I have changed, I do not recognise this version of myself at all now, thankfully from the timid, abused girl and those 10 years of torment in my life which acted like a wrecking ball on everything I cherished.
I have never until now shared this part of me, or how it developed and made me stronger and yet still has the ability to haunt me.
This week I was gifted when I was asked to give my review on a friend’s new book about the abusive relationship that she has just managed to extract herself from since lockdown.
She is in her mid 50’s like me now, but I was in my early 30’s when I went through this and broke free from a physical, mental and emotional abuser.
I had no way out as all my bridges had been systematically stripped away and burnt down. Carefully calculated and set up to keep me isolated and dependant. I had to lose contact with my family who were 100’s of miles away, and I was so watched over that I was not allowed friends of my own. I was trapped and it had been orchestrated that I had no one to turn to.
Back in the 90’s all I had was the number of a random safe house hidden in the back of my blood donation book just in case it ever got that bad.
It took me years to conger up the courage to leave. I was made to feel extraordinarily small and worthless, allowed no friends of my own, and made to eat so little, called fat and humiliated before we ever went out, I would end up in tears just before any party we went into. I was told to not eat, so that I would be small and sexy like Kylie Monogue. I was not allowed to wear lipstick or the colour pink or anything girly or attractive or ever waste money and shop for clothes. I was constantly accused of having affairs, threatened if I had an affair or left him, I would end up wearing ‘concrete boots’ and end up on the bottom of a canal somewhere and told “anyway who would know, you have no contact with your family and no friends”.
I got a massive 1-carat diamond ring when we got engaged, only to find out later it came into his possession and had been stolen. It was like his symbol of don’t touch this woman, she belongs to me.
He caused endless trouble whenever we visited family and it was just easier in the end not to go, than for me to be the buffer between them. It was exhausting.
I have been pushed downstairs, hit, slapped and kicked and yet still I stayed, maybe because he was so remorseful for a day or so, and I for a moment believed he was going to be as fun and loving as he was when we first met. He always said nobody would ever love me as he did. But then revert to violence, threatening language, real meanness, and controlling emotional blackmail within a few days.
I have strange memories that come up every so often for example of being made to retrieve my jewellery that I had put his safe care, as I lived in a flat and the front door lock was broken. I had to drive at 3 am to retrieve it from the busy street on a very rainy night when I got that call. All just so he could prove a point that he was in control. And yet still, bizarrely I married this man. Why?
These days I cannot imagine who I was or what I felt like I am so different. I just knew walking down the aisle at 22 years old I would divorce him and make him pay, but right now I am too tired and worn down and don’t feel strong enough to undo the shambles I have got myself into or how to stand my ground. The master manipulator had won.
I resorted to food as my only friend, a small token of how I can treat myself in those stolen moments in my car alone after doing the weekly shop with a big bag of salt and vinegar crisps
How did I conger up the courage to leave?
I remember I prayed for an out, Maybe, he would disappear, or hopefully have an accident and die. But in fact, my prayers were answered when I got a new job. One he could not control or see how strong it would make me, I believe my soul intervened. A job where I started as a PA and grew into one that took me to drive and visit clients all over the UK and I got to meet a lot more people and made real trusted friends, by doing that I found a sense of freedom and even although I was told “You’ll be rubbish! You in sales how ridiculous”. I found the confidence to do this job and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I became extra strong (with fake it until you make it, bravado at first) I was I believe quite frightening, as I took a no prisoners and developed an attitude of not suffering egomaniacs or fools gladly. I turned up the scary don’t mess with me energy to full volume and only as the years went on I have managed to drop the draw bridge and let people I truly feel safe with anywhere near the real me.
I left him by staging a final argument and immediately found a flat and left with the bare essentials. I was stalked and my bank account spied on via his brother. The divorce proceedings were a joke. I fired one lawyer as her letters just made things far worse for me. He and his solicitor were laughed out of court. I was divorced and got my share out of the house, we jointly owned but that I had put the most towards as I was the one working. I cut my losses knowing I was free and could build a new and far better life for myself.
Through this experience, I discovered I could read people and felt what they needed intuitively. I believe I was super sensitive and empathic because of this encounter I had had from living with this man. I had a developed 6th sense about situations, people and places, as do so many women who experience these violent and dangerous situations.
Our senses just have to wake up for us to survive. All of the walking on eggshells and knowing what mood someone was in from their first breath in the morning, meant I reacted to situations in my ultra sensitive ways. I knew better than most when to stay quiet and what people wanted and needed and if they were hiding.
I could feel into people from anywhere and if they would be safe to invite into my space. I used this many times to feel into people I invited into my house when I was a single mother with 2 young boys.
However for decades after I had broken free, I still felt the need to be over vigilant and on high alert in my environment, just in case this person or another similar was in my vicinity and I was vulnerable.
Once, maybe 10 years ago I saw ‘him’ in a supermarket when I was back in the UK. I felt my heart race and catch my breath, with the full shopping basket I had on my left arm as I was on the way to the checkout, found its way quietly to the floor and I turned and pulled up my collar and walked purposefully out if the shop. Sorry for whoever had to replace all that shopping back on the shelves. I could not stay. So I ran. I turned the corner ran to my car, stumbled in, locked the doors and drove as fast as I could away and have never gone back to that area again. I know where he is, he still lives in the same house we bought together in 1987.
Reading an account of another who had broken free from an abusive relationship was so healing and enlightening on so may levels.
For the first time by doing this review I allowed myself to go into detail about things I had never uttered a word to anybody about before. I had kept it all safely hidden under lock and key. Yet it smoldered and stank and became putrid as it wanted to be released. It caused me no end of problems in my relationships with mistrust and over-eating in times of stress.
This opportunity was not a coincidence but another soul intervention to clearly have me let go of what no longer served me, but that I had buried under years of avoidance and overeating.
I have come to believe that abuser and or perpetrator is in fact attracted to the qualities in you that they lack, the confidence you possess and is drawn like a magnet to your inner strength but at the same time frightened because of it, they feel how strong you actually are and could be. It is a far greater strength than theirs and it oozes and radiates out of you.
I believe having had my own as well as assisted women with these same stories, that these abusers feed off the strength of others, like a vampire. Your confidence has to by any means possible be crushed, your will diminished, your ability to be independent and flourish in life removed, and this is what they seek to make themselves feel better and stronger about themselves. They are the weak ones.
There is a great and astonishing gift to read of such a relationship of another having had a similar experience and see it through and unfold as a real gift allowing that woman to have arising out of the ashes like a phoenix from an abusive relationship. It is an opportunity to stand up for yourself. Being in a relationship that is abusive allows you to develop a rare sensitivity to the subtle signs and your senses develop faster than somebody who was not tormented this way, just because of what you experienced in that relationship. That can seem an odd gift but in my experience, it is one that leads to incredible intuition and of trusting your gut instinct, because your body never lies. Your mind will try and keep you safe, and want to make you give in, compliant and small, but your feelings never lie. That very subtle or those not so subtle uncomfortable feelings that are telling you something very important indeed.
This ended up with me being able to be an intuitive body coach. I could hear what people’s souls and bodies were calling for, and why they struggled with conditions that doctor, dietician and other people helping with these strange persistent symptoms could not detect, resolve or dissolve.
Would I change my experience if I could? Hell Yes, of course, but maybe then I would not be so intuitive and sensitive as I am today. My senses would not be so acute without this experience. Maybe then it was a necessary evil that will take us forward into a different sensitive world where our intuition will be of great importance. The intuitive age.