Sunday, August 25, 2019

How I Nearly Gaslit Myself

"Clown Trashcans (Baeza)" by stinkenroboter is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0  

It's surprisingly easy to be 'gaslit'. You wouldn't think so - we all think of ourselves as smart and savvy, but the reality is, we are all susceptible to alterations of our memories of events. Sometimes, the people in our lives can use that tendency for evil purposes. Sometimes, we just confuse ourselves.

This is a story of how Lisa freaked herself out and had her questioning her sanity, her memory, and her reality all in one day.


Our trash day is Friday. I try to bring out the barrels on Thursday night because I have a standing event Friday mornings at 7 am which makes it a stretch to get out the trash Friday morning. If I leave it for Friday, it means not getting the barrels to the curb until I'm back around 9 am.

A few weeks ago, was one such busy Thursday. On Friday morning, as I headed out for my 7 am, I reminded myself to deal with the trash when I returned.

When I got home, the trash and recycling barrels were at the curbside.

Huh. I could have sworn they weren't there when I left. But maybe I just didn't notice. I figured my husband did the trash before he headed for work. He's normally more pressed for time in the mornings than I am, so it's a task that generally I do. But okay. I added recycling from the house to the recycle bin and went about my day.

The trash collectors came and went sometime late morning. I had a few errands to run and figured I'd put the barrels away when I returned.

When I got home a few hours later, the barrels were gone.

Hmmm. Sometimes our neighbor pulls them in, especially when he thinks we're out of town. So I went next door to thank him.

Readers, he didn't put them away.

Now, he has a good poker face and a sharp sense of humor, so for a moment I considered that he was pranking me, but after a few more minutes of conversation, I was convinced it wasn't him.

My older son has variable work hours, and we usually ask him to take in the barrels if we're going to be away for the weekend. It was possible that he thought this was one of those weekends. So I texted him to thank him.

He hadn't put the barrels away either.

Now, I was starting to get a little weirded out. Yes, it's just trash cans, but still. Weird.

Friday night, when hubby came home from work, I told him about the mystery of the returning trash cans and thanked him for putting out the barrels in the morning.

He looked at me funny and said he hadn't taken them out. He'd overslept his alarm and didn't even have time for coffee that morning. He said I must have done it but not remembered. Then he asked me if I checked the storage shed for the barrels.

I went to the little shed only to find that there was trash and recycling still in both barrels.

Which meant they had NEVER been taken out at all.

Hubby starts asking me if I feel okay.

I start quietly panicking inside. 

I am SURE I didn't imagine the barrels in front of the house that morning. Hell, I added the recycling that was in the house to the green bin. But I start thinking that maybe, just maybe I'm remembering from last week. You do something over and over and over again every week at the same time and sure - I could have just conflated all the memories into one.

Except that doesn't feel right. 

I kept trying to remember anything specific about taking the trash out that morning and bringing it back later in the day, but it doesn't feel real.  But neither does not taking them out.

Now I have, in essence, two competing memories in my head: one where I didn't move the trash cans, one where I did and the more I try to sort it out, the more I cannot determine which set of memories is real. 

I've been more forgetful lately. And I've been blaming it on 'menopause brain', but could this be something else? Something more serious?

I have a medical background, so my FIRST thought is "Oh, God, I have a brain tumor." Logical, right?

But then I remember I had a head/neck MRI a few months ago for a neck issue and surely, if there had been a tumor, they would have seen it then.

Okay, so I'm just really losing my mind. 

My husband keeps asking me if I'm sure I feel okay.

Well, that just makes it all better . . . NOT.

I remember how my mother would spin from confusion to anger when she was confronted by something she had forgotten at the start of her slide into dementia. The only saving grace is since I was adopted, I don't have her genes. But then I start to wonder how much of dementia is genetic. I've been having word finding problems for the past few years (a *joyful* thing when you're a writer). Maybe it is more serious than menopause brain.

I was at the point of calling my primary care practitioner for a recommendation and referral to a neurologist when a new possibility popped into my brain. I wasn't sure if the new thought was a genuine possibility or if I was grasping at straw in my frantic attempt not to be losing my mind.

You see, there had been a bunch of road and sidewalk work over the prior week or so in the neighborhood. So with a desperate kind of hope, I called my neighbor to ask her if by chance, she had put her trash barrels in front of our house.

Even I didn't put a lot of faith in that being the solution. 


I was truly holding my breath waiting for her answer.

"Why yes," she said, "sorry I didn't tell you. The sidewalk in front of our house was roped off so we couldn't put the trash out."

Relief flooded through my body. I wasn't crazy. I didn't have this unexplained memory gap. There was a perfectly logical explanation for the appearing/disappearing trash barrels. I was literally shaking for several minutes after I got off the phone. 


And that, my friends, is how easy it is to be gaslit, even by your OWN mind.

Subscribe to BlueMusings and receive my short story collection, STRANGER WORLDS THAN THESE, as my gift.


  1. Thanks for the Sunday grin in the midst of deadline woes that make me forget whatever it was... oh yes, Shayna's outside. Gotta go get her.

    1. Funny, now, in retrospect. But in the midst of it, I was really freaked out.

  2. My mind's favorite thing is to suddenly tell me, in the midst of a path I have traveled dozens of times, that there are things there I have never seen before. Things like an old house in the middle of the block that, though I cannot remember what *was* there, has appeared since we went down this path the last time. I have always chalked it up to "reality just shifted slightly". But maybe you are right- my mind is out to get me!

    1. Brains are weird. That's my only explanation.