That’s a general catch-all. I couldn’t say for certain where, exactly Tina lands on the Cluster B personality scale. She has destructive traits that overlap into antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders, but as far as the state induced in a long-term partner of someone suffering a cluster B disorder, it’s the same result.
Of course, Tina has co-morbid substance abuse issues and it’s been said that all addicts are narcissists. So, it’s also not possible to tell what behaviors stem from what disorder. My therapist advises that it’s hopeless to try to pinpoint it, but it’s a natural instinct of many who survive this kind of abuse.
Perhaps the worst and definitely the most persistent aspect of surviving narcissistic abuse and gaslighting is loss of confidence in my ability to reason.
I’m experiencing decision paralysis. I’m constantly second-guessing myself and as a result, everything takes much longer to accomplish. A lot of things are sidelined. Even simple decisions seem to have become mind-benders. I was standing in the bakery section of the grocery store, deciding on a treat. I picked up a box of tasty-looking donuts. I noticed apple fritters. I haven’t had those in a long time. Do I like apple fritters? I think so. Maybe I should just get the donuts…
I stood, contemplating the two boxes for a good five minutes before I became aware that I must have looked pretty odd just standing there, staring back and forth between two $4.00 boxes of pastry. Even realizing how long I was taking, it still took another minute or two to break the decision paralysis and put the apple fritters in the cart.
That’s just one example. It’s a daily struggle. I have lost confidence in my ability to do complex work. I’ve ceased all political involvement, for example. I don’t even know how I used to give speeches, testify to the legislature, devise legal arguments and strategies… When I think of those things, I feel overwhelmed and asea.
Gaslighting is no small thing. It’s extremely harmful. It warps a person’s whole sense of reality, destroys confidence in their mental prowess. It can take years to dig out and recover from this kind of psychological and emotional abuse.
Tina had managed to convince me that I was the problem – that it was in my head. I was misinterpreting what I saw and heard. I was being paranoid. Possessive, jealous.
When she was getting phone numbers from other men at the bars, there was a perfectly valid and innocent reason for it. When she wanted to spend weekends with her “former” sex partner, it was just to spend time with his sisters. When she came back all marked up with intimate bruises or bite-marks, that was Scott just worried that his hands weren’t strong enough to inflict pain and bruising on a woman anymore. Perfectly innocent. How dare I question it?!
I was essentially trained over a course of years to doubt my own judgement. “Word salad” and gaslighting kept me confused and off-balance. It’s especially malevolent behavior that causes lasting harm in order to rob a person of their free will, manipulate and control them.
The situation was made worse because of one time I was wrong. I was very wrong about one situation. Spectacularly and embarrassingly wrong. Others will surely find the story entertaining when I get around to retelling it. That caused me to question my own judgement. It made me fearful of being wrong about other things, or even being perceived as suspicious.
Tina convinced me that I needed anti-depressants because I was sad and confused and terrified about Tina’s relationship with Nate becoming inappropriate. I was happy when we were in agreement about how to move forward, and then devastated when she continued to refuse to take any steps at all to correct the situation and alleviate my justifiable discomfort.
Going from questioning Tina’s faithfulness to becoming convinced that I was crazy (and alcohol-dependent to complicate things further) to accepting responsibility for everything that had gone wrong after I stopped drinking to needing to suppress and compartmentalize information that would cause dissonance or anguish, needing to avoid questions that could be perceived as suspicion to realizing that I was essentially right in my instincts all along has been a wild and convoluted, confusing trip.
I’ve been reassessing numerous past incidents with new eyes free of scales. Behind every door, it seems, there is fresh torment, humiliation and chagrin as difficult realities slowly replace the contradictory memories of cognitive dissonance or the semi-conscious avoidance thereof.
New revelations come unbidden, often enough that it causes undue rumination. Documenting all of this is one way I’m coping with it all and trying, in particular, to dispel the feelings of shame and embarrassment.
I thought of myself as a pretty intelligent man. I got far on my wits so I struggle with understanding how I could have been so astoundingly stupid for so long. How could denial and loyalty to someone who had so little regard for my feelings override the advice and urging of truly caring friends and family? I’ve seen men in similar situations. I judged them harshly for their willful ignorance and tolerance of obvious abuse. Now I am that poor sap. My pride makes that hard to accept
I know this much: Before I met Tina, I didn’t experience chemical dependency to the point of withdrawals. I hadn’t ever felt the need to get counseling and I wasn’t taking any medications for anxiety or depression (I’ve been calling them my Tina Pills for years). The relationship was toxic. Tina was worse for me than booze, but harder to quit.