I recently realized my parents have been gaslighting me for years. A lot of my life has been spent living a cruel lie because of this. What do I do?
I feel like your experience is the first time I’ve seen something close to mine. So, I’m going to tell my story and bolden hopefully helpful paralleles.About 3 years ago, I had a bunch of traumatic memories come forward. Suppressed memories. Three months after they came forward, I realized a hard truth none of it was my fault. Which meant everyone who did these things to me. My church (now cult) was a lie. My “loving family” was a lie. My “spoiled childhood” was a lie. My extended family was at least broken, and my entire belief system was a lie. In fact, it felt like everything I ever thought was a lie.I almost immediately went no contact with my church. I should have gone no contact with my parents as well, but I emotionally couldn’t do it. After a traumatic conversation, I fully broke contact with them 2 months later and won’t ever reconnect.(If you haven’t gone no contact with your family, you need to start making plans. They will continue doing what you described and they will never stop.)I struggled for the next year trying to make sense of it. How could they go along with this known and proven cult, and how could they treat me how they did? They even left for over a decade and still returned. That doesn’t happen like ever. If you asked here on Quora if it happens, you will get answers that it doesn’t happen. I asked.Eventually, I put the dots together that my father was a narcissist. (I’ve since my changed my mind that he is a sociopath, but in terms of what narcissists/psychopaths/sociopaths are capable of doing in terms of cruelty is the same)What slowed me down in coming to that conclusion is people who have ignorant views on the existence of narcissists. These people think everyone is fundamentally the same. They believe every person’s sins are unintentional. If the person acting cruel had a better childhood, had more control of himself, could handle trauma better, could control his anger better…then the cruelty wouldn’t happen.They are wrong. Everything these people say is wrong.Your parents - the people who gaslighted and sabotaged your life - do not fit into this view of humanity. Their actions require calculation, planning, and a fundamental lack of care for others. They do not merely have a character flaw. They do these things on purpose and are fully aware what they do. You can read about them more and decide for yourself how much they are at fault for their actions, but what is clear is that they are fundamentally different than the average human being.Please do yourself a favor and trust yourself other these people about everything. Even the most well-meaning mentor will lead you astray if they don’t have this knowledge. Also, if someone takes the bible inerrantly, they are basically guaranteed to be ignorant about narcissists. “Everyone is sinful. All have sinned…we are all sinners…etc”So, after a year of eliminating arguments against my dad being a narcissist, I could feel good about disconnecting. These people do not change. Even though there’s a lot of bullshit on the internet about them, it is true that they don’t change. I’m sorry to say that there is no hope in your parents changing for the better, just as there is no hope for mine changing - even if they were to leave the cult they dragged me into.Then, I could more easily assume everything they said was a lie. And 2 years later, that’s still proven true.So, here’s some important things I had to investigate more thoroughly:I’m a wild child, and I’m over dramaticI have sensory integration disorder or ADHD (I would investigate whether or not you have actually asperger's. As you know, psychiatrists can be manipulated by your parents)Jesus, God, the Bible. Jesus is absolute Lord. God is provably true. The bible is inerrant and internally consistent. The bible has all the answers. I’m going to hell if I don’t believe in Jesus. And many statements like that.my extended family on both sides. Who knew what and could I trust them.Politics. Being Republican and watching Fox News is the absolute way to go.The meaning of all my memories. Virtually everything I ever did and said was defined or labeled by people. I had to go back and redefine a lot. Does falling down and say “ow” mean I am oversensitive?As I figured out more of these things, there were and still two extremely helpful facts that come up: (1) my parents were different than basically everyone and (2) I can trust myself.Several times since I left, I trusted the logic of the situation over myself. My gut said “don’t trust this person”, but the logic said “They are helping me, I have no reason to distrust them”. Each time, my gut was right and I got hurt.In my opinion, trusting yourself is the most helpful and most difficult lesson to learn. After all, everything your parents did to you screamed “don’t trust yourself”. Even though you know now that they are the cause of your distrust of yourself, the damage is still there. You still don’t feel like trusting yourself. Even assuming that “every single reason I have to distrust myself is false” is for some reason not enough.So after I “solved” many of the problems I already list, I continued investigating my extended family and my mom. Something didn’t feel right, and my extended family was treating me badly. I was trying to understand them and felt like they were just like my dad and the cult leader, but the ignorant people were telling people “No. You’re wrong. They are good people. They are helping you. Trust them. I know your parents and the cult are bad, but you can trust them.”They were wrong.My impression of them, my analysis of them is trustworthy.My extended family on both sides fits the descriptions of narcissists and sociopaths. I later had sexually abusive memories about them that completely ended all doubts.So, then, I undid another very important thing that the ignorant people said. Probability is irrelevant.It’s not something that should ever cause you to doubt yourself. Anyone who tries to say that your memories, your conclusions, or your circumstances are unlikely is ignorant. Plus, knowledgeable people know this stuff tends to cascade. It’s not uncommon for an abusive situation to get worse or have lots of complications.I forgot to mention therapists. I’m told specialists are helpful. I didn’t have the money to go to one. Non-specialist therapists might be ignorant people.I went to 6 different therapists in 3 years. Only one was consistently helpful, and even he got my extended family wrong. Three were unhelpful, and two were just good sounding boards.So if you do go to one and you see them trying to make excuses for your parents, trust yourself over them. They do ask really good questions most of the time. They can help uncover things and assist in creating new conclusions.At this point in my life, I don’t have any answers about romantic relationships. I haven’t for a while. I have too much anxiety to get that close to someone.I don’t feel like I made it totally clear, so “yes, I can relate.” I was gaslighted by my parents, my extended family on both sides, a professional mentor, a cult, and childhood bullies. I was also sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by these people (not all sexually abused me).You can get help from people like me - those who have gone through it and those who have done study about gaslighting, abusive families, and so forth. Other people can only emotionally support you, and you may want to let them know you don’t want advice. There’s a ton more I could write, but I’ve done a lot and my arms. If you have any questions in comment or PM, I’m glad to answer them. It’s nice to talk with someone who gets it.A couple things on your wiki I wanted to mention:CodependentCodependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person's drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaCodependencyIf you are somehow blaming yourself for tolerating your parents abuse for so long, don’t. It’s absolutely not your fault and this doesn’t make you co-dependent. If your current significant other is doing one of these and you are supporting him/her, that’s different.I too thought I was co-dependent for a while, but I’m not. That’s for adults with good childhoods who stumbled into these situations and knowingly help people. For me, it’s the adult cult members who know the cult leader sexually abuses people. It’s not me or my peers who were forced into that situation.I really don’t think co-dependent changes healing either.This reminds me…because of how much your parents labeled your behavior and potentially accused you of mental disorders, you may have a tendency to quickly diagnose yourself. I would do that very slowly and get professional opinions. I know I said a lot about trusting yourself, but this is one where instinct can be wrong. But this is because of how they trained your brain. While this line of thinking can get scary “What if they trained my brain on everything”, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Even if they are still patterns where you make mistake and can’t trust your initial reaction, you can still trust yourself in the long run for everything. I feel like there’s a better way to say this, but it’s just not that bad. The cult trained my brain extensively, and I still should have trusted myself when I choose not too.The extent of the manipulationI’m not sure how you discovered the landlords got anonymous calls about you, but my point is this: They could have done a lot more that you will never discover evidence about. What this means is that trying to do intellectual ways of healing is more difficult to impossible. You can’t “discover and prove everything they did was bad”. You can find a lot, but there will always be the possibility that they do more you haven’t discovered - even when it seems like nothing more could have happened, even when it seems like no one else in your past was a bad person.TherapistsMost of them can still help process emotions, thoughts, help with depression ,and suicidal thoughts. They are basically all good at that. It’s very standard. If you want help with any of those, they are helpful and the cheap ones can help too.Going no contact.I feel like you haven’t cut them off. So, I’m going to write a basic plan of how to do it:Understand what you need emotionally to let them go. Maybe it’s one more chance, maybe it’s a face to face conversation in a public place (do not do more than 1 of these and do not under any circumstance do it a private location), maybe it’s a letter. This may take some deep soul searching and some time.I needed to ask them to stop and tell them how I felt. I should have ended it after they proved they didn’t care. Not doing so was easily the worst mistake I’ve ever made.Prepare everyone your parents has a phone number for. Let your friends/family/boss/landlord/local police know what you are about to do and what your parents will say. This will help them believe you. Being the first one to make an argument and predicting what the opponent will say usually convinces people - regardless of the logic of the arguments.Move. I got really lucky on this one. I happened to move the day after I was forced to go no contact. They will come to your apartment and bang on the door. You will feel so much better if they don’t know where you live.Create a support network. If you have friends, understanding family, maybe get a therapist…just be ready for the strong emotions going to flow from this choice. It’s very important to stay emotionally healthy and discharge those emotions quickly so that you don’t reconnect with your parents. I got lucky again. I had no choice but to disconnect, so I just happened to have enough support and internal strength to stay away until my feelings slowed down.Lie to your parents. Don’t give them any idea of your thoughts or plans. Keep up the facade that everything is great.Allow people to help you. Your significant other can help a lot, like with the local police. It should be much easier emotionally for him/her to talk with them instead of you.Demolish religious arguments. If you came from Christianity, there’s some bullshit about forgiving people meaning that you can’t cut them out of your life. All of these have logical errors. All of them. There is nothing in any serious religion that suggests you can’t get away from abusive parents. “Honor your mother and father” has no connection whatsoever to “removing yourself from parents where violence is normal”. You can bring any up to me. I had about 6 to go through in order to disconnect.Love Yourself. The more you do this, the more power you will gain to stand up for your own needs. By your description, you have had more success at this than me. I hope it goes well for you.