I’m going to write about something that feels shameful, but I’m not going to let the feeling of shame stop me from speaking out. Because I know I’m not the only Autistic person this has been done to. This isn’t even the first time I’ve had it done to me, which adds to the feeling of shame. That I allowed it to happen again.
Nay, I even welcomed it! Because I didn’t see it for what it was.
Last year I was preyed upon by a gaslighting manipulator. This person (TP), I believe, wasn’t being malicious. I’m fairly certain they just needed certain needs met and they believed that the only way to get help from me was to lie and cultivate a state of confusion.
Certainly, I know for a fact, lying was one of the only ways that they’d been able to get their needs met in the past. It makes sense that TP would continue that pattern even when it wasn’t necessary. Because, as far as they knew, I could’ve been a liar like everyone else in their life, including themself.
But the truth is, I would’ve been more than happy to help even without their lies or their love bombing idealization. I repeatedly told them so. I’ve done more for friends before, without any insincere positive reinforcement, and I would’ve been happy to do it again.
I like to help the people I care about.
My intuition was giving off alarm bells last year: lacking words, regularly melting down, only feeling peaceful when I was with TP, while feeling anxious and off-balance with intrusive thoughts whenever they weren’t nearby. I even began to fear and mistrust a former friend (FF) under the influence of TP. I cut off another long-term close friend on TP’s (maybe not even true) report of that friend’s alleged abuse of TP.
TP isolated me from my long-term support system as my mental health kept deteriorating. I had forgotten that I even had any other friends besides TP and those whom TP was skillfully and thoroughly excising from my life.
I felt guilty about everything I did, felt, and thought. My therapist tried to get me to think about why I felt guilty right before the entire thing blew up in my face, but I had no words for any of it at the time.
My confusion increased.
None of last year made any damn sense until about one week ago when pieces finally started falling into place and other trusted people in my life confirmed that my actions and responses had been consistent with having been emotionally abused and manipulated.
Cue the shame.
Having alexithymia I struggle to identify my emotions and I’d attributed most of my off-balance feelings to something else: love. Every interpretation I made about my interactions with TP was through the lens of believing that I just couldn’t manage my strong feelings towards them. I believed that I was in love and that my love was returned very strongly and sincerely because that’s what TP told me over and over and over again, more and more frequently and insistently as time went on.
So I believed my feelings were causing all the confusion. I blamed myself.
But once TP was definitely out of my life? Once I knew for a fact that they’d been lying to me all year? Once they’d successfully convinced a formerly close friend (FF) of mine to further place the blame on me for having been abused at the very moment when I was teetering on the precipice of suicide?
Once I’d survived the worst of the betrayal and blame I heaped upon myself for not being able to see the truth sooner? Once I finally listened to and respected my intuition SCREAMING that both TP and FF were unsafe people for me?
Since then I have felt so much peace.
My life has been astronomically better since I realized the truth and cut all contact with both FF and TP. I’m involved in amazing new projects, my house is coming together in a way it hasn’t since before I had children, I’ve been spending more time hanging out with friends who my gut assures me are sincere in their enjoyment of my company, and this whole fiasco has brought Counterpart and me closer together after a rift in our relationship years ago when he lied to me.
Counterpart is an amazing person and I am so lucky to have him in my life! He responded appropriately to having lied. He took responsibility and moved forward with transparency and accountability and did everything I needed him to do in order for me to feel safe trusting him again.
TP doubled down before ghosting me, turning FF against me, and then going on merrily with their life while leaving me, seemingly wrecked, in their wake.
The truth is that TP is a motherfucking coward whose last spoken words to me were still the same old lies: “I love you.”
I did some of TP’s dirty work for them too and I will address the hurt that I helped cause. I’m not going to be used as a cowardly person’s tool again. I’m done with that shit. Yes TP’s motivation was probably not malicious, but the fallout was and is unacceptable.
I’m aware that now FF is being used the same way I was being used and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. It’s highly unlikely that FF will believe any truths I write here. TP had FF do their dirty work to cast me off after convincing FF to believe horrifying things about me; things that I did not and never would do.
FF even asked me how I could violate TP’s boundaries so horrifically when I was the one who’d taught FF about the importance of boundaries many years ago.
The obvious answer? I didn’t. As evidenced by the fact that FF felt the need to ask me the question that way in the first place.
I was hyper-aware of everything I did and said while around TP. I regularly recorded my interactions with TP, as factually as possible, in my journal.
At the time I thought I was being ridiculous in my caution, but I cared enough about TP that I would’ve contorted myself far more than I did in an effort not to cause any harm to them or even accidentally coerce them into doing a single thing they didn’t want to do.
My behavior was even more platonic with TP than it is with my other friends because I wasn’t going to risk even getting close to crossing any lines. I knew the stakes were high, I just didn’t realize the stakes were not remotely what I believed them to be.
Thank all that is good and Autistic in the world that I have strong personal ethics. This would’ve been ever so much worse if I didn’t.
My caution is really what saved my life in the end because I’d journaled as accurately as possible, been excruciatingly honest about my feelings with everyone who needed to know, and been so careful that I was eventually able to sort reality from the lies I’d been fed all year long.
It took three months and I’m still ashamed of how thoroughly I was suckered and pulled in. I’m still ashamed of the things that I did and said while fully believing TP’s lies.
I put myself at risk, I put my family at risk, and I put several of my friends at risk. The only person I cared about not harming was the one who was harming me. And I am deeply ashamed that I didn’t see through TP sooner.
But TP was a long-term friend. I thought I knew who they were, even as my gut screamed that something was wrong.
And something was wrong.
TRUST YOUR INTUITION. My fellow Autistic people. Seriously. If you feel “off” or weird or confused or guilty all the time, back WAY the fuck off and try to figure out why. If you are melting down regularly, with increasing severity, hunker the fuck DOWN instead of doing what I did, which was to continue trying to do all the things and help all the people and make everyone around me happy until I burnt the fuck out in a spectacular mental health crisis.
It is not anyone’s job to make everyone around them happy.
Your responsibility is to yourself and your mental health. If being around someone is harming you or your mental health, stop being around them.
I dodged a serious bullet, y’all. I am so thankful and I’m working on being less ashamed. Savvier people than I am have been taken in by TP and people like TP. Being open, honest, kind, and caring comes with these risks and I am not going to let one cunning lying asshole change the essence of who I am!
However, in the future I need to trust my intuition more when I’m being open, honest, kind, and caring to others. My life is always better when I remember to do that. I need to be less naive and less trusting. I need to notice and pay serious attention when words and actions don’t match up.
My gut has shown itself to be trustworthy and I need to remember that in the future; not an easy task when my intuition and gut feelings have been devalued by all of society for my entire life.
And I will not be shamed into silence about this experience. Not by myself nor by anyone else, because I refuse to be a coward and this is an important issue in the Autistic community.