Part of the reason I ended up in an abusive relationship with a sociopath was because I was emotionally and verbally abused by my family for years. Abuse felt “normal.” Abuse was how your family–the only ones that truly loved you–told you the awful truths about yourself. My parents started with emotional/verbal abuse around puberty. It didn’t get bad until I went away to college and started making my own decisions. It ended when my father assaulted me when I was in my late 20s and my entire family blamed me for it and shunned me. (I must have provoked him and/or deserved it… but more on that and victim blaming later on.)
A friend posted the above link on Facebook, and it perfectly describes how my family treated me.
Gaslighting is when you abuser tells you that your reality isn’t happening, possibly that you are “crazy.” This makes you doubt your memory, perception, and sanity.
My controlling, narcissistic mother liked to tell me that I was bipolar, “crazy” and needed psych meds. She told me that all of my behaviours were derived from mental illness and were not true expressions of myself. This is directly at odds with the mental health professionals that I worked with over the years. They determined that I was not mentally ill and did not need daily medication.
Yes, with all of the illnesses I’ve suffered and the abusive relationships I’ve been in, I have had PTSD and several spells of circumstantial depression and anxiety. But I do not and did not have a mental illness that requires daily psych meds. Whenever a psychiatrist suggested medications, I took them. Three months of Zoloft coupled with 8 months of talk therapy got me out of my last depression. That depression was induced by being trapped in an abusive relationship for 4 years. I’m proud of all of the work I did to get out of both the relationship AND the depression.
I still have trouble sleeping (Shift Work Sleep Disorder) and very occasionally suffer anxiety attacks. I have Xanax on hand for that reason. I’ve downgraded from Ambien to Benadryl to sleep. But otherwise, my life circumstances have changed. I am not currently being abused by anyone, broke, sick, and/or homeless. In fact, I’m in an extremely supportive and loving long-term relationship, I have my health, a good support network of friends that care about me, a nice place to live and relatively consistent income. It’s amazing how having your basic needs of love, food, health and shelter taken care of can abolish depression and anxiety!
Now I realize that my mother would simply label behaviours that she did not like as “crazy” or “mentally ill.” Which behaviours were manifestations of my mental illness?
- Teaching English in Asia
- Going to Burning Man
- Not taking an office job straight out of college
- Trying my hand at entrepreneurship
- Identifying as bisexual
- Having an abortion in my early 20s (best decision I ever made, FYI)
- Drinking wine on holidays
- Going to nightclubs and seeing DJs on the weekends as opposed to hanging out at my parents’ house
- Crying when Mother verbally abused, emotionally blackmailed and publicly embarrassed me on holidays and at family events
In retrospect, there’s nothing wrong with any of these so-called “crazy” behaviours. They certainly do not signify mental illness. They’re simply a young woman enjoying life, exercising her rights, making mistakes, traveling, becoming independent from her family and finding her identity–an identity that’s very different from that of her conservative family.
Anyways, while I’m sad that I don’t have blood family in my life anymore, I’m doing my best to create my chosen family. I’m glad that I don’t have my mother in my life anymore questioning my sanity. That caused me more mental instability than my synapses ever did.