I’ve already gone over the classic signs of Gaslighting, but what about the after effects on the person suffering the abuse? What does that look like? What are the lasting effects? The answer is many. Many, many, many lasting effects and issues are the result of gaslighting and mental abuse. I suffered at the hands of my ex-husband who mentally abused me as well as…..other things. I’ve also had ex boyfriends who did it too so believe me when I tell you that the list is more or less endless when it comes to after effects.
And that’s what a lot of people just don’t understand. The neuro-typicals of this world seem to think that once you manage to get out of an abusive relationship, everything goes back to normal and it’s all fine. It isn’t. It’s so far from OK it’s ridiculous. The mental scars left by gaslighting and mental abuse can take years to heal, most never healing at all. This is why i think it’s so important to be aware of the signs sooner rather than later. The sooner you can protect yourself and take yourself out of the situation/relationship the better. It will save you years of emotional turmoil, and save your sanity.
So, what are the after effects of gaslighting? Well, the following list is from personal experience and what I’ve identified as my own after effects with the help of my therapist. As I said before, the list is more or less endless and depends on each person and each situation. These are just some of what I experience and suffer with as a result of a very abusive marriage and a string of abusive ex partners.
Second Guessing – I still, even after a decade away from my ex husband, second guess my decisions and life choices. I have to catch myself constantly and convince myself that it’s my life and my decision to make, no-one else’s. I don’t have to consult anyone else about it anymore. I no longer need approval and to see if i’m ‘allowed’ to do something.
Trust Issues – I no longer trust. I have a very small group of people around me that I consider close friends, but ultimately, I trust no-one but myself. If I meet someone new that makes me feel good about myself, I am immediately suspicious and pull back from them. It is exactly how most of my abusive relationships began: the person made me feel good, safe. I didn’t know at the time that one was going to become my rapist and one of others would put me down repeatedly to make them feel better about themselves. If I don’t put my trust in anyone else, then I won’t be disappointed when they use that against me. Which they will because they always do. Partners will always cheat and lie to me and friends will always move on and leave me disappointed. It’s always happened to me and it won’t change so why trust anyone else but myself?
Hypervigilance – My subconscious is constantly on the lookout for threats and it’s exhausting. My anxiety levels will always be more heightened that a neurotypical person as I have experiences things that I would not want to repeat in a million years. It makes me paranoid, skittish and hyper-aware of everything that is going on around me at all times. Even when I am seemingly unaware of it, by brain will be processing situations, some of which will never happen. This will often manifest itself as avoidance eg: not going out with friends as that will avoid the possibility of meeting anyone new who might turn out to be a possible abuser.
PTSD – I have diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder thanks to my marriage, and literally anything can be a trigger. I’m still discovering new ones a decade later, and that will continue for the rest of my life. It’s not something I can switch off or ignore, it’s with me forever.
No Love – I no longer love and I can no longer give 100% of myself in a relationship. I refuse to repeat history so I don’t invest myself wholly into a relationship. It all goes back to trust issues and I know that if I don’t open myself up completely, I can’t get hurt again and I can’t be abused again. I can keep my sanity intact and my feelings safe. For me personally, it’s easier and less risky to not to fall in love, and i’m totally fine with that. I don’t need love in my life, it’s not a necessity to me and i’m very happy without it. Love complicates things and forces me to compromise myself and my life and I’m never doing that again.
Dissociation – This is a part of the PTSD and means that I sometimes find myself completely dissociating from reality in order to avoid being triggered into a panic attack. I’ll admit that it’s not the best coping mechanism, but it works for me and means that I can avoid spending the next few days in a state of panic and anxiety. Switching my brain off and running on autopilot for a few days is more preferable for me and I’m very glad that I taught my mind that little trick.
Fakeness – I will often fake how i’m feeling to people if i’m feeling particularly vulnerable to avoid someone taking advantage of that. I can’t show any weakness top people. Only those closest to me that I trust will ever see the real me or know exactly how I’m feeling.
Nervous Tics – Nail biting, humming, let jiggling, constantly looking behind me and flinching at raised voices or sudden movements are all tics that I now have thanks to gaslighting and mental abuse. But i would rather have these as ticks that go back to the self harming that I used to inflict on myself as a way of escaping.
OCD – I have always have a certain level of OCD, but my marriage has magnified that and made it worse. And it all comes down to one thing: control. Having spent 7 years being completely controlled by my ex husband, my OCD is a product of me taking that control back, just in a very extreme way. My OCD ranges from checking things a set number times to controlling my food intake. I suppose you could call it an eating disorder as I will become extremely strict with what I eat.
Picking The Same Personality Type – Bar one or two lovely exceptions, I seem to always manage to attract the same kind of assholes. Or is it that I subconsciously seek these people out for some reason? Perhaps I’m still wired like that. Or it could be that i’m still, even now, learning to recognise the signs early enough.
There are more side effects, but these are the main offenders for me. As you can see, the list is long and diverse so it’s different for everyone. But what is the same for all victims is that the scars left by gaslighting and mental abuse are deep and lasting. Life will be changed forever and the perception of other human beings will be altered forever, and not necessarily for the better.
Part 1 – Gaslighting: Recognising The Signs