Night after night I would go to bed praying that I would wake up tomorrow. Each night I would lie ridged in bed, too frightened to even breathe, let alone move. I’d already been shouted at for breathing too loudly so I was now too scared to move.
I would often lie on my back staring at the ceiling, trying to plan my escape. Tears would sting my eyes and the guilt feeling would overwhelm me because I’d left before but always came back. He always knew the right things to say to me and wherever I sofa surfed to, he would come and find me, begging me to go back to him, promising me that he would change, how he loved me and it would never happen again.
Of course he knew I loved him and that was one of the huge advantages he had over me. He knew I would melt when he told me he loved me, I would hang on his every word and be so locked into his gaze, that I could quite easily get lost in his deep blue eyes. He could have told me that the sky was green and the grass blue, I would have believed him.
I was completely isolated, not only from my friends and family but also from myself. I no longer knew who I was anymore, let alone know where I was going.
It was never easy to leave, I had been moulded and manipulated into a person living on autopilot, feeling pangs of guilt if I did leave; was he eating properly, had he done something stupid and if he had, was it my fault.
I’d lost my job so no longer had that freedom or financial independence, it felt frightening to go out into the unknown.
He was a light sleeper anyway and had resorted to putting things close to the door so if I got out of bed in the night without putting the light on I would knock a glass over or he would have put the lock on – the one that when you tried to open it, it would have woken the whole block.
I couldn’t leave when he would out because I was often locked in the flat.
Being in this relationship had completely friend my brain.
I no longer thought about myself in any way, shape or form. It was as though everything in my brain had been completely removed and it was completely filled with him. Just him.
When I first woke up I would automatically clean the flat top to bottom – well actually side to side – because if I was doing something, in his words that women should do, he wouldn’t abuse me. But also, I think it was because I was very much childlike in the fact that I was waiting for his praise, the need for him to see I was doing good things, the things he wanted me to do.
Over the three years I was with him, I left several times, including going back home – the safest place on earth – but I still went back to the arms of my abuser.
His lover turned into a drug which I felt the need to have every single day and if I didn’t have that drug, then I couldn’t cope with life. However, on the other hand, taking this drug was frightening me and I knew that one day it would kill me.
Whenever I tried to make that break, I became scared of the unknown. I knew that this drug was so powerful, I had seen exactly what it was capable of, I had felt the impact of it completely destroying me and my life.
It had taken my independence, my money, my friends, my identity and I couldn’t see a way of coping without it. It had made me believe I could never cop alone and because I had been so dependent on it, I believed it.
Over the years I had been manipulated by love, his isolation making me feel as though he wanted to spend time with me when in reality he was taking my support network away from me, to make it easier for him to abuse me.
His verbal threats made me live in constant fear, walking on eggshells extra carefully and making it even harder to leave.
I couldn’t see a way out.
When I found out I was pregnant I was so excited. I thought it would change him but it never did.
Motherhood changed me, it made me stronger and he knew it. I had someone to protect now, she was my life and I couldn’t let her get hurt. Of course, I wanted nothing more than my daughter having her mum and dad in her life but it didn’t work out that way.
She was my great escape. The reason I left my toxic relationship. But that was never the end of the abuse.
This particular incident happened on a Friday night. Something inside my brain told me, enough was enough and how I couldn’t put my daughter through what I had been through over the last 3 years. I knew I had had my wake up call and only I could change things.
I tried to remain calm and normal over the weekend – whatever normal was – extra careful not to walk and crack those eggshells, I couldn’t wait for Monday morning to arrive. I made some excuse about needing to go to the shop, put Tegan in her pram and headed off to my local police station. There I made my very last statement against my abuser, I didn’t withdraw it either. I felt so much stronger because of my daughter, still scared, but a little stronger all the same.
From the police station, my next stop was the solicitors whereby I asked for an injunction order, which I was granted – and from that moment on you could say, I never looked back. I never once contacted him, I quickly changed my mobile number, I had cut all ties. He had other ideas though, he wasn’t ready to let go just yet.
I was dragged through the Family Court, I was bombarded with calls and texts from him and his mum. I was made to feel guilty about making the right decision for my daughter. I was still made to feel it was all my fault.
He tried to intimidate me in Court by bringing his new partner, who stormed out of the Court once his solicitor had a conversation with them both. He tried to stop her from going, but she didn’t listen.
In time, he got bored and made excuses not to come to Court to fight for contact for his daughter and the case got thrown out of Court. The outside world would see a Father wanting to do what was right for his daughter but a survivor sees and feels nothing more than fear, power and control.
My great escape was my daughter because I know if I hadn’t have had her, I would have had no other reason to leave.