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I can still remember the sinking feeling of dread that overcame me as my ex-partner belittled my experience and ideas in a sick and twisted attempt to manipulate me.

In the beginning, I justified his behaviour by thinking that he was just stressed from the problems he was facing at work, but the more it happened, the more I became aware of what was really going on and it had been a slow and painful erosion of my self-confidence.

He would manipulate situations and conversations to make me feel as if I was overreacting or questioning things too much. His ability to twist the truth was simply unbelievable. Anything that didn't suit his agenda seemed to get lost in translation, leaving me feeling confused and inadequate.

Instead of listening to me or trying to understand how I felt, he often accused me of being crazy and exaggerating the truth. He would go as far as denying that certain conversations ever took place.

He used his words to make me doubt my own opinion, feelings and memory. He tried to convince me that I was wrong and that it was all in my head. Through his toxic behaviour, he slowly chipped away at my self-confidence and self-esteem until I no longer trusted myself or knew what was real or unreal anymore.

After several years of being in this volatile relationship, I thought nothing of my ex's increasingly hostile behaviour or comments. It wasn't until I actually took some time away from the situation that I started to recognize the extent to which he had been exercising his power and control over me by gaslighting my reality.

Looking back on it, I can see the signs that he was trying to control me; there were small manipulations at first, like finding flaws in my work and then making me doubt my own abilities. He'd criticize everything he did that he felt didn't meet his standards and made me feel like it was my fault - even if that wasn't the case.

He would deny reality when it came to our arguments or disagreements. He would tell me that what I thought had happened didn't actually happen - that he never said certain things or never acted in certain ways. What kept me trapped within this toxic relationship was thinking that somehow all of this was my fault - if only I could be different or act differently then all would be right in our little world again

Eventually, it became too much for me and I knew something had to give. As I stood up for myself, it felt like a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders and soon enough things came crashing down around us both. Two years into this toxic cycle and after expressing the truth of what was happening in my relationship with a trusted friend, I faced the fact that this was gaslighting and that if I didn't leave things would get much worse.

I planned my exit. Did not explain why I was ending the relationship with him in person, but left a note, as I knew he was able to manipulate me into staying with him. One afternoon when he was at work, I left for good and went to stay with my best friend.

The next few weeks were hard. I was dealing with the emotional trauma of the relationship, and it felt like I was re-learning how to exist without him. I felt like I was in a fog. But slowly, I started to feel better. I was able to reconnect with my friends and family, and I started to rebuild my life.

It's taken some time but now I feel more empowered than ever before; recognising what was happening, standing up to it and breaking free from it all together has really set me on an incredible journey of self-discovery that is continuing on a daily basis.

It has been a long journey but I am proud to say that today, I am no longer controlled by others’ opinions about my worth or individualism—I have come a long way from gaslighting victim to being my own empowered person.


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