One day he came home and I met him outside so that I could help bring the groceries inside. Inside the boot I spied my laminator. It’s appearance in the boot was strange. Firstly, I didn’t even know he knew I had one. When I moved in, I put all my excess stuff in the spare room which was already full with all sorts of stuff. Things just weren’t that visible in the sea of paraphernalia. Secondly, he hadn’t mentioned anything about using it. It was a little . . . broken and had to be handled with care or it would definitely be completely broken! Thirdly, it had left the house meaning he didn’t need it. Someone else was going to use it and he hadn’t asked me. I don’t remember when I knew it was eventually gone for good.
The weather was bad, we were experiencing a tropical depression. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the electricity would be cut. I hurried to shower and was about to turn the water on then stopped. My lime green cotton towel wasn’t hanging where I’d left it that morning after I had bathed. Deep breath, sigh. Where was it? “Have you seen my towel?” I asked. His reply was that it was where I had left it that morning. Then I wouldn’t be asking would I? “It isn’t” I replied. Then he said I had probably put it in the laundry. Deep breaths. “I’m pretty sure I didn’t” I said. Then he appeared in front of me with a big grin on his face. “Oh I know now. You hung it under the house on the washing line this morning”. Sigh. I went into the bedroom to get a clean towel.
The electricity hadn’t returned in the morning and we really needed to listen to the early morning news so we sat in the car and used the radio to find out what was happening across the country. The news reporter said minimal damage had been sustained and that drivers should exercise caution on the road. So a normal work day. I stepped out of the car and headed upstairs. “Babes, here is your towel, exactly where you left it yesterday. I told you it was down here!” Deep breath. I retraced my steps down a few stairs. “The reason it’s here is because you have taken it from wherever you were hiding it and have just this minute hung it there. My towel was not there yesterday.” I walked into the house slamming the door behind me.
With the impending storm, the Government advised everyone to leave work so that everyone could get home safely. We had argued that morning so I decided against calling him. I got a bus and headed home. As I took the short walk to the house my phone rang. It was him. He wanted to know where I was, he sounded very worried but I was used to his fake, short lived concerns of my wellbeing. He wasn’t far so I decided to wait for him so that we could enter the house together. I counted the concrete columns and took in the assembly of empty glass bottles on the ground hoping the wind wouldn’t turn them into missiles. I sat at the heavy wooden picnic table, suddenly feeling weary. My mind became lost in thought. The howling wind brought me back to reality. I ran to stand next to one of the concrete columns. Now I had the full view of the downstairs, if anything was going to come at me, I would at least see it. I didn’t ask myself the most obvious question. Why was I waiting outside? God knew though. I had the full view of the downstairs.
I should have slammed the door harder! Remember that feeling when you’ve lost something and you are searching for it? Remember the feeling of total disbelief when you realise it was there all the time but you didn’t see it? Well it would have been impossible for my lime green cotton towel to have been blowing in all that wind for it not to be seen by me. I couldn’t work out where he had hidden my towel but it had to have been nearby since he got out the car, retrieved and hung the towel before I made it inside the house. That’s when the penny dropped. I had figured out that he was the cause of all my missing belongings but it was only in that moment that I worked out why. I didn’t know the term ‘gaslighting’ back then, but this was exactly what he was trying to do to me. He was distorting and manipulating my environment to confuse my recall and perception of reality.
Gaslighting is a tool of choice for toxic people. I guess they enjoy the adverse effects this mind play has on their victims especially when it has the desired effect. If you recognise that you are experiencing gaslighting, I need you to know this. Hold onto your version of reality and don’t waste time arguing it. Your perpetrator will never accept your version of events. State it matter of factly and then walk away. Don’t allow yourself to become embroiled in yet another dispute because you always lose. You know that you are right. Let that reality bring you peace. ‘Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over’ Luke 24:38 The Message Bible.