Abused children grow up gaslighted. I was lied to, lied about and repeatedly told what I'd heard wasn't said. I grew up in a wobbly world of gaslight. So like the current president's modus operandi.
When in middle school I inadvertently walked into my parents room while they were having sex, it wasn't discussed though they heard me. Took me years to figure out why a white whale was on top of my father in the moonlight pouring over the bed.
My parents would tell me I was too uppity, too fresh or just too whatever a child is--as the physical and emotional abuse rained down upon me. Whether it was a smack across the mouth, or The Switch and/or Spankings with The Belt and/or my father's large hand that left that me unable to sit on the wooden chair at my elementary school, I was gaslighted to thoroughly believe that I was a bad little girl who deserved to be punished.
With no safe harbor to shelter in, I knew I was a bad person. Hadn't it been drilled into me daily?
In my childhood Casper the Friendly ghost was my imaginary friendly, protector. When he hid under my bed, I had to let him go and was on my own. Given my home was scary, I learned to protect myself by organizing my little world. Whether it was collecting a file cabinet full of pamphlets from coupons in National Geographic magazine, or imagining my digestive system had different drawers for different foods in my tummy; I did a Marie Kondo. It is still one of my go to self care modes.
School was full of mixed messages. My United Daughters of the Confederacy card-carrying mother repeatedly drilled into my child's brain that school was wrong about "that old billy goat, Abraham Lincoln." It wasn't called The Civil War, but The War Between the States she taught me with a slap across my mouth if I forgot which term to use in front of her.
Gaslighting me further she waxed on about how happy negroes had been as slaves, recounting imaginary tales of her grandfather's slave helping his "Massa" during the war.
Christmas was less Norman Rockwell and more Nightmare on Ewing Street, the street where we lived. My mother decorated every inch of the small 3-bedroom developer house, including the extra toilet paper roll having a Christmas cover. And there were more rules.
Ordered to make a wish list for Santa, I dutifully made one every year until I went to college. It was part of the price I paid for Christmas presents, for if I didn't vow that I still believed in Santa I'd be excommunicated from any Christmas gifts. Though I never got anything on my annual wish list, I did receive the board game Little Black Sambo.
"The Night Before Christmas" was required reading every Christmas until I was 21. I knew the expectations, having learned to go along to get along. Was it ever going to change, I'd wonder when I went home for holidays?
With my parents approval I applied early decision to Trinity University at 17. Accepted, my father changed his mind saying the school was too expensive. More tears from me, we made a deal that as long as I kept a B+ average they'd pay for me to go to it. By the second semester of my first year in 1968, my father changed his mind again. Gaslighted again
Why didn't I get financial aid? What's financial aid? the naive, cloistered me would have responded. So off I was hustled into a cheap, out-of-state university.
When my father had back issues in 1970, he decided god was punishing him for leaving the Baptist faith of his childhood. Coming home for my 21st birthday, I found my parents had converted from barely religious Presbyterians to grace at every meal Evangelicals.
Though Samuel Johnson said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, I saw religion was the last refuge for my chronically abusive parents.
When my 80 something parents died and I felt nothing, I knew I must be a sociopathic bitch to be so heartless and uncaring. I tucked that realization of how bad I was along with other memories I hadn't dealt with.
Nevertheless trying to be a dutiful daughter, I went from Mexico City to NC to help the by then fragile, walker-using father downsize the house. During the garage sale, my father repeatedly told me to "Hand over the money." Clearly he thought I was untrustworthy, believing I'd steal it.
Frequently hearing the bait and switch gaslighting of the current president, I recognize the bullying. I have for years. I only hope others do.