More support for keeping diaries and saving letters/e-mails: to defend against gaslighting from abusers and narcissists
Here in several posts by Grace for my Heart, are reasons why we must keep diaries and save our letters/e-mails when dealing with psychological and narcissistic abuse:
Second, write things down. I am a strong proponent of good records and journals in these relationships. When you have a disagreement, even something as simple as the conversation I related above, write down your thoughts about it.
Tell what you remember and why and how you felt when the conversation ended. Write down his lie/excuse/challenge as well.
You don’t have to do anything with this, but you may find that a pattern emerges and you can see what is really happening. And you may take your journal to a counselor you trust to learn even more someday. —Gaslighting
This is especially important because
Also, narcissistic abuse is difficult to prove. What evidence can you give? Usually narcissists are not physical abusers, so there are no marks to show.
The continual criticism and the gaslighting can be hard to show to others. And the effect is cumulative. Taken as individual instances, these things often seem insignificant.
It’s when it happens every day over a period of years that the effects of the abuse are felt. People who know you realize that something is wrong, but can’t put their finger on the cause, even when they see it happening.
The sad truth is that narcissists often win in the court of public opinion. They have lived their whole lives manipulating the perspectives of others and they are invested way beyond anything the rest of us would consider reasonable.
They are usually ruthless in their willingness to attack, even to lie. They tie others to themselves through manipulation for support. —Why Won’t They Believe Me?
You can use this to make your story believable because:
Last week I wrote about the difficulty many have in explaining the actions and abuse of the narcissist. Some find that they simply are not believed when they begin to describe the kind of attacks and manipulation they have suffered.
I wanted to suggest some ways to prepare for telling your story. Please understand that there is no magic incantation to make someone believe you.
As I explained last week, there are times when the recipients of your story feel that they cannot support you, even if they do believe you. And, at other times, the narcissist simply wields his super ability to persuade others and you lose. I wish it were some other way.
But there may be a few things that could help.
- Keep records. Contemporaneous notes, records written very near the time of the event, are considered to be stronger evidence than just a story later. If you can write down, within an hour or so, the exact words used or the particular times of the event or some very specific information, you will find that people receive your words with greater trust. This is a well-respected technique in negotiations, probably because it seems more difficult to fabricate. Use different writing tools from time to time to accent the fact that you are not writing this all at once. —Overcoming the Disbelief
I believe this is the real reason why Richard and Tracy tried to make me feel somehow stalker-y for saving my letters and e-mails to and from friends. I believe they wanted me to feel just as creepy as they told me I was acting, so I would destroy all those letters and e-mails.
I believe they feared that I was writing down the things they were doing and saying, and that their house of cards would soon fall when I added it all up and realized they’d been deliberately deceiving and manipulating me.
And well, they were right about that. These posts by Grace for my Heart, which I just found tonight, are also added support for my conviction that I did nothing wrong or “creepy” in saving these letters and e-mails.
Unfortunately, I shredded/deleted a bunch of letters and e-mails in 2008 after listening to bad advice, in an attempt to “forgive” Tracy and “move on” so we could be friends.
But a Providential “mistake” led to me discovering some of those old e-mails in draft form, a few in particular which I especially wanted back.
Basically, in May 2010, we got a new computer. I didn’t understand how to transfer Thunderbird e-mails from one computer to another. I had the old data files on a portable hard drive, but didn’t know how to re-connect them on the new computer.
So I used a very cumbersome method to look through my e-mails: opening them with WordPad and WordPerfect. This left me with a tremendous amount of HTML junk to sift through (one little bit of HTML in an e-mail will turn into hundreds of pages of lines of junk characters), and far too much data at one time to be opened easily.
BUT then one day in September 2012, I discovered that my Drafts file had preserved all the different stages of each draft, even ones I had deleted! These files did not have HTML like my Inbox, and were much easier to read through.
I could see the very first version of a draft before I first saved it, all the way up through various changes, to the final version! And every version had its own time and date stamp.
I could see an e-mail written to Richard, full of venting and complaints about abuse in an early version, then later on changed to be far more diplomatic.
Shortly after this, I discovered how to connect my e-mails to a new computer, so I could use my e-mails normally through Thunderbird.
But I also saved a copy of the original data files, and the files I made to use with WordPad, so all those old drafts still exist. If anyone questions if the WordPad files have been altered, they can verify them with the original data files.
I have used these e-mails to make my account far more accurate than it was before, since I had forgotten some things by the time I wrote it, and to prove that I used words like “bullied” and “abused” way back in December 2007 when complaining about how I was treated.
They prove that Richard told me he was being abused. They prove that I saw acts of verbal and physical abuse when they lived in my house.
Drafts of e-mails sent to my mother describe the abuse I witnessed while Richard and Tracy lived in my house, so even though I deleted the e-mails and my mom does not keep e-mails that old, I still have copies.
And I have e-mail exchanges with my husband in 2009 which were never deleted, which prove that Richard complained of abuse. I also have copies of an e-mail which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am telling the truth about their domestic violence, because of who it’s from and what it says.
I probably also found people more easily believed my story, when they themselves had dealt with Richard/Tracy, and/or when Richard’s criminal conviction of choking his daughter gave my story that outside verification through official sources, of plausibility. Lots of narc victims don’t have this.
These records prove that I am not crazy. That I am NOT “not all there.” That this was Richard and Tracy gaslighting me again into thinking I was crazy and lying–or trying to, but they couldn’t because I have proof of the truth. I have resisted exes trying to gaslight me in the past, so I know I can resist it now, too.
Do this yourself, keeping records and e-mails, when you feel something is going weird, so you can figure it out later and prove it to others.
Don’t let your narc tell you it’s “creepy.” Those e-mails and diaries could save your sanity one day. Or even help you in custody battles or with proving your side of the story.
I also highly recommend that you read all the articles I linked to in this post, because there is far more information in there about defending against gaslighting, telling your story and being believed.