Healing from Gaslighting in an Abusive Relationship

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“You make me feel like I am absolutely insane.”

I have said this in a previous relationship more times than I’d ever like to admit. A year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what gaslighting was, nor that I had been a victim for six years.

That’s the thing about gaslighting, it can sneak into your life unknowingly, and before you know it, it can lead you to a breaking point where you doubt your sanity and your life is spiraling out of control.

Gaslighting.

By definition, means to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

Not too long after returning to Florida from college, I started a relationship with a man I honestly thought I was in love with and who I thought was in love with me. He was charming, funny, and seemed to have a good heart. I try not to bash past relationships or the people involved, so by no means was it always a bad relationship – we did have our good times.

With that being said, I can’t pinpoint when the gaslighting started.

I had what I thought were misunderstandings — me just being “stupid,” forgetting things or making a “big deal” out of nothing. I had no clue this was only the beginning of what was to come.

Each day I walked on eggshells, not knowing what I would do wrong by him, and as a result, I became a shadow of my former self, losing all confidence. With my loss in confidence, I lost my ability to defend myself and was subjected to other forms of cruel abuse.

Despite feeling my life was falling apart, I rarely considered leaving.

Instead, I clung onto the relationship, attempting to repair the damage I was made to believe I had done. I also got deeper and deeper into the relationship making it incredibly convoluted to be able to just leave.

Things finally got to a point where I was at rock bottom. I gave in and listened to the small voice inside of me, the small voice that for the past six years had told me things weren’t right. The small voice that had been silenced by him, that had been my apparent “crazy.” The small voice that knew I should have left, but that I didn’t have the confidence to listen to.

I now realized that small voice was my gut instinct, and it was telling me that my life could improve, but I needed to open up and seek support. I am thankful that I finally did because it is how and why I am able to know my worth now.

The journey to healing from gaslighting is a long and vicious one, so I want to share a few ways that I have been working to regain myself and my self-confidence back.

It is okay to take your time.

People will tell you time and time again to put the past behind you. I respectfully disagree. I actually think that is super toxic behavior. Though I don’t think you should let your past of abuse define you, it is important to process it and move past it at your own pace.

Learn to forgive yourself.

I wish I could explain exactly how hard it is to forgive yourself. It takes an immeasurable amount of courage. It is one of the hardest and essential steps to overcome the trauma of an abusive relationship. It will take time. You will make promises to never think about it, and break them too. You would promise yourself never to text them, but you will do it anyway. And that’s okay.

Remember that you are not alone.

There are going to be good days and bad days. On the bad days, when you are fighting with the past, don’t be harsh on yourself.

Surround yourself with people who feel like sunshine.

Choose people who love you, who build you up, and who allow you to feel how you feel unconditionally.

Boundaries.

At times, being a little stern about the boundary is safer. Don’t allow everyone inside that boundary. Not everyone is worthy of knowing your story or your heart. That is okay. Now more than ever, it is so important to stay true to yourself and learn your worth. Don’t let anyone talk you into feeling differently.

Healing is possible.

Relationships that obliterate who you are as a person are hard to overcome. It is a long journey of healing and struggling to find who you are, but it is one that you owe yourself.

Never forget to love yourself enough to walk away from the toxic people. And once you do, never look back again.

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