Every now and then I get an overwhelming feeling, a flash back, a whiff of something that reminds me of an unhappier time in my life. A picture, a word, something on TV, or a trigger that I sometimes don’t even recognise, will cause the past to wash over me. The twinge in my stomach, the lump in my throat, the dizzying anxiety that pulled me apart. It’s how I imagine drowning to feel. The suffocating weight, the pain in your chest, unable to breathe, the panic and fear. This is how I felt in the midst of an abusive relationship. Unfortunately this was not the only thing I was dealing with at the time. I wish it was, and maybe I would have dealt with things differently, or at the very least, have coped a bit better and thought a bit clearer. I would have fought harder. Shouted louder. Kicked and screamed and shown him I was not afraid, even if I was. Walked out the door more often, or walked out for good sooner, instead of being paralysed with fear, afraid to run for the door in case he’d get there before me. But I was dealing with so much more. I was grieving for people lost in my life. Over loaded with work as a result of a recent promotion, that was the biggest challenge I had encountered in my career and was beyond demanding and stressful. An unplanned pregnancy and the war between my logical and moral being in deciding what to do about said pregnancy. An unhinged ex-girlfriend, of my then partner, harassing and tormenting me, calling my work, sending threatening letters. It all came crashing down around me in the space of a couple of months. With no close family or friends to talk to, the loneliness and vulnerability was unbearable and resulted in me finding further refuge in the person that ended up causing me more heart ache than I ever could have predicted.
The over bearing noise that was my thoughts and fears, whirred around my head 24/7. The sickness, the hours spent with headaches and nausea that was induced by a combination of morning sickness and stress, exhausted me and drained the little energy I had. The constant beating of my heart through my chest, that at times stopped me in my tracks with the intensity at which it was beating. The sleep deprivation from worry and which was also inflicted by my ex. Especially if I seemed to be making a recovery and might be starting to think straight. Screaming and roaring at me through the night, in a house where no room could be locked because he took all the keys. I had no escape. He would sometimes let me think it was over and I would finally be drifting off to sleep from sheer exhaustion. He would barge through the door, rip the blanket off me, drag me out of the bed and berate me for daring to fall asleep while he was still awake. I was constantly walking on egg shells, waiting for the next bomb to go off. It was the noise of all this in my head, that got to me the most. Building and building, until I felt I would explode and scream and fall to pieces. But I never did, I silently screamed inside and let the emotions rage on within. On the surface I smiled and remained silent, afraid to let anyone know what was going on behind closed doors.
There is a view from the window of the bedroom in his house, that is forever etched in my mind. I can see it, the top of the house across the road, the branches of the tree and the lamp-post. This was the view in my line of sight when I would lay on the edge of the bed, gazing out, fixated on one spot, even when he would come right up to my face, “are you f**king stupid, are you mute?” trying to ignore the incessant shouting, by focusing on the outside and doing my best to zone out of what was going on inside. The effort of fighting back being futile and pointless. The want to crawl away and hide from the world, to get everything to just stop for a minute, one minute, to allow me to catch my breath. Anything. Just anything……………..but there was no reprieve. Wave after wave of disaster and abuse and sickness and heart ache. The terror and anxiety and constant fear of what was next. What was waiting for me around the corner. Because there was always something. When I would think that things could not possibly get any worse, another situation, fight, work issue, health problem, family emergency, would be there to break me that bit further. How could I fix this? How can I get out? I couldn’t see a way. Holding on and hoping something would give, because you know you’re just surviving, barely holding on, afraid and alone. It was a numb, hazy, foggy existence.
This is how it felt to be trapped in an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive relationship for me. So for those of you who think “why don’t they just leave”, it’s not that easy. Your mind is not clear. You are a wreck, trying to cope with each day as it comes. I had nowhere to go and nobody to turn to, or so I felt. I was living away from home and the solution was far from straight forward. The day that turned it all around for me was the day I finally said the words out loud to someone. “I am in an abusive relationship and I don’t know what to do”. These were quite possibly the hardest and scariest words I have ever spoken. The wheels that were set in motion that day were paramount to my future. I won’t lie and say it was easy. It scared the shit out of me. I spent the next week crying harder than I ever have done before, knowing what was about to come and not knowing, at the same time. How would it all work out? How was leaving going to fix anything? I am having his child, I can never really escape. I am going from one bad situation to another! About to give birth to a baby with nowhere to live, no proper income, as I was now on maternity leave and no way of providing a life for me and this baby. Leaving the nursery I had just decorated and filled with beautiful things for my baby, our belongings, my job, my life, to return to Ireland, to potentially live on social welfare in a council house? It all seemed so impossible. I was also worried sick that he would find out I was leaving before I left and what the consequences of that discovery would entail. Worried about hurting him and taking his unborn child away from him. It was the toughest thing I’ve ever done but the best thing too.
Everyone’s story is different but there’s one thing I believe we all have in common-we are survivors! We have been through hell and back. This does not make us fragile or damaged or broken. This makes us strong, fierce, experienced, determined, resilient women.
I have gained a lot from my experience. I do not believe I have lost. I have a self-worth I never possessed before and this is something I continue to work on. A determination to go after what I want that will not be deterred. I am not willing to settle for anything less than I deserve in a relationship, and I believe I deserve a lot. I have no time for toxic, draining people in my life. I do not waste my time on people who cause me pain or try to belittle me or walk over me to get what they want. These people can f**k right off and god love them if they push me too far. I will fight back if needs be. The most important thing to come out of all this is my beautiful son, whom I live a very happy life with. Me and him against the world. Our world is one of so much love and cuddles and Laughs. Life can never be bad with him in it. He is my happiness, my strength, my everything. And I would go through that hell, and worse again, to get to where I am now, with my little boy, surrounded by friends and family and people who love and support me. You forget how that feels when your with your abuser. That life seems so far away and so impossible, but it’s not. It’s closer than you think. And when it gets too much, remember, you are not alone, even if it feels as if you are. Pick up the phone, knock on a door, ask for help, and when you have, take the wins and carry them with you, leave the losses well behind. xx