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How do you start to recover after years of gaslighting?

(63 Posts)
Arkkorox Thu 29-Sep-16 16:26:36

I know it's early days. Im 10 days out of it but I have no idea where to start. I am so broken. I approached a counsellor yesterday but im not sure that's the right way to go. I have no faith in my own mind, no confidence, no love for myself. Am I rushing it? I feel like I should be pushing myself to bounce back but honestly it's taking all my effort just to get out of bed and get dressed.

ImperialBlether Thu 29-Sep-16 16:28:15

Congratulations on getting out. Have you heard of The Freedom Programme?

olives106 Thu 29-Sep-16 16:32:59

I'm so sorry. Well done for getting out.

I think the best thing you can do at this stage is just to look after yourself very tenderly, like you would look after someone you loved who was ill or had been through a very difficult experience. Lots of rest, sleep, nourishing food, seeing people who make you feel good, doing whatever hobbies and activities you find relaxing and restful.

If you've been gaslighted for so long you'll have learned not to trust your body or mind to know what's good for it, so just slowing down and listening to them is something that won't come naturally but if you can teach yourself to be compassionate towards yourself it'll be a big step in counteracting the damage that was done to you.

It sounds like as well you might be a bit still in the mindset of there being something wrong with you that needs fixing, which is what gaslighting does. You need to give yourself space and time to heal, rather than trying to fix the damage in any one strategy, if that makes any sense.

Take care, look after yourself, sounds like you're being incredibly brave, and keep talking on here if it helps

Arkkorox Thu 29-Sep-16 16:41:21

Thank you. I know this is the third thread I've started in a week About my break up but I just need to keep talking about it.

olives I do very much feel there is something wrong with me. Im the reason he couldn't be with me anymore. I made him suicidal and depressed. I ruined his life. Im the reason my little family is now in bits and dd has to be dragged through all the shit to do with access to her dad. She's so little still. I can't believe ruined her family.

olives106 Thu 29-Sep-16 16:49:11

You didn't 'make him' suicidal and depressed. Nobody has that power to do that to anyone, and he always had the choice to get out.

If he was gaslighting you then both you and your daughter are far, far better off out of there. Sounds like she's too young to understand the custody arrangements anyway, and it'll be much better for her to grow up with a mother who isn't being controlled and blamed and told she's worthless.

You are deeply worthwhile, you are the world to your daughter, and independent of all other relationships you are a child of God (or simply a unique and unrepeatable being, if you don't find religious language helpful) and you have unique and inestimable worth. You might not feel like that at the moment but that's only because you've been lied to for so long that the lies feel like truth. I promise you they're not.

Hold onto that knowledge and wait for your emotions to catch up with it

Lottapianos Thu 29-Sep-16 16:57:56

I would say that counselling absolutely is the way forward but you need to start it when you're ready. It may be too soon right now.

Excellent advice upthread about taking care of yourself physically. You've been through a very traumatic time and you must be exhausted and shattered. Good food, sleep, gentle exercise will help you to feel stronger over time

Gaslighting really messes with your sense of self and your belief in your own ability so start building that up for yourself. Notice every single thing you get right or do well and praise yourself for it. For example, if it's raining, and I've remembered to bring an umbrella, I will actually say to myself 'good work babe, well done'. Use words that feel comfortable for you and start to talk to yourself kindly. It takes time but it really works

skyyequake Thu 29-Sep-16 17:01:05

I know how you feel, but its really not your fault.

Definitely look up The Freedom Programme as suggested above with a link. It is helping me enourmously.

skyyequake Thu 29-Sep-16 17:01:23


Arkkorox Thu 29-Sep-16 17:01:29

olive thank you.

It's so hard to turn off the whole ' it's your fault' voice. I already had low confidence and low self esteem when I met ex. I was also 18 months out of a violent relationship.

I have to rebuild myself for my daughters sake, it's just hard when my normal response is to just admit fault for everything, even when it isn't my fault at all.

Nothing I did was good enough. Everything I said was apparently said with a nasty tone to it even though I was pretty sure it wasn't. If I had to ask him for anything it would take me a couple of days to gather the courage to do it incase of the potential fall out. Especially money. The house was never clean enough, I was never quite good enough to make him happy. He mocked me Infront of our friends but then it was me being the pathetic bitch when I got upset.

Arkkorox Thu 29-Sep-16 17:06:04

Lots of cross posts!

I will have a look at the freedom programme.

As far as self care goes im managing to eat now without being sick, appetitie is still missing but im sure it will come back as I feel better. I don't think I've ever cried so much in my life. Im so utterly terrified of being a single parent. I nearly begged him to take me back but I have so far resisted. It hurts. It hurts in my chest and in my actual heart.

I can't even tell him I've realised all this because he will turn it back round to all being my fault. He's never the one in the wrong. Ever.

skyyequake Thu 29-Sep-16 17:11:14

Don't be scared of being a single parent! It is entirely doable and once you're finally feel free of his oppressive voice in your head it will be totally freeing!

You have taken the hardest step. There will still be good days and bad days but you will make progress and you will feel stronger as the weeks and months and years without him filling your head with manipulation, lies and abuse roll on.

You are stronger than he is. He is so pathetic that he has to control others to make himself feel big. He is nothing but the lowly scum of the earth and you will rise above him. It will take time, but you will be free.

Lottapianos Thu 29-Sep-16 17:17:07

'I have to rebuild myself for my daughters sake'

And for your own sake OP. You deserve to live a happy and peaceful life and to have faith in yourself

Arkkorox Thu 29-Sep-16 18:05:44

skye I wish I could be okay with it but im so not.

Two weeks ago I was promised the world ' if I could keep the house tidier and lose more weight'

Now look. Single mum on benefits. No ones going to touch me with a barge pole ever again.

skyyequake Thu 29-Sep-16 18:29:23

Don't be silly! He's warped your mind! Do you really think that someone who truly loves you gives half a shit about your income? That they wouldn't welcome your kids with open arms? That's what real love is. And of course you won't be on benefits forever, once your youngest goes to school you'll have loads of chances to get work and build a career. And don't say anything about age either - Vera Wang is one of the most famous fashion designers in the world, and she didn't design her first dress till she was in her 60s!

I'm a single mum, on benefits, in a council flat and I'm pretty certain I could go and find a new man tomorrow if I wanted to! And I'm no superskinny supermodel either!

Please please see it there is a Freedom Programme going on near you. Or a domestic abuse organisation that does a One-Stop shop - sometimes they offer free counselling

flowers you can get through this, these are his words you are thinking, not your own.

skyyequake Thu 29-Sep-16 18:35:09

Oh and someone who loves you offers you the world without condition, no matter what you look like, and who helps with the housework instead of criticising it.

Btw I'm in the same boat as you. It was only 9 days ago that I told XP to take his stuff and go. So I'm not saying this years down the line with the benefit of hindsight, I know there are bad days, I know you have their voice in your head telling you that you're wrong and everyone who is supporting you is wrong. But he's wrong. And you are worth more than this. He's only convinced you otherwise so you are easier to control!

GreenRut Fri 30-Sep-16 05:46:05

Someone very close to me is in the process of leaving a gas lighting, emotionally abusive husband. It is fucking horrendous what he is now putting them through and she is convinced she has bought this on herself because he has ingrained that thought pattern into her. I would say OP, thank the Lord you are even ten days out of it. These people are nasty nasty bastards. I think counselling is a fantastic idea for you, CBT would be good.

feelingdizzy Fri 30-Sep-16 05:58:05

I do have the benefit of hindsight,12 years ago I walked out with 2 kids under 2 due to the emotional abuse inflicted by my then dh.
We initially survived,lots of tears but lots of laughs real laughs without him destroying it.I realised I was a good mum.
I retrained realised I was good at what I did.
Then I realised that we were free,and I had done it,he hadn't destroyed me.
We went from surviving to thriving,just like you will xx

Ausernotanumber Fri 30-Sep-16 06:12:46

Oh love.

First off. Getting out is easy. Getting him out of your head is much much harder. It will take years. Counselling, the freedom programme. Those are great. I needed ADs for a while to deal with my depression / anxiety.

I'm 15 nearly 16 years out any my boyfriend ticked me off last night for being negative about myself it's all my fault and told me to stop it. I still do it from time to time.

And I'm old fat single parent and I have a boyfriend. That'll happen, but I'd recommend you take a good long while before you get one. I think I didn't even date anyone for about 18 months. It's so long ago I can't remember.

Take care. You are doing the right thing for your DD.

Take care x

Arkkorox Fri 30-Sep-16 07:53:18

Thank you everyone.

I just wish I could stop feeling so sad that my little family has been pulled appart. The horrible empty feeling in my stomach and chest is overwhelming. I wish I could fast forward a few years and see that me and dd are happy again.

Fidelia Fri 30-Sep-16 08:07:45

Things I've found that help:

- Write down all the ways he has treated you badly. When you start doubting your decision, or if you start beating yourself up, read the list and remind yourself that this is hy you left, and that by leaving you protected your dd from the gaslighting/EA

- Don't talk to him on the phone or in person. Keep everything to email text. Whenever he tries to talk to you, write down what was said immediately afterwards. WHEN (not if) he tries to gaslight you on something you've agreed, you will have written proof of what was said. This has saved my sanity. And be warned that you will keep needing to do it, even if he seems to start being reasonable again...In fact ESPECIALLY if he starts being 'reasonable' because it usually is about lulling you into a false sense of security.

- You may find that he looks as if you have shouted at him, when you say something reasonable to him...that isn't what he wants to hear. Just because he looks at you like that doesn't mean you have done something wrong, it means you have stood up to him. Don't apologise or react as if you have done something wrong (even if every part of your body wants to cringe and apologise), just smile politely.

- Surround yourself with supportive people and get counselling.

rememberthetime Fri 30-Sep-16 08:13:59

I also recommend counselling. I needed 2 years of it before I found the courage and strength to leave. For you it will be much less - you have already done the hard bit.

One thing my counsellor pointed out to me this week was to look at what I have done so far. You have arranged benefits (no easy thing) you have left or forced him to leave, you have set up your own home, you have been brave enough to take responsibility for your own life and that of your daughter and you have set an amazing example.

Just a few sessions will really help you. Go to your doctor and get a referral asap. get onto a Freedom Programme or something similar and put yourself first. try not to let thoughts of negativity be the first thing you revert to. Replace each and every statement with something positive.

Sp when you say "what have I done?" you answer "I have put the needs of myself and my child first and there is nothing wrong with that".

When you say "I miss him" tell yourself "I miss what I hoped he could or should be, not what he actually was".

When you say "I hate myself for doing this" say "I love myself for being so strong and doing the right thing - my future looks bright"

Don't let negative thoughts become your reality.

Arkkorox Fri 30-Sep-16 08:16:54

Can I just say that I wasn't the one who left, he dumped me over social media. After 7 years together. Apparently I would have been too hysterical if he had done it face to face hmm

But it hurts that even though I tried so hard to be better I still wasn't good enough.

olives106 Fri 30-Sep-16 08:27:02

Oh love, I so know that feeling of I tried everything and it just wasn't good enough.... It hurts so much.

It will take a while but eventually you will come to see he wasn't good enough for you either.

Do take care and give yourself lots of time. There's no hurrying these things, full healing can take years as others have said. But I promise the really acute pain you're in right now does ease.

Counselling sounds like a good idea if you can get hold of some, but even more important at this stage I think is to find support wherever you can. Do you have a good friend or family member you can confide in? Would calling the Samaritans and just pouring out how you're feeling help? (You don't need to be suicidal to call them 116123).

If you're feeling really down or anxious or can't sleep, perhaps go and chat to your doctor, if you haven't already? They might well be able to refer you for further support or prescribe something to help you get over this awful phase in early recovery.

Sounds like you're doing brilliantly, I'm in awe of how you're coping for yourself and your little girl at such a painful time.

Ausernotanumber Fri 30-Sep-16 08:29:22

Nothing would ever have been good enough.

its not you. It never was you. It is not your fault.

If you did something the goalposts would move.

Arkkorox Fri 30-Sep-16 08:38:51

I have really supportive parents and a few close friends that could see what was happening to me. They held off because every time they would try and point out something that wasn't right I would have a million excuses for his behaviour.

I feel so stupid for not seeing it, and then at the same time I feel like perhaps he wasn't abusive at all and it actually was all in my head/me just being impossible to be with. I can't even tell if that's a rational thought or not anymore.

I feel guilty for saying he was abusive, but is that part of the whole thing? My opinion never mattered, I was forever making excuses for why he wasn't at home with us, why he didn't help out more with dd. He has NEVER taken her out on his own, he's never bathed her, he's never cooked her dinner, he's put her to bed a grand total of 4 times in her life and yet I made excuses for all of this.

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