I wanted to write an article for Mental Health Awareness Month because as a bipolar woman, this is a subject that is close to my heart.
This month has quickly flown by but before this month is through, I want to delve into a topic that WU World Changer Stephenie Zamora mentioned in her recent article.
What topic am I referring to? Gaslighting.
I haven’t been able to get it off of my mind since I read her article. It is because I have felt the effects of this evil tactic from the people closest to me, people I love. So much so that I felt it necessary to bring awareness to it, and hopefully help someone else that has fallen victim to this strategy of mind and emotional manipulation.
What Is Gaslighting?
According to Wikipedia, “Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.” In essence, it’s a means for a person to use your mental disorder against you and then tries to make you question your sanity and reality. It is one of the scariest forms of mental manipulation and happens way more frequently than most of us realize. Scarier still, anyone is susceptible to being gaslit, not just those of us with a mental health disorder. Once the abuser has made us reach the point of questioning and distrusting our own perceptions, they have us where they want us; it’s easier to manipulate someone who doesn’t trust themselves.
Examples of Gaslighting:
Although it can come in many different forms, here are a few examples that some of us have probably heard a time or two:
- “You’re crazy, that never happened.”
- “Did you forget to take your crazy pill?”
- “Why are you so damn sensitive?”
- “You make shit up in your head.”
- “Your bipolar is kicking in again!”
- “That never happened. Tell the truth and stop imagining things.”
- “Get a grip. I swear I can’t have a normal conversation with you.”
Needless to say, ouch! Each one of those statements has the potential to hurt very deeply. Gaslighting usually happens over a long period of time and major brainwashing takes place. Not only does this affect one’s mental wellbeing but it also affects their emotional wellbeing, too. Leaving internal scars and limiting beliefs that can last a lifetime if not addressed and healed. So, where do we even begin?
Here Are 5 Important Steps to Heal from Gaslighting:
Acknowledge the Abuse:
The most important step we must take to begin healing is to first acknowledge that this emotional and mental abuse is taking place. This will be a difficult step because oftentimes we have real love for the person that is doing this to us and it’s never easy to walk away from those we love. However, it is entirely necessary. You may even choose to let your abuser know that you know what they’ve been doing to you and you will no longer tolerate it, but only if it’s safe to do so.
The next crucial step is to put permanent distance between us and our abuser. As with any type of abuse, we cannot heal if we allow ourselves to stay where it occurs. This may mean ending a relationship, cutting off contact, or in severe circumstances, moving away. Do whatever it takes to keep you safe.
Feel and Deal:
Once we’re away from the abuser and in a safe location, now it’s time to feel and deal with our emotions. You may even feel a sense of relief to be away from all of the hurt you’ve been faced with. The last thing we want to do is stuff our emotions and allow them to fester within us, because they will show their form in different areas of our lives, in one way or another. This step may take some time, and that’s okay. Just be sure to address all of your emotions – anger, sadness, fear, confusion, and frustration to name a few.
Depending on the severity of the manipulation and abuse you endured, you may want to get professional help from a therapist. You can also look for support groups where you can openly share about your experiences in a safe, non-judgmental space. Our secrets keep us sick.
There are many facets to this step. First, take time for you. There isn’t a time limit on how long it will take to heal and move on from the gaslighting you’ve endured. Secondly, take time before you jump into a new relationship. Practice self-love and self-care and focus on yourself for a while. A new relationship can only benefit from you filling your own cup. Lastly, take time to trust again. It’s okay to guard yourself and allow trust towards another person to build over time, just as long as you are not projecting your past experiences and baggage onto your new relationships.
Above all, I want you to know that your thoughts, experiences, and feelings are valid! You are not crazy. You can and will heal from all of this. Gather up your strength, take back your power, and live the thriving life you deserve! You are worthy of a healthy, loving relationship just like everyone else.
Gaslighting does not have to be your way of life anymore and you do not have to live by someone else’s view of what is real.
Say, “I am worthy, and I am deserving,” because it’s true.
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Ashley is a recovering addict, that also lives with a dual diagnosis for Bipolar II. Her mission is to strengthen her own recovery and mental health by sharing her experience, strength, hope, and support with other addicts and those in the mental health community. Ashley uses her online resources to reach addicts (those recovering and also those still suffering from active addiction) and their loved ones across the world. Through this journey, she has discovered her passion for writing, blog management, and content curating, which has turned into a fulfilling and passionate career for her.