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  • Writer's pictureJaye Gaff

Let's talk about gaslighting

We need to talk about gaslighting.

I first heard this term in 2018 but I first experienced it in 2015. I did not know what was happening until well after it ended. A therapist told me the term after I had left the workplace where I experienced, along with other employees, a constant almost 3 year long barrage of what I know now is gaslighting.

So what in the actual fuck is it?

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that occurs in abusive relationships. It is an insidious and sometimes covert type of emotional abuse where the bully or abuser makes the target question their judgments and reality.1 Ultimately, the victim of gaslighting starts to wonder if they are losing their sanity.

I felt crazy. Insane. I felt madness overwhelm me. And I didn't feel safe anywhere. Not even within myself because I was the problem so how could I be safe? Emails were sent stating one thing (which ended up working in my favour during the worker's compensation process). I would then respond to this email which would then be met with "we never said that". The experience was a never-ending loop of being told I was too mentally ill to work and then being told they never said that, having work taken away because I was too loud and then being told they never did that. It was constant, overwhelming and almost, if I'm honest, life-ending.

I wanted to die. It's really hard to leave that crazy spiral. I couldn't get out of it. I wanted it to make sense and it was never going to make sense.

The first thing that helped was being told I actually wasn't mentally ill. I have mental health disorders but I wasn't clinically diagnosed as mentally ill.

The next was hearing the word "gaslighting". I Googled it in the doctor's office and we discussed the term together.

But I still felt crazy. They said I was crazy. I was nothing. I was nobody. I wasn't worth anything.

And then my daughter came home with advertising material of theirs. I lost it for a day or two and then I looked at it and thought of what my abusers wanted. They bullied me. They abused me. They harassed me. They gaslit me. They wanted me to be in the wrong. They wanted me to be crazy. They didn't want to pay a legal wage. They wanted anybody who had a voice to go away. And fuck that.

I don't like doing what people want me to do. I will deliberately do the exact opposite. It's just who I am. But I spent years doing what they wanted me to do. I thought I was powerless to them. I thought their voices were the truth. And then it hit me. Even if that's true, even if I am too mentally ill to work, why am I even listening to them?

Are they kind, empathetic people? Do they have my best interests at heart? Does their opinion matter to me?

It's tough to have these thoughts while it's happening but it's not impossible to change your thoughts after the fact. And once it's clear who your abusers are it's really bloody easy. For me, a switch flipped in my mind and I was done. It didn't matter what they had said. It wouldn't even matter if I ran into them because they weren't anything to me anymore. In fact, once that switch turned, I could find them laughable. We joke about them now. I'm not scared to talk about them and what happened. My lawyer, doctors and I joke about how stupid they actually are.

I once thought it was a detriment that they were so known in my community but here's the thing -- they are known but they are not remembered nicely. When people ask me about working there they share their own stories about these men. So many people have been affected by these two that it actually helps to hear strangers consider them a laughing stock as well.

But, I guess, the best thing was to know what I encountered was real. Gaslighting is real and it is insidious. You are not crazy and you are not alone.

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