Gaslighting, Again

This actually starts with me being caught by a scam.  It involved an email from a woman I know slightly here at Kendal.  It involved a request to buy 3 $100 iTunes for her grandson.  I said I really couldn’t do it and hoped she could find someone else.  When the reply was “I need you to do this for me,” I thought she was really desperate.  I wondered that she couldn’t find anyone else – she didn’t actually say that.  I don’t know her well enough to know whether this was characteristic of her or not.  I liked her and thought she was a good person, but we never did more than say hi in the hall.  I was surprised that she was so insistent, but excused her because she was clearly too desperate to be “nice.”  But I am not familiar with the realm of iTunes gift cards, so I asked for more information.  My computer person was helping me, and she said we could order them online and found the site.  So I sent “Anne” the link.  But she said she couldn’t do it.  Again it crossed my mind that she could send me email, how come she couldn’t get online.  But I didn’t pay attention.  So I went out and got the gift cards, I had to ask a friend to come with me for moral support — it was that hard for me to do.  (This is the sort of thing that no one understands if they aren’t also dealing with PTSD.)  I bought them, but the instructions to scratch them and photograph them and send them to her in an email were really beyond my capacity.  I don’t have an iPhone, can’t take pictures with my camera and send them right out, I would have to photograph them and then download them to my computer.  Again it felt like too much to ask, and again I let wanting to help override my feelings.  Fortunately I met her in the hall (again a sense of shock, isn’t she supposed to be in Vermont?  Why can’t she get the internet if she’s right here) and said “I got your cards, I can give them to you.”  She was horrified. “It’s a scam,” she said, and she was clearly upset about it.    The oddest thing was I felt great relief at hearing that it was a scam.  She said she would pay me back.  We both hoped that since I hadn’t scratched the card that I could return them.

Journal for Saturday, August 10

Yesterday was a really horrible day.  I don’t know what happened — well, I do know the sequence of events — but I don’t understand.  I finally thought to ask myself “What does that feel like in your body?”

First the events:  Registered the car just fine — I still need to mail the registration to Eleanor, I would have done that yesterday if I hadn’t been blasted.  Then I went to West Lebanon Feed & Supply and got a harness for Mocha.  I hope it will work.  Then I went to Price Chopper.  I didn’t expect to have any trouble.  But they wouldn’t refund my money.  She pointed to a thing on the receipt that said “all sales final.”  She said I could call iTunes.  I burst into tears, left the store in tears, drove back home in tears.  I was very careful driving home.

I parked the car.  I put on my sunglasses so people couldn’t see my eyes.  Got back to my room all right.

Made a 3rd cup of tea, and then did a small puzzle “Fishes” because I couldn’t write and I didn’t want to deal with the computer.  I think I had to be non-verbal for a while.  The puzzle was perfect.

I can’t even remember when I first started noticing what my body felt like.  I think it was in the car coming home.

— I just realized.  This all happened during the hour when I should have been talking to Erica, but she’s gone for 3 weeks. —

What I was feeling was the same kind of unpleasant skin prickles that happen on my skin when I’m hot, except that they were inside my skin, and there was nothing else.  I felt like a bag of empty skin.  Then I started to feel like I had been hit in the face by a fierce blast of wind, and stopped dead.  It didn’t push me anywhere, it just stopped me dead.  I think of the “deer in the headlights” metaphor.

Actually it’s not a metaphor, it’s one stage in trauma: arrest, and then freeze.

Went to Kilowatt Park with Dulany & Toby. I told her I had been upset by the scam.  She was very understanding and kind.  She said of the scam “I would be very angry at myself.”  I realized that that was easily possible for me, but it didn’t feel right.

I realize now that I was “stopped dead.”  I was stopped in that moment, stopped in my life, and only the thinnest wraith could go on.

When I saw Anne in the hall and found out it was a scam I felt relief.  I felt relief because my sense of Anne as a good kind person was not wrong.  But then when I couldn’t undo what I had done, I got blasted.  Now I see that what the scammers had accomplished was to make me distrust my judgement of what kind of person Anne was.  If I had trusted my judgement of what kind of person Anne was, I would have seen through the scam right away.  I did not see the little red flags that went up at various places.

My failure to trust my judgement, and pay attention to the red flags, is part of a process called “gaslighting,” where a person is made to doubt their sanity, their own perceptions.  As a victim of my mother’s “mis-representation” of me, I am very vulnerable to doubting myself.

O God I feel so much better. Thank You, Inner Teacher.

It was when I “couldn’t undo it,” that the freeze — collapse? — hit. That makes me think of mother, where no apology was acceptable, there was no way to make amends.

My body didn’t collapse, but my psyche did. That’s why I felt so oddly weak the rest of the day. It wasn’t dizzy, it wasn’t hypoglycemia, it wasn’t light-headedness, I was able to walk. Yes, I think I wasn’t present in my body, though I didn’t experience being somewhere else, like floating overhead.

I think I am actually dissociated more than I realize.  Because I don’t experientially leave my body, I don’t realize I am out of my body, I just feel weak and incapacitated.

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