Let's Call It Gaslighting

Let's Call It Gaslighting

Kim Salac
Media Staff

Content Warning: This poem contains language about gaslighting that might be triggering to some readers.

I listen to her voice break on the other side of the line, describing all the things he did to make her feel Crazy. She doesn’t need to finish the story—because I already know. I’ve been in that place.


I’ve been in that place—the deepest point in a relationship, where your feet can’t quite reach the bottom and you gasp for air. That point where you are being dragged down by your love for them, but you simultaneously feel an overwhelming urge for air. As you are pulled in two directions, you flounder. As you splash around and fight for breath, they look at you and say, “Crazy,” with a shake of their head. And thus they name your attempts to breathe, and your breath becomes unfamiliar, dangerous, and unwanted.


I need you to love me like this, we say.

Asking for things makes me not want to do it, they say.


I wish you didn’t raise your voice at me, we plead.

You made me yell, they answer.


Could you hold my hand more, we ask.

Holding hands makes me feel weak, they dismiss.


Today I am feeling sad over us, we admit.

he only problems are in your head, they smirk.


Talking on the phone more might help, we offer.

I just don’t think about calling you, they explain.


I’m still hurt over this thing that happened, we mention.

You make me sound like such a bad person, they reply.


I need you to listen, we say louder.

You ask for too much, they say loudest.


I made them yell. I don’t need my hand to be held. These problems are in my head. I’m asking for too much.


Their responses unconsciously become your truths, because you want to trust the person you love the most. Love is a powerful thing. So powerful you can begin to resent yourself gasping for air. You can start to judge your body for its discomfort. That hand that aches to be held becomes evidence of your neediness. Those ears that crave affirmations just showcase your own selfishness. That voice that begs to be heard becomes shrill and repetitive and maybe even… Crazy?


She finishes talking, and the well-worn story (the one I already knew), festers in the silence between my best friend and I.

All I can do is tell her that I love her, and hold the phone while she cries.