Gaslighting. What is it? The Encyclopedia Brittanica describes it thus:
“an elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation, usually practiced by a single deceiver, or “gaslighter,” on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his thinking or feelings.”
The first time I experienced this type of abuse, to my knowledge, was within the context of my second marriage. Not only did my second ex-husband attempt to convince me that what I was experiencing wasn’t real, but he also constantly lied to my therapist.
The lies told to my therapist and Branch President of my church by my second ex-husband caused emotional turmoil that I am still working on resolving. Enough can’t be said about the damage it has done to my trust of the opposite gender. Well, I can say this, it has been over two years since my divorce was final and I have yet to even entertain the idea of going out on a date with anyone. I’m not certain I ever will.
When I hired a caregiver (my third try at hiring someone to assist me) this last week, I didn’t even comprehend that abuse of any type could be inflicted upon me by someone who was paid to take care of me. After all, I’m a fairly coherent (when one of the ‘littles’ who is less-than-verbal isn’t fronting) and I’m very intelligent and connected. Let’s face it, I’m usually online in one form or another.
Let me say this RIGHT NOW — not one of those things prevents abuse.
I do understand the realities of abuse. Or I should. I have experienced it enough. That hasn’t prevented parts of MEs from abusing others. Admittedly. I am still coping with the abuse parts of MEs have inflicted upon my own children. The realities of mental illness are not comfortable.
When I interviewed this caregiver whom I will call “Jackie,” she made a point of explaining she had extensive experience with people who were not neurotypical. She pointed out she had worked in a group home and in a couple of other situations with challenging clients and she appeared compassionate. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Jackie started on a Wednesday evening after I returned from a very stressful eye doctor appointment in Seattle that a friend from church had driven me to. I was exhausted and handed Jackie the checklist and asked her to help me to prepare for bed.
She seemed helpful and cheerful and I was excited to see her the next morning when we would prepare lunch for my mom and my daughter who would be visiting with my baby granddaughter for lunch.
When the next day arrived, Jackie was pleasant and helped me prepare a quiche after getting dressed. She finished up the dishes and I asked her to take out the bathroom trash. She took the trash from the kitchen into the bathroom and said she was adding the bathroom trash. I saw her take a bag out on her way out to her car as I was visiting with my family.
When everyone left, I went into the bathroom. There, in the center of the bathroom was the bathroom garbage. What was missing from the laundry closet was a quilt I had pointed out to her was waiting to be taken to the laundry. Okay, it could have been a mistake… after all, the quilt was in a bag also. Maybe she forgot about it and accidentally grabbed it.
When Jackie returned a few hours later, I questioned her about it. She adamantly stated, “I would NEVER do such a thing!”
Even when I stated I was sure it was an accident, she replied, “Absolutely NOT, I knew that quilt was there. I didn’t accidentally take it out. Someone else must have taken the diaper garbage out of the dumpster and put it back in here!”
What?! Was I hearing right? I called my Case Manager and explained what I just heard, and put her on speaker. Suddenly, the story out of Jackie’s mouth changed, “I didn’t say anything like that. I said it was an accident and I would get it out of the dumpster.”
I was dumbfounded. Did she SERIOUSLY lie to my case manager about what she had said to me? Okay. Wow.
Jackie retrieved the quilt from the dumpster, where she had stated it wasn’t on the first check. Then, when I hung up the phone with my case manager, she proceeded to attack me, accusing ME of taking one bag out, untying the kitchen trash and exchanging the diaper garbage for the quilt and returning the diapers to my bathroom.
I demanded that she leave.
She argued in the type of voice you use on a three-year-old. Then my protector alter, Nicki, came out. She’s a teenager and has absolutely no desire to please. She was blunt.
“Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.”
Jackie responded with “wow,” but didn’t leave.
Nicki told her to “get the F@CK OUT!!” Then, she screamed it.
Jackie still didn’t leave.
Then, George (another protector alter) threatened to call the cops.
She finally left.
So far we have spent one hour of therapy discussing this situation. I am certain there will be many more.
I can’t believe the overwhelming feeling of vulnerability that caused us all to experience. We don’t EVER want to feel that way again. EVER.