Who am I? The lifelong effects of relentless gaslighting

CW/TW // bullying, sexual assault, medical misdiagnosis, suicide, trauma

I am brutally honest about my failings – there will be some stuff in here you can judge me for if you want – and if you don’t want to engage with me anymore, I’ll understand.


How I see myself as a person:

A driven, kind, honest, thoughtful, intelligent, emotionally sensitive, bixsexual, non-binary (never identified with the term man ever), ADHD/autistic person.

I have core values I live by – Ako, Empathy, Ethics, Inclusion, and Versatility.

AkoReciprocal learning – This is from te ao Māori (Māori worldview) on education – where the teacher is both the educator and the student. My interpretation of this means that I approach any situation with the view that I could not be 100% correct, and I don’t believe in complete informational authority. I am always willing to be wrong when corrected by someone – I learn from everyone because everyone has something to teach, and I share my knowledge in return.

Empathy – This is actually a core feature of who I am – I have hyper empathy. This means I feel things on a physical level and I can also interpret peoples emotions incredibly well – it does lead to me isolating. e.g. I’ll bail from parties which I generally don’t enjoy as soon as I feel the vibe go bad.

Ethics – I have strong sense of personal ethics. I have a moral code that is rigid, while still adapting to new information. It’s not entirely fixed but once I know things are morally correct, or upon learning new information, I will update my moral code. The base of my moral code comes from Stoicism – but I incorporate any good moral reasoning into my own personal version of what I call Stoicism.

Inclusion – Everyone has something valid, each person has some unique offering for the world. They are important. I spent so much of my life living in isolation even when around people because no one understood me. It was neurodivergent Twitter who actually helped me to become the person I am today – because I was finally understood for who I was – not what people perceived me to be.

Versatility – As odd as this sounds for someone with autism, one of my unique traits from co-occurring ADHD and autism seems to be that I am able to learn about huge varieties of things, and in crisis situations or when dealing with new things – I have a can do attitude. I am always willing to try anything.

Gaslighting in the neurotypical world has defined me

Gaslighting – A definition

I often see this term used to mean any lying – that’s false and actually damages the actual meaning of this term.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment.It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs.

Instances can range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents occurred, to belittling the victim’s emotions and feelings, to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The goal of gaslighting is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in their own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from delusion, thereby rendering the individual or group pathologically dependent on the gaslighter for their thinking and feelings.

Gaslighting – Wikipedia

A sector by sector breakdown of gaslighting

Education

Summary:

  • The biggest source of gaslighting
  • Started extremely young
  • Challenged all the things I thought I was
  • Made me defiant toward authority
  • Lead me into friendships that were terrible for me
  • Erased my sexuality – by getting me to disprove it

Possibly the biggest contributor of gaslighting – nothing shook the foundations of who I was trying to be as a person than the educational system. It’s totally unfit for neurodivergent children. I was undiagnosed also.

It started young in pre-school – I was too loud . I was too energetic. I was too restless at nap time. I was TOO MUCH. I was – distracting, disruptive, lazy, incompetent, naughty, bad, and excluded.

A story that my family loves telling is that when I was approximately four years old my aunt called me “naughty” and I replied with “I’m not naughty, I’m atrocious” – which is hilarious on my part, but the underlying message here is that people did not like me – if this was the language I was using to describe myself.

My first ever report card I had included the comment that I “spent more time helping others than working on his own work”.

I had dysgraphia and dyscalculia – so I was bad at writing, and also math was impossible for me. Therefore I was careless.

At a certain point I started “rebelling” against my teachers and parents – I would have had Oppositional Defiance Disorder (a completely racist category of diagnosis in psychiatry). I was oppositional to people because I had constantly been gaslight about who I was as a result of undiagnosed ADHD and Autism.

Hannah Gadsby – a comedian – does a great piece on being autistic at school – it explained so many of my interactions:

Every report card I’ve ever had basically spoke to my ADHD and autism. In subjects I was interested in or just with great teachers who found a way to engage me I’d have “A pleasure to have in class – a remarkable student”.

For subjects that I struggled with or with bad teachers who would often exclude me for being disruptive it had comments like “Needs to concentrate”, “Needs to apply themselves more”, “consistency of effort is required”. These comments were nothing compared to what they said to me directly. I was called many derogatory things, hit frequently, had books thrown at me, often pulled in front of the whole class to humiliate me, be told that I would graduate over the back fence (into Mt Eden prison). Teachers were the worst bullies of all.

With low self esteem and the fact I changed schools frequently due to unstable rental housing and poverty – I took whatever friendships I could find. This meant that I ended up with the “bad crowd” – although they would bully me also. I was “friends” with people who rubbed dog shit in my hair, regularly gave me black eyes, would viciously tease me and call me things like “psycho”. They would encourage and get me to engage in behaviour that would cause me to cry for hours every night when I went to bed. I was easily manipulated due to being trusting of other people which is a common thing with ADHD or Autism, and I didn’t want to be alone.

The constant gaslighting about me being lazy continued throughout my education.

One of the most damaging effects of gaslighting was writing an essay during University in psychology on the biological or social origins of homosexuality. At the time the entire scientific literature and societal views were that being bisexual was mainly thought of as a transitional phase between being straight and gay. I wrote an essay erasing what I thought I knew about myself. I held science in high regard – and I just got informed that I was a closeted homosexual. This destroyed my self image and exacerbated my moral scrupulosity OCD – I don’t think I can ever describe how much damage this did.

Work

Summary:

  • I was always inconsistent and “performance managed”
  • I got bored easily
  • I couldn’t work places where it grated on my ethics
  • I was constantly bullied
  • I never knew how to advocate for myself
  • I am incompatible with capitalism

At work I would be amazing at new jobs. I was awesome for like 3-6 months. And then I would instantly start declining. This is due to novelty that I needed from ADHD.

The problem was – this would always happen:

  • Before meeting: “Lets have a chat”
  • In Meeting: “Here’s your performance plan”
  • The Response: Either anxiety or depression – anxiety response would mean I spent all my time improving to meet goals even if staying late, depression – I’d withdraw and just believe I am absolute garbage.

I just internalised so much failure at work. I knew I was distracted at times, I knew I couldn’t focus no matter how hard I tried. I was inconsistent – I will always be inconsistent unless dealing with people – external expectations of need of care override this inconsistency.

I have massive anxiety responses to the terms “lets have a chat” or “can we have a quick meeting”. I always knew what’s coming.

The other thing is that when people were harmed in workplaces or we had bad management or we had company values and didn’t seem to be living them in day to day efforts – I would always speak up.

I spoke up about managers that all the staff complained about – this got me fired. I spoke up about minor fraud one of my managers did – this got me a final warning. I lost interest in a job when I found out the company I worked for was involved in an asbestos mining scandal.

I also hate just making money for capitalism while the planet is being destroyed. I have ethics I can’t make compromises with – it actually depresses me constantly.

I was always bullied a lot in nearly all workplaces – I used to try and disarm this by self-deprecating. All the time. The problem with doing this is that you start to internalise the things you say about yourself.

In my final job that I worked but had to leave due to a whole factor of reasons which was awesome. The first time I ever had a performance review I spent the entire night planning out how we’d make our finances work as I was sure I was going to be fired. Instead they told me I was awesome and they loved having me around and I was a “cheerleader” for the company.

The first time I ever had performance issues my team leader pulled me into an office and was like “Hey is this an ADHD thing?” – I still cry every time I think about this because this was the thing that made me realise that it was ok to have ADHD, and someone got it. This was so significant in my life for me – I started to believe I was actually the person I wanted to be.

It had a backfire effect though – because I started gaining confidence in who I wanted to be, my current career choice didn’t align with my core need to help others on a level which would help me. When significant events happen related to social justice – I get absolutely destroyed by my mind if I am not acting or working in accordance with values that might have improved or stopped the problem.

Family/Friendships

Summary:

  • Gaslighting at home
  • Taught not to engage in autistic stimming behaviour
  • I was typically ADHD
  • I was typically autistic
  • I could never act on my intentions – even when I really wanted to

Gaslighting was occuring at home also.

The worst things were that I was constantly told not to fidget, I was told to sit still, I was told to pay attention, I was told to listen. I would forget to do tasks that were assigned to me and I would be called careless.

I wasn’t able to make eye contact a lot when little so my parents assumed that I was lying as did teachers, I learned to mask this through acting later on by learning techniques such as looking at eyebrows or the bridge of the nose. I tried to be honest. PROTIP: if you ever think I’ve lied, just ask me a second time – I’ll cave instantly – the remorse from even white lies hurts me.

My stimming behaviour which was sucking my fingers and touching the outer part of my ear with saliva and moving back and forth to make it cold – this grounded me – but I was told to stop this behavior or my father would glue sheep shit to my fingers – I was 8 or 9 at the time.

I was given vague tasks like “you need to help more” which I said yes to with the full intent of doing so because I had agreed – only not to be given specific tasks that they assumed I would know. So I was “unhelpful”, and “didn’t care”.

CW // serious illness and death
Friends would accuse me of not caring about them because I forgot plans, or that I didn’t call them. I was addicted to video games at this point quite heavily and I still absolutely hate myself for not seeing a friend who ended up dying of leukemia because I couldn’t pull myself away from Crash Bandicoot. [This just broke me again, I am so sorry Jitendra].

I just kept losing everyone I cared about – I never knew why.

Medical Gaslighting – Mental Health Services

Here’s a history from my other blog. This contains all the gaslighting and the misdiagnoses.

  • 1988-2000 – in school have a conduct disorder I am pretty sure here, teachers dislike me. Also have never diagnosed dysgraphia and dyscalculia – these are never detected in my education anywhere.
  • ~1993 – start showing symptoms of depression I think I had (due to suicide ideation starting at this age).
  • 2001 – Substance abuse problems – during this time someone says if I don’t react like others to amphetamines I might have ADHD (this is the first time I thought about it).
  • 2002 – Have the start of major depressive disorder. I have been messing up in life a lot. Mental health is never discussed anywhere in society, except to stigmatise the “crazy”.
  • 2009 – Diagnosed with depression – started on Fluoxetine (Prozac). No effect.
  • 2009 – Learn about ADHD in university – believe I have it, but most science here says it only occurs in children. I have also been masking behaviour for a long time, and making adaptations to cause depression and anxiety from this issue. I don’t think it can be me.
  • 2010 – I can’t get it out of my head that I have ADHD. It describes me too well. I talk to my doctor about it – they tell me it’s highly unlikely, but I push for a referral to the public mental health system. I take everything I can for evidence – school reports etc. The public psychiatrist doesn’t even entertain a diagnosis – says it’s my existing depression, changes my medication to Venlafaxine. I have a severe adverse reaction to this and I am told to persist for a month before they allow me to discontinue despite extreme suicide ideation and full body central nervous system zaps whenever I move.
  • 2010 – Sleep issues constantly – prescribed Zopiclone [Doctor dislikes this long term]. Switched to Temazepam – severe adverse reaction – no sensation in extremities. Switched back to Zopiclone – been taking it pretty consistently for the last 10 years.
  • 2011 – Switched to Citalopram (Celexa) for depression. No effect.
  • 2013 – Switched to Sertraline (Zoloft) for depression. No effect.
  • 2013 – Switch doctors. Tell them I think I have ADHD. They tell me they know of someone they can refer me, cast doubts on this doctors ability to diagnose. Get a referral. Spend 3 hours in assessment, costs an unreasonable amount of money, take supporting evidence (School reports, Academic records, Work History). Do a TOVA test – this showed ‘moderate’ ADHD-C. Doctor believes I have it and prescribed Ritalin. Go to fill my script for the first time and the pharmacist asks me “Do you really need this? Your doctor is just known to prescribe it.” I say yes – this fills me with doubt about my diagnosis.
  • 2013-2019 – Spend most of my time in denial here – medication is not working, I try short release, long release, combinations of stuff, believe I can “cure” my ADHD symptoms with medication.
  • 2016 – Put on Lorazepam for regular occurring panic attacks.
  • 2019 – My renewal for medication is up, and my Doctor has retired. See new Psychiatrist – he says I definitely have it, switched to Dexamphetamine… IT WORKS.
  • 2019 – 2020 – Become active on Twitterabout my ADHD, connect with the mental health activist movement – start relating to ASD related memes that talk about specific effects not related to ADHD. Take an online test. Says high chance of Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • 2021 – Diagnosed “officially” with ADHD/Autism/OCD with comorbid depression and anxiety – only after undergoing a mental health crisis in the previous year related to justice sensitivity which meant I could access free mental healthcare.

Relationships

Summary:

  • My relationships with men were based on my abuse for most of my life
  • I didn’t know rules for relationships
  • My autistic behavior made women feel insecure
  • I was emotionally manipulated frequently
  • I would get trapped in arguments that were destructive due to rejection sensitivity
  • Reacting this way is entirely involuntary – I hate myself for it
  • I believed I was never worthy of love
  • I spent more time learning how to be better I have a wonderful loving relationship with my wife.

CW/TW // Sexual assault
My relationships with men were all based on my abuse. I didn’t know what consent with men or grooming was until I was about twenty. In that time I had been abused frequently as a child by people I was told to trust. I was groomed by a fourty year old co-worker at the age of seventeen.

In early relationships with women I was awful when I reflected later in life. I had no understanding of who the fuck I was or so many rules or my unusual behaviour. I’d have girlfriends who were insecure around me. I’d constantly get asked “what’s wrong?” when I was just in my flat effect mode processing a lot of stuff in multiple thoughts – only to get angry with them for being like this, I didn’t know I was flat. I didn’t know I was different.

I was also emotionally manipulated frequently. The worst ever occurrence of this was someone who told me that they’d not allow me to be friends with all our shared friends if I didn’t enter into a more committed relationship with them. I wanted to get out of it so badly. I hated who I was in this relationship. I thought I was doing the right thing by just making them happy but neither of us were happy and I became the worst version of myself because I didn’t have the courage to break up – I needed them to hate me so they’d want to end it. I wasn’t nice here – I hate myself for this too.

Partners would sometimes trap me in arguments when I had learned quite young to just leave situations where I knew I was going to say stuff that would hurt people – I know everyone’s insecurities and I can be incredibly nasty when my rejection sensitivity is primed and I am trapped.

I need you to understand this part is never a conscious decision on my part – I don’t ever want to hurt people – it’s not an excuse either I own everything I’ve done and I’ve actively made amends for past relationships where this happened, if I can. I am friends with most of my exes, and seeing them happy is what I wanted most.

I spent seven years before meeting my now wife truly believing that I was unworthy of love. I was so destructive – and I am glad in some ways I did this – when I went into our relationship I had grown up a lot more by actually learning rules and morality and how to be a good partner.

I was honest with her about the fact I had Crohn’s disease and depression up front before even asking her out – I said that I had a lot of issues and the fact I was happy now didn’t mean that it would always be that way.

We approach all issues with either of us as us vs the problem, it’s the first time I’ve ever been in a healthy relationship. I will love her eternally.

The effects of gaslighting

Summary:

  • I still have constant trauma responses, depression, and anxiety from my time in the only neurotypical world
  • I doubt my diagnoses
  • Neurodivergent Twitter saved me – my life, my self perception, my ability to grow and change.

I have depression and anxiety mainly because I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I believed I was a horrible person because my actions never seemed to line up with my intents. I never had anyone believe me about anything I ever said because of this. How was I ever supposed to trust myself if no one else did?

CW/TW // Suicide
I believed I was going “crazy” when I went through autistic burnout and everyone around me thought so too – I didn’t have a diagnosis or explanation for what was happening to me. I legitimately thought people would be better off without having to deal with me anymore – so I attempted suicide to remove myself.

I still doubt my diagnoses – I don’t believe them at times – I am distrustful of everything because I’ve been taught that my thinking can’t be trusted. I am trying to unlearn this.

I had no self-esteem prior to engaging with neurodivergent Twitter. I mean it. Absolutely none. I didn’t think I was worthy of anything in my life or that I could ever do anything good for other people. I realised that I was looking for answers in the wrong kind of people – neurotypical people with no empathy. I am glad I found neurodivergent Twitter – this song sums up so much of my feelings and is so important to me.

I am so much closer to the person I want to be, and believed I was. I prove it through action, and I can take ownership of when I am not. I still make mistakes but I used to externalise everything as being the worlds fault – correct diagnoses allowed me to see what was my problem, and what was neurotypical society’s incorrect opinions.

Conclusion

Gaslighting ruined me. No one ever tried to understand me. I don’t think I’ll ever have confidence. I might appear to, but the entire time I believe I am a fraud, or that I’ll become the worst version of myself that everyone else assumed I was.

I don’t think I’ll ever really know who I am at a core level because I don’t have a fixed perception of the person I am vs the person people told me I am. I constantly live in fear that I am evil, or a psychopath, or a sociopath. Confidence for me is associated with not caring about others – so I can’t be confident.

If I had just had people believe me or understand me – I’d probably not be living with constant anxiety and depression – except over things that I have no control over like climate change, racism, systemic inequality, and all the other inequalities that neurotypical society abides with no conscience.

Published by roryreckons

I am an ADHD/Autism/OCD advocate and independent ADHD/Autism researcher. I am training in 2021 to become an ICF Accredited ADHD coach. I write mainly about ADHD/Autism/OCD/Mental health issues, but will also discuss morality, abolition, and current affairs occasionally.

One thought on “Who am I? The lifelong effects of relentless gaslighting

  1. Just to say that this is very relatable, and to me seems like clear and accurate descriptions of things. People consistently ascribing motivations, emotions and intentions to me that I didn’t have (and not seeing the ones I did have), from childhood on, can destroy the roots and foundations of any self-structure, and any basic trust in self and life that would allow me to live life outward from a consistent inner base.

    In my experience it takes time (years) to un-screw your mind, and there are always new layers of lies coming up, although over time I’ve found that the terrain does get flatter and the lens less twisted.

    It’s like building yourself from the group up as an adult – sometimes seems like people who don’t have to do this did it in childhood, and then “just live” – sort of magically, without having to rip old toxic crap out of their mental/emotional foundation and replace it with something good that they have yet to invent, at almost every step, for years.

    In my experience it’s possible to get beyond self-undermining loops, but it does take substantial support in the form of good relationships and conditions – certainly beyond the cognitive and into the material, bodily and social.

    Like

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