After sending my last blog post a 2am this morning I tried to sleep…but I still tossed and turned. My brain was on overdrive, unable to shut off my thoughts and let me sleep. With no IT helpdesk to call for advice, to tell me to switch it on and off again, I tried to understand why my usual journaling had not helped. Usually I can dump my brain onto a page and stop the whirlwind of thoughts.
Then it occurred to me, I felt crazy! I felt that feeling of accusation, that someone was calling me crazy. And I mean that ‘crazy’ that somehow encompasses all the stereotypes and stigmas I try to fight. The ‘crazy’ when you see straight jackets, padded cells and Victorian Bedlam rolled into one. I felt this accusation like I had so many times before. I felt chained to a bed and locked in a room, unheard and surrounded by silence.
Where had this come from? My family, of course. In the past when I have expressed my version of my childhood of abuse and trauma, I have come up against opposition. My point of view has been invalidated and I was told my memories were plain wrong. Throughout my childhood and adult life I have been ‘gaslighted’ by my family. A term I learnt from reading My Courage to Tell by Laura Corbeth (lauracorbeth.com), an amazing 5* book Sydney and I reviewed for the podcast (The Mental Health Book Club Podcast).
Gaslight, verb – manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity (Google Dictionary).
Image from the film Gaslight. Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in the final confrontation.
The film Gaslight (1944) is my favourite black and white movie and now I understand why. The husband makes his wife feel insane by denying her memories, experiences and manipulating situations. I feel this is what my family have done to me. As a child I was told my point of view was wrong, I had taken things the wrong way and misunderstood what was meant. It was all my fault and I needed to change. This continues to this day, especially by my sister.
When I started to discuss my childhood traumas with my family, they denied it and again blamed my perception. Questioning my perception of life, my memories and my own sanity. They made me feel crazy; like I was a hypochondriac, a liar, and mentally insane. Making up trauma and abuse, but why would anyone do that?
I now know it is actually their inability to accept what they did to me. Accepting any responsibility would be facing what they did and how unkind they can be. It does not fit with how they wish to see themselves and so it is easier to deny my memories and blame my interpretation. So when a family event approaches I fear these things will be discussed and I will have to fight for my version of events, for my sanity.
This time it is exasperated by the fact that I am suffering with depression, basically I already feel I am crazy. Plus, my sister has approached my sister-in-law and best friend asking if I am clinically depressed. Kirsty wrote my ‘escalating mental health issues’ and the ‘severity’ of what was described to her was concerning her. This all has caused my anxiety to increase as I now have to see them and act well.
It would be perfectly reasonable to ask, why can I not tell them the truth. I am suffering with depression and I am on antidepressants. But, if I do that I am admitting I am Cra-Cra-Crazy! It would be like saying they are right and none of my experiences happened. That my sanity is in question and so my memories are fallible and questionable. My past did not exist. it would mean I am not good enough or worthy as I have then made up this past of trauma and abuses. That I am a horrible person.
Maybe it is not as black and white as this, but this is what my anxiety does. It blows my thoughts up to ridiculous levels and I then have to talk it back down. My anxiety makes it all seem so logical, like a natural disaster it feels somehow inevitable. Through therapy I have learnt I can counter these feelings, my logical brain can take over and tell myself the truth:
- Just because I have depression does not mean I am insane or crazy.
- It also does not mean my past did not happen. My experiences and memories are my own.
- Actually the reason I suffer with depression is linked to the childhood of trauma and abuse so it confirms my experiences.
- If I was ‘crazy’ should my family not be supportive rather than ridicule me.
- I am worthy of love and kindness and what I do is enough.
- I am not a bad person and I would not make up these things. I am a generous and kind person.
I also need to learn to not let them make me feel this way. This is tough as my mind races to these places before my brain has a chance to catch up. It is like the story of the Hare and the Tortoise. The tortoise (logical brain) will always win in the end, but the Hare (my anxiety) will always bolt off the starting line and race off first. But my Tortoise will always teach the Hare a lesson by the end and this time it is to hold my own conviction of my past.
I need to own my memories and not let anyone deny my past. This is my life in this mental world.