Sunday, March 24, 2013

Art of Internal Gaslighting

Trigger Warnings: Extreme gaslighting, autism, abuse, bullying, unpleasant medical problems

I am smart, and I could do great things if only I had common sense.  So I've been told.  

Absent Minded Professor, Idiot Savant, Rain Man.  I've heard all of that.

I am a jerk.  I don't socialize much.  That is my fault.  If I would try I would find it easy just like everyone else.  But I don't try.  I choose not to, my choice, my failing.  Its because I'm a jerk. 

I am clumsy.  That is because I didn't play with other kids.  If I went out and played baseball I would learn to catch it.  If I would keep my eye on the fucking ball I would hit it and you wouldn't have to give up.  If I wanted to make those free throws, I could.  I wouldn't lose my balance if I would stand still.  If only I got off my fat ass.  If I did some push ups I could climb that rope.  If I lost weight I wouldn't tip my bike over.

I am a hypochondriac.  I overreact to minor illnesses and make things up.  Its my excuse to fail, which I have openly chose to do from birth.  I have been sick approximately zero times in my childhood.  If..  if, by some off chance I really was sick it was minor and I should have sucked it up.

I am a wimp, or sissy or wuss or any other ableist, sexist or homophobic slur you want to toss at me.  I get anxious in social encounters because I am a wimp.  I sweat profusely when it is over 70 degrees because I am a wimp.  I gag on food because I am a wimp, ( and also because I am a jerk for not eating something that someone made for me).  When mom died, you shamed me for seeing a counselor because I was a wimp.  I jump at loud sounds because I am cowardly wimp.

I am forgetful.  When I forget something relating to someone it is personal.  I personally choose to do it because I am a jerk.  If I forget to do something I was supposed to do, its because I am lazy. 

I am lazy.  If I would use my intelligence, my gift buried under my landfill of self created shortcomings, I would still be ok.  But I don't, therefore I am not.

I am naive.  You moved me away from the city, because I was too naive to go to school here.  I "would not have survived with the street kids".  Too trusting, too gullible.  If only I would wisen up and pay attention. .

I am an astute learner, and having mastered this craft, the art of gaslighting, I set forth into this world on my own at the age of 18 with hypocritical disdain not only for myself  but the world around me.  I saw my shortcomings and those of others as voluntary.

I tried to become a party animal in college.  I had many meltdowns, which I was able to pass off by claiming I had drank more beer than I really had, or claiming I had a massive hangover from all of the beer the night before.  I told myself I was just immature from lack of socializing.  I would figure it out.

I became depressed my second year.  I isolated myself, and mostly only attended quizzes and exams.  I passed the courses using only the books and the syllabus.  I actually got through that year, but this strategy began to fail me in my 3rd year as I began to fail showing up for even the mandatory.  I viewed this as personal failure.  I turned to no one for help because I didn't believe I needed it.

I also failed to keep up with my financial aid and ran out of money, so I had to quit.  I told my friends I was taking a semester off then never spoke to them again.  Told myself I would go back someday.  Told myself I did it because I was lazy.

I didn't dare ask for help at home.  I was grateful my family tolerated me.  I felt that they tolerated me out of loyalty to my deceased mother.  I felt that I reminded them of my abusive father (I am named after him).  They told me so on occasion.  I kind of look like a much taller version of him too.  If they loved me, they did it despite the fact that I was an immature, naive, lazy, forgetful, clumsy, wimpy idiot savant with an antisocial personality  (Their words which became mine).   Upon learning that I was not going to attend college next semester, they threw me out.

I survived in direct defiance of my supposed naivety.  Made it to the age of 27.  By this point I was starting to isolate myself again as I had 7 years before.  I felt sick and had crippling anxiety every day.  I quit my job, cut off my friends and lived off saved money for 6 months, doing nothing but playing Warcraft.  After washing those funds up, I moved out west into the home of my guild leader that had invited me to move out there.

I figured that I would finally learn to socialize out there and build a new life as far away as possible from the one I was currently living.  The social anxieties I experienced from college soon returned.  As did the workplace anxiety I was experiencing as I searched for and bounced around a few menial jobs.

I also began to feel increasingly weak and short of breath every day, as well as a lot of leg pain.  I chalked it up to being out of shape, anxious and not acclimated to the new climate.  It became more and more extreme, as I struggled to walk moderate distances, then walk up hills, then get out of bed and get dressed.  Yet I still pressed on because I did not want to be anymore of a disappointment than I already was.  And also, by nature, I was a wimp and a hypochondriac, it was probably a molehill that my weak mind contorted into the planet Jupiter.  

I learned I had a pulmonary embolism, generated from a Deep Vein Thrombosis (technical word for big blood clot)in my left leg that I likely occurred from my trip to California (I took the scenic bus route).  I learned this after taking myself to the emergency room.  I accepted that I could possibly be sick when I no longer had the strength to make the 20 foot walk to my bathroom  (I had to crawl), and that condition did not alleviate for over a week. I was told by doctors that I had lost 80% of my breathing capacity and odds of me not surviving another night were 66%. 

It was my fault of course.  A nurse even told me so.  I made poor lifestyle choices.  I was fat, and I play video games.  I was not a hypochondriac this time, but I was lazy.  And I got what I deserved.  I got what I asked for out of life.  I didn't need the nurse to tell me that, I already believed it.  I didn't need my family to tell me that either, I had proven it.

I had to return home, to the place I was cast out of 7 years previously for being too lazy and a weakling because I was too lazy and a weakling.  At this point, I am not sure who emotionally tormented me more, myself or them.  The opposite of being a wimp is being strong, so thats what I had to be.

I tolerated the pain of walking.  My left leg was permanently damaged from the clot.  It swells easily, and I get pressure sores.  Sores that grow and grow and grow when untreated.  I had to take 2 weeks off a few years ago to let it heal a bit after it got infected.  I saw the doctor a few times, found out where I could buy the medicated bandages he used, then began self treating it and went back to work.

I only took OTC painkillers for this, because I saw a prescription as a sign of weakness.  A few days after I transferred to a new store closer to where I currently live, a sore broke open and I lost about a half pint of blood.  Ambulanced off to the ER, I was kept in the hospital for 3 days, where my clotting and circulatory problems were Exhibit A for interns and med students who saw no problem in poking my wound at 4:30 am.  Upon release I vowed to keep my bandage tighter so it would not happen again and went back to work the next day.

In addition to a 50+ hour work week, I took up weightlifting and distance running in this condition, in part to fix myself.  A girlfriend broke up with me because I did not have the energy to keep up with her physically.  I got strong, I got in shape and I shredded my leg to pieces.  The skin had peeled off of about 40 percent of my lower left leg between my knee and foot, and off most of my ankle.  The pain was no longer hideable.  I took 2 weeks vacation to heal, but did not get signficantly better.  I worked another month before I was directed by my boss to take medical leave.

At this point I was of the belief that I was going to lose the leg, and that did not frighten me.  At least I would be visibly disabled.  At least no one could look at me in a wheelchair or on crutches and say  "He's just a lazy ass crybaby".  At least I could say I lost my leg being tough.  At least I could say, I am a typical person doing typical things in life and I had the scars to prove it (to myself).

The practitioner that treated me called my recovery a "Christmas Miracle" 10 weeks later.  Unfortunately from being sedentary for 10 weeks, I noticed a familiar stiffness and shortness of breath the day I had the bandages removed for the final time.  They said it was probably just a cold but I should have it checked out.  I was supposed to return to work the next day so I was stressed  It was in fact the beginnings of another pulmonary embolism.  Nowhere near life threatening because I reacted early this time.

This is how the bullies, the abusers, the gaslighters and the haters win.  They don't have to spend their lives abusing you, you will do it to yourself far more efficiently.  The people who taught me how to hate myself are either long gone from my life, or I keep a safe distance from them. 

They don't tell you "You are this is what you are, be proud".  They tell you "You are different....become same or die!".  Even now, I wonder.  Am I autistic, or am I making an excuse for not being same?


  1. Wow. Exhausting and painful to read. Pained for you and because I can hear my now 11 year old son in this. He is tiny, smaller than his brother who is 3 years younger...smaller than everyone. Smart...Amazingly brilliant. Different. And i tell him BE PROUD...but SO many people have labeled him "lazy" "careless" "wimpy" "less than"...just not good enough...because he IS different. he is Aspie, i am sure, but I do not bother telling people what I think...I have always described him as "too good for the world", and he IS. Don't buy into it. These people cannot think beyond their worldy programming. I know you are an adult, not MY kid, I am not intending to sound patronizing...I am trying to convey how deeply this writing took me into "you" as a child via my own child's image AND my OWN...Does this make sense? I almost always feel childlike because I am constantly at battle with these messages so deeply ingrained in my psyche. Yeah, we become pretty efficient at it. Powerful message, Sending love.

    1. It makes a lot of sense to me. My negative self beliefs, my internal gaslighting shades how I experience things. I have to consciously identify these moments and tell myself I am wrong. It takes a lot of convincing.

      Keep telling your son to BE PROUD! Thanks :)

  2. Thank you for this. You put a voice to my inner thoughts.