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16+ Language

There's A Gaslight On In Chicago

by kryptonianmenace


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

“you want apologies

girl, you might hold your breath

until your breathing stops forever, forever”

— Chicago Is So Two Years Ago, Fall Out Boy

It’s one of those moments that create best friends: the middle of the night, the lights off, everyone is supposed to be asleep but no one is. The truth comes out in the middle of the night, when it’s dark and everyone lets their guards down. Those mythic sleepovers, that don’t always happen. Those missing moments that can’t be forced. You’re laying in your best friend’s bed next to her, curled up in the blanket and staring at the ceiling in the dark. These moments happen a lot at her house.

You don’t remember meeting her.

You don’t remember ever expecting to have a best friend. Or a friend at all.

She knows this. Knows you have no memory of the kids you were supposedly friends with in elementary school. Knows you don’t know how you met some of your friends. She doesn’t know you don’t know who to count as your friend.

It’s one of those moments that forges your friendship, familiar and comforting but new every time. You’re talking about college and your fears of being alone. Time goes by fast and you wish it wouldn’t but you’re also glad it does. You want to leave.

You’re a pop punk stereotype just waiting to happen. Too bad you can’t skateboard.

It’s summer and you’re almost a freshman in college. You’re sprawled on a playground at a beach in Michigan next to your cousin. The day before, you and him, along with another cousin, had huddled together in a room at your grandparents’ house and talked about feeling like you’ve never fit in. How you feel off, different. How you feel like it might be a family problem.

Here at the beach, he tells you he can never know for sure why he feels wrong because he wants to be a Marine and if he’s right about his hunch, he won’t make the cut.

A year later he’s not allowed at your grandparents’ house anymore and you miss your talks with him. You’re both too bad at communication to talk outside of visits.

Almost three years later he’s a Marine and he can never know now, but you still learn he could have known if his hunch was right before you ever talked about it with him, if his parents hadn’t stepped in and put a stop to it after his brother.

Pop punk lied to you. Getting out of this town doesn’t solve your problems.

You’re a freshman in college and you still don’t know what friendship really is. You still have panic attacks. Your roommate leaves you for another room after only a few weeks and you never learn why. Everyday is a struggle and being at college only makes it worse because you’re supposed to find yourself but you can’t even find where to start.

You feel alone but you don’t know how to talk to people, let alone make friends. One girl sticks around you for the whole year. You think it’s a miracle.

You learn about emotional abuse online. There’s a pang of dread in your heart when the symptoms sound familiar. A brunette girl’s face pops into your head and you remember your best friend cutting said girl out of her life around graduation. You’ve never been good at communication so you don’t bother keeping her in your life either. Besides, she was already ignoring you, day by day. She didn’t even notice when you were gone.

The resurfaced memory of her doesn’t go away.

Classes are hard because reminders are all around. Your favorite subject is poisoned for you and you want to die.

You can’t remember your own interests because you’re ashamed to like things.

You realize you have PTSD from one girl, one friend of seven years. Was she ever a friend at all?

Gaslighting is something you learn. No wonder your memory is shit.

You research coping mechanisms, hoping to be able to deal with your problems. It means spending even more time online.

You learn a lot online. You think you might finally have a word for your identity but you’re afraid to admit it to anyone.

It’s a lifeline but it’s fragile and anyone else’s touch might cause it to fray right now. You find small communities online and learn more. You think maybe you aren’t alone.

You’re drunk for the first time when you say the word you found, that it applies to you. Your friend laughs it off.

You tell your best friends from high school the word and they say ok but don’t really know how to react. It’s the same with the girl you think might be your college best friend.

It’s almost the end of your freshman year of college and you mention your word to people you think are probably your friends. Two of them get annoyed with you for bringing it up and you don’t mention it again.

Two years later you find out that those two hated you from the start. At least the others believed you.

The beginning of sophomore year of college you tell people your lifeline word for the first time. It’s awkward. There’s a lot of crying involved on your end. There may or may not have been a somewhat famous person in attendance who took pity on you.

You think people understand a little bit better after that night.

They don’t.

You try to talk about your word more but you’re unsure. You still don’t know if it really fits you. Doubts crowd your mind.

You’re at a party when you drunkenly tell someone that you don’t know if you’re friends. He says of course you are.

Later, on a day when you’re sober, you talk to him and he explains that friendships are different with everyone. There’s no set rules to them. Your mind is blown. There’s always been rules, until now. There’s never been rules.

You make him a friendship bracelet as a joke. “I gave you the shittiest one, because I feel like that best represents our friendship.” You both agree it’s true.

That winter you learn you’re disabled. Everything is confusing and people think you’re faking it.

You get an official diagnosis. People believe you. Your anxiety tells you that you’re faking it.

You’re hospitalized that spring for self harm and depression. It’s a whirlwind of medical professionals misgendering you. There’s a horde of professionals telling you that your lifeline word doesn’t fit you. That you’re wrong.

You’re just confusing it with your anxiety, they say. They tell you that you show signs of PTSD. You want to say you already knew that. You believed in your word anyway. It can coexist. They tell you it’s not possible.

Just look at your social life. Your word can’t possibly fit you based on the surface facts about you. You don’t fit it at all.

We’ve only known you an hour but we know you better than you know yourself, is what you hear from their nonchalant comments. They think they’re helping you. You’re getting worse.

You aren’t a professional. You can’t possibly know this about yourself because you haven’t studied medicine.

Except you do know. You researched some more and realized that people like you commonly go overlooked in all medical situations, but especially situations like this.

People like you being people designated female at birth.

Besides, who wants to believe the trans kid knows anything about their mental health? Doctors hate being told they’re wrong, especially by someone with a vagina.

The inpatient program is alright. There are a few therapists who listen to you when you talk about your word. One of them tells you she believes you. Sometimes you wish you could go back to inpatient.

In contrast, your outpatient experience is hell. You have a meltdown at least once a week when you get home. You have one at the facility and your experience gets worse. Your parents want you to stop the program but you think it can still help you. It can’t.

Looking back you can pinpoint all the signs of emotional abuse and gaslighting that the medical professionals displayed.

You are sick to your stomach and you’re still reeling from the effects. More things to add to your PTSD, you guess.

You meet a therapist who doesn’t have your disability, but she has one of her own. She understands and she helps you infinitely more than outpatient ever could.

She doesn’t yell at you for mentioning your lifeline word, a word you’ve been too afraid to mention since outpatient.

You talk about all your worries and fears. You talk about why you’ve held this word close to your heart for so long. You talk about how it affects you. You talk about knowing self-diagnosis is valid but still feeling like you need a professional opinion.

Three months later she agrees to test you for autism.

You were right. Your lifeline word is truly a part of you.

“I’m autistic and I’m not ashamed. I’m autistic but that doesn’t make me wrong,” you say.

“I’m autistic,” you remind people, because someone’s gotta break the stigma.

But no matter how positive you pretend to be, your anxiety tells you to stop talking about it. Don’t use it as an excuse. You’re faking it.

You’re still reeling from the outpatient doctors who told you to stop talking about autism.

You’re still burning from the gaslight.


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Wed Jan 27, 2021 10:28 pm
SpiritedWolfe says...



This was a wonderful read. Thank you for sharing your experience.






Thank you!



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Wed Jan 27, 2021 5:38 pm
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey! Plume here, with a review! (And a belated welcome to YWS!)

Wow. This piece was incredible. It was so emotive, so... absolutely brilliant. It sounds so authentic, and your writing voice shapes it into sometime absolutely beautiful.

One thing that was especially impressive and added a lot was your use of second person. I'm not sure if this was from personal experience, but it was so interesting to have the reader be the character who's going through all of this. I think it really added to the emotions of it. It also created this really unique vibe to this piece that I think wouldn't have existed otherwise had you done it in third or first person. (Also, I just really love second person stuff in general, so that also might be one of the reasons why I love this piece so much.) Nice job on that!

I also think your consistent metaphors throughout the piece and your dual meaning of gaslight (psychological manipulation vs. a literal lamp that can burn). That's part of what makes this piece so special. It's super poetic and meaningful, and it stays that way all the way through. I found I could relate to a lot of it, too, especially the parts about the anxiety telling you you're faking something (that happens literally all the time for me). This piece was truly moving.

Specifics

Those mythic sleepovers, that don’t always happen.


This sentence doesn't need a comma in the middle of it. It just impedes the readability of it and puts in an awkward pause.

You’re a pop punk stereotype just waiting to happen. Too bad you can’t skateboard.


This. This line is my favorite part, and I have no idea. It's so cynical and the humor in it is juxtaposed but it also somehow fits right in. It's great, is what I'm trying to say. It also reminds me of the way my friend writes, and I haven't seen her in a really long time, but she's a great writer. Sorry. That isn't relevant. Just kinda ignore that. But seriously, this line is MASTERFUL.

It’s summer and you’re almost a freshman in college. You’re sprawled on a playground at a beach in Michigan next to your cousin. The day before, you and him, along with another cousin, had huddled together in a room at your grandparents’ house and talked about feeling like you’ve never fit in. How you feel off, different. How you feel like it might be a family problem.

Here at the beach, he tells you he can never know for sure why he feels wrong because he wants to be a Marine and if he’s right about his hunch, he won’t make the cut.

A year later he’s not allowed at your grandparents’ house anymore and you miss your talks with him. You’re both too bad at communication to talk outside of visits.

Almost three years later he’s a Marine and he can never know now, but you still learn he could have known if his hunch was right before you ever talked about it with him, if his parents hadn’t stepped in and put a stop to it after his brother.


This whole bit with the cousin and his wanting to be a Marine and his "hunch" was a bit vague. I wasn't sure what it was talking about on my first read, but looking over it now, I'm assuming it might be his coming out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community? I'm still not sure about that, but given the whole "not allowed at the grandparent's house" and "not making the cut" to be a Marine with the transgender military ban and the overall discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ individuals. It seemed to me that his parents intervened and then forced him to conform to cis and straight norms, but if that isn't the correct interpretation, please let me know. This part might deserve a little clarification, just with some confirmation about the hunch. You're letting the reader almost assume too much, if you catch my drift.

Other than that, I have nothing else to say. This piece was phenomenal, and I want you to know you're an incredible writer. You matter. If this was a personal experience, I'm sorry for everything you had to go through. Hope you're well! Keep writing, because this? This is amazing.






Thank you for your feedback, I'm glad you like it! The part with my cousin was actually based on a conversation about him having ADHD - if he gets diagnosed after joining the Marines, they can claim he knew all along (because he asked to be tested) and say he lied and use that to discharge him, or at least that's how he explained it to me. His mom later told me that they were supposed to test him as a child but his dad was already pissed his brother was diagnosed with autism, and he didn't want another kid with a mental disability so he refused to let him get tested. I worried that that part was too vague, so I'm glad you pointed it out!



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Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:50 pm
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HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review on this piece!!

First Impression: Well this was quite an emotional piece to read. It depicts a truly bad part of how things function these days and the dull monotone to most of the narration in this piece brings that out really well.

Anyway let's get right to it,

It’s one of those moments that create best friends: the middle of the night, the lights off, everyone is supposed to be asleep but no one is. The truth comes out in the middle of the night, when it’s dark and everyone lets their guards down. Those mythic sleepovers, that don’t always happen. Those missing moments that can’t be forced. You’re laying in your best friend’s bed next to her, curled up in the blanket and staring at the ceiling in the dark. These moments happen a lot at her house.


OOoh that's a really interesting way to start a story. Definitely gets your attention as a reader not to mention it does seem to be quite true as well as far as the statement in there goes.

You don’t remember meeting her.

You don’t remember ever expecting to have a best friend. Or a friend at all.


And that immediately tells us something is not quite right here...

She knows this. Knows you have no memory of the kids you were supposedly friends with in elementary school. Knows you don’t know how you met some of your friends. She doesn’t know you don’t know who to count as your friend.

It’s one of those moments that forges your friendship, familiar and comforting but new every time. You’re talking about college and your fears of being alone. Time goes by fast and you wish it wouldn’t but you’re also glad it does. You want to leave.


That certainly seems like the mark of a great friend.

It’s summer and you’re almost a freshman in college. You’re sprawled on a playground at a beach in Michigan next to your cousin. The day before, you and him, along with another cousin, had huddled together in a room at your grandparents’ house and talked about feeling like you’ve never fit in. How you feel off, different. How you feel like it might be a family problem.

Here at the beach, he tells you he can never know for sure why he feels wrong because he wants to be a Marine and if he’s right about his hunch, he won’t make the cut.


Well...not sure how we all suddenly jumped to this scene but it is another quite touching scene that we've got here.

Almost three years later he’s a Marine and he can never know now, but you still learn he could have known if his hunch was right before you ever talked about it with him, if his parents hadn’t stepped in and put a stop to it after his brother.

Pop punk lied to you. Getting out of this town doesn’t solve your problems.


Well that part is quite true.

You’re a freshman in college and you still don’t know what friendship really is. You still have panic attacks. Your roommate leaves you for another room after only a few weeks and you never learn why. Everyday is a struggle and being at college only makes it worse because you’re supposed to find yourself but you can’t even find where to start.

You feel alone but you don’t know how to talk to people, let alone make friends. One girl sticks around you for the whole year. You think it’s a miracle.


Well...that is definitely quite tough, a very dreary picture being painted here.

You learn about emotional abuse online. There’s a pang of dread in your heart when the symptoms sound familiar. A brunette girl’s face pops into your head and you remember your best friend cutting said girl out of her life around graduation. You’ve never been good at communication so you don’t bother keeping her in your life either. Besides, she was already ignoring you, day by day. She didn’t even notice when you were gone.


And that is a big "OUCH".

You research coping mechanisms, hoping to be able to deal with your problems. It means spending even more time online.

You learn a lot online. You think you might finally have a word for your identity but you’re afraid to admit it to anyone.

It’s a lifeline but it’s fragile and anyone else’s touch might cause it to fray right now. You find small communities online and learn more. You think maybe you aren’t alone.


Well...this is progressing along quite nicely now...at least they found some form of help.

You tell your best friends from high school the word and they say ok but don’t really know how to react. It’s the same with the girl you think might be your college best friend.

It’s almost the end of your freshman year of college and you mention your word to people you think are probably your friends. Two of them get annoyed with you for bringing it up and you don’t mention it again.

Two years later you find out that those two hated you from the start. At least the others believed you.


Doesn't seem to be getting too much better on the friends part though...well this almost monotonous narration of the events is doing a surprisingly good job of bringing out emotions in us as the readers.

The beginning of sophomore year of college you tell people your lifeline word for the first time. It’s awkward. There’s a lot of crying involved on your end. There may or may not have been a somewhat famous person in attendance who took pity on you.

You think people understand a little bit better after that night.

They don’t.


Yet another bit of hope snuffed out.

You try to talk about your word more but you’re unsure. You still don’t know if it really fits you. Doubts crowd your mind.

You’re at a party when you drunkenly tell someone that you don’t know if you’re friends. He says of course you are.


Well...that was nice.

Later, on a day when you’re sober, you talk to him and he explains that friendships are different with everyone. There’s no set rules to them. Your mind is blown. There’s always been rules, until now. There’s never been rules.

You make him a friendship bracelet as a joke. “I gave you the shittiest one, because I feel like that best represents our friendship.” You both agree it’s true.


Very interesting friendship but well it appears to work.

You’re hospitalized that spring for self harm and depression. It’s a whirlwind of medical professionals misgendering you. There’s a horde of professionals telling you that your lifeline word doesn’t fit you. That you’re wrong.

You’re just confusing it with your anxiety, they say. They tell you that you show signs of PTSD. You want to say you already knew that. You believed in your word anyway. It can coexist. They tell you it’s not possible.

Just look at your social life. Your word can’t possibly fit you based on the surface facts about you. You don’t fit it at all.


Okay...well that took a turn that I really wasn't expecting.

You aren’t a professional. You can’t possibly know this about yourself because you haven’t studied medicine.

Except you do know. You researched some more and realized that people like you commonly go overlooked in all medical situations, but especially situations like this.

People like you being people designated female at birth.


Hmm....well...there comes another problem to the surface.

The inpatient program is alright. There are a few therapists who listen to you when you talk about your word. One of them tells you she believes you. Sometimes you wish you could go back to inpatient.


That's nice.

Looking back you can pinpoint all the signs of emotional abuse and gaslighting that the medical professionals displayed.

You are sick to your stomach and you’re still reeling from the effects. More things to add to your PTSD, you guess.

You meet a therapist who doesn’t have your disability, but she has one of her own. She understands and she helps you infinitely more than outpatient ever could.


Well at least it is getting better now.

You talk about all your worries and fears. You talk about why you’ve held this word close to your heart for so long. You talk about how it affects you. You talk about knowing self-diagnosis is valid but still feeling like you need a professional opinion.

Three months later she agrees to test you for autism.

You were right. Your lifeline word is truly a part of you.


Well...that must have been some form of good.

But no matter how positive you pretend to be, your anxiety tells you to stop talking about it. Don’t use it as an excuse. You’re faking it.

You’re still reeling from the outpatient doctors who told you to stop talking about autism.

You’re still burning from the gaslight.


Bit of a chilling message there, isn't it?

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall it was a pretty interesting read. It paints quite the picture, at any rate there isn't anything else for me to say so, that's about it.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry






Thank you for the feedback! I hope you liked it!




Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.
— Sylvia Plath