I have gone back and forth for a long time about whether or not to write this blog. It is sharing more about myself and my personal life than I typically like to do. Some years ago, someone in my life gaslighted me. I thought I would be the last type of person to be a victim of gaslighting, with my stubborn and independent nature. It turns out that my big heart, my inherent trust in people, and my unwillingness to see the bad in others have all worked to my disadvantage in this case. I have since learned the hard way.
Gaslighting can be done by friends, family, and lovers. I have no intention of disclosing who the culprit was because I don’t think this person even realized they were doing it and I have no desire to speak (or write) poorly of anyone. This person doesn’t treat everybody that way, so why should I ruin your relationship with them?
According to Google, ‘gaslight’ means to “manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity”. You can find an article about gaslighting here. It has different manifestations in different people. Honestly, I didn’t realize that I was being gaslighted at the time. It was maybe a year ago that I figured it out after reading through the second article that I had come across on the subject. In that article, it had some of the exact phrases that were used on me. That’s when it became apparent that all of the things I was struggling with were the after-effects of gaslighting.
So why am I writing about this in a fighting blog? Because it affected my fighting and SCA life the most. After the break-up, this person told me that all of my SCAdian friends took my ex’s side and no one liked me anymore. I isolated myself from people as I still tried to participate in the SCA anyway. When I broke ties with this person, they instinctively knew which of my friends to badmouth me to (everything from name-calling to discussion of my sexual exploits were topics that were brought up). They also seemed to know who to speak well of me to and played up their concern for my ‘mental illness’. The few friends who still talked to me started to treat me like I was crazy and they were afraid to upset me. I didn’t know any of this at the time. I just noticed that people were treating me so strangely so I isolated myself even more. Honestly, I probably was acting crazy. I had random emotional outbursts and acted impulsively, making several stupid decisions in the process. I vacillated from not knowing who to trust to choosing one person, telling practically my entire life story, then stopped talking to them because I was ashamed for telling them things I shouldn’t have. After being craftily manipulated for a long time to not trust myself or my own judgement, I had cut myself loose. But now there was nobody to tell me what to do and what was or wasn’t a stupid decision. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t take care of myself or trust in my own judgement.
When I first started this blog, I was an ‘up-and-coming’ who was full of drive, enjoyed fighting, and tried to attend several fight practices a week. Some of you might remember that version of me. Then I slowly started to “realize” how much I sucked at fighting. I got frustrated by it. I mentioned it in almost every blog post. I began to have emotional breakdowns at practices. Most of the time I was able to hide it well. Other times I tried to fight through the tears. I was ordered to stop writing about crying at practices so I did, but the crying still happened. It just wasn’t mentioned in my blogs and I merely called it “frustration”. I was embarrassed at my emotionality and my appearance at fight practices became sporadic at that point. I took a feminist stance blaming my failures on how people treated female fighters. At this point, it became obvious in my writing that I didn’t even trust the truth of what I was saying. I ended blogs with something like, “What I have written may or may not be true. I simply write how I see things from my point of view.” In fact, this was about the time when things got so bad that I felt compelled to run all of my blogs by this person before I posted them for fear of accidentally pissing people off like I had in the past. People complimented me on how much better my writing was, so I figured it was for the best. I became ashamed of my former writing and changed all of my older posts to “private”. Maybe one day when I get the time, I’ll change them all back. I think only the blog posts from the last few years are currently visible.
Since I broke ties with this person, I have been trying to un-gaslight myself. Of course, it was slow-going until I had figured out what was going on. It took me a year before I could make a big decision without second-guessing myself or getting a second opinion. I struggled with depression. I considered quitting the SCA. I felt very alone. I moved. I rebuilt some of my life. I got a good job. I cemented my friendships with a few non-SCAdian friends. I still mistrusted SCAdians whether they were old friends or people I had never met. I somehow still believed the things I was told by this person. And many of them still clearly believed the things they were told about me. I became anti-social, prickly, and withdrawn at events. I still am at times. I took a year off. I cut some further ties that had nothing to do with my gaslighting, just for my own well-being. I slowly, very slowly, started feeling out some of my former SCA friendships.
In the past year, once I have realized what has actually been going on in my head, I have been improving by leaps and bounds. I am doing a lot better, but still suffer from some of the after-effects of gaslighting. I am trying to get back into fighting, though weight loss is more of a priority right now than fighting is. What people don’t understand is that every fight practice I attend requires an internal battle between my true self and my gaslighted self. When I show up, my true self wins. Then I have to go through a similar battle again just to put on my armor and fight. Every blog post you have seen about me attending a practice and fighting is a victory for me, as sad as that sounds (since they’ve been few and far between). I can not always be relied upon to do what I say I’m going to do with regards to fighting. But I do try. With everything else, my word is my bond (unless I’m promising you embroidery when I’m drunk, because I won’t remember it then). I believe very strongly in doing what I say I’m going to do. I am now the KM of my current Canton. I am working to build a fight practice out of nothing, which is an uphill battle, but I need a new challenge to help me pull my head out of my ass. Being in a new place with new people who have not been told those things about me is helping, but I still struggle sometimes. Someday I will attempt to pursue my fighting goals again. Maybe I will squire again. I have no desire to become a squire now. I do not have the drive to succeed that I once had and I feel that I need to re-find it in order to start taking fighting seriously again.
Because of the personal nature of this subject, the embarrassment that I was fooled by and succumbed to it, and the fact that I was afraid to share something so personal with the world were all reasons that I put off writing this. Because I withdrew from the SCAdian world, put on an unpredictable appearance, and really kept to myself, I know people believed some of the things they have been told about me. And that’s understandable. Nobody heard my side of the story. Honestly, I didn’t even realize the whole side of my own story until much later. When one friend confronted me about my ‘mental illness’ a few years ago, I even agreed. After all, what else were the random emotional outbursts and lack of trust in myself and others? So here this is, my side of the story. You don’t have to believe it, but at least it’s here. And it is also here with my apology to everyone I have withdrawn from and been prickly with. When I say I didn’t trust you, please don’t take it personally. For a long time, I didn’t even trust myself!
I have learned many things out of this:
I am not playing the victim, I was a victim.
Being gaslighted doesn’t mean I was weak, it means that I chose to put my trust in the wrong person.
Being put in that situation and still managing to find the strength to sever ties proves that I am strong, even though at the time I didn’t understand why.
Being able to turn myself and my life around and learn to trust again has made me even stronger.
I am still going to be dealing with this, but it will fade with time.
I will still be emotional sometimes and it’s okay. It’s just part of the healing process.
I am now stubborn about things for too long or stubborn about the wrong things, merely because I’m still learning how and when to assert myself again.
I am not pathetic, I chose to believe in someone enough to make me feel pathetic.
By the time I am done with my recovery, I will be so strong and secure in myself, that I will be unshakable.
It’s become a lot more apparent who my friends are.
The SCA is important enough to me to still go through all this shit just to continue participating!
As knight marshal of the Canton of Northpass, I was again asked to marshal the heavy fighting activities. This was an investiture and as such the scheduling was extremely difficult. There were four courts on Saturday and fighting could really not happen during those courts. There was a tourchlight tournament scheduled for Friday night. I showed up, but nobody else did. Honestly, I didn’t expect anyone. Most people worked all day and then drove at least a few hours to get there. Those fighters that were in attendance were probably busy settling in.
The next day, the only event that I was responsible for marshaling was the melees, which were scheduled for 9am. The schedule was extremely tight due to the four courts that were apparently required for the investiture that was being held at Barleycorn this year. Unsurprisingly, no heavy fighters showed up. One fencer showed up and mistook me for the fencing marshal (what do people keep doing that?). I was getting ready to leave when one heavy fighter showed up and asked where he could put his armor. I found a place and he asked about the fighting. I explained the problem. The outgoing court of the Viceroy and Viscrene was about to start. We could certainly not have any fighting activities there. We walked and found a small field where it was far enough away that it shouldn’t disrupt their court, but not far enough away that people couldn’t find the fighting if they were so inclined.
They stayed there until noon when Sir Edward’s Tournament was about to start. He had brought his own marshal. I started chatting with one of the other fighters who was also a marshal. That fighter told me that apparently according to curia law if I was marshal in charge at an event, I had say on all marshal activities that happened at that event. I was to be given a list of marshals ahead of time and if I wasn’t happy with the way things were being handled, I could chose to stop all heavy fighting activities or refuse to have them there. I have since checked the marshal’s handbook and skimmed through EK curia law. I saw nothing of the kind.
There was something important that occurred throughout the day that I was not listened to about and I was not happy. I also had someone try and pull rank on me on an issue too. Seriously, it’s enough to make me not have any desire to help out and marshal again. It’s hard enough to find people to marshal because most of the people who marshal prefer to fight. Then add some of the extra bullshit that I had to deal with on top of that and it’s no wonder why many people would prefer not to do it. I discussed the happenings with the event autocrat and I was assured that it wouldn’t be a problem in the future, so I’ll guess I’ll give Barleycorn a try for one more year.
We had a new fighter in our canton that was interested in attending a local practice. Unfortunately, with the problems we had with our location and the lack of active fighters in my canton, we haven’t had a local practice in a while. I offered to carpool with him to any of the nearby practices. He decided he wanted to go to Nordenhal. I was looking forward to trying out my new set of armor.
When we arrived at Nordenhal, we were the first ones to arrive with armor. We put it on and started to fight each other. I grabbed two swords, figuring it would allow him to have some visible target areas. At first, I played a completely defensive game to allow him to practice shots. It didn’t take long for him to request that I try to hit him back. I still played a bit defensively, but at least gave him a bit to dodge. Then I got bored and started fighting more aggressively. He did pretty well. It turns out that he had been to a few fight practices before but this was the first time he had armor to use.
I took a break and fought someone else. I can’t actually remember who I fought second. I also fought using my two swords. He grabbed two swords as well. He was more of a challenge to fight. I did well at first, but then he did better later in our fights. I wish I could remember who it was!
I was tired and my arms were sore, so I was considering taking my armor off when Sir Ivan came over and asked me to fight him with my pole arm. Ivan never requests to fight me, so I was flattered and excited. He had a large great sword that he was using. It was almost as long as my pole arm! As with before, I did well at first, but at the end he did better. The biggest problem was that he tried a chopping motion on the top of my head, but from the way that my helmet is built, all of those motions slid right down my helmet and onto my shoulder. This was the shoulder that wasn’t that great to begin with and I hadn’t worked on the shoulder lamellar yet, so it wasn’t well-armored. After about three or four hits there, I really couldn’t move it. I thanked Ivan for the fight and armored down with difficulty.
I had some very nice bruising on my shoulder the next day. Also, it took me a day later to realized I should have tried that cross-block and hit combo that Shiro showed me at Pennsic. Well, a thought that’s better late than never I guess!
Having not had secured anyone to fight with (although several people have told me “you can fight with us” and then I never heard from or saw them again), I decided to just show up to the battle and fight. I woke up uncharacteristically late, so I got there just as the battle was starting. It worked out well for me. It was the town battle. I just found who was wearing the blue tape and joined in. However, as I was just walking out onto the field, they called a hold. After a long wait, I walked further out onto the field. As soon as I arrived they called “hold” again. We were on the attacking side. I didn’t get to do anything. Then there seemed to be an extremely long wait between us attacking and defending. Finally, the battle started. I hung back at first because the directions started with “Go with your unit.” Eventually, I found a hold in our defense and plugged it. Then I felt someone tapping on the back of my helmet. I turned around and he said “you’re dead”. I most certainly was not dead, so I hit him in the head. He either ignored my shot or didn’t think it was good and he moved on. Then he thrusted the side of my helmet over a hay bale. He walked away, assuming I was dead, so I hit him in the head twice more. I can’t imagine none of my shots were good, but he looked at me and told me I was dead. I was so dumbfounded by his stupidity that it rendered me speechless for a minute. In that time, someone else hit me with a good shot and I walked away. The more I thought about this idiot, the angrier I got. I realized that I shouldn’t continue fighting so I just walked away.
I don’t know if that guy truly didn’t know the rules or he was just trying to see if he could get anyone else who ho didn’t know them, but it was amazingly ridiculous. Everyone out there, especially if you’re new, read the Pennsic melee rules. Read the marshal’s handbook. Know your rules. And above all, don’t be an asshole. Okay, there’s my public service announcement for the day.
I awoke and started armoring up, but I had stomach problems. I also never was a big fan of the bridge battles, especially since my back had always acted up after getting thrown over a hay bale in the past, I decided to sit this one out. Instead, I decided to go and do some pickups. My boyfriend and I went out to the pickups field. He asked me what my main form was, because he wanted to fight me using that. I told him I really didn’t have one. Sure, I spent a lot of time using a sword and shield, but I switched which hand was considered my dominant one, I switched up my style more than once, so I never really got good at it. Everything else I fought so sporadically, that I really couldn’t consider them to be my main form either. I decided to fight with two swords. I did okay. He instructed me to keep my “threat hand” back. The problem is, I really don’t have a threat hand. I’m better with my right, but my shoulder is currently messed up. Shiro stood by watching us. When I needed a break, I took a minute to go over and talk to her. She advised that I try and cross-block some of his hits. When I do that, I can turn and have access to most of the back of his body to hit as I choose. It was a really neat idea. It worked when I was practicing with him, but I couldn’t quite get it to work much when we were fighting at full speed. I’m not sure if I just need to practice or if he countered the possibility because he knew it was coming. Shiro also mentioned that female fighters tend to just hold their swords out in front of them and that they tend to isolate body movements rather than use their whole body naturally as most guys seem to do. I wonder why. It is interesting because I know I have that problem. My boyfriend and I practiced what she taught us. He said I learned rather quickly.
We got lunch and returned to fight some more. This time I picked up the pole arm. He was rather aggressive with his fighting style so I started fighting very defensively. It was probably a little too defensive because I really didn’t hit him all that much. Then he managed to dig a thrust into my shoulder socket. While trying to demonstrate something, he did it again. It hurt so badly that I was done for the day.
I didn’t fight today. I mostly just hung out, went to herald’s point and submitted a badge, and hung out in camp.
The woods battle was cancelled and was replaced with something else. I don’t remember what, because I never got to fight it. I armored up and blew a rivet in my leg armor. I took it to Nightshade Leather who fixed it for me and solved one of my other armor problems for me as well. Unfortunately, I missed the first half hour of the battle and by the time I got back to my camp, armored up, and returned to the battle, it would have been too late. The battle was scheduled to last for 90 minutes, so I was surprised when I heard the cannon go off at about an hour into it. I found out later that it was so hot, there were at least four people carried off of the field for heat-related ailments. They shortened the battle and closed the battlefield to all martial activities.
I had to pack because something came up in the real world causing me to leave early. I had to leave on Saturday morning. I did my best to pack as much as I could and said my goodbyes. We slept in my mundane tent tonight so it would be easy to just pack up and go.
I woke up early and left. Pennsic seemed so short this year. I didn’t get to see even half of the people that I wanted to hang around with. I knew I would miss it, but it seems to be different every year. This year was good, but it went so fast! I hope next year will be good too!
I arrived on Friday evening of land grab. It was nice that the land agents had a separate line, but it was unfortunate that those with families couldn’t have their families check in early there as well. Our land grab negotiations were completed in record time. We were done by 7:30pm on Friday! I set up the frame for my tent, put on the canvas, then raised it up so I could put the side poles in. I was very proud of myself (and how far my back had come since last year) because I was able to lift it by myself! It hurt and it was it was a bit of a strain, but I could do it! Then I realized that I messed up something in putting together my tent frame, so I had to do it all over again. I swore and took apart everything. This time, I couldn’t lift it up to put in the side poles, so I had to have some help (thanks Olaf and Arinbjorn). I emptied my car into the tent and went to sleep.
Over the next few days, I finished all of the little things that needed to be done around my camp, like digging drainage around my tent. I also completed a number of errands such as food shopping. I visited the few friends that I knew were here already and I did some shopping at the vendors that were open. I took a class on tinsmithing and made a hurricane lantern. I also went out partying one night, but it really isn’t my thing much anymore.
Then I discovered that my boyfriend was able to get time off of work for Pennsic, so I drove up to pick him up and drove back to bring him to Pennsic. Over those few days, I’m not sure if it was the driving or what, but I seriously hurt my back. It had reached levels of pain that I hadn’t experienced even before my back surgery. I hoped this would not continue or I would not be able to fight.
When we returned to Pennsic, we were visiting my gypsy friends at Casa Nuestra when I ran across an old friend. He had been out west getting training in massage therapy, acupuncture, and other related fields. As I had previously mentioned, my back was in a lot of pain. He offered to help fix it. I was willing to try anything. Chiropractors didn’t work. Clearly surgery hadn’t worked either. He poked at my knees and my ankles with his finger and waved a stick of mugwort in front of my knees and ankles. I have no idea what he did, but my back felt markedly better.
A few weeks ago I had attended one of the Midland Vales fight practices. Someone there had mentioned that there was a demo in a few weeks on a Friday during the day. I knew many people probably worked at that time. Since I didn’t, I offered to help out. The night before, I looked up the address on my phone to see how long it would take me to get there. That way, I could figure out what time I needed to get up and could plan my morning accordingly. My phone surprisingly said that it only took a half an hour.
I got up the next day and did the things one normally does in the morning. I was almost ready to go, when I looked up the directions on my phone and it now said it took over an hour to get there! I would certainly be late. I felt bad, but there wasn’t a lot that I could really do other than send a Facebook message to the organizer to let him know that I’d be late. When I got there, it looked like things were starting to wrap up. The fighters were walking among the kids and the kids were touching their armor and asking them questions. There was quite a stir when I showed up. I was the only female and many of the girls in the audience seemed very excited that a woman was going to fight with the guys. There was only one big melee left. I did pretty well for myself and the campers were divided for some other activity.
I chatted with a few of the guys there and discovered that I wasn’t the only one late due to a GPS malfunction. I asked where I could find water and was pointed in the direction of a pavilion filled with kids. I took off my helmet and gauntlets, placed my shield and weapons on a picnic table, and got some water. The kids asked to pick up, touch, and play with my things. I figured since I was so late, that I could at least do some good things by letting the kids touch my gear. Eventually, one of them didn’t follow the directions I had given the kids about the save handling of my gear, so I took it all back and started on my way to my car. One boy asked if I wanted help. I told him I would love some, but that he needed permission from an adult. He asked a counselor who looked like he was an older teenager. The both of them helped me to carry my gear to my car, asking questions the whole way. They joked that they were my squires. I laughed inwardly at how, while a period-accurate notion, it was all wrong with the SCA’s way of doing things. I thanked them for their help and they returned to their activities.
Afterwards, the YMCA camp fed us and let us use their pool. I drove home feeling like I was doing a good deed just by being female, fighting, and showing up to the demo. It felt good to be looked up to for doing what I do, but it also made me sad because it shouldn’t matter.