In my 46 years I have encountered and experienced a lot of domestic violence and sexual abuse. As a child by my parents and later by men, who often called themselves ‘friends’ or ‘boyfriends’ and later ‘partner’ and ‘husband’. I don’t want you to think as me as a victim, because I haven’t always turned the other cheek, I fought back, I tried to defend myself and my kids and I know I have hurt some people who never deserved it.
And, eventually I became myself a perpetrator. Yes, unfortunately I have hurt others, including my children. I have to own up to that, and I am ashamed and I have felt very guilty for a long time. But fortunately, I have looked and found help. In my case Social Services have really helped me, probably because I was so self aware, and willing to look critically at my own actions and in-actions. Also, I decided if there was anything I would do right in my parenting it was going to be protecting my kids.
My parents have always put their relationship with each other over us children, and have never stopped the abuse, called Social Services or the police. I have vowed to myself and my children that I will never do that. Their welfare comes before my own, although I am aware I need to look after myself first, before I can look after them properly. That sounds contradictory but really, it isn’t.
I’ll give you an example: a year ago I started to notice my mental health was really going down hill. I felt exhausted, depressed and I started to experience psychotic symptoms. I also had an excruciating pain in my neck, shoulders and lower back that didn’t go away. I was working 45 hours a week, I only saw my children 2 hours a day. My daughter was really suffering from anxiety and the school started to notice she was not feeling good and was afraid of me. I wasn’t coping.
So, I decided to stop working and look for help. When I got into a skills group at my local mental health team, I mentioned my daughter was suffering. They called Social Services. And now I am a year on and things are much, much better. I have changed medication, and gone through lots of support with Social Services, my daughter’s school, and really worked on my wellbeing and my relationship with my daughter. I adopted a greyhound and he literally got me fitter, I lost weight and my back is much better because I walk an hour a day with him. Plus our dog helps my daughter with her anxiety and gives her lots of cuddles and play, and me and her bond over him.
I still have a long way to go, but I am on my way. And that is all because I am willing to own up to my demons and bad deeds and invest in positive change. And it does involve admitting to my 10 year old I have behaved badly and treated her wrong. That is hard. But I am sure it is nothing compared to losing her altogether.
What I have struggled with the most though, is that I have got 2 cautions. One because I couldn’t deal with my alcoholic husband, an overactive thyroid, my mental health conditions and breastfeeding a 3-year old. And a 10-year old struggling with school. One day, my ex-husband was taunting me whilst drunk, I told him several times to stop and go for a walk but he kept harassing me verbally. I just snapped. He was holding our daughter, and I slapped him on the cheek, once. His head bumped my daughter’s head, she started crying and he just went mad. He put her down in the hallway in the buggy and kicked and beat me through the kitchen. He nearly strangled me. Eventually he pinned me to the floor and sat on top of me. He then let go and I walked straight to the phone and called the police. They came. And arrested me, because I was the one who started. He never faced any consequences whatsoever. And I was the one being taken, in front of my children, in handcuffs to the police station and held overnight. I didn’t dare to press charges against him, because I was really worried he’d make sure the children would be taken away from me and what else he’d do to me.
Then 2 years later, something happened again. This time my ex-husband had just been made homeless by me, because his drinking was so bad that Social Services basically said that if I didn’t safeguard my children from him, they’d be taken away from me. He was staying in a room a few streets down and his mother was visiting and staying with me over Christmas. I started telling her about how hard it was living with her son, drinking so much and really causing all sorts of mayhem. But she did not want to hear of it. She was defending him and basically I was the crazy one, being violent etc. I felt so so upset and angry. I felt so alone with it all. I felt I started to lose control over my emotions, so I put my shoes and coat on and wanted to leave the house to walk it off and calm down. I couldn’t speak, I was so on edge. But when I tried to step over the doorstep my mother-in-law grabbed me by my arm and tried to stop me from going. I think she thought I would go to her son and do something to him. But that touch by her was too much, I lost it and pushed her with both hands by the throat. She stumbled backward and fell over. I turned around and ran away.
That resulted in a second caution. But the effect it had on me was enormous. I felt so unsafe to be around people, even my own family. For the next few years I didn’t allow anyone to stay overnight in my house and I isolated myself. I felt I was a danger to others and I felt very guilty and angry at the same time. I felt nobody was acknowledging my side of the story, and the fact that I had no help or support from anyone.
It took me years to get over that. And to be honest, I am still very wary of others, I don’t trust anyone and I still isolate myself, because I feel unsafe. I feel I might attract the wrong people, and endanger them or myself and my children. I was very worried I might kill someone. And that feeling has always stayed with me, that if I get in the wrong situation with someone I might hurt that person, or I will get hurt. And if it happens again, I will go to prison and my children will go into care or live with my ex-husband.
And now, it is 7 years since the last incident and I feel a lot better. But what has remained is that fear of attracting the wrong person. I have been so afraid that I even tried accepting staying single and alone. I haven’t been in a serious relationship since, and I am trying to figure out how I could change the people I attract and who I am attracted to. But I have no idea.
I just hope by writing my blog, doing my art and study and my weekly therapy sessions to get to grip with this. I want to find a way, I want to be loved and love another. Cause there is no greater thing in life than experiencing love.