Growing up with an alcoholic, sexually, abusive father has affected nearly every relationship I’ve ever had. Throughout my life, I’ve endured years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. From a young age, I started to self-harm and as I headed into adulthood, self-harm was still part of my life.
I always ended up with abusive men and eventually married my abusive partner. I stayed with him for many years until I eventually found the courage to leave him. Even though I was no longer with him he still controlled and manipulated me. I wasn’t intending to start a new relationship with anyone, but then I met “The One” and my life was perfect! In the beginning he swept me off my feet. He showered me with love and attention and he adored me. Sounds great, right?
What I didn’t know, or could ever be prepared for, is what happened next. Very early into the relationship the psychological/emotional abuse started and slowly my love transformed into anxiety. Nine months into the relationship I was emotionally and physically exhausted and close to having a nervous breakdown. The never-ending cycle of love to hate, and back again was taking its toll. I started drinking excessively and I was hardly eating, socially isolated, withdrawn and in serious debt, the depression and anxiety hit me hard.
I eventually broke and asked for professional help. This is when [my support worker] from Behind Closed Doors walked into my life. During my counselling sessions, we discussed the different types of abuse. It was during these sessions that I realised I was sadly involved in another abusive relationship. I wasn’t being hit, I wasn’t being abused, right? As [my support worker] talked I frantically made notes, almost obsessed with trying to make some sense of it all. I learned that I was trauma bonded very early on so that I could be manipulated. It was difficult facing up to the fact that I was being abused again. Gaslighting was causing severe cognitive dissonance so I started writing a journal.
A few months later after another long exhausting night of abuse something in me changed. [My support worker] had provided me with the tools, it was now up to me to find the inner strength to use them. I had left countless times, but he always said the right things to convince me to go back. This time was different. This time I was armed with knowledge. I decided it was time to jump off the merry-go-round of abuse. The following day I packed my belongings and never went back!
The Journey is not an easy one, falling in love wiped out my sense of worth. During the first few months I missed him so much the pain was unbearable. I honestly thought I couldn’t live without him, the gut-wrenching feeling was so bad I felt like I couldn’t breathe. He bombarded with love/hate text messages and calls. With every contact my anxiety and depression worsened. He had made me feel so insecure, he had devalued me and I had lost all my confidence. I was confused and suffering from PTSD and severe OCD.
I became addicted to reading books and watching YouTube videos on domestic abuse. I did everything in my power to educate myself. Reading triggered many incidents that I had blocked out. I missed so many warning signs, the “Red Flags” were there, I just hadn’t seen them!
I made a list of all the abusive things he had said and done and when the trauma bond and cognitive dissonance kicked in I would read it. I called it my list of “Truths” I wrote him letters asking why he had hurt me, but I never sent them. I slowly realised the man I loved didn’t exist, he wore a mask, I told him everything I needed and he created my perfect soulmate. That’s not “Love” it’s “Manipulation” I opened up to my friends and family and having a supportive network made a huge difference.
Eventually [my support worker] and I agreed I was at a point in my journey where I had to stop reading about abuse and concentrate on my own healing. It was time to fall back in love with myself. I didn’t know where to start I hated myself so much I couldn’t even look in a mirror. I started reading books on Mindfulness, healing the inner child, low self-esteem and setting firm boundaries. It was time to challenge the “Critical Voice” and bring back my “Voice of Reason”. I was still mentally exhausted so I looked at different ways to calm my mind, I started meditation, yoga, exercising and walking. I bought a gratitude journal and recorded a list of positive affirmations on my phone, I say them out aloud every day. I allow myself to feel every emotion, sadness, grief and anger. When the feelings come I don’t push them away, I just sit with them until they pass.
A few months later I reached a point in my life where it was time to go *No Contact* I changed my number and deleted my email address. That was the turning point, once you remove yourself from the situation and your partner is out of your life, everything starts to make sense. That one call to Behind Closed Doors not only helped me leave my abusive partner it changed my whole life! The healing process is challenging, but it is so worth it. Some days you don’t want to get out of bed but keep going, it gets easier. You can heal and don’t be scared to ask professional support. I made full use of the support offered. My life has changed enormously since I left. I’m a different person and it’s amazing. I make my own decisions, I have savings, I’m buying my own house, I love seeing my friends and family, my mind is calm, I no longer have a drink problem and my health has drastically improved. The big one for me is I’m no longer afraid of being alone. I love my own company and I’m excited about my future. I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor and I am free!