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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

Acceptance, the Antidote to Gaslighting




Humor In Chaos

Searching for Joy Series

 

Acceptance, the Antidote to Gaslighting

 

I love old movies. I love the old black and whites. One of the best is Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer from 1944. It’s the story of a young bride who is systematically convinced she is insane by her thief husband by telling her that her real experiences are all in her head.

 

Gaslighting is telling people that what they experienced was not what they experienced. It’s trying to tell another their own mind.


We all do it to some degree. The people who were doing it to me when I was sick or in a great deal of emotional pain were attempting kindness. Their hearts were in the right place.


They gaslit me by trying to convince me my lupus experience was not that bad or could be cured an easier way. I felt invalidated in my experiences. I've tried everything to alleviate my symptoms both medicinally and holistically. And, I felt as if people didn't trust me or my doctors to examine all the research available.


Those were not their intentions. They meant well. In our society today, we believe we have all the answers when we don't. When our loved ones are hurting, we hurt, and we will unconsciously gaslight them to alleviate that hurt. So long as we don't take rejection of our "expertise" to heart, it's okay. We should all be mindful to do more listening and less fixing each other anyway.

 

Not all gaslighting is so obtuse. Sometimes, it’s a weapon. It can be hard to tell when it is simply the avoidance of difficult feelings versus the sharp stab of a mental probe to alter another’s perspective.

 

My ex-husband gaslit me when I had suspicions about what was happening behind my back. When I questioned him, he turned it on me as guilt for not trusting him. Well, guess what?


Intention matters. True gaslighting has nefarious reasons behind it. It is a form or control and manipulation.


I gaslit myself for a while early on in my health struggles because of my fear of pain. The only real fear I've had is fear of pain. I did more to try and avoid pain than try to actually care for myself. I was weak in faith. I needed to fully accept that this pain condition was the cross for me to bear. Once I accepted it as my reality, I was able to care for myself with more consideration. Acceptance is an antidote to gaslighting.

 

Faith is deeply tied to belief, and my belief was that pain was something to be feared. In actively trying to avoid it, I was thinking on it a lot, and that’s what I got. We get what we focus on, and I got lots and lots of pain. I had to accept the pain and train my thoughts to other things. That didn’t necessarily take away the pain, at least not right away. When I stopped fearing it, it had less hold on me, which freed my mental energies for better things. I have faith there is relief for me in God’s time, whether in this life or the next.

 

Fear of anything, death, pain, public speaking, limits us. Denying or ignoring those fears we have doesn’t diminish them. Ignoring them gives them room to grow. Accepting they are there, acknowledging them, and learning to do what needs to be done regardless of them has the capacity, not the guarantee, of diminishing them. At minimum, accepting them helps us to find joy despite them. Rejoicing in all circumstances has rewards.

 

I wrote articles and published them online to help me process how lupus affected my life and hopefully help others on their own or a loved one's lupus journey. Some of those articles included the fact that people do die of lupus. When I would acknowledge that, people would admonish me for being negative instead of accepting the truth and working with it as I was doing.


Acceptance that I will die at some point does not mean I don’t fight for my life. This isn’t an “either-or” experience. It’s a “yes-and” situation. In fact, it has helped me to value each day all the more. Family time, relationships, and, most of all, my spiritual walk grew with that acceptance.

 

Lupus has tried over and over again to take me out of the picture. Family events, my kids’ school events, missing personal life experiences I should have had, almost my very life itself. My life radically changed. Repeatedly. I have a history of constantly re-inventing myself. Lupus is a thief. It's good to acknowledge that and deal with it head on in a spirit of gratitude.

 

I had dreams of being an archaeologist when I was a kid. I have a degree in it. I did one dig when I was in my late 20s, and I got sick from it. Didn’t get diagnosed then either. In fact, anytime I tried to do anything of significance, I got sick. Even the stress of writing and putting out books, blogs and articles causes stress that can lead to flares. Lupus sucks the life out a person in more than one way. I had to give up my dream of being an archaeologist. I readjusted my dreams to writing. I adjust to accommodate my physical needs.

 

We went to Disneyland when I was showing signs of doing a little better. We planned the trip carefully. We rented an electric scooter. The day was fun. However, I got sick. The next day, the doctor asked what happened. I told him we went to Disney. “Sarah,” he said to me, “you have to accept that you can’t do things like that anymore.” Ouch! That hurt. But he was right.

 

Accepting limitations seems like defeat. It did to me then. It’s not. And not just me. We all have decisions to make in our lives.

 

When my middle child, the younger of my two sons, was in high school, he was talented at both baseball and singing. He played on a traveling team; was singing in community theater, school, and church; he was working with a pitching coach one on one; and he was working with a vocal coach.

 

Who was driving him around to most of those activities? That’s right. Me. Me and my lupus. I had to accept my limitations and stop driving him around. Plus, my mental processes were so bad from disease and meds that I got lost twice one afternoon driving back home from rehearsal at the community theater, a trip I was very familiar with. I took not one, but two wrong turns and got lost both times. My son remarked, “Okay. I guess I am going to take the time to get my drivers’ license after all.” He was planning on waiting until his schedule lightened up. He needed to make adjustments for us both.

 

We ended up having a conversation about how we needed to accept my limitations, all of us, not just me. I told him, “I’m sorry, but you must choose. Singing or baseball. You can do whatever you want, but you can’t do everything you want.” I didn’t want it to be that way. His schedule had the potential to kill me, literally. Even though I don’t fear death, that doesn’t mean I want it happening now. I have a lot to live for.

 

It broke his heart to choose, but he did. He turned his focus to singing. He got a degree in Operatic Vocals and a minor in Theology. He was singing in multiple churches and had plans to audition for the opera.

 

Unfortunately, covid hit. He lost all his singing gigs. Theaters closed. Auditions were canceled. Singers were especially hit because of the way the virus spread in the air. He lost his income. He had to find other employment along with every other displaced performer out there. He sold life insurance. He delivered packages. He did all kinds of stuff. Now, he works a normal job, and he is back to singing in churches. God willing, his singing career will build back up and surpass what it was before. That’s up to him and God.

 

Recently we talked about his choice of singing over baseball while watching a Minnesota Twins game on TV. He said what I was thinking. “If I had chosen baseball, I know I would be playing in a minor league right now if not the majors.” I know without question he is right. He was equally talented in both, and worked hard at both.

 

What I don’t know is if he realizes what he implied in that statement. He wouldn’t have excelled at either if he had pursued both. They both required a great deal of time to master. He would have remained mediocre at both because he would have split his focus.

 

We all have limitations.

 

King David in 2 Samuel 7 wanted to build the temple for God to dwell. I won’t quote it all. It’s too long. You can look it up. God told him no. Instead, he told David to gather the materials and that his son, who turns out to be King Solomon, would build the temple as king. David did as God instructed.

 

I imagined when I read that how David must have been disappointed at God’s instructions. Accepting that limitation made room for something so great. King David gave us the Psalms. The Psalms are so beautiful. So full of faith and devotion and wisdom.


Acceptance is a key to lasting joy and peace.


Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more!

 

Sarah

Humor In Chaos



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