A little nerve wracking but as it is domestic violence awareness week I thought I’d share my story. It’s pretty hard to summarise five years’ worth of utter madness but I’ll give it a shot. It’s been over a year now since I separated from my ex. If someone was to ask me at the time “are you a you in an abusive relationship?” I would have responded with a definite “no”. I didn't understand that his behaviour wasn't normal. Even when things were thrown at me, I was being spat on or I was receiving the usual onslaught of verbal abuse, I still just did not see it. I would always say to myself “if he hits me, I'll leave” - a sign that something is fundamentally wrong in a relationship, but the saying ‘love is blind’ is an accurate one and I was just waiting for the person I fell in love with to return. Unfortunately, he never existed in the first place - it was all a façade.
You may have heard of the term ‘narcissism’, chances are that you have known someone who possess narcissistic traits - whether it’s someone with an inflated ego or someone who demands attention and is constantly checking to see how many likes they’ve had on Instagram or Facebook. My ex had something called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There’s a long list of NPD traits some include a lack of empathy, exaggerated sense of self-importance, expecting to be recognised as a superior even without achievements that warrant it, monopolising conversations, belittling people they see to be inferior, manipulating people to get what they want and becoming angry when they don't get the right response. NPD can have similar traits to a sociopath. I saw traits of a narcissist, a sociopath and a pathological liar in my ex.
When I first met him, all his ugliness was masked by his undeniable charm. I used to think of him as a magnet - he would walk into a room and people would just gravitate towards him and within a matter of minutes, he’d demand everyone’s attention. He was immensely funny, charismatic and generous. He’d put me up on a pedestal and would tell anyone who would listen about how amazing I was. I remember thinking how lucky I was to have met such a kind and caring man with a hilarious sense of humour. I never fully understood why someone so incredible would choose me to be their partner. It wasn't that long before his behaviour started to change. He seemed to really dislike some of my friends for no apparent reason, some of whom he’d met for no longer that ten minutes, but he would make a snap decision that they were the worst person on earth. He would check my Facebook messages and start shouting at me if I had messaged them. I couldn’t even bring up their name without causing an argument. I ended up not contacting them as it was a lot easier than dealing with his outbursts. He started calling me things like “dumb”, “lazy”, “a mess”, “boring”, “a c***”, “a f***ing bitch”, “capable of nothing”, etc... He’d be constantly changing the goal posts, for example he said I was too fat so I went on a diet and then he started to say I was too thin - nothing was ever good enough for him. He would say conflicting things like “you’re so much fun” then, the next thing you know he’s telling me that I’m boring, everyone thinks I’m boring and he left his ex because she was boring. I felt so much pressure to be this fun, outgoing person but on the inside I was struggling. I ended up avoiding social occasions due to anxiety.
When I first met him, he told me he had just got out the army and suffered from Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder. He also told me that his parents had passed away...turns out this wasn't true but that’s a WHOLE other story!! A lot of his bad behaviour was masked by his so-called PTSD, so when I was struggling to deal with his mood swings I’d go on the internet and google ‘living with someone with PTSD’. I read: ‘They may act in an aggressive nature and they may sometimes seem like a different person but remember to be patient and support your loved one…’ so that’s exactly what I did. All of this was emotionally exhausting and if I told him that I was feeling low, he’d say “if you’re feeling low just IMAGINE how I’m feeling” or “stop making everything about you!” He was psychologically abusive, he would say to me “are you bipolar?” “Have you got psychological problems?” “You’re mentally unwell! Are you autistic?” then would accuse me of being cold, unemotional and unsupportive when he was grieving the loss of his parents (who were very much alive FYI!). This is a tactic that narcissist will use known as ‘Gas Lighting’, it’s a way for them to gain control by making the victim question their sanity. This is something I did and still do today. I’m still questioning who I am as a person. I look back at pictures of me when I was with him and I don't recognise myself. I was abused financially. He quite literally took away every last penny. Whilst under the illusion that my life savings were going towards building a bright future for our two boys, he was spending it all on his own ego, among other things. My boys and I were left with no money, no home, no child maintenance, not even as much as a birthday or Christmas card for his kids.
Behind the facade he was a weak man, he wasn't a threat to me and the boys or my extended family, we served no purpose to him anymore so he just disappeared. We have received never-ending support from my family but there are many women that escape an abusive relationship who aren’t able to turn to their loved ones in fear that they will be put in danger. They seek help from women refuges around the UK where they can seek safety and support for themselves and their children.
If you’ve ever heard an account like this before and found yourself thinking ‘if it was that bad then why didn't they leave sooner?!’ Unfortunately, it isn't always as simple as that. If you look at it in a different context then it might be a little easier to relate to. Have you ever had one of those bosses that is a complete and utter arsehole? Do you quit? No, you don't because they’re the ones who pay your bills. In fact, you might find that you’re desperate for them to see that you’re doing a good job, it might take you a while to get the confidence to walk out. Now imagine constant fear, intimidation, manipulation, suicide threats, children and the feeling of just simply wanting to be loved is added to the equation. Now you might start to get an idea of how difficult it is to leave an abuser.
Dealing with the after effects of abuse is almost as hard as being in the relationship itself. After 5 years of someone telling me what to think, who to like, how to dress and how to feel, it left me feeling a bit lost. It’s taken me just over a year to feel anything other than numbness. I am constantly second guessing myself and all his past negative words still resonates in my mind every day. I struggle with anxiety and depression and social situations are often crippling. I have had CBT (I’m currently on the waiting list to get further CBT therapy). I’ve just started to see a hypnotherapist and I’m seeing an AMAZING counsellor, whose name is Bridgette from Wolf Urban Health Coaching. She is an incredibly brave woman and if you know anyone who is/has suffered with domestic abuse then I would strongly recommend her. Also, don't hesitate in contacting me if you need someone to talk to.
Ali and I will be supporting Domestic Violence Awareness Week from the 20-24th November. Every item of clothing we sell we’ll be giving £1 to our local women refuge. We’ll also being posting more information about domestic abuse.
A year on and I have managed to solely raise two beautiful, kind and empathetic boys. I have my own clothing company along side Ali Vermilio, I’m on the preschool committee and I intend to continue to send out awareness of Domestic abuse. Not bad for a girl that was “capable of nothing”