Gaslighting in Toxic Relationships

Updated: May 31

Not all of my relationships have been toxic, dysfunctional, abusive, and miserable. Most have been beautiful and authentic. I often let them fall apart because of my unwillingness to seek help for My issues. Since I decided to accept less than what I wanted and needed to avoid owning my shit; every relationship has been a balancing act of

‘how badly do I need this person? vs. How much abuse and manipulation can I deal with?’

I always grieve a breakup while I’m still in the relationship. When you cease being in a relationship with someone, there is simply no going back, or So I thought.

I want to share with you my story of the last two years of my life, a story that only yesterday came to a legal conclusion (or plea agreement in my situation) and how I was held captive in the woods for several months by someone who still swears ‘really loves me.

How do I explain the events that took me from a grieving mother to an alleged felon? How I’ve spent the last 14 months of my life on ‘bond supervision’ for a felony charge of reckless arson I have no memory of ‘allegedly’ committing?

It has been almost three years since my baby boy Theodore was born sleeping (stillborn). My world shattered, and my threshold of emotional pain punched straight through. I could not function in any capacity. I ended up moving into one of the guest rooms in my parent's house. It became my cocoon of misery. I cried what felt to me like an ocean of tears. If I had the words to describe the emotional agony adequately, I felt, anyone who read it would never sleep soundly again. I never understood the love a parent feels for their child until Theodore. I would have moved heaven and earth for just one more moment with him. I couldn’t stop the howls of agony I cried from inside my room. Which, I now understand, must have been unbearable for my Mother and Father. I couldn’t help my baby, and they wanted to help theirs but didn’t know-how. I didn’t know how to exist on the planet anymore in my mental state.

Before the first anniversary of Theodore’s passing, my Parents made the most generous and beautiful gesture that was so far beyond my wildest dreams. They offered to help me buy a house of my own. I have never been a 9 to 5 job person. I had been a freelance blogger and content contributor for six years until my high-risk pregnancy put me on bed rest at 16 weeks along.

At the time, the idea of having my own home to start over with was utterly overwhelming and scary. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to function in the real world. I no longer cared to write about anything other than my broken soul, which doesn’t keep readers interested. The mere thought of pretending to be sane for five minutes was utterly exhausting.

True to historic Sara fashion, I met a man! A man who seemed to be too good to be true. I was so focused on getting back what I had lost and trying to distract myself from the encompassing emotional pain I felt. I turned a blind eye to every apparent telltale sign of a man who was a factory that manufactured only red flags. I was so obsessed with the idea of having a family, a home, and ‘everyday life.

I moved into my brand-new home in a haze. I kept waiting for the happiness to kick in; I even moved the red flag factory into my house (he offered to pay the mortgage, which allowed me time to figure out what to do with myself). He spent all of the bills and encouraged that I do not pursue a career. He preferred knowing I was at home, either sitting in front of the TV like a zombie or sleeping. I couldn’t even decorate my house because I had no idea who I was anymore. My Mother and Sister would take me furniture shopping and ask me what type of decor I wanted. I was dead inside; I had no feelings about anything.

It didn’t take long for the undesirable personality traits of the red flag factory to make life unbearable. I could no longer deny or ignore how unhealthy my relationship with this person was. I was never allowed to go anywhere by myself; I had zero privacy, he didn’t let me be myself (what little of myself was left). He was constantly criticizing my every action or lack of effort. I was miserable with him, and I didn’t attempt to hide it. I told him on several occasions that he only made me want to die (even more than usual). He possessed a strong talent for manipulation, and I truly believed I was the one who was being unreasonable and I was so lucky to have him in my life because I was such a hot mess. When he began accusing me of being unfaithful, I noticed something was very wrong with this situation. I thought, unfaithful??? I Could not stomach holding hands or even touching; I was so shut down and depressed. I had no idea I was in a highly toxic situation.

One day in January 2020, it became too much, and I had to get the red flag factory out of my home permanently. He refused to move out; his gaslighting had convinced me I was sick, dangerous, and unable to take care of myself. He fiercely asserted that I needed him to take care of me. My limited understanding of gaslighting and manipulation in toxic relationships made it difficult for me to see he had set it up that way, and I had believed every bit of it wholeheartedly. I was so miserable with him I couldn’t stand to be in the same room. He was so adamant about the fact I was too sick to be alone. I finally had to call my parents and ask them to come and remove him from my house for good. My parents came right over, and my 70-something-year-old Mother was packing heat (this is a woman you do not want to fuck with).

When they arrived, I was already halfway through a bottle of vodka (my self-medication of choice, my entire adult life). I was very drunk and did not attempt to deny or hide it. My parents were aware I no longer wanted this person in my life for quite some time and drank heavily as a coping mechanism. When the going gets tough, Sara starts drinking. A heated discussion between my parents and the red flag factory gave him the perfect opportunity to point out how troubled I was and how lucky they were he was taking care of me. He denied any wrongdoing on his part, citing that I was emotionally unwell and had made these things up. Surprisingly, they got him to leave for good.

I was so relieved and terrified all at once. I expected an overwhelming response of happiness to come over me, and it didn’t.

I realized I would never have a living child of my own or an everyday life. I realized there was the possibility I would never feel any joy or contentment for the rest of my existence. Red flag factory’s constant insistence that I was incapable of taking care of myself without him had become the truth in my mind.

I made up my mind in that instant; I had one mission to accomplish that night, to end my own life. I can hazily remember gathering the necessary medications to bring on respiratory failure. I took the pills in carefully calculated amounts in timed intervals between gulps of vodka to avoid vomiting them up. This was not a cry for help...this was it. I was done with this world.

The last thing I remember from that night was sitting on the floor of my bedroom feeling my eyelids getting heavy and entirely at peace with ending my life.

I regained consciousness in the holding cell of the Montgomery County Jail. Both of my hands were bandaged and hurt like hell. This was ten minutes before all of my fellow detainees and I was leg and waist shackled and handcuffed and led down the labyrinth of hallways to the courtroom located within the jail. I was wondering why the hell I was in prison. Was suicide a crime? I wouldn’t be surprised if it is in Montgomery County.

I was called first to speak to the judge, and he informed me I was being charged with felony reckless arson, and my bond was $3K. I had zero recollection of the events that occurred after the drugs began to kick in. I was in jail, still feeling the effects of the obscene amount of pills and vodka I had ingested less than 24 hours before.

At least I knew why my hands were bandaged because they were burned. When the bandages were removed days later, I was horrified to see the ring and pinky finger on my right hand looked like petrified wood. I paid $300 to post bond and was released from holding at 11:50 pm. I was wearing a tank top, cargo shorts, and no shoes. This is how Montgomery County Jail sent me out into the night, and civilization is a good 5 miles away in the bitter cold of mid-January. Confusion and lack of options made me call my parents and was promptly hung upon. I called back again, and my mother told me to sleep on the streets where I belonged. I had no rebuttal; she was right. I was worthless, reckless, not worthy of being alive or loved anymore.

Self-preservation did prevail, and I had to call the red flag factory to come ‘rescue’ me. He was more than happy to oblige. He couldn’t pass up the chance to have absolute unchecked power over me.

He rented a small house in the middle of nowhere just outside town. The closest neighbor was several miles away. Everything was in his name; he wouldn’t even put my name on the lease. The landlord fell for his troubled war hero act immediately and was;

“so happy and relieved to be renting to someone of his caliber.”

Yes, he did serve in the military. That’s maybe the only thing I know to be true for sure about him. Every day was a roller coaster of terror. I was not allowed to drive my car, go anywhere, speak to anyone, or disagree with any of the ridiculous accusations or cruel insults he constantly hurled at me. I didn’t have the emotional strength to fight. I just submitted to my situation and existed. I had to unfriend any male he didn’t like and demanded I announce that we were engaged on Facebook. I obliged to avoid any reason for suspicion. Almost immediately after posting this ‘engagement,’ a woman from his past wrote a very descriptive story of physical and emotional abuse she endured at the hand of my ‘fiancé’ on my page's wall. While I disagreed with the platform she chose to make these statements, I hoped someone would see it and reach out. By this point, I knew I wasn’t incapable of taking care of myself. I had decided that put me into this nightmare situation, and I held myself fully accountable. I was on ‘Bond Supervision’ which meant random drug and alcohol screenings, check-ins with the bail bondsman, meetings with a bond supervisor, all of which cost money, his money, he reminded me constantly. He received a check from the VA every month because he’s considered 100% disabled. This allowed him the freedom to work whenever he chose to.

Every night it was the same fight; I didn’t show him enough appreciation for saving and taking care of my worthless self. He would demand to go through my phone every night, and he would call the number of any male name in my phone and threaten them. He read every journal, letter, and card I had kept and demanded I burn them in a specially purchased steel drum. He took possession of every disc and media drive I owned, and in the pursuit of getting into the hard drive on my brand new MacBook, he destroyed it. He even took the media card that contained the only photos from the hospital of my deceased baby boy Theodore that the nurses had taken. The physical abuse escalated quickly, and I begged him to kill me. I was constantly looking for ways to end my life. He had long before decided he was in charge of my medication, and he would decide what, when, and how much I could have. Strangely my Adderall and Xanax would run out way before the refill time, and he would tell me I took them; I didn’t remember it! I have a general anxiety disorder and have been on Xanax for two decades. I have attention deficit disorder (don’t we all?), and I have been prescribed Adderall for two decades. I’d never had a problem with my medication running out weeks before the refill date. I knew It was pointless to argue with him. I remember vividly because I was in a constant state of high anxiety and fear and was being denied my medication. He said I became an intolerable bitch on Xanax because, in the absence of the stress and worry, I would often point out how fucked up the situation was. My Adderall he would take to get high.

The only thing I was permitted to do on social media created an Instagram account for pictures of my cat, and even this was closely monitored. He used the RING doorbell my parents gave me for Christmas as a surveillance device. One day a man came to repair something outside the house, and his truck was parked in the driveway for 3 minutes. Red flag factory refused to believe that I had not slept with this random person! He had to call the landlord and be assured it was someone she had sent to repair.

I would have moments of feeling bold and began emailing a few close friends photos and audio recordings of the day-to-day insanity that had become my life. One friend, in particular, was so vigilant that she called the Montgomery County Sheriff department multiple times to ask that they do a welfare check on me. The sheriff's department was always very rude, dismissive, and condescending to my friend when she called. The Montgomery county sheriffs department is well known for its lack of concern over women being abused. Finally, they came to the house, and I had a busted lip, black eye, and choke marks on my neck, and they did nothing! I was out on bond for a felony charge; this meant I was the instigator in their eyes. One sheriff wanted to arrest me for assault because I punched a red flag factory in the testicles as he dragged me through the kitchen by my hair.

I had recorded almost every altercation on my iPod while it was going on. I knew the red flag factory would go off about something, so I started recording every night. One evening I was drawing while sitting on the bed using a framed picture on my lap as a stable surface. He punched my drawing, shattering the glass from the picture into my legs and torso. I assessed the damage felt genuinely disappointed I didn’t require stitches. The same night he hit me square in the face with the hardcover book LUXE FASHION by Caroline Cox (I’ll never forget that book).

A book to the face is my breaking point; I grabbed the first knife I could find and plunged it into my wrist, and started to pull through my skin. I got halfway down one wrist before he tackled me and took away the knife.

The knives disappeared after that. No guns, no pills, no knives, and I didn’t have the emotional energy to find a place to hang myself. It isn’t as easy as you’d think to kill yourself. I am still here despite some earnest efforts.

The sheriff's department came again, and this time, it was a female sheriff. My eye was swollen shut, and I had bruises that were very obviously made by larger hands than my own all over my body. None of these things mattered; it was the big gash on my wrist that got me a ticket out of that nightmare. The female sheriff asked if I had done that to myself, and I told her yes. I was taken into custody for psychiatric evaluation; it was the best six days I had in almost a year! The psychiatric hospital was like a spa getaway to me. I felt the desire to live again the second I got out of that house.

I came to grips with so many truths about myself and my behaviors in the past. I had to forgive myself for being a self-proclaimed fuck up and own up to my problems.

I called my parents, and they spoke to me, and I told them in complete honesty that I have never felt more ashamed of myself than I did because of the fire. I don’t know the reason why it happened or even how it happened but, I take full accountability for the disappointment and emotional pain it caused my family. I asked for forgiveness, and it was given. The complete change in my perspective on life didn’t happen overnight. My poor choices have set me on a rocky path that now is paved with genuine gratitude, joy, love, and self-awareness that is the direct result of understanding the reasoning for my past behaviors. I know exactly who I am and what I’ve done in the past. I love the person that I’ve become. This self-acceptance and love set me free. My entire adult life, I was looking outside myself for happiness. When I learned to love myself, I realized I don’t need someone else to feel good. I am blissfully happy by myself pursuing my passion project (this website). I am sharing my story, hoping it can help shed some light on toxic relationships, and they can happen to anyone despite having advantages that most people don’t. I want to spread love and kindness to the world because I realize how lucky I am when all is said and done. I am in my good place now; it just took a little longer to get here.

I’m sure you’re wondering what became of the red flag factory? He now boasts of being an undercover CIA operative who breaks up sex trafficking and drug trafficking operations here in the town where we live. He also informed me that the person who beat me held me captive with simply one of his ‘covers’ as a CIA operative. I’ve had to have him removed from my property three times by the police. This last time he had the police drive him to my parent's house in a gated community in the middle of the night because he thought he lived there. He writes manifestoes in the comments of my social media using fake profiles. He claims he is still in possession of the media card that contains the photos of my son but only because the CIA needed them?! I have an order of non-trespass against him, but he informs me it doesn’t matter because he is a CIA operative. He sends me hours of creepy videos with thinly veiled threats.

He is wearing a Zorro mask in some of them!.

Zorro, the CIA operative...filming himself shuffling cards in a straight off the rack at Men’s Wearhouse suit that doesn’t even fit him. He shoots these videos from random motels like Days Inn in Huntsville and WoodSpring Suites in Conroe, Entirely too close to where I live to make me feel safe. He has recently devoted himself entirely to stalking me online, trying to destroy this website, as well as making fake social media accounts using the site name and my name.

I couldn‘t make this craziness up even if I desperately wanted to.

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