  

Update Post, Family Changes: A New Year, New Challenges

I wrote a post nearly 4 years ago, whereby I questioned the forgive and forget mantra when it comes to family.  I wrote also, that I was done allowing my family to control me.  When I read back through this post I can see that I was a mess, both in sentence structure and grammar, but also in the waves of emotion I tried to conceal.  I was forcing objectivity while hurting so badly.  It is never easy to walk away from a family that does not support you as an adult.  A woman who is trying to find her way in the world, judged from the foundation out. 
But I am very proud to report a few things.  Number one, I closed the door on a family member who emotionally abused me.  Number two, I opened the door to a family member that had been closed out of my life for years.  We offered each other forgiveness and love and are working diligently to have a real father daughter adult relationships.  And I couldn’t be more thankful that he came back into my life during this dark timeline that I am in.   
I broke free of my families hypocrisy.  And rejected the notion that I had to accept them and their words and actions, while they talk about me behind my back and judge me.  Acceptance is a two way street.  My biological dad and my renewed relationship with him is based on this principle.  We do not judge each other, simply try to understand and support.  We are no longer re hashing past events, but rather forging new memories and experiences.  He found peace, and I have found my inner voice.  I can not lament the closed minded people who share my blood.  I can only be grateful to have relationships with those who are open and genuinely love life, themselves and me. 
Finding unconditional love within a few of my family members has helped my confidence in the dating world as well.  I am more open to new partners and less jealous of the past.  It took a few years to really see the truth in who I am and who my partner is. Now that I can, well, I treat myself with the respect and pride I deserve. 

In a Utopian world, this post would be about everyone in my life forgiving and forgetting.  However, this is the real world and this post is celebratory.  I have forgiven myself and by forgetting the past on an individual that never thought I could or would, I have found peace.  Here`s to new and amazing beginnings.  Why wait until 2016 is officially over to move forward?