What is gaslighting? A Google search brings up this definition: “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”.
Many of us in the endometriosis world have realized that for years we’ve been gaslit by doctors, family members, friends and strangers. “It’s not that bad”, “maybe you’re just not handling it very well”, “have you tried *insert insultingly-unhelpful-method-of-treatment*”, “you’re being dramatic”, “I don’t see anything wrong with you” and others are common phrases the collective “they” use to make us question our sanity in hopes that we’ll shut up and go away.
Time and time again we’ve been led to believe that our issues are “all in our head”, “not so bad”, or in some way different than how we’re actually experiencing things.
We’ve learned to be rightfully repulsed by gaslighting and we call it out when we see it.
But what about the gaslighting we don’t call out? It’s just as bad if not even more caustic than the gaslighting we do call out: when we gaslight ourselves.
We start out innocent enough: it’s hard to exist day in and day out year after year with health problems. Part of the gaslighting starts when we go into “survival mode” and we look for ways to cope. Coping isn’t bad, but there’s a fine line between coping and gaslighting and it’s up to us to decide for ourselves which is which and call ourselves out when it crosses the line.
Breathing through the pain while looking forward with hope is one thing. Looking back after a pain episode and denying the reality of its intensity is another thing altogether.
Needing a break from “healthcare professionals” is one thing: giving up entirely because we’re so jaded is another thing.
The idea of “I don’t have it as bad as some” may start out with the innocence of trying to put things in perspective and stand in someone else’s shoes, but there the innocence turns. We mistakenly assume that our pain is somehow less valid or even invalid since someone’s situation is different. This is essentially what the world does to us when it takes one false idea of reality and superimposes it onto our own lives. Yet, when we make untrue comparisons of other situations to our own, we think we’re being compassionate. We’re not: we’re gaslighting ourselves.
We think for some reason that the rest of the world is capable of abusing us but assume that we’re somehow “nice” to ourselves when we go get a pedicure or a massage or we go to lunch with a friend. Nope. We often abuse ourselves more than we’d allow anyone else to. Just because we do nice things for ourselves every now and then doesn’t mean we get off the hook for abusing and gaslighting ourselves, too.
So listen to your self talk. Call out the BS and the gaslighting. Own it when you’re abusing yourself or manipulating yourself. You are NOT exempt from being “one of them”. Stop making excuses.
Treat yourself as you’d treat a friend. No one is going to advocate for you like you can advocate for you, so jump in wholeheartedly. Your reality IS your reality and you need to own that. Your body is your body, your pain is your pain, your life is your life, your experience is your experience. It does not matter if you think “someone has it worse”- if your quality if life is lower than it should be, you deserve better. End of story.
The only way we can fight back against gaslighting is if we fight back against ALL gaslighting: no exceptions.