Phil Gaslights Me with Fake Dreams, Ridicule and Psychological Abuse–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–February 1994, Part 6

I told Phil what I often thought over the years: that to us students who lived on campus, quarters were gold.  Only quarters were accepted in the laundry machines, so they were hoarded, and the more you had the better.

It beat having to run down to the Campus Center all the time to get a roll of quarters, especially since once or twice I couldn’t find anyone at the Information Desk to give me quarters.

So Phil began giving me quarters here and there as tokens.  The first time, he said I should know what it was for, but I didn’t.  I guess it was a token of his affection.

I didn’t remember this until years later when writing these memoirs, but I dreamed about Phil before I met him.  More details of that dream will soon make sense; for now, I thought Phil looked like Eric Idle.

I hated when he cut his hair, because whenever it got long, it curled up at the ends.

When I first started going out with Phil, the song “No Excuses” by Alice in Chains had just come out.  It became my new favorite song.

The beautiful song “Sweet Lullaby” came out around this time, and is associated in my mind with the winter part of spring semester.  I wondered how many people knew that Deep Forest also had the song “Deep Forest,” which was popular on Chicago’s alternative station all summer of 1993.  (Wikipedia says these songs came out in 1992, but I suspect this refers to the UK, not the US.  My tapes of these songs/videos are dated, and prove the years I give here.)

I taped the video, too.  At the time I thought it was a little dull compared to “Deep Forest,” but I still liked it.  It fit right in with the creative songs of that time.

Sarah McLachlan came out with a new album during spring semester.  I thought it was her debut, but she’d done at least one other album before; I didn’t know this for several years.

I thought songs like “Good Enough” and “Hold On” were beautiful, that her voice was beautiful, and that she was beautiful to match.  Because of this, the occasional cuss word in her songs seemed out of place, ugly trolls among beautiful, graceful fairies.  (Not like cuss words in many alternative or hard rock songs.)

I first saw her on a video one day while at Phil’s house, Possession.  Her short nose reminded me of my aunt and mother, making her look much like them; her face looked British.  This would become one of my favorite songs of all time.


I told Phil my fears about Dungeons and Dragons, that The 700 Club had portrayed it as this evil thing which led to demonic activity and Satanism.

He said it wasn’t that way at all.  He said spells are not actually said; you say you’re casting a spell, and maybe wiggle your fingers or something, but you don’t actually cast any spells.

The 700 Club had made it look like a board game, but it wasn’t.  They had said all sorts of things about it that weren’t actually true (unless, of course, your DM, or Dungeon Master, was mean).

Phil invited me to watch him play a game with Dirk, and make up my mind about it then.  So I did.

I watched them as they played a D&D game called “Undermountain.”  Phil was the DM, and led Dirk’s dwarf character through caverns in a mountain.  He used voices and accents and made things amusing and exciting.

Dirk would jokingly say things like “oh great Dungeon Master” or “great DM,” and I picked up on this.  It all seemed perfectly harmless to me, so I decided to join in later on.

There were some pre-made characters, and I chose that of a sixteen-year-old.  I used a British accent, which was a lot of fun for me, and played her as a girl who wanted to try out the wine in a cask the characters found–which surprised Phil.  But hey, must my characters always be exactly like me?

Julie once told me she was impressed that Phil, as a DM, let people duck out to study or whatever.  She said there were DM’s who would make you come to each game, no matter what tests you had.

Another time, Dirk led us in a game of “Werewolf: The Apocalypse.”  My character warmed up quickly to Phil’s character, and I remember them cuddling by a fire after setting up camp.

It seemed really exciting as we rolled up our characters and chose tribes and totems and such, but the game itself was boring.  Phil said Dirk didn’t run it very well.  We never did play the game again.

D&D is what you make of it.  It doesn’t have to be bad for you.  You don’t have to play characters who go against your own beliefs.  You don’t have to end up so obsessed with it that you can’t do or think of anything else, that you think you are your character, and that you spend all your money on the books.

(Some people do.  But then, some people are obsessed with science fiction, chocolate or video games.  That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with the object of the obsession, just that the person needs to expand his interests.)

In the 90s, I played D&D with other Christians for years, and none of us became Satan worshippers; we all stayed Christians.  And since you don’t actually say any real spells, and the gods and goddesses are generally made up, there is no danger of accidentally calling up an unwelcome, demonic visitor.

I had told Phil that God gave me my name (my real name, not “Nyssa”), as my parents told me.  They said they both had the idea and then one mentioned it, and the other said they’d also thought of it.

They agreed that God put it into their hearts to name me that.  I never knew why, but my life had been a search for the reason, for my purpose.  (This is also a big deal in many fundamentalist/evangelical circles.)

Phil thought this was silly, and that hurt.  As we played “Werewolf,” one of us brought it up.

Phil began to ridicule my thoughts about the importance of my name.  Dirk came to my defense and said, “Hey, this is important to her.  Respect that.”


Soon after this, while we were alone in his room, Phil pretended to fall asleep, but let me believe he really was asleep.  (It was months before he told me the truth.)

He began to say things to me like, “I know your purpose.”  His mom came in the room and woke him up.  I feared he’d never be able to tell me now.

But he “fell asleep” again and said, “Your purpose is–to destroy me!”  I was horrified.

He later said it was because he decided not to be a priest, and God was angry with him.  I sat in disbelief that this could be my purpose, the reason for God naming me, which I’d sought for all my life!  I don’t think I did believe it.  I probably insisted it was just a dream.

So the gaslighting started very early, but I didn’t know what was going on until it was too late.

Another example: One night, Phil and I were in the lounge talking when it got to be really late.  He talked about leaving, yet didn’t get up.  He made no move to go for some time.  Then when he did, of course I wanted to kiss and hug him good-bye, and of course I wasn’t happy to have to part.

Whoever is, that early in a relationship?  Who ever wants to say good-bye–unless, of course, you don’t actually care about that person and could just as soon be away from them as soon as possible?

It’s an expression of endearment, but not at all the same as holding a person hostage: He can leave at any time.  Just say how much you will miss her and how much you don’t want to leave, give her a hug and a kiss, then leave.

I also don’t push people out the door: I let them decide when to leave, because they are grownups and I am not their mother.  It boggles my mind that I would even have to explain these things; you’d think it would be obvious.

He finally left, but didn’t get much sleep because he had an 8:00 the next morning; he may even have been late to class.  When I saw him later that day, he blamed me for everything!

How could he blame me for that?  It was his own fault, yet he complained that I didn’t let him go, when that wasn’t at all the case.  I explained this, and things seemed to be okay after that.

But it was the beginning of being blamed for things of which I was innocent; far more cases of this were to come over time, a series of gaslighting to make me think I was the bad one.

In the very beginning, it seemed there was no problem that Phil and I couldn’t work out between us, and every problem we had, we instinctively knew how to solve.

Phil had recently done a paper on problem solving between couples, and he said we did everything that he’d read we were supposed to do.  Though he’d written this paper, I hadn’t, so I hadn’t read the articles he did, but for me it just came naturally.

When he told me this, I thought it was amazing–and yet another reason why we were good for each other.

This is ironic, however, because in time it would seem that we didn’t know how to solve anything anymore.


I liked to read the Bible books in Phil’s house, especially one which explained the archaeological and cultural backgrounds behind the stories of the Bible.  He also had a Catholic Bible, of course, and I read some of the Apocrypha/ Deuterocanonical books in that.  I found them fascinating.

I read the Additions to Esther and Susanna and the Elders, and maybe other books as well, as I sat next to Phil in the computer lab one day.

(He had his own computer at home so didn’t use the lab often, but this one time he did with me nearby.  It was weird to sit next to a guy in the computer lab again, like I did with Peter.)

One day, Phil showed me a tape of him acting in an elementary or middle school play of Treasure Island.  He towered over the other children, which was why he was cast as Long John Silver.

He was also far and beyond the best actor there (as his teacher told him), not sounding like he was reading his lines.

As a child, maybe as early as second grade when I played a whistling bird in a little play in my reading group (I couldn’t whistle and had to make these sort of tweeting noises), I had noted that many other children sounded like they were reading, and I fought hard to sound natural.  In fact, in 7th grade I wanted to be an actress.

Phil had a definite gift, and I hoped he’d become famous with it.

Very early in 1994, the song “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows came out.  I liked it at first, and the MTV Buzz Clip ad was cute: as a clip of the song played, one of those little constant-motion mechanisms that looks like a bird kept dipping its head to “drink” water.

But the song was overplayed so much that I just could not stand it anymore, and I still can’t listen to it.  In 1996, I heard on some TV program about the Counting Crows that it was played so much, even the band couldn’t stand it anymore!

I believe it was only about two or three weeks since we started going out when I spent one Saturday night at the house of Phil’s sister Maura, helping him babysit for his nephew, Taylor.

Taylor’s grandparents spoiled him terribly.  For examples, he would insist on having things his way, watching his tape of the 1993 Disney movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey AGAIN when Phil and I were in the middle of watching The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, staying up too late, eating this or that before dinner, and such.

Phil said he was like Taylor at that age (about four), throwing a temper tantrum to get a book he wanted and such like that.  (Uh-oh.  I hope Taylor didn’t grow up to be just like him.  Taylor would now be about 26, which makes me feel friggin’ old.)

Phil often said to him, “You can’t always get what you want.”  We felt he needed to learn this (though Phil apparently never did).

But Taylor could also be cute, and watching Phil play and roughhouse with him warmed my heart.  I thought he’d be a good father.

Maura had also given in to Taylor’s demands and gotten him a puppy, a big, yellow one which I believe was like Chance in Homeward Bound.  Chance was also the puppy’s name.  She was very young and hadn’t been housetrained.

Chance would bark all night because she didn’t like being locked up in a kennel in the kitchen, but if you let her out she would pee on the floor.

She did this once in the kitchen while we were there, and we had to clean it up, which was disgusting.  We had trouble sleeping that night because of her barking.

The downstairs-bathroom sink also had only cold water.  We slept on a sofa-bed downstairs, and Taylor slept in his room upstairs.

While in the kitchen, maybe while helping him heat up a pizza for dinner, Phil and I somehow got on the subject of the Rapture and Tribulation.

He’d never heard of it before, which I thought was unbelievable.  How could he grow up in the Church without ever hearing of the Last Days?  It was all in Revelations.

So I told him about it, and encouraged him to read the whole story in Revelations and Daniel.

(In 1999 I read a message from a Catholic on a newsgroup saying that the concept of the Tribulation and Rapture is Protestant, not Catholic.  That sounded ludicrous to me at the time because the concept comes from the Bible.

(But it’s true.  In October 2001, some people on the Dark Shadows newsgroup discussed it, saying that only some Christians believe in a literal translation of all of Revelations.

(I’d always thought that all Christians believed in it, since it was in the Bible.  In September and maybe part of October 2001, however, I did another reading of it myself, using two Bibles which gave various interpretations of it.  Before, I’d always read it as a description of the End Times.

(Now, I discovered that most of it probably isn’t meant to be taken literally, but allegorically.  For example, 666 would probably be Nero, meaning that it already took place–and hardly in a literal fashion.

(Further research uncovered that traditional interpretations hold Revelations to be highly symbolic, the Rapture to be a modern fabrication, and Christ’s reign to be here and now in the Church, not a literal theocracy–amillennialism.)

Once, after we’d been making out a bit, I got up to go to the bathroom.  When I came back, Phil was asleep on the couch.  I tried to wake him up, and he started kissing me and being playful with his eyes closed.

At first I thought he was awake, but then discovered he was still asleep.  I touched him with my hands, which were icy cold because the bathroom sink only had cold water.

He cried out, put his hands to his face, and made noises like he was crying.  I tried to wake him up, distressed at this.

When I finally got him to wake up, he told me he’d dreamed that I had died, and it upset him.  He said everything he’d done with his eyes closed, he’d done while asleep.

My ex Peter had often talked in his sleep or acted out his dreams, but this was even more intense than that.  I was shocked at this strange ability Phil had, and because of Peter and because of my trust in Phil, I believed in it.

I was to find out, many months later, that it was a trick to show me how much he’d be upset if I died, that he wasn’t really asleep.  But for now, he told me he’d been dreaming it.

That night, as we lay between the sheets of the pulled-out sofa bed, Phil and I started kissing.  We both got really turned on, and I thought I was going to give up my virginity only two weeks into a relationship–but didn’t care.

Finally, Phil said we had to stop.  He was right, of course, and I am glad that he stopped us from doing such an awful thing.

I’m glad for two main reasons: one, it was sin, and two, it would have been very disrespectful to Maura, who would possibly have wanted both to burn the sheets and to wring our necks for doing this with Taylor in the house.

The next morning, we got a call: Phil’s parents.  They said that somebody in the Roanoke Singers had called their house to give him a wakeup call, but he wasn’t there.

They thought Phil knew about it, and would be coming home soon to shower; they called when he didn’t show up there.  There was a concert that morning, and he was going to be late to it, but it had totally slipped his mind.

When we spoke of the weekend and when we’d leave Maura and Taylor’s house and how I’d get back to Roanoke and all that, this concert never entered the equation.  I didn’t know about it, of course, and I don’t know how he forgot about it.

But now I was stuck at Maura and Taylor’s house, and Phil was in trouble with the choir director, since the Singers group ended up leaving him behind to go to the church they were to sing at.

Phil came back again later that morning or in the early afternoon, told me what happened, and took me back to Roanoke.  He felt awful about it.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992:Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: