Gaslighting or carbon monoxide poisoning?
Scenario 1: You’re sitting on the couch watching TV. You hear your wife’s cell phone ring in the other room. A few minutes later, she sits down next to you holding her phone.
“Who was that?” you ask.
“Who was what?”
“Didn’t someone just call you?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
You smile. “What are you hiding?” you say as you playfully reach toward her phone. She pulls it away. Later, you discover the passcode has been changed.
Answer: In several studies, carbon monoxide exposure has been linked with tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. While this may have a variety of causes and isn’t cause for alarm in itself, check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector to make sure it’s functioning properly.
Scenario 2: While getting ready in the morning, your wife tells you she’s going out after work with her coworker Brad. She’s wearing a dress and heels, even though her office dress code is considerably more casual than yours. As she applies a generous layer of makeup in the bathroom mirror, you come up and gently touch her hip. She stiffens.
“Didn’t you two used to date?”
“Brad and I? How ridiculous. We’re just friends.”
“I could’ve sworn you told me you two were an item.”
“I honestly don’t know where you come up with this stuff.”
When you get to work, you pull up your wife’s Facebook photos only to find that there are no pictures of them together. In fact, there are no pictures at all from 2009–2012. You try and look at Brad’s Facebook page, but it’s set to private.
Answer: Confusion is a potentially serious, but not life-threatening, hallmark of acute carbon monoxide poisoning. Your doctor can confirm this diagnosis by testing your blood for elevated levels of carboxyhemoglobin (HbCO). Set up an appointment as soon as possible. In the interim, cleaning vents, chimneys and cooking appliances can help reduce buildup in your home.
Scenario 3: It’s midnight and your wife still hasn’t come home from what you jokingly referred to as her “date” with Brad. As you’re about to get in bed, she stumbles in the bedroom, heels in hand.
“Where have you been?”
“What are you talking about, I got home hours ago.”
“I said ‘hi,’ but you were watching TV and I didn’t want to bother you. I was in the dining room.”
“What? No you weren’t, I would’ve seen you.”
“You always do this.”
“It’s like my word isn’t good enough for you. You want me to take a lie detector test? Swear on the Bible? Fine. Let’s get a Bible. Maybe then you can bring yourself to trust your own wife.”
You argue for a few more minutes before conceding and sleeping on the couch.
Answer: If you experience unexplained memory loss, seek fresh air at once and call a professional to check your home for gas leaks or other sources of CO emissions.
Scenario 4: In the morning, your wife tells you Brad has invited you both over for drinks later. After work, you head to Brad’s loft in the city. He greets you with a glass of wine. It tastes a bit off, but you drink it to be polite. He’s quite the charmer, you think as you soak in the view. Maybe he’s not such a bad guy.
You look down just in time to see your half-empty wine glass shatter on the floor, then watch helplessly as your knees buckle under your own weight. Before your vision fades completely, you see Brad and your wife kiss passionately while undressing one another.
You wake up in the car. It’s late. Your wife is driving.
“Oh, now you’re awake.”
“You can’t handle your booze, apparently. You passed out.”
“What, I didn’t even finish my drink.”
“I can’t believe you. I am so embarrassed. How am I going to face Brad tomorrow?”
You drive the rest of the way home in silence.
Answer: Contact poison control immediately. Loss of consciousness is a sign of advanced carbon monoxide poisoning and if left untreated, can lead to major complications or even death.
Scenario 5: You stay home from work the next day. After a morning of trying to fix the pilot light on the water heater, there’s a knock at the door. It’s your wife’s best friend, Beth.
“Sorry, she’s at work.”
“Actually, I was hoping to talk to you.”
“Oh. Sure, what’s up?”
“Can we sit down?”
Beth tells you your wife has been cheating on you with her coworker Brad. She shows you explicit texts and photos of them together she found on your wife’s phone, along with plans to drug you and use you as a prop in a twisted sex game. You listen wordlessly. When she is finished, you thank her and walk her to the door.
Before you can reach it, however, you collapse. Your heart stops beating. Beth calls an ambulance, but it’s too late. During the autopsy, doctors find nearly ten times the normal amount of carboxyhemoglobin in your blood.
Answer: This is a textbook example of gaslighting. Beth has been jealous of your relationship ever since you started dating your wife. She can’t even hold onto a man. It is important to cut toxic people out of your life.