Thursday, 11 September 2014
Most of the time, I'm doing okay
Most of the time, I think I'm doing okay.
It's not quite like I thought it would be, this place here on the other side of an abusive relationship, but each day I try to remind myself that I am lucky that I got out when I did and that six months is still not a long time in terms of the journey of recovery that lies ahead.
I try to focus on all that is good in my life and to tell myself that even though I should have left long, long before I did, that my reasons for holding on as long as I did were good reasons: hope, forgiveness, family. But there comes a time when you realise that to hope too much and to forgive too much are doing far more harm than good. That to protect my children and myself I had to leave, no matter what anyone else believed. There were no longer any other options. It's hard to forgive myself for staying for so long, but I do know that I did so with the very best of intentions.
I thank God every day for the people in my life who helped me to flee that situation. I know not all women are as blessed as I was in that respect.
Some moments I feel crippled with fear. When the calls and the messages and the emails won't stop, When I can't escape from those twisted, horrid lies. Some nights I'm afraid to go outside and put the rubbish in the bin, but I force myself to do it because I refuse to have my life governed by fear.
Some days, I think I'm learning to manage that fear. I'm learning to be okay with being scared. I have built a safety net around myself and, most of the time, I feel safe there.
I am not achieving anything particularly remarkable or exciting at the moment, nor am I likely to for a while, but as I lay down to sleep at night, if I can rest my head on the pillow and say to myself nothing bad happened today, then that day was a good day. I've learnt to be grateful for those days where nothing much happens. I used to have such high expectations from life and from myself. Now I settle for okay. Okay is all I need.
For now, I just focus on survival and my children's happiness.
I get my son off to school in the morning with food in his tummy, teeth brushed, lunch and homework packed, clean clothes and hair (usually) brushed.
I don't always cook with enthusiasm, but we eat healthy food.
We don't have anything fancy, but we want for nothing either.
I am blessed with two supportive parents and some beautiful friends, both old and new.
I'm learning, slowly, that it's okay for me to spend money on myself every now and then. That going to the hairdresser to get my hair cut rather than doing it myself doesn't mean I'm wasting money, that buying a cupboard or a new cardigan doesn't mean I'm greedy, that wearing make-up doesn't mean I want every man I meet to be attracted to me. That having a blog doesn't mean I neglect my children.
When I listen to music, I make sure it's happy music.
If I watch a film, I choose something uplifting or funny.
I surround myself with people who genuinely care about me and my children. I distance myself from those who judge me.
My children light up my world. They are my world. I try to take them out to fun places. I make sure they laugh every day.
But every now and then, a situation creeps up on me and knocks the air out of my lungs. And in that moment, although six months have passed, it feels like no time has passed at all and I'm right back there, his voice pounding in my ears.
A week or so ago, I bought some bookshelves.
The morning the flatpack arrives, I'm thrilled. I'm going to be able to have all my books with me instead of out in boxes in the shed. They're going to bring new colour and energy into this house.
My dad's there to help me contruct the shelves. I go to work with vigour. I don't realise how much I enjoy building things. The instructions are easy. I even start explaining how to do it to my dad. Maybe he's even proud of me for being so handy.
Then something goes wrong. One of the wooden pegs snaps in the hole. It's impossible to get it out. I've totally stuffed up that shelf. The positive voice in my head tells me it will just be wobbly. The other voice tells me it will be completely useless.
Then the same thing happens on another of the shelves. I try to tell myself it doesn't matter. "Let's just go onto the next part', I say. But the next part is even harder; dozens of bolts that are supposed to screw into places that seem to exist in the instructions but not on the shelves themselves.
It's taken hours to get to this point and all I see in front of me on the floor is a bookshelf that would be so unstable it would probably be dangerous to use and a whole lot of bolts and screws that don't seem to have anywhere to blot or screw into.
And then, without warning, it comes. A great, big, fat tear, drops from my eye onto my big toe and then another splashes down on top of it. And then the words come out that had been in my head for so long, that had been my fear before I'd even started to try and make the shelves.
I can't do it.
But they don't come out normally, they come out as a wail and then I'm on the ground sobbing as if someone has just died and my poor old dad, exhausted now from all of the work and the confusion, looks at me helplessly, bewilderedly, lovingly.
I'm lying on the ground and all I can hear are the words of that man I used to love with everything I had.
So it must be true. He was right all along. I've just gone and proved it to myself.
Normal people don't cry hysterically like this over a bookshelf. Most people never cry like this at all. Only crazy people do that. So look, it is true after all.
But I just can't stop.
That voice that I try so hard every day to smother rears its ugly head and shouts at me over and over again.
His voice, over time, has become my own voice.
Lucky your children didn't see you doing this.
A mother doesn't behave like this.
You need to get some help, from someone who actually knows what they're talking about.
Crazy. Crazy. Crazy.
It's not the first time, either.
Four months ago. Trying to put up a cot. Failing again. My daughter was 14 months old already. I just wanted her to have a cot. My sister had given us a beautiful cot just before our baby was born. All that had to be done was put it together. But there were always excuses and later, lies about missing parts. Someone who has the ability to build a house with nothing but rocks and a hammer and his two hands wouldn't construct that cot for me. Why wouldn't he just let me have a cot for my baby? Just another twisted way of controlling me.
That time my children didn't see my tears either; one was at school, the other in the next room with my mum. But there was one time when they did see.
We were driving home, just a week or so ago. Someone I'd know almost my whole life had made a cruel and thoughtless comment. In some people's minds, physical abuse only exists if the woman was king hit within an inch of her life and psychological abuse only exists in her own mind. Because they think everything is just black and white. Because they met the guy several times themselves and he was always funny and charming and there's no way in hell he could be anything but good.
So you see, it's true. You can't ran away from the truth. You are a bad mother. A proper mother doesn't put on a show like that in front of her children. Especially when she's driving.
You just think about yourself and how you feel, don't you Liz? If you were thinking about your children, you wouldn't cry. Only arrogant people take offence to things the way you do.
Unstable. Negligent. Selfish.
Then when the tears stop, the exhaustion sets in, like the brain and the body shutting down. If it's possible to sleep, you sleep. If it's not, you just go through the motions - school pick up, swimming lessons, dinner, bath, games, bed.
You wake up the next morning and get the kids fed and dressed and the big one off to school and the little one into the garden for a play and you thank God that you have these children to get you up in the morning and out of bed because if they weren't there, some days you might just sink into a black abyss and never get out again. Because even though being a mother is such hard work, those children are the reason that you are okay. They are the reason that you make sure you're okay.
I'm learning to acknowledge that I have a right to feel everything that I'm feeling. That this whole thing is massive, really truly hideously massive, and I don't have to go on pretending that it's not.
Every day I count my blessings. Some days it's harder than others.
But most of the time, I'm happy.
Most of the time, I'm moving forward.
Most of the time, I'm doing okay.