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The Redwoods at Stout Grove in California. Photo: Mathew Winchester
My Experience with Gaslighting
Friday, June 4, 2021

I was pregnant with our first child when I drove him to the doctor’s office. He said that he broke his ankle when he jumped down from the back of his truck and rolled his foot.

The nurse came in and examined his ankle. She explained that the break likely occurred when the other man in the altercation kicked him. Tears rushing to my eyes, the nurse looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, he’s going to be fine.”

My tears were not for his well-being and he knew it. They were for the instant betrayal I felt when I realized he had lied to me. Little did I know the extent to which his lies would permeate every aspect of our lives.

What is Gaslighting?
A common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists and cult leaders alike, “gaslighting” is an abuse tactic in which a person gains power by making a victim question reality. Abusers refuse responsibility for any wrongdoing and instead blame their victim. It is often difficult for victims to recognize the abuse.

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Photo courtesy StrongHearts Native Helpline

ADHD and Gaslighting
I live with ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder which is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes the person to have trouble paying attention (to details) and controlling impulsive behaviors like shopping. A person with ADHD often forgets or loses things. They have a hard time resisting temptation and tend to take unnecessary risks. I’ve learned, these traits are exploitable.

According to Dr. Stephanie Sarkis – people suffering this disorder are especially vulnerable to a person with a narcissistic personality – one who tends to be selfish with a sense of entitlement. A narcissist has an inflated ego with a deep need for attention and admiration. Dr. Sarkis describes the gaslighter as a constant liar and master of deception. They deny wrongdoing and use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.

In my case, my abuser became excessively jealous of our son. He treated him poorly and at times, put him in harm’s way. He did it to spite me, to scare me and to show me that in his household, he was in control. He even admitted when our son was just six months old that he was starting to hate him because I loved him so much. He said it was unfair that his own mother didn’t love him like I loved our son. At the time, I was busy being a mom and didn’t see it as a manipulation meant to garner my attention.

Dr. Stephanie Sarkis: Why Are People with ADHD More Prone to Gaslighting?

They Called Me Crazy
Gaslighters are masters at manipulation and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what, such as a parent. They turn people against you. You may start to doubt who to trust and that’s exactly what the gaslighter wants because isolating you gives them more control.

They tell you and/or others that you are crazy. This is one of the most effective tools of the gaslighter. The gaslighter knows if they question your sanity, people will not believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive. I didn’t know that his family called me, “Crazy,” but in retrospect, it was crazy to love a man who could in one breath make me feel like no else mattered and in the next like I wasn’t worth a dime.

Food For The Soul and Recovery
Over time, a victim of gaslighting may start to believe that they cannot trust themselves, or that they have a mental health disorder. They may have anxiety, depression, isolation, confusion and psychological trauma. The long-term impact on someone’s mental health and self-esteem is often devastating but there are ways to cope.

Recovering from gaslighting takes time. Victims should never blame themselves. You are not responsible for the abusive behavior.

For me, my healing takes place when I travel to distant places and see beautiful things. I call it food for the soul. I find peace in my visits to the Redwoods in northern California. The trees have lived for more than a thousand years.

My ancestors — who were once free to roam the continent — saw these very same trees. I feel whole when standing among the Redwoods of Stout Grove.

Find food for your soul. Practice listening to your thoughts, feelings. Learn to trust your instincts again.

To read the full story from Diane Pavlat, visit StrongHearts Native Helpline’s website at strongheartshelpline.org.


It is the work of StrongHearts to restore power to Native Americans impacted by domestic and dating violence by providing a system of safety, sovereignty and support with a vision to return to our traditional lifeways where our relatives are safe, violence is eradicated and sacredness is restored.

To explore your options for safety and healing, visit strongheartshelpline.org online for one-on-one chat advocacy or call 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483).

StrongHearts Native Helpline is a project of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource CenterNational Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.