Warning: This article contains a graphic account of sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
No matter how much I think I’ve moved on, experiences I had as a teenager still come back to haunt me from time to time. We all have memory ghosts. Those images, thoughts, and feelings that slip into our minds at any given moment, sneaky in their quiet approach, flashing behind our eyes without warning.
One minute I’m giving a blow job to my partner, completely turned on as he takes charge and dominates me with his forcefulness.
The next minute he’s coming into my mouth and the memory of my first blow job pops into my head through no control of my own. That little devil is locked away deep, but it’s still as vivid as ever whenever it flashes to the surface.
When I was 18, I experienced what I thought was falling in love for the first time. I was convinced I’d found my soulmate — the man I would marry someday. My physical and mental connection with Adam was the most intense thing I’d ever experienced.
At that age, I’d been dating for a whopping two years. A worldly-wise teenager that I was, I just knew I’d never experience a connection like that with any other man ever again.
When blood-red flags started popping up everywhere, Adam and I argued our way through them. I thought it meant I was mature enough to handle a real relationship, even though his cruel words would often bring me to tears when his temper got the best of him.
As mean as he could get, he had a special knack for convincing me that I was incorrect for feeling hurt. He’d tell me all the reasons I was misunderstanding the situation, and that my feelings were misguided or didn’t make any sense. And I’d believe him. I’d agree that I was overdramatic, misinformed, or unaware of how adult relationships worked.
Sometimes he’d use my generalised anxiety disorder against me and tell me that my mental health made me overly sensitive. It wasn’t that he was being emotionally abusive, oh no. The problem was that I was slightly out of touch with reality whenever we fought.
Mia Freedman explains the term Gaslighting and how to know if it’s happening to you. Post continues below.
I was gaslighted before I ever knew what the term meant. I was mentally and emotionally manipulated without seeing it. Sometimes my 33-year-old self looks back at my 18-year-old self and wants to wring her clueless little neck. My vision was so limited back then. My mind so narrow. I knew he made me unhappy a lot of the time, but I thought that was because our love was fiery and passionate and totally intense. I thought a relationship that took this much hard work was something special, something worth fighting for.