First blog post

This is my first post – so hello!

I am hopeful that this may help someone – anyone – who is in a situation which, deep down in their gut, they know isn’t right.  Perhaps your circumstances may not be text book abuse, perhaps you think domestic abuse is physical assault – like I did.

The truth is – it can be the smallest thing that starts it off.  A comment that puts you down, the first time he demands to see your phone, taking money from your purse – anything that you don’t like or makes you feel bad, even if you can’t put your finger on why it makes you feel that way.  Listen to your gut, your instinct – in my experience it’s usually right!

The one thing that has gotten me through every aspect of my life, is my sense of humour.  I try to see the funny in the sad situations, to laugh at myself, so my writing may reflect a lot of self depreciation which may seem to contrast the person who is trying to recover – but the wonderful thing about humans is – we are all different!

I’ll try to write as often as I can, and I’d love any comments/questions you may have.  So watch this space!

Take care – there’s always a way.

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Trickster

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One of the most brazen acts of coercive behaviour is probably from the Trickster aka the Liar.  I have come up against a couple of them in my job, and i’ll be honest – they worry me.

These are the abusive partners who arrive seeking “help” for their partner.  They say that she/he is crazy and needs help.  They want to be referred to relate or counselling, and they want to attend with their partner to make sure she “tells the truth” in those sessions.  On the surface they may appear to be concerned – but I see it as another form of control.  Just the fact that they don’t want to leave them on their own sounds the alarm bells.

One man arrived at a sign posting centre that I work at.  He was older, talked for ages about how worried he was about his wife.  How much he loved her, just wanted her to get better, but then snippets of truth leaked out.  He had called the police when she attacked him, but didn’t press charges.  He had no visible marks or defence wounds.  Later in the conversation he told me how clumsy she was – always falling over, usually because she was drunk, and always hits her head.

He told me how he was unable to work, so played games online.  Some of his online friends were female and she accused him of having affairs with these women.  Then he said that he suspected that she was having an affair with the man who ran the corner shop, so he told her she wasn’t allowed to go to the shops anymore.  He said he had to accompany her everywhere to keep an eye on her.

As our conversation continued he began to be more graphic in his description of sexual encounters he had had.  That he never had sex with his wife, that he was a man with desires “you know what I mean luv? Wink wink!”

Throughout the consultation he got nearer and nearer, invading my personal space, leering in my face.  His breath stank.  Luckily there was a table between us, but he was almost laying across it as I retreated further and further back in my chair.  I tried to end the consultation, but he then became anxious, saying no one ever helps, no one listens, no one cares.  His whole demeanour changed.  His face changed to a sneer.  He lowered his voice, to tell me “you lot are all the same!  Bloody do gooders – but you never do anything!”.  I got up abruptly and walked away.  I was shaken up.  I was upset for his wife, but he scared me too.  I reported to the manager, raised safeguarding concerns and escalated to the relevant agencies, then tried to carry on.  As I left I asked the manager to walk me to my car.  He did and asked me if I was okay.  I nodded, brushed it off, made a feeble joke about stalkers and went home.

All day I couldn’t shake the presence of this man.  His face, everything about him scared me – and all I could think was about his poor wife.  He left in a bad mood – no doubt she’d get the brunt of it, and that made me feel worse, responsible almost.  I knew i’d done everything I could, but still . . .

These men are so dangerous, and are left to do as they will with the women who fall in with them.  Prince charming into the devil himself.  Things need to change, awareness is one thing, but these womens lives are at risk.

*I should add to this that I am fully supported by counselling within my job, and was able to talk through this experience with a professional.

Boomerang

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We’ve all done it in toxic relationships.  We make the decision to leave, to stop this cycle of abuse.  We muster courage from deep within, we plan our escape we face the consequences, we go.  How we feel about that afterwards – well, that seems to vary depending on who we are, who we left and how badly damaged we are.

You may feel the initial flood of relief.  Thank god – we got away, we did this, we are strong.  But sometimes his words, like honey, seep into our subconscious.  Because you may still feel that intimacy that you only get from living with someone.  Of seeing them at their very best and very worst.  Perhaps you are the one who they shared their most personal and private world with, you are the only one who truly understands them.  So when they call you or show up on your doorstep crying, begging, promising, it is harder than hell to turn them away.  We are human beings with empathy, we don’t like to see someone hurting – even if that person has treated us so appallingly.  They tell us only we can help them, only we can save them, they cannot live without us.  They tell us we are the only ones who understand them.  They are so sorry – it’ll never happen again “Come home baby, please.  I don’t work without you.  I love you so much, I never meant to hurt you.  You are my soul, my heart.  Without you, there’s no point.  I will never hurt you, I can’t forgive myself for what i’ve done, let me make it right.  Let me hold you in my arms all night – i’ll stroke your hair, i’ll keep you safe.  Please, just one more chance.”

And that’s it.  They have you in the palm of their hand.

Sometimes we go back because reality is – being on your own is hard, especially with children.  In my experience the hardship of living alone far outweighed the joys of abuse from my ex, so I was lucky in that respect, but for others, this is a real issue.

And sometimes you do doubt yourself.  Did I do the right thing?  Did I overreact?  Was it that bad?  Was it my fault he treated me that way?  So when he turns up with his persuasive charm, you fold because you didn’t 100% believe yourself.

In other situations your abuser may have got you hooked on drugs, and so you are dependent on him for your fix, which when trying to get away makes it nigh on impossible to turn him away.  Especially if he’s waiving it under your nose at the time.

They will use the kids: “how can you break up the family? What about the kids? Do they deserve to grow up without both parents? Well don’t think i’m paying for them!  You wanna go it alone? Fine, see how easy it is – you’ll never cope!”.

My pet hate is when other people judge women harshly for either not leaving or for returning to an abusive relationship.  They have no idea what it’s like, they think it’s so simple.  The truth is it may take a couple of attempts to leave.  That it takes a women who has been stripped of all she is, to find strength from somewhere, and walk away (or flee more like).  It’s not simple.  It’s not easy.  Give them the recognition they deserve, offer support and understanding – not criticism and judgement, because all you are doing is reinforcing all the negative things they have already been told.  They have been brainwashed into believing they are wrong already.  It will take some time before they believe they are right.

 

Evolve

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It’s funny how being on the other side of the fence makes you see things from a completely different point of view.  It is easier watching events unfold, you can second guess what will happen next, you know the characters involved.  It can be the same as watching a play over and over, but just with different actors, locations and directors.

As much as I really do enjoy my job it is also teaching me so much.  Things which I suppose in a lot of ways really should be obvious to most people, but they are easily forgotten it seems once you have been exposed to certain aspects of manipulation.

The main thing that seems to evaporate is boundaries.  It may be second nature, a no brainer, but boundaries are eroded over such a long period of time that you hardly notice it happens.  Tolerating more and more unhealthy behaviour, to keep the peace, as an act of compromise, in the hope of losing this battle to win the war.  As children we are taught about sharing, sacrificing what we want in order to save someone else’s feelings but promoting harmony.  We carry this through, along with empathy, into adulthood and when you add an emotion such as love to the mix, you can begin to see how easily it can happen.  Initially in the first flush of love, you want to do all you can to make that person happy.  Men are not immune to this either, obviously.

But there comes a point where you think “actually I am not very happy about this”.  It’s at that point that the relationship can go either of two ways.  You either stand up and say “this is a hard line, and I am not doing this!  I don’t really care what you think about it at this point.”  Or you say nothing or allow them to talk you round.  You may tell yourself you’ll let this one slide, but not again . . . but you do.

One of the hardest things to do is to stand up to someone who you are trying to impress!  “Hi – yeah I am attractive, funny and intelligent, and a nice person – but I am also going to be a bit of a pain in the ass by moaning at you for the way you took the piss a little bit!”  But it is one of the most important things you can do.  The problem is that when you meet someone you like, you don’t always want to admit that there may be something wrong with them, and you don’t want to upset them necessarily.

I found myself talking to a 19 year old girl about boundaries after her boyfriend had stalked her obsessively for several months. I advised her to take a break from social media, as this seems to be a stalkers paradise and explained some other tactics to keep her safe.  She said one of the hardest things was when he threatened suicide if she didn’t speak to him.  I asked her if she really believed that he would do that.  She explained that she didn’t know, but she didn’t want that on her conscience.  I suggested that the next time he texted something like that, to screen shot it, send it to his friends and family, with a note to say that she was concerned about him, could someone please check on him.  This would make her feel like she was doing something to help without actually having to get involved.

Another lady explained that her abuser was so ingrained in her head that she couldn’t help but react to his provocations.  I explained that a lot of these men feed from the reactions you give off.  If you are reacting to something, even negatively, you are feeding them, they know you still have feelings towards them.  The worst thing for them is when you no longer care.  Cut off communication, become unreachable, remove yourself from their world.  It’s easier when there are no children involved, but even then there are still ways around it.

It is strange to sit there and hear these things coming out of me.  Things that I have learnt.  They must think it’s so easy for me to sit there with answers and suggestions.  But it took me a long time on a difficult journey to learn and understand how important boundaries are.

I also understand how hard it is, in a brand new relationship, with infatuation and butterflies, to then stand up and say “so this is what I won’t stand for!” But it is the one thing you can do to protect yourself.  They may even respect you more for it!

Working girl

Well maybe not a girl anymore, but my gosh what a difference this job has made to me in just two weeks!

As someone who had very little confidence, I have been elevated, supported and encouraged to take on my new role with determination and a desire to do better.  It’s amazing how an organisation can do that!  It is a female dominated environment – but we celebrate each other – we don’t tear each other down.  Everyone is pleased for others success.  The majority of the employee’s have had their own journey from domestic abuse,  so they have so much empathy for clients.

They understand that because of this, working on some cases could cause a trigger within a member of staff, so they have regular counselling sessions, and a buddy system for immediate one to one support.

They understand that working mums may still want to attend school plays or award ceremonies.  They understand that your kids get sick.  They organise work events which are child friendly.

They look after you.  They impress upon you how important self care is, and that it’s not selfish.  They understand that you need to be strong, to raise your children and thrive in a career.  A thought concept which while it makes a lot of sense, I never really embraced.  Perhaps I never believed that I should put myself first, but I understand now that if I go down the tubes, I will be no use to anyone, especially my kids.  Self preservation is not selfish, it’s paramount.

It’s funny how, I thought I was doing the right thing – and I was – but I now have so much more clarity.

Running parallel to this, the children have had their first contact with dad.  It went really well.  With the help of mediation, we agreed boundaries and have put procedures in place to limit any conversation or dialogue in person.  Hand over of the children is done in a public busy place.  There is a contact book.  We text dates etc.  I am hoping that things can continue in this way, it seems to work.

So this weekend is my first weekend in over a year that the children will stay over at their dad’s.   Will I stay home worrying?  Nope!  I’m off out with the girls for cocktails!  🍸🍹🍷

If you have Ghosts . . .

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I know I have spoken about the “voice” before (the horrible voice which is an amalgamation of all the negative cruel things ever said to us) and how it negatively impacts on my ability to make decisions or do things.  I have managed to ignore it more and more, but it still appears from time to time to drip fear into my brain.

I have just spent the first week at my new job.  The job itself is good because although I have to work school holidays, I only work from 10am until 2pm.  It is also working for a domestic abuse charity, so I love it, I am passionate about it, but also means that my children aren’t left with childminders.

I love this job, and I think I could be good at it.  I understand the fear, desperation and total helplessness.  I understand what it takes to get back up.  And I know that in the end, it was all totally worth walking away.

I am in a relationship with a man who amongst many other things, I am able to debate my strong opinions.  He doesn’t tell me i’m stupid for those opinions.  He doesn’t tell me that i’m a hippy or probably a lesbian for the way in which I think.  He buys me nice things, but he doesn’t expect anything in return.  He doesn’t throw them in my face if we disagree.  He has his own interests, and accepts that I have mine.  There are a million ways in which I know he is a “a good one” so I won’t list them all, but with the fact that I know that I love him, we are looking to move in together.  It won’t be right away, it may take up to a year for everything to be in place, so there is no rush, but it’s where we’re headed.

This means that we will go from a family of 3, to a family of 6!  I am actually looking forward to being part of a bigger family.  I think it will be noisy and loud – but it will be full, there will always be something going on – it definitely won’t be dull!  I will have my work, my friends and a loving home – it’s all I have ever wanted.

The voice is still present – but each day that pushes forward to my goals disproves it.  The knowledge that he will soon be back in my life through visitation worries me that he will still opine about all the things that he thinks are wrong with me and my decisions – but they matter less than ever.  I care more about what my children need, and what my new man thinks, and ultimately, what I want.  He will always be jealous, he will always strive to prove that he is better than me.  But I no longer care about that.  That all exists in another time and place, like a ghost.

Mountains

Do you ever wonder how deep your emotions can go?  That you can experience the most dizzying and unbelievable highs of happiness that leave you literally breathless with joy?  Or the crushing depths of sadness and hopelessness that strangles any strength to recover?  I realise this sounds like a bipolar disorder, but I am not talking about mood swings, I am talking about certain events that occur in your life that leave you feeling that way?

Everyone gets those feelings, but do we get them to the same extent?  Do some people bumble along with small peaks and troughs of emotion?  Do others have great valleys and mountains? Does this make them drama enthusiasts?  Well, we know that adrenaline is addictive, maybe being subject to great sadness or joy means you forever seek out that “high” whether you realise it or not.

I never really saw myself as someone who overreacted or sought out dramatic situations, but events beyond my control when I was younger meant that I was exposed to an array of emotions which I don’t think I was able to process well at the time, causing me to react in a way which was well out if character for me.

Perhaps I am subconsciously attracted to potentially difficult situations, despite my flat refusal of this suggestion.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that for the longest time I buried all the negative emotions.  Hid behind medications that “letterboxed” me, made things tolerable because I no longer cared as much.

The problem is that I have denied them for so long, I don’t know how to express them anymore, and especially love.  That one hurt me the most.  That one lied and deceived me.  It lived in me then got pulled out slowly like an unravelling ball of wool.  That shut down the ability to cry, to allow anyone to get too close.  I would end relationships before they had a chance to hurt, and the one time I override that mechanism I end up married to a narcissist!

But I just wonder if everyone feels those emotions in the same way?  Is it the rollacoaster effect – some love it, some don’t, because it is too scary, and they don’t like the feeling of not being in control?

I feel like I have a potential to fall into a deep chasm or be catapulted to the outter stratosphere – and they are scary, but do you embrace it or do you hide?  It is an illogical response to my emotions, but my logical brain is trying to weigh up the potential injuries.  So far all it has come up with is “what’s the worst that could happen if you do let go?” But I am also afraid of the unknown.  I don’t know what kind of person I would be, or how much of myself would change.  I use humour and sarcasm to shield me, I like those qualities.  I’m not sure if wild abandon would suit me – I think it’s better designed for youth.

 

Grown . . .

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It’s a strange feeling.  The thoughts and anguish that raced around my brain last year and before, about my ex have quieted considerably.  They were slowly drowned out by other more pressing, more exciting, more immediate traffic. They are now barely audible.  All those thoughts and worries that consumed me, rattled me with fear and uncertainty, have run out of energy.  life and living took over, as ultimately you still have to survive – live, provide, get through.  It is strange though, how time took over, like a steadily growing vine, and devoured that situation, and almost obscured it from view.  Almost.

I have forgiven.  In my heart, I don’t want to be bitter.  That is ugly.  I want to exist without any emotion attached to that part of my life anymore.  I want it to just be something that happened.  A mistake never to repeat.  I want to open up that vulnerable part of my heart, to let someone in and know it won’t be damaged again.  To have the love that everyone seems to take for granted because they are clueless as to how lucky they are.  To immerse myself in a completely different life.  To have someone who doesn’t inflict his will with spite and malice, but just loves me completely – even if I do still find it hard to articulate feelings.  I wonder if he even realises just how much . . .

so I find myself entering into “phase two.”  The second chance.  I am on the brink of re-establishing contact between the kids and their dad.  The kids are more than ready for this, the time is right.  I personally find it hard to feel anything but hope that he doesn’t fuck it up this time, because if he does, contact simply stops again.  It’s been nearly a year since the last episode.  Let’s hope he’s learned his lesson.

As for me – it actually feels pretty good to be moving in this direction.  I have accepted it.  I even embrace it.  I will assist as far as possible to help the situation move smoothly.  My two have had a lot to go through, and they are only children.  They still love him.  How can I keep that from them?  Plus I have started my new job, my life is moving forward in so many ways – this time hopefully in the right direction!

If I could go back, to that medicated scared woman I used to be and show her the path that led me here, if I could reassure her, show her that none of the stuff he said would happen, came true.  If I could show her the future, she would have nothing to fear.  But I can’t,  but maybe someone will stumble across this, and maybe, just maybe it would help them to make that big decision to leave her own abusive hell.

Yes or No?

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In the wake of escaping from your abuser, once you have found the courage to say “no more”, the freedom can actually seem quite daunting.  The time spent, the mental energy that was completely devoted to the past, is now idle.  What to do?  How do you pass time?

I thought I had it all figured out.  I immediately enrolled on a surprisingly difficult Teaching Assistant course.  This completely consumed any spare time I had, and even ate into the time I should have spent sleeping.  I often pulled “all nighters” to get the coursework finished on time.  However it filled the void of all that nervous energy and anxiety, and so I saw it as a way to turn something negative into a positive.  If I was going to have sleepless nights, may as well be proactive, right?  The course was one academic year, so nine months later – and once I had qualified – I then faced a new fear – I could get a job!  Not just that – I had to go to an interview and try to sell myself!  With low self esteem and zero confidence!  Arggghhhh!

But once you navigate those hurdles, you realise that the things you thought were impossible, are not.  You identify with clichés “feel the fear and do it anyway!”, “only you can stand in your way!”, “there’s no such thing as can’t!” and you think that after declining most things during your relationship, maybe it’s time to say yes more.  Even if the thought of a social situation scares you – you go!  You might even enjoy it!  Wearing that new look/colour that you’ve been admiring, going to the cinema by yourself, and just saying yes whenever friends or family ask you to go out with them.  You get brave, and you start making new friends, experiencing new things, rediscovering things you used to love and you realise, “yes” doesn’t have to terrify you anymore.

So life builds back up.  It’s not always easy, but you start to realise that you are happy.  You are in control of your life.  You make the decisions, and no, you didn’t fail like he said you would.  In fact, life is much, much better.

So maybe you reach the point where you want to try love again.  But armed with all your knowledge you realise that the most important word to use is actually “no”.  You set out your boundaries.  You refuse to tolerate anyone controlling you.  You make it clear you want a partner, on equal terms.  And you know what?  They respect you all the more for it!  No one wants a walk-over (a weak man or woman is never desirable – why do you think narcissists are drawn to strong independent types?).  Strength of character isn’t found in taking shit from someone day in, day out, it is found in being able to say “fuck this!” and getting out.

By October 2014, I was free.  He was not under my roof (although I still had to see him during contact with the children) but I regained control over my life.  And the man who told me that I was incapable, stupid and pathetic, useless, thick as shit, well, he lives with his mum.  I have my own home, two job offers on the table (yeah! Two, how did that happen??) And a new man who is like my own personal cheerleader, who tells me that I can, I could, I should try, go for it, I knew you could and supports me all the way.  I’m lucky that I got a second chance – I will never take that for granted.  And I never knew how important “yes” and “no” were, but I do now!

Miss . . .

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January 2005 I lost my mum to pneumonia.  It was a secondary condition to early onset dementia, which she was diagnosed with aged 50.  She died a couple of weeks before she was due to turn 60.  My brain tends not to let me think about that time too much.  It was a harrowing ordeal to witness.  At the time “wires” by Athlete was at the top of the charts, and played everywhere.  I still can’t listen to that song without being propelled back to that softly lit bedroom and the bed linen with little daisies embroidered on it.  The sound of rasping breath, and the whirring syringe driver administering morphine.  And knowing that everything was hopeless, and praying that the suffering would end.

Shortly after she died, I met my now ex husband.  I don’t think I was firing on all cylinders to be honest – I was just desperate to be happy after 10 years of claustrophobic grief.  I ignored stuff I shouldn’t have and believed his promises of greatness.  I often wonder what mum would have made of it all?  Whether I would have even met him; would my life have headed in a totally different direction.

BUT . . . I wouldn’t have had the children whom I love.  I wouldn’t have experienced all those life lessons which have made me who I am today.  I may not have met my current man.  I wouldn’t have that close bond with my dad.

So, while I miss her every day, and she was the first person who broke my heart irreparably, I shall think of all the good things I remember about her.

She had the most amazing smile and sense of humour.  She was beautiful and self depreciating, and she had a knack of talking to and befriending everyone she met.  My friends saw her as a second mum.  She was selfless and dedicated, driven and patient.  She gave the best hugs, and made the most delicious apple pies from the cooking apples in our garden.  She was my best friend and confidante.  She was my champion and she told it to me straight – the only one who ever could.  She taught me and understood me, and she loved me, no matter what I did.  How lucky I was to have had her for my mum! 💐

Love you loads, mum!

Love is . . .

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Love is an emotion that many of us struggle to define.  Anyone can mistreat you, yet you will still love them (could be a parent, brother, sister or friend for example, not necessarily a partner).  It’s sort of the same way a dog will remain loyal to its owner, no matter how many times it is beaten.  There is a connection that binds you forever.

To get over it is a difficult process.  To move on from unhealthy relationships is laborious, painful and slow.  It’s like mourning a death, except that with the loss comes those feelings of “what could have been” had that person loved you the way you loved them.

Once you move past that, as you eventually will, there will always remain an imprint upon you.  Like a tattoo, there is a part of you that has changed forever, though this may not necessarily be a bad thing.  It may even be more accurate to describe the feeling of lost love as an added piece of armour that protects you in the future.  The difficulty comes when it’s not a piece of armour, but a bloody great wall that surrounds us and lets no one in ever again.  Such monuments to love should only be temporary!

But a healthy love, one which we absolutely and whole heartedly desire, is a completely different feeling.  But unfortunately on this subject I find it hard to articulate!  I don’t understand why.  I have tried to work out why, but it feels a bit like trying to catch butterflies with my bare hands.  I can see the beauty and wonder, but I cannot touch it.  I know that since falling in love I have compared some of the feelings to being slightly insane!  It is an obsession with one person who fills up your brain and leaves little room for much else.  It’s the rollacoaster feeling in the pit of your stomach,  and the beating and fluttering of the heart at the mere thought of him.  I am fairly sure that I wear the gormless grin of a simpleton most of the time.

But describing how you feel, it’s hard because you can fall into the trap of sounding like some watery bint from the 18th century that would make even Jane Austin roll her eyes.  I think that, in hindsight, perhaps I am better off leaving the love lorn ramblings to the likes of Byron and Blake.

However, I know that I do love him.  I have never felt more at ease, more myself when I am with him.  Yet at the same time I am awkward and shy.  I feel safe and protected when I am with him, yet I am afraid.  I want to make him happy, I want to make him laugh.  I never want to be a burden or a nuisance.  I want to be good enough, I want him to be proud of me, the way I admire and am proud of him.  I want nothing from him but his time, and I try not to be greedy!

When I imagine a future with him, I know there will be things which may be difficult at times, but I still want it, so much, with all my heart.

I cannot write anything beautiful and poetic, I can only write how I feel. It is everything that is amazing and scary wrapped up in a big shiny bow, and I am like a kid on Christmas morning!

Not meaning to sound self pitying, but I never thought I’d find it, and I am so glad that I took that chance . . .