Living with PTSD is an absolute nightmare. It is not just the constant worry, the constant looking over your shoulder, the lack of sleep, and the severe anxiety. For me, the worst part of PTSD and living in with an abuser was the constant having to prove myself and explain literally everything I was doing. If I was on my BlackBerry or the computer he would stand over the top of me, breathing down my neck, asking me what are you doing? All I wanted to say was “can you just leave me the fuck alone for 5 minutes?” He routinely was obsessed with monitoring my MySpace page. I had to explain who all my friends were. When I was in college I caught a whole lot of shit about doing group assignments that included males. It was when I was in college I started standing up for myself. I told too bad. I am going to work with males and females. And I had a male friend who would help me get through all of my statistics classes. My abuser was not on the same intelligence level as my college colleagues. He didn’t know anything about statistics. My 16 year old son knew more. My son would help me as well with my statistics. So I would use that against him, “you don’t know how to do this so how am I going to learn?” My oldest son was a tremendous help through college for me. I slowly started to break away. I was focused on earning my degrees to have a better life.
Gaslighting, where do I begin with this? First, let me tell you the definition of gaslighting. It is a term a lot of people have heard about but don’t truly know the definition. Gaslighting is a form of psychological control and manipulation. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines gaslighting as (transitive verb) an attempt to make someone believe that he or she is going insane as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation and (verb) a term often used by mental health professionals to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy. For me, a big part of the gaslighting was invalidating my feelings. When I would speak about how he made me feel he would me its all in my head and I was crazy. He never once acknowledged my feelings of being abused. He would tell me I was crazy and he wasn’t abusing me. He would tell me to stop yelling at him and I wouldn’t be yelling. I was always told I was crazy. I was not crazy. I learned that in therapy and through group battered women’s counseling. I was not crazy, but it took me many years to figure that out. He had me believing I was crazy and domestic violence was normal, everyday life that women just had to live with. My feelings of anxiety and fear were constantly being invalidated. My own mother invalidated my feelings. After an episode of physical abuse by my husband at the time, I went to my parents house. After being physically assaulted, my mother told me to go home and deal with it because were just married. My own mother gaslighted me. Looking back at everything that happened in the past, I sit back and ask myself, what the fuck were you thinking?” After years of therapy and being away from abuse, I know the red flags and abuse, whether physical or emotional, I will never put up with it again. I will never be gaslighted again. I am strong and I am a survivor now.
So, now the PTSD still continues 10 years since I have left him. Ten years later I find myself explaining myself to everyone. My friends tell me often, Valora, you don’t have to explain yourself, you do what you gotta do. And they tell me this out of kindness. They know what I have been through. I am always trying to prove to people I am good enough even though I know I don’t have to. After 17 years of conditioning, it is a habit I have no been able to break. I am finally learning I am good enough. I am trying to not keep explaining myself and proving myself, but alas I believe after the 17+ years of conditioning, it will never leave me.
“Believe you can and you’re half way there.”-Theodore Roosevelt