Disability and gaslighting
I thought I’d post a couple of longer ones from Tumblr, since the topics fit well here.
I think that people with disabilities in general, much less mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, get this a lot. Even when other people are not intentionally doing it (and I have lived with people who did at least semiconsciously, out of their own maladaptive needs), if your perceptions are sufficiently different–you are going to get to hear that they are just plain wrong. And you are likely to get all kinds of motives ascribed to your “weird” behavior, which are also just plain wrong. The line between invalidation and gaslighting is very thin indeed, particularly when there is a pattern of it in your life.
As Amanda points out, after a while you may not have any better way of thinking about this for yourself. You may not know any less hurtful way to make sense of your own experiences, so you continue gaslighting yourself. I did a couple of posts on this kind of thing a while back; “[L]ook who they are and how many of them are saying it.” is very much to the point here.
The part of her post that caught my eye enough to make me get this one going:
And for ASD people, I think it can lead to meltdowns because we are encouraged not to express discomfort so we hold it in as long as we can.
I mentioned in a previous post that pretty much every time I’ve had something medically wrong with me, it’s taken a while to be diagnosed because the symptom has been pain and I’ve been trained since I was a kid not to express pain. When I was a kid, getting my hair brushed, washed, blow-dried, or cut caused me incredible discomfort and I would cry and yell and complain, but I was always told that I was overreacting and it wasn’t really that bad. So I figured it wasn’t. So when I had appendicitis I figured it wasn’t really that bad. And so on.
This is interesting because in terms of the appendicitis I was, on the surface, gaslighting myself.
I was just commenting to my husband yesterday, IIRC, that I always assume I’m making a mountain out of a molehill with health problems, when this has never actually turned out to be the case. Ever. (What prompted that one? The combo of continuing inflammation and a pinching/jabbing sensation from the bone ends when I move wrong with the freaking pelvic fracture from osteomalacia. Yeah, not somehow making that one up. *sigh*)
I have had a chronic pain condition for years (now looking like mostly from the now-confirmed vitamin D deficiency), and I gaslight myself every day for pretty much the same reasons she mentions. Throw in some explicit “I don’t have time for your petty problems when someone else is having a real one” messages, and yeah. I am painfully aware of maybe coming across as a lazy, whiny, selfish, malingering PITA who just needs to get off her ass and do some work–and will put myself into infinitely more pain and exhaustion trying to show to myself and the people around me that I’m not. (And guess what? You can’t prove a negative.) Growing up in a culture where whining about pain is frowned upon does not help, especially when those expectations get twisted and worked into direct gaslighting. It’s really, really easy to feel compelled to run yourself into the ground–and then blame yourself for being a lazy malingerer once you have done so.
At least these days I’m recognizing that this is a screwed-up pattern. Applying some mindfulness, it’s easier to tell when I am rejecting and denigrating my own perceptions. Just knowing that my sensory issues are real has helped me learn to avoid a lot of meltdowns and anxiety.
But, this kind of return to what I’d have to call sanity as an adult should not be necessary for anyone. While I suspect it’s very common indeed among people with certain disabilities.