Gaslighting – The Flame That Refuses To Be Stamped Out

Just when I think I’m healed…

I’m having a big old trigger attack today. My heart is racing. My gut, nauseous. My brain is split between two years – 2009 and today.

And all because I bought a computer.

This one’s going to require a little back story.

In the suicide note (He’s still alive, as far as I know. Go here to learn more) that my ex left to his other wife and my mother, he described how I always needed the latest and the greatest. He painted me as needy, whiney and horrible with money.

That statement was far from true. Not only was it gaslighting, it was projection. My ex bought an iPhone months after they were first released. Had a first generation Kindle. And always had multiple Apple computers, each one the top of the line at the time.

He always justified the computers by saying they were for work. In the final few years, he was supposedly using them for graphic design. Although since I learned that most of his “income” came from credit cards (including ones in my name), I now doubt that the machines did much more than run World of Warcraft.

When he left, I gathered up a few belongings and escaped to my friend’s house. One of my excerpts from my old life was a tired MacBook Pro that my ex had deemed too slow for his purposes. This machine held me until 2012 (even though I wanted to vomit every time I saw his name as the computer’s “owner”).

At that time, I was writing and needed a basic machine for that and for school purposes. I bought the cheapest Mac I could find – a two-year-old refurbished 11″ Air. And it felt good. I paid cash and I had a machine that was all mine. And it didn’t trigger me because the old one was really quite dead and the new one was bargain basement.

But now is different.

My little MacBook Air is still chugging along for writing. But as my eyes get worse and my writing and curriculum projects more numerous, the small screen has become a challenge. The memory struggles to manage working with images or even MathType (not good for a math teacher). And the clincher? iMovie won’t even pretend to function anymore.

I knew it was time for an upgrade. I looked at my budget and made a conservative plan to purchase a desktop this winter once I could save up enough to pay cash.

But then this morning, frustrated with a movie idea I couldn’t act upon and dreading the final edit of my book on a minuscule screen, I decided to see if I could act early.

I logged on to the Apple page, navigated to the educator section (woo hoo for teacher discounts!) and selected the machine I wanted for my purposes. I then clicked on “special financing” and noted that, if approved, I could get 18 months with no interest. And the monthly payment would be well within reach.

I called my husband to talk through the idea of buying now. He was wonderfully supportive, both emotionally and financially.

I decided to pull the trigger.

And now I feel sick.

In my head, I hear my ex’s voice whining about I always need the lastest and the greatest. And this time, I didn’t buy used or the cheapest model. Although it’s still FAR from the top of the line.

When my parents both noted that I am a writer and that a computer is a key tool of my trade, I hear my ex’s excuses that he “needed” his computers for work. And I think about how I could continue to scrape by with the old one.

With another credit card in my name (and ONLY my name), I’m reminded again of all the debt my ex racked up and left me with.

I know this is different than his spending. I CAN afford this. I’m NOT hiding the purchase. I WILL pay this off before the grace period ends. And I DO need this (and no, not for shooting warlocks).

Yet the damn gaslighting is still doing a number on me. Between trying to prove his stupid voice wrong and having to live so lean while I paid off his debt, I have a really hard time spending money. Especially on technology. And even more so on a Mac.

It just feels too close to what he claimed I was. And I feel like I have to climb my way out of his mind games yet again. And added to it now is the fact that I’m angry at myself for reacting this way. I should be happy I can do this. I should be excited for the new machine. I should be past this shit already.

For tonight, hot yoga. There will most likely be tears. Of anger. Of confusion. Of gratitude. Of relief.

And tomorrow, when that box shows up at my door, I hope that I can be excited for today and leave yesterday in the past.


Thank you for sharing!

13 thoughts on “Gaslighting – The Flame That Refuses To Be Stamped Out

  1. Oh God Bless! I identify with so much of this post! It makes me feel like I have allowed him to win when I let that negative self talk in and even worse, when it’s in his voice!

    Today is a bad day. Tomorrow will be better, and you will have a brand new shiny toy to play with and I hope you remember how much you deserve it!!

  2. I know the feeling. Earlier this week I received an email from my ex-wife’s latest attorney (I’m wondering how she can afford an attorney?). Two days my mind was spinning and wondering if I was going to be forced back into debtor by having to hire an attorney. I have been debt free for only three months and I don’t want to be in debt again. I suspect these feelings we experience will fade with time but I also think there will still be triggers. Hopefully they are not as severe as time goes by. Enjoy your new computer. With all that you have been through, including having to paying off the assumed debt (which still pisses me off that I got stuck with the debt), you deserve to give yourself a new computer. Choose to be happy.

  3. Ugh. Triggers are the absolute worst and I always think I got out without them affecting me but it’s a lie I like to tell myself to feel stronger. I feel the same spending guilt because he told me I was irresponsible with money when he was the spenders. One day they have to go away. I have to believe that!

  4. Yep- identifying with all of the above. Well, you’ve noticed that it’s a trigger and you’re doing it anyway, which shows he’s not actually affecting your actions, so congratulations! and enjoy your new Apple.

  5. This sounds like a normal part of the ex showing up again in our brains and immediately going back to those times where we didn’t know our self worth. Be gentle with yourself; let it come and let it pass. You deserve the best and you work hard for it. Instead of being angry with yourself, just recognize your past is part of who you are but it does not define you. I was married to a narcissist too, and we have to coparent. I use personal shielding and quick sayings to get off the phone. We sometimes fall into those unhealthy patterns, even for a minute, and I too get angry. But lately I have been integrating my past into my present and understanding it’s all part of me. Just breathe. Namaste

  6. You can be calmed by knowing that the number of triggers you have now compared to five years ago, four years ago, three years ago (you get the picture) are fewer and farther between. This trigger too shall pass, just as the others. It’s just hanging on a bit longer…give it it’s due, but not too much attention and I’m sure you’ll be back to your positive outlook and “seeing the blessings” personality we all know so well. Hang in there!!

  7. And I thought I was the only “crazy” one. Infuriating how x’s words from the past infiltrate the present. Sometimes they do temporarily, thank God, and I’ll be darned if I’ll allow them to influence my present says the new strong me.

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