a woman holding the light inside her in her hands while the figure of a man fades into the dark background

Gaslighting and RLS

When I heard of restless legs syndrome, I immediately had a name for the “fidgets” I’d felt my whole life.

I suddenly knew I wasn’t alone in the universe, that other people had the undeniable urge to move their legs.

Talking to my husband about RLS

When I told my husband I had restless legs syndrome he said, “That’s not real.”

“Of course it’s real. I read an article!”

“Not everything on the internet is real.” He said, looking at me like I was an idiot.

“Yeah, but this is real.”

“Did you read a peer-reviewed study?” He asks. I should mention he’s a dentist so he thinks he’s a doctor.

“No.”

“So just an article.”

“I guess so.”

“Restless legs syndrome isn’t real.”

“It--”

“It’s psychosomatic.” He says, his full doctor voice on.

I didn’t follow up. He’s the one with medical training, not me. I have a degree in theatre and English. There was another problem, too, one you might have guessed already: This was not a very healthy relationship.

Finally, a name for this feeling

When I learned what gaslighting was, I finally had a name for the feeling that I was crazy all these years despite no psychological diagnosis to indicate that I had mental illness. Gaslighting, as I’ve come to understand it, is when someone makes you think that you’re crazy to cover up something they did.

While my husband didn’t cause my restless legs, he didn’t want to believe that my fidgets were real. He wanted to believe it was something I could control. If I could control it, I could stop annoying him with it and make it stop already.

Trying to make it work

We already had some issues in the bedroom, and I am not making an innuendo. He was a light sleeper and I was a restless one. I tossed and turned. I kept him up and he would wake me up to tell me so.

We didn’t have a ton of money for a new mattress that wouldn’t send the shock waves of my wiggles over to his side of the bed, so we did the poor-man’s version and had separate blankets. At least that way, my restlessness wouldn’t bother him as much.

Restless legs syndrome is real

Restless legs syndrome is hard to describe. For me, I feel like I have to move my legs, and I can’t tell you exactly why. They don’t usually itch or throb when I’m feeling my symptoms. I just have to move them.

So my husband would ask if I had an itch or if something was irritating me. Nothing was, so, by his logic, nothing was wrong with me and I should stop bothering him.

Restless legs syndrome is real, no matter what anyone tells you. It is not psychosomatic.

Leaving gaslighting behind

I got a divorce. Not because of my restless legs. It wasn’t about our problems sharing a bed...well, not exactly. The gaslighting extended to other areas of the relationship, areas that a new mattress couldn’t fix.

I’m not telling you this to make you think that you’ll never be able to share a bed with someone if you have restless legs. Do, however, make sure that people who share your bed and your life with you believe you and believe in you. You can also get separate blankets, just to be safe.

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