Gaslighting 101

Jake.

A man must stand erect, not be held erect by others.” — Marcus Aurelius

Life is like a garden. You create this space and fill it with things you want to grow. Your career, your relationships, whatever. You put labor, time, and passion into this garden. But some people are weeds. They bear no fruit. They take up space, and they steal from your efforts. Sometimes weeds accidentally get in there once we’ve got everything clear, and we give them all the love and work we think they need, and they still choke it out. You gotta weed your garden.

There’s a stigma attached to being a veteran, and I’m not saying this is always a conscious choice, but we tend to get gaslighted in relationships. Gaslighting is the process of relating every problem back to someone’s PTSD. It goes like this:

“I said I’m sorry, you can’t get mad at me.”
“Why are you always so ANGRY?”
“Why are you being so distant?”
“You ALWAYS ruin things.”
“I get really afraid when you’re mad.”
“You need to go to therapy.”

I once heard that I wasn’t allowed to get that angry when I caught her out on a date with another guy. It was “emotionally abusive.” Or worse, she suggests you need medication. A close friend lost his life to being mismanaged on his meds. No thanks.

No matter how you express your frustration or anger, it always comes back to your PTSD. I’m really not one to jump on the victimization bandwagon and say I was in an abusive relationship, but just because this may happen unintentionally doesn’t mean it’s NOT abuse. This is manipulative and it takes away from you the right to express yourself, especially when you need to blow off some steam, or you get angry. When this happens to you in a relationship, it sends you into a storm of self-doubt and introspection. It takes advantage of your selfless nature, the part that wants to serve others, it’s manipulative and it’s a dirty thing that tends to plague veterans in their inter-personal relationships. If you’re working through depression or guilt, it sends you spiraling down whatever hole you’ve been crawling up.

There’s also a stigma that there is more inter-personal violence in relationships with veterans with PTSD. You might hear something like, “when you get upset I’m afraid you might do something.” And you should do something: cut contact and go grey man for awhile. VA studies show that “female partners of Veterans with PTSD also self-reported higher rates of perpetrating family violence than did the partners of Veterans without PTSD. In fact, these female partners of Veterans with PTSD reported perpetrating more acts of family violence during the previous year than did their partner veteran with PTSD.”

Some girls want a knight in shining armor but don’t realize that spit-and-polish has never seen battle.

Being a veteran is tough. You understand now that when you signed on the dotted line, you sacrificed things you didn’t fully understand, and you continue to pay the price. Find someone who values that sacrifice. You’ll be better off in the long term. Weed your garden of the people that gaslight, it’s manipulative and they don’t deserve your gifts.

I had a close friend ask me why I tested my current girlfriend so long before choosing her. My answer?

“Because there are a lot of bitches out there and they dress up like the good ones.”

Stay frosty.

—PernDog