“I should be ashamed of this. I’m not, because I am tasting grapes. This smile, don’t look. It’s my bait, my words the hook.”-The Audition

It’s taken me 31 years to figure out that there are two types of people in your life: balloons and anchors.

Balloons lift you up, encourage you, and support you. They inspire you to do better; be better. They are the positivity and light in your life.

Anchors do the opposite. They constantly drag you down. These people put you in shitty situations that challenge your morals, ethics, and integrity. They do not have their shit together in any positive capacity whatsoever. They’re the people constantly asking for money, the people always wanting “favors”. An anchor is that friend that is crawling his way through life, and feels that since he isn’t making it, neither should you.

A sad truth is that it’s so much easier to be an anchor than a balloon. Being able to maintain a positive attitude and supporting others takes massive, daily, effort. Our culture isn’t one to embrace effort these days…

Another fact about human beings is you can not bring someone to your level if you’re at a higher tier in life. You can encourage someone and support someone, but if they choose not to swim, they end up at the bottom of the pool. It’s impossible to keep someone else afloat. You can let someone move in with you until they get on their feet, but you can’t give them your house, job, and happiness.

However, it’s super easy and common to sink to the bottom with someone else. Every flop house is full of people that drag others down with them. Misery loves company and all it takes is that one moment of weakness or doubt and the next thing you know, you’re at the bottom of a bottle with the asshole that lives in your garage.

With that being said, there is a paradigm that is being experienced and just recently began to be positively identified. HNIC posted a status highlighting this issue on Facebook. The response was astounding. We talked to each other about it, and realized that it’s a common occurrence with veterans in their inter-personal relationships. It’s a culture of anchoring those with to their PTSD. It’s called “Gas-lighting”. Gas-lighting is a form of psychological abuse whereby the guilty party convinces a person to doubt their own mental health. The person being gas-lighted is being bullied to challenge their own sanity.

Let me start out by saying that I’m never one to jump on the “abuse” bandwagon. Victims get abused and how many of us want to be know as a victim? I’ve seen grown-ass women say their husbands are being abusive by not wanting them to go out and bang other men. It’s a term that gets thrown around way too much and has become a buzzword for people that want to get attention.

However, the fact that it IS abuse doesn’t automatically make it intentional.

There’s a stigma attached to veterans already. We’ve covered this ad nauseum. But, I’ve recently started thinking about my own experiences being gas-lighted and it looks something like this:

You come home and get ready to hang out with your girlfriend. She springs on you that she’d made plans with her girlfriends for the night. You had been looking forward to some quality time all week and she pulls this. It understandably makes you frustrated at the least. Each of us are different in our expression of frustration and anger, but regardless of our chosen method of expression, it gets chalked up by your girlfriend as “PTSD.” You’re angry “all the time”. You “always” have a problem. You’re “never” happy. You ruin “everything”. Absolutes are key words used to drive the false narrative. Sometimes words like “psycho” and “crazy” get thrown around too. This completely invalidates any emotion you have. Your concern or anger isn’t real to someone else because you’re “damaged” and “need therapy.”

This drives you deeper and deeper into whatever hole you may or may not have been in to begin with. It’s an unfair and manipulative practice among the straights. I just saw it in my own life and I know the other boys here in the OAF team room have as well. MOST of the time it’s been our girlfriends or wives. MOST of the time, you’re mad or upset at the exact same thing a sock-hat-wearing, beard-stroking, hipster would get mad about. They’re only bringing up PTSD as a crutch to lean on in any subsequent arguments. It’s all they know from the media and their associations with veterans and PTSD. Gas-lighting is used in order to get the pressure of personal accountability off of the person using it. It negates any and all emotional reactions that don’t fit that person’s schedule at that particular time. It’s a shitty way of doing business…

This is the part where Grifter brings it around: If you are being gas-lighted, if every emotion you have is impugned by someone as PTSD or your “issues, you have got to distance yourself from it. Surround yourself with balloons, Monicas. Find that person that lets you be you. Find that person that isn’t trying to diagnose or fix you. Find that person that makes it ok for you to be mad, sad, or happy and doesn’t automatically attach it to some affliction you may or may not have. Never allow someone else to make you doubt yourself and your mental state. Cut those gas-lighters out, you’ll be happier for it in the long run.


Grifter is the progeny of the Marine Infantry, Reconnaissance, and Private Contracting communities. He also spent some downtime as a Paramedic and a firefighter. He’s and avid reader and a student of life. He’s dedicated his life to finding and promulgating truth in a society which sees only what it wants to see. Over the years, he’s filled passports, made lots of money, rolled his eyes at authority, broken hearts, poked bears, and flown in the face of tradition and status quo. Responsible for such titles as: Veteran Outrage Syndrome, Collateral Damage, and When the Music Stops, Grifter reflects on his observations of the masses with a critical eye towards group-think and identity politics. He currently lives in St. Louis with his wife and two dogs. He is also finishing his last year of school before moving on to become an attorney so he can charge people money to speak to him..and capitalize on a laundry list of personal character flaws. His favorite band is Every Time I Die and he can swim better than you.