If you have identified that your relationship contains gaslighting, you are experiencing one, if not the most damaging form of psychological manipulation.
After leaving several relationships where I was gaslighted, I didn’t understand why I was experiencing so many traumatic moments even though I had walked away from my abusers.
It was several years until I began to research and understand that even though I had left my abuser, there had already been side effects to my mental and emotional health that I would need to work through to really heal.
When someone continually causes you to doubt your own reality, it is almost impossible to prevent yourself from falling into a pattern of self-doubt because they are causing you to question your own sanity.
Here are the three primary aftereffects I experienced after going through gaslighting in my psychologically abusive relationship with a narcissist.
#1. I had to work overtime to rebuild my self-esteem and confidence
When I met the narcissist, I was a young woman in my early twenties that was extremely outgoing, confident, and secure. To say that I had a fire in me for living life would be an understatement.
Over the year we were together, he chipped away at my confidence and self-esteem until I was a shell of who I had been when we initially got together. In fact, by the time the narcissist walked out of my life and discarded me, it felt like I didn’t even exist anymore.
The woman who remained in the ashes of that relationship was heartbroken, unconfident, and unsure if she had any real value to offer to anyone in her life.
#2. I struggled to trust myself even after the gaslighting ended
Rebuilding your confidence from the ground up is difficult enough, but it becomes even harder when you realize that you don’t even have the confidence in your own ability to realize what the “truth” is.
There were moments throughout my healing journey when I wondered if I had exaggerated the abuse in my head or if things really hadn’t been “as bad” as I was making them out to be.
One helpful trick was writing everything down. After the relationship ended, all it took was a glance at the words I had written to realize how broken I was from the way I had been treated. It was also a reminder that what I had endured had been a constant manipulation flow and was not normal or healthy by any means.
#3. I struggled to be vulnerable in my healthy relationship
A few years after I was with the narcissist, I began dating the man who would end up being my future husband.
Today, I wouldn’t trade our lives together for the world, but I have to be honest and tell you that the first year we were together was challenging.
I was extremely defensive and closed off due to my prior toxic and abusive relationship. Everything came to a head when my partner gently told me that he felt like he was putting all of the effort into our relationship, and I couldn’t argue because it was true.
Even though he was a completely different person there was an unrelenting fear in the back of my head that I would open up my heart again and be devastated the way I had been before,
It has been years since I went through the manipulation and gaslighting from my narcissistic abuser, yet there are still moments when I feel myself spiraling or projecting the past on my partner.
In those moments, I remind myself of how far I have come and that healing from trauma is a journey, not a destination. If you are struggling with the aftereffects of psychological abuse, please know that you are not alone. If you are able, seek out the support of loved ones to validate your experiences and know that you will continue to heal and grow stronger in time.