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What goes on behind closed doors? Well, you'd be surprised...
Member Name: HelenW
Disadvantages: Need I say more?
Please forgive me if my first foray for a long time into the DooYoo lounge isn't very good, but this is something I feel strongly about. If I can stop one person (whether male or female, DV affects both sexes, we must not forget) from experiencing what I did, I'll consider it a job well done.
My life changed forever, in 3 days time, it will have been 4 months since I ran away from an abusive relationship. The day after I moved back into my mum's house, I knew I had done the right thing. Since then, I've been recovering and I've never felt better.
I began a relationship with X while I was at university. From the outside, it's easy to ask why someone begins a relationship with someone who is violent and controlling and why they stay. Let me clarify, no-one has "I'm a violent, controlling bully tattooed across their forehead". It would be helpful if they did!
X began treating me as a princess. For a while, everything was fine. Gradually, things begin to change. He used to go off in a mood if I would go out with my friends, and since he lived by my university, he didn't like it if I didn't cut my holidays short and spend more time with him rather than my parents. I had never particularly been one for low self esteem. Somehow, he managed to change this and make me feel so bad about myself that I couldn't leave. It would begin as stopping me from going out with my friends at uni. If I went out anyway, he wouldn't speak to me if I had been at a pub/club/drinking as students generally do! He would tell me I should be studying or working in my job rather than going out. He would comment on the way I would dress.
One day, it went down hill rapidly, he gave me a shove, putting me on the floor and stood over me and shouted at me like I was a waste of space. He told me I was lazy, I was stupid, I was fat, I was ugly and so naive. This absolutely crushed me, but he'd already worn me down before this. These had all been small comments previously, but I'd heard every one of them before, but now they came with such vitriol and anger. Somehow, these had been embedded in me over the previous year or so and it felt like every one of them was true.
From there, it continued. I couldn't go out with my friends, I couldn't pop to the beach on a Saturday with my housemates as I should be there should he want to see me, I couldn't wear anything that in any way might make a male look at me. I truely felt like it was all my fault. He would tell me that he was only trying to improve me. All this time, I actually felt like it was my fault he treated me like he did. He would never stop until I was in tears, and at this point, he would hug me and tell me that it would be ok, because soon I'd be better and all his work would have paid off and I'd be a better person. He tried to tell me that we were moving to Pakistan and that I was allowed to see my family at Christmas. I told him we weren't and I was moving back to the Midlands after university. I felt the palm of his hand, but I won. In my mind, I had won. But I still moved back. And he came with me. And insisted we moved into a flat.
We ended up living together. After moving back to the Midlands, I began post graduate study. I loved my studies, law is a fascinating thing to study. But I also had to work 40 hours a week to keep us going. He did a job in the evenings, and insisted I pick him up after, as it was my role as the woman. I went to university for 8.30 - 5, started work at 5.30 until 1(ish) and picked him up at 2 from his work. Crawled into bed and began it all again. Except at weekends, where it was more a case of work 10am - 1am saturday, study when I got home and do the same again sunday, crawling into bed at 2am on a monday morning. The reason I was so tired, was because I chose to study as well. It was my fault you see. I had the womens work to do, I had to pay my way in the household, as it was my choice to study. All my fault I was tired.
One day, I collapsed with agonising chest pain. I was rushed to hospital and suspected of having an undiagnosed heart defect (as can hit young people and not be known about). I was put on a heart trace (the thing with the sticky pads on your chest). At this point, I was barely conscious with agony, he came into the A&E cubicle and glared. After leaving the hospital (diagnosed with a severe chest infection - probably caused by not being allowed the heating on - "it's too expensive... do you think I own a power station??"), I felt his wrath. His partner was in a hospital bed, with doctors using words like "heart defect?", "pulmonary embolism?" and "pneumonia?" What did he see? His partner with her t-shirt off, and a male nurse sticking hear trace pads to her chest. I felt his wrath. Apparently, I should have asked for a female nurse, whilst barely conscious.
I did two years of post graduate study, living the same way for the entire time. I am so surprised I came out with reasonable marks, I was sleep deprived and terrified the whole time. I wasn't allowed to stay at uni for lunchtime, as each block of the day was 2.5 hours and there were 3 of them. This would mean that lunch breaks were 2.5 hours. So I wasn't allowed to stay at uni and study, I had to go home and cook the dinner. I couldn't stay at uni because I "didn't need friends" because I had him and would do well to remember it.
I had finished uni and didn't have something to focus my mind on. I was still doing my catering job, which I loathed with a passion. I couldn't put a food wrong at home, as I would feel the palm of his hand. I was continuously walking on egg shells. He would stop talking to me if I spent too much time with my family. I wasn't allowed to attend the brownie pack I helped at. Another day that sticks in my mind, sat in A&E with my head split open, with him sat next to me. The receptionist stared at me. The nurse stared. The doctor came in and said "well how have you done this then?" to me, looking sideways at him. "I slipped", I said. I knew exactly what they all thought, and you know what, I felt... Actually, I can't put a word to how I felt. I had my head glued back together and we walked out. I felt like a failure. I hadn't said a word. But everyone could tell, and I knew they could tell.
My brother in law said "You never smile any more" a few days later. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Rock Bottom. Population = 1.
My family didn't know, they believed what I told them. That made me feel worse. No-one leaves a violent relationship at rock bottom. You don't leave until you're on the way back up. My mum suggested I volunteered at the Citizens Advice Bureaux as a way to break into law. So I did. I signed up online while he was at work one day and told him after I had heard from the volunteer co-ordinator and lined up an interview. The CAB was the beginning of the end for me. I worked hard there, because I enjoyed it, I found it interesting and fulfilling. My hard work was recognised and I was offered a part time job. The fact that people thought I was worth that, was so helpful to me. I started to become confident and to have some self belief. It gave me confidence to apply for some jobs in my field of study. My phone rang one day, who wanted to interview me, the following week.
I'd had other things on my mind at this point. I'd been chewing my sisters ear off about leaving. One of his big 'ideas' was that I was so na´ve and I didn't make any of my own decisions. Everything I do (apparently) is influenced by my mum or my sister. I suspect that it is this reason that my sister didn't tell me what to do, she listened to me and said, "if you want me to help you move, I will". So we arranged it for while he was at work. The best laid plans and all that. Long story short, I had half an hour to move my stuff while he was out. We did it. And I felt relieved.
Then, I realised I had this interview in a few days and no time to prepare. I did the interview, and it went so badly, I put it to the back of my mind. The phone rang, 2 weeks later. I got it. No-one was more surprised than me. 5 minutes later, I'd quit the job I hated, and resigned, with much regret, from the CAB.
4 months later, I have a job I LOVE, I'm doing what I studied for. I'm living with my mum, enjoying my life and saving for my future. I'm doing all the things I wasn't allowed to do before. I couldn't go to the gym (there's men there). I now go to the gym. I wasn't worthy of any time off or a holiday. I'm now making a list of places I want to go in the world. I was never allowed to go to a spa before (they're for women of ill repute apparently). I had a fabulous time at my friends hen night at a spa recently.
I'm being me. And it's great. For the first time ever, I really and truly feel like I've fallen on my feet.
My sister asked me recently, why I didn't leave sooner. I didn't have an answer for her. But having thought it through... You don't leave when you're at rock bottom; you only leave when you're on the way back up.
Thank you for reading my ramblings. If you are experiencing similar, please please don't put up with it. You're worth more. I wish I had realised it 5 years ago.