Gaslighting yourself when you have an invisible illness is a real thing. Emotional and psychological manipulation by your doctor contributes to self-gaslighting. For example, your doctor constantly invalidates your pain. Or insinuates you’re exaggerating your illness. And, what’s scary is you begin to believe what they say. Fortunately, there are four tell-tale signs that you’re gaslighting yourself about your invisible illness. And, there are concrete actions you can take to stop yourself from doing so.
4 Ways You’re Gaslighting Yourself
1. You Believe Your Illness Isn’t Real
Being told repetitively that your symptoms aren’t an issue will eventually alter your perception. For example, having your doctor downplay your symptoms and suggest it’s psychological will make you believe it’s true. So you begin gaslighting yourself by thinking you’re emotionally and mentally unwell. And your pain and symptoms aren’t that bad despite struggling and having them interfere with daily life.
This is harmful because your symptoms are real. And you deserve to get answers and help. However, being led to believe that asking questions and seeking help means being emotionally or mentally unwell is damaging. And this prevents you from getting the proper care you need to get better.
2. You Invalidate Yourself
In addition to believing that your illness isn’t real, you find ways to invalidate yourself. For example, if you’re experiencing any painful symptoms, you may think you’re overreacting. Or, you’ll blame it on being too sensitive and needing to “get over it.”
However, questioning the validity of your symptoms doesn’t make them go away. They’re still a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Having a doctor or medical professional who makes light of your symptoms can make you feel ignored and unheard. But, that doesn’t mean your experience with your condition isn’t valid.
3. You Blame Yourself for Your Illness
Self-blame is another way you’re gaslighting yourself. You believe you’re responsible for having an invisible illness and blame yourself for symptoms even though it’s beyond your control. If you have flare-ups, you beat yourself up. And you have negative, self-defeating thoughts.
Society and culture do a great job of blaming a person for their sickness. If you’re unwell, it’s your responsibility to get better, and if you don’t, you’re not trying hard enough. But, this isn’t true for those of us with a chronic invisible illness. In many cases, these illnesses are beyond our control, and no matter what we do, they aren’t going to go away. So, blaming yourself for something that’s beyond your control isn’t helpful.
4. You Doubt Yourself
When you doubt yourself, you’re questioning whether your reality is true or false. Perhaps your doctor has downplayed your symptoms to the point that you ask if they’re even real. You believe that you’re making them up or that you’re too sensitive. During appointments, you can also feel confused as your doctor invalidates and attempts to discredit your experience. This can make you feel unsure about your illness and question your motives for seeking help.
Being gaslit this way means your doctor isn’t spending the time necessary to address your issues. Furthermore, it’s detrimental to your treatment.
How to Stop Gaslighting Yourself
Believe Your Illness is Real
Doctors and medical professionals that gaslight you aim to make you question your reality. They do this by discrediting you and invalidating your experience. But, here’s the thing you’re the only person that knows what it feels like to live in your body.
No one else can tell you about how debilitating your pain and symptoms are because these are individual experiences. And your experience is yours alone. Know that your illness is real, your pain is real, and you deserve proper treatment. Anyone that tells you any different is a liar. Trust and believe in yourself.
Trust the validity of your feelings and emotions and affirm them. Expressing concern for your health and well-being doesn’t make you crazy. It makes you diligent. Your pain and symptoms are real. You’re not making them up. If you’re not already tracking your symptoms, do so. This is an excellent way to realize how much your illness is impacting your life.
Improve Your Self-Esteem
Rebuild trust in yourself. Discontinue negative self-talk and self-deprecation. Participating in these behaviors only brings you down, making it harder to advocate for yourself. Instead, believe in your value and worth as a person with an invisible illness. You deserve to get answers, and you deserve to feel better. Know that you’re doing the right thing for your health and wellness.
Going to the doctor and seeking help for your pain and symptoms is the best thing you can do for yourself. In addition, being proactive about your health by tracking symptoms and making lifestyle modifications will positively influence your well-being.
Identifying and removing people who gaslight you is crucial. You don’t want to continue subjecting yourself to manipulative behavior. It will only trigger you and cause you to continue gaslighting yourself. For example, having a doctor that continually invalidates and discredits your pain and symptoms won’t help you. They’re not going to change their mind about your illness, and you won’t be able to get the help you need.
Instead, fire them and seek a second opinion from a qualified medical professional. Don’t feel wrong about this at all because you’re doing what’s suitable for you mentally, physically, and emotionally. Your health and well-being are priority number one.
While gaslighting yourself with an invisible illness is an issue, it doesn’t have to be. Being able to identify the ways that you’re manipulating yourself allows you to nip these bad habits in the bud. Believing your illness is real, validating yourself, and improving your self-esteem are simple ways to counteract self-gaslighting. Also, identifying perpetrators and removing them from your life will decrease their influence over you. Focusing on these actions can help you advocate for yourself and get help for your illness.
References and Related Reading
Verywell Mind: What Is Gaslighting
Healthline: What’s Self-Gaslighting and How Do I Unlearn It
Psychology Today: What Is Self-Gaslighting