I’m not sure where I first learned the term “gas-lighting“. I knew it wasn’t good, but at the same time I didn’t really understand the action. Once I learned about it, I never once thought I was ever a victim of it.
I spent so many years focusing on him, on how to not make him mad, how to cater to his emotional and mental needs that it became a rabbit hole that swallowed me. I think my turning point to realize that I was fighting a losing battle was when I was working early mornings at my call center job and I would have to be at work by 4am. I would want to go to bed in time to get sufficient sleep to not be chugging two energy drinks a day to function. During this time he was unemployed. At first I would ask him to do some chores, do dishes, do laundry – things like that. After weeks to months of it not happening, he’d tell me that he got over whelmed and I needed to break it down for him. So, I would write him cute little lists of chores, in extreme detail with each step. Then he’d get mad that I left him with chaos and the lists were just me passing off my messes on him and that the lists were just too much.
You’d think that a man in his 30’s would be capable of unloading a dishwasher and folding his underwear. Then the sleep deprivation started. He would demand that I sit with him to “go through his email”. This would start with him insisting we watch a movie at the computer, then maybe some youtube videos, and then his email – which was typically junk mail or emails from friends that he didn’t want to communicate with because they were trying to help him find a job (that part drove me crazy). Eventually I’d be falling asleep a the desk and he’d be getting mad and finally I would be released to go to bed for my 3-6 hours of sleep. As the years went on, I couldn’t even sleep in peace. He insisted that I was snoring. So he’d wake me up. Sometimes he’d wake me up every five minutes to say I was snoring. Then when I finally decided to just not try to sleep and just deep breathe and relax, he would “wake” me to tell me I was snoring. I told him I was awake and he came back with “well then you’re breathing too loud”.
I was breathing too loud…
Seriously? You’re going to keep your wife up way way way past her bedtime to take care of things that you as a grown man should be able to handle, even with anxiety, and then you’re going to keep waking her up claiming she’s snoring, and then when she catches you with the “lie” you say she’s BREATHING too loud? This really started to get tiring (pun slightly intended). Now I will admit that I did have mild sleep apnea, but at the time insurance said it wasn’t bad enough and that I should just lose weight (yeah I have words to say about that too), but for the most part, as long as I wasn’t sleeping on my back, I didn’t snore that badly. Were the positions reversed, and he were the one snoring or “breathing too loud”, I would have moved myself to the couch because he needed sleep. He would never go sleep on the couch. The only way I would be able to get solid sleep was to go sleep on the couch.
This sleep deprivation continued for most of the marriage to where he almost didn’t have to do anything any more. About the only time I could ever really sleep was when he wasn’t home. This was great when he finally was working again, but not so great because I was also still working. The best thing that had ever happened for me at one point was getting a 4/10 work schedule. I got an extra day off during the work week that he was also working. I was able to get him off to work, get some sleep, and then work on the chaos that was our home. Now when we were first married, the plan was that I would be a stay home wife and he would be the breadwinner and then when the kids came I’d be home with them. After the first year I started to work so we could save up money for a house. After that I was never unemployed for the next 15 years, save for a brief few months between getting laid off, graduating from college, and starting my call center job. I wasn’t a great housekeeper to begin with, but growing up, both my parents kept house. Dad, when he was home, would often tell my mom to sit down and relax and he’d do dishes or help with the laundry. To this day they share the housekeeping chores. I expected that my husband would be like my dad with that sharing. Yeah… that didn’t happen.
One of the many arguments we had, and one of the few I actually tried to voice my opinion, was him helping with things. He claimed he was not the messy one that it was me and he wasn’t cleaning up after me. After I made a few valid points he came back at me with his logic of, if I can’t keep an immaculate home while working a 40+hour a week job, then I would never be able to take care of a baby. My job was my “baby” so I should be able to do both that and keep a perfect house. No matter how I pointed out to him that as a stay at home mom, the big difference would be my hours spent AT HOME, so a job being labeled as the equivalent of a baby was crap. It’s probably a good thing I never did get pregnant.
I do have a point that I’m working towards. During my extra day off I would hook in my caffeine IV (not really but we did buy Rockstars in bulk at Sam’s Club), and I would be ready to tackle my disaster areas, the hoarder chaos that I was causing in our home. I would take before and after pictures. Especially when he would go away for a couple days with the boys from church and I’d have a couple days straight home without him, I would pull all nighters and would get organizing things and would thoroughly clean all two bedrooms and the bathroom. I would have cleaned the house from top to bottom and even gone out onto our little patio and cleaned and cleaned – and guess what… he NEVER noticed. Well maybe not never, but you would think for the amount of effort I put in trying to take care of things, he would have been a bit more appreciative and I’m also pretty sure at one point he said if I got everything all caught up then he’d help maintain it. That never happened either.
After all the years I was with him, and now almost 5 years I have been away from him, 3 of those living on my own in my grandmother’s house, I became convinced that I was a hoarder, a horrible house keeper, and that everything I touch or want to keep is trash. I didn’t realize this until yesterday. We got quite a bit of snow over the weekend here and I didn’t leave the house. This gave me the chance to finish up all the seasons and episodes of Forensic Files and I had to find a new show I could put on for company. I decided I wanted to watch Hoarders on Amazon Prime. Yes, there are quite a few nightmares on there, and no, I am not as bad as the people showcased. I knew I wasn’t deep down, but the language that they used to describe things – that’s what got me thinking. Am I messy? Absolutely, having been on my own and knowing that I am the only one to mess things up (other than the yarn that Milk always brings out of the bedroom closet somehow) I have no illusions about that. Am I a hoarder? No, not really. I can totally see the potential, especially after going through what I did for so many years.
I also recently worked on a project that had me digging through my old photos and I found my before/after folders of pictures from those all night house cleaning where I had more caffeine than red blood cells in my blood. You know what I found? Not a big difference. Know what else I remembered? Towards the end of my past life, I remember one spat we had when I was longing for a 4/10 schedule again. He said it never made a difference and I pointed out how clean the apartment had been when I had that extra day without him. He held no memory of it. If he didn’t remember it, it never happened. When I showed him the photo proof of it, he still didn’t remember it but dropped the subject.
Was the house sometimes messy? It was, but half of the chaos that he would sabotage me at every turn. I wanted to build a home, he wanted a bachelor pad. It’s amazing how just one show can flip a switch or push that puzzle piece into place that you didn’t know was there. I knew I was struggling with house work, I knew there had to be a reason because I was taught how to maintain things. As a kid I would clean my room by shoving things under the bed or in the closet and my mom knew this about me. So whenever I’d “clean” my room, she’d come in, pull everything back out from under the bed and out of the closet that didn’t belong, and she’d have me do it again, right. So when I was ready for bed last night, I decided that if I had time to watch 7 episodes of Hoarders, and I don’t know how many episodes of Forensic Files, and if I was probably going to lay in bed and read for at least a half hour, then I could wash up my dishes, wipe down my counter and finish my laundry. So I did. My kitchen is pretty good (don’t look at the table, I haven’t cleared it off yet of canning jars and such), and I could cook or bake if I needed. My laundry is folded and put away in my dresser. I still have a lot of work to overcome what I have no identified, but recognizing is half the battle. You can’t fix something if you don’t know what is wrong. I need to go through all my cloths and get rid of things I no longer wear for whatever reason, and figure out why I have way more pajama type cloths than regular every day cloths. Part of that is work is a uniform. I don’t really NEED work cloths. I can do most anything around my house and garden/chickens in pajama pants and a hoodie, but honestly, I don’t need a dresser full of pajama pants and t-shirts, a drawer yes, maybe two (they are small drawers), but not a dresser.
I know there will be more discoveries as I am alone with my thoughts, but how I cope with them is much different now than it used to be. I used to rely on comfort foods. Even when I was still living my past life, I would go out to run errands and I would hit a drive through and get a few dollar menu items and eat them in the car and throw the trash before I got home. When I was at home and he was working and my unemployment money went onto a debit card, I would order enough food from Pizza Hut to get free delivery and I would either eat it all before he got home, or eat what I could and either throw away the rest, OR, try to hide it in the fridge or freezer where he wouldn’t look. After I left and moved home I had no pizza delivery option available and I have to travel almost a half hour to get to any sort of fast food. So I used retail therapy either by making the trip to the next biggest town or online.
So now, as I am trying to not use retail or food therapy, I am blogging. I am hoping that other than being helpful for me to express and accept what I’ve gone through that I can maybe be helpful in helping others feel so not alone.
I try to use my own photos that I’ve taken over the years, but, when I can’t – I borrow and make sure the pictures link back to where I found them. All the photos I’ve used in this post were located courtesy of Pinterest. I am so thankful for all the other bloggers and folks that have made these resources. When I first started my discovery of what really was happening in my past life, Pinterest is what started my calorie free and plastic free therapy adventure.
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Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your story. I am an old friend of your Grandmother Darlene… I met her in one of my past lives. I poured my heart out to her in the ceramic shop under City Hall in Etna sometime around 1977. Maybe I was 28 or 29. I left the Valley in 1986 to move to the cosmopolitan city of Mount Shasta. I’m still there and I’m 71 now. Darlene and I always kept in touch, even though sometimes a year or more might slip by. I’d love to talk to you sometime and tell you about a few of my past lives… Darlene laughed when I told her we have lives within our life. She knew me through more than one of mine. Keep writing. It is very therapeutic and you will know yourself better through it. Hold your head high.
With love, Carolyn Costa