Friday, 30 May 2014

Five Small Acts of Rebellion

One of the first things I did when I left my ex was cut my hair. He hated short hair and so I wasn’t allowed it shorter than shoulder length when we were together, he said women with short hair “looked like lesbians” (nice huh!)

Cutting my hair was very liberating, having had to be obedient for so long it felt like an act of teenage rebellion. Sometimes I still find myself doing things as an act of rebellion knowing how much it would send him into a complete meltdown if he could see…. Here are five of the things I love to do…

  1.  I ‘dig’ in the butter. Butter has to be removed from the pot in a smooth sweeping motion so it stays neat and tidy, taking a chunk of butter out of the pot is absolutely unacceptable, it’s unhygienic and can cause food poisoning!  I still giggle when I dig in my butter.
  2.  I leave pay and display tickets stuck to my windscreen until I have so many I have to remove them to be able to see out. If he ever got in my car and there was a pay and display ticket stuck to my windscreen there’d be hell to pay, you know if they get left on your windscreen the sticky stuff never ever comes off, and this is a disaster.
  3.  I put my pyjamas on when the kids go to bed, and I don’t feel bad about it. What’s more I wear pyjamas all night, without anyone dramatically sobbing into the pillow next to me that I’m only wearing pyjamas to avoid having to have sex with him.
  4. I sometimes leave the washing up until morning- shock horror, and its presence the next morning doesn’t cause anyone in the house such severe depression that they lose control of their ability to behave like normal human beings, which is weird because I always thought that dirty pots left overnight did that
  5. I get in the car, go for a drive and get lost. Just going out for a drive with no plan of where we will end up is ‘stupid’ and a ‘complete waste of money’ and getting lost will always end up in a panic attack. Now strangely enough I go for a drive and don’t end up bankrupt, I get lost and somehow still end up back home at the end of the day without having to spend the night in the car or starve to death in the wilderness never to be found again. 

 How do you celebrate your freedom? Do you do anything like this?   

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Abuse is not....A Mental Health Issue

My husbands ‘fragile’ mental health was always a factor in our relationship, when bad things happened, as they do in life he always seemed singularly unable to cope with them, suicide attempts became a frequent occurrence and there were points when I genuinely believed our relationship would end with him taking his own life, it was something I lived in fear of for many years.

It was ‘depression’ for the first few years of our marriage, then at some point, though I cannot remember when, it was decided, and again I’m not sure by whom, that it was more than depression, it was bi-polar mood disorder, he spent a lot of time on mood altering medicines, none of which ever made the blindest bit of difference to his tendency for blind rage.

During one of his Employment Tribunal cases he was sent for a mental health assessment, he came home and told me they had suggested that he actually had a personality disorder, he was very interested in this and took to google to research, not long later I was presented with a book about how to manage in a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder. All of a sudden his weird behaviour seemed to make sense.
Gary Larson

Yet mental health professionals were always reluctant to diagnose him. I couldn’t understand it. To me it was obvious he was mentally ill, and as time went by he seemed to get worse, he didn’t only fly into rages whenever things weren’t ok, he flew into them even when life was good, citing things that had never actually happened as the reason; he was delusional and paranoid. I was angry that the mental health professionals didn’t ‘fix him’ if they’d only take seriously how ill he was he could get better and everything would be ok. He’d be pinning me against a wall literally foaming at the mouth because he’d say I was bullying him and trying to make him kill himself and I’d be wondering why this kind of behaviour wasn’t considered worthy of a section.

Even when I left this was my belief, I left because his behaviour which I put down to his mental health issues, was now impossible to live with and was harming the children. I did not leave because I didn’t love him, I did not leave with the intention of never going back, I left hoping that sooner or later he’d get sectioned, get help, get better and then we could carry on with life. I held onto this notion for months and months.

I have always thought “he has to be mentally ill, because if he’s not then he’s a terrible person.”  I think that perhaps those mental health professionals who have been reluctant to diagnose him, those employers who haven’t “made allowances for his illness” and have sacked him, those friends who have walked away from him who I have considered “intolerant” have accepted that actually he’s genuinely just a horrible person rather than a victim of some mental affliction. But this is not something I’ve ever been willing to accept. And logic dictated that the way he treated me, the way he treated the children made him a horrid human being. Buying into the notion that he was actually completely insane was my way of excusing his behaviour, of telling myself he wasn’t a bad person, he was a sick person, and he needed my help.

This is one of the reasons I was determined to stick around. I’d see his behaviour towards me as ‘self destructive’ I’d think “he’s lashing out and trying to destroy his own life by ruining his marriage, and pushing away his family, I’m not going to let him” I became not his wife but his carer and his emotional punchbag, all for the sake of my denial, all because for some crazy reason it seemed better than admitting I’d married an awful person.

And actually this has been the DV myth that’s been the most difficult for me to shake. I guess it’s because there clearly is something wrong with his mental health and I will never know to what extent he is ill and to what extent he is nasty, spiteful and selfish. But the point is this; it doesn’t matter. He might be completely barmy but he still knows suffering, pain and hurt. And knowing those things he still chose to inflict them on me and our children. He made that choice. Lots of people are insane and they don’t go around hurting other people, and those who do are responsible for their behaviour. My husband may well have felt awful about himself, he may have suffered the most horrid mental and emotional torment because of his mental illness, he may well have seen and heard things that didn’t exist and been utterly confused about what was real and what wasn’t. But he chose how he reacted to that torment, and he chose to react to it by tormenting me. That was not necessary, that was not okay, and it was not my responsibility to care for someone who continually hurt me.

If you are a carer and the person you care for hurts you, this is NOT a symptom of their illness, it is a choice they make. Please don’t put up with it as I did, seek help.  You can ring the National DV Helpline free and confidentially on  0808 2000 247 and I promise, even if you think it’s not real abuse, it’s just a sick person lashing out the Helpline will listen and will be happy to talk to you. 

Please check out the rest of the Abuse is not series by clicking on the tab at the top of this post

Monday, 26 May 2014

Who am I?

My ex husband reccently sent me an email that ended with the line:

“You are a spiteful and hateful person and I really hope that someone finally sees you for what you are.”

Well I have news for you ex…. Not only is everyone finally starting to see me for what I really am but so am I. I am not the things you always told me I am, the things I started to believe, the things I                                                                                             started to become….

· I am not an argumentative bitch who rubs everyone up the wrong way just to get a reaction (and therefore deserving of physical violence) and in fact the confrontational side of my nature seems to have vanished completely now I am not bottling up anger at being mistreated.

· I am not a dizzy bimbo not as intelligent as my ‘clever husband’ I am not only intelligent, thoughtful and able to formulate my own opinions but I’m also someone who learns from my mistakes and reaches for personal growth.

· I’m not an out of touch pie in the sky dreamer full of completely
stupid ideas that will never work in the real world; I am a creative innovative ambitious independent woman who can achieve anything she puts her mind to.

· I am not a selfish cow who always has to have her own way, I am a kind and considerate good friend, and even more so now that nobody is getting in the way of my friendships

· I’m not a dirty, lazy bad wife and mother with low standards. I am a hardworking mum who always puts her children first and given how awesome my children are I’d say I’m not doing too bad a job.

· I’m not a ‘love you or hate you’ kind of person who most people hate. I’m actually just a nice normal regular person who lots of people really care about, and not living my life paranoid about them hating me is making me able to see that much clearer.

· I’m not ‘fat’ or ‘saggy’ I haven’t ‘let myself go’ I like to wear pj’s at night because I like to be comfortable and whilst busting my ass off in the gym to be a bit more toned just ain’t my bag I’m still attractive because beauty is more than skin deep. I don’t need to dye my hair blonde or wear certain clothes to attract and keep a man, my sizzling personality is enough to do that (that and my cool purple hair and stylish dm’s!)

· I’m not spiteful or hateful. I am trusting, fun loving, passionate, optimistic and focused on the positive. I also have a deep drive to care for and rescue those who may be vulnerable or hurting and this is what left me open to abuse.

More than any of this I am God’s daughter. I am made in his image and am just how he created me to be. He’s not finished with me, I’m his work in progress but I am not a failure, I’m a masterpiece and you, well you’re going to have a lot to answer for when you come face to face with my father because I did not deserve to be treated the way you treated me.

Friday, 23 May 2014

A girls place....

Having three boys I have always found myself wistfully looking at lacy dresses and thinking how nice it would be to be able to buy them. When my children are invited to a little girls birthday party I have always loved to peruse the girly sections of the toy shop and buy the girliest present I can find.

But something has radically changed in me the last twelve months. I realise that my stereotypical notions of gender roles were partly the reason I allowed myself to be abused for so long. I felt that it was my place to be in the home, that it was his place to deal with the finances, I believed that men did struggle more with emotions and were more prone to lash out and needed understanding for that and I allowed him to tell me that a good wife would “submit” and put her husband first, even before the children.

Worse I realise that in many ways I passed some of these notions onto my boys. Not long after we moved into our new house my dryer stopped working. At one point I’d have considered fixing it a man job, left it to him, and eventually bought a new one because he would have just not done it. However, now I was on my own I knew I had to step up to the plate and reclaim my independence. I googled how to fix it and set about doing it. As I was unscrewing the back of the dryer my four year old looked at me and said “you’re doing a man job mummy” it was a massive wake up call to me to re-educate my boys to make sure they didn’t grow up with the same attitudes as their father.

Recently they went to a little girls birthday party. I vowed never to pass on notions of what girls and boys should like or be like to a child ever again, so this time I wasn’t looking for the girliest present I could find, but instead a toy that any four year old would enjoy. This time last year I’d have referred to myself as a crazy militant man hating feminist for doing this, it’s amazing how much can change in a year.  I headed for the toy shop.

When I got there I found it clearly demarcated- boys on one side, cars and superheroes and weapons and loads of other fun stuff in an array of bright colours, on the other side, girls toys- I didn’t really look what it was, but noticed it was an aisle in only one colour- I think you can guess what that colour was!

I had decided that as my children love Lego so much, and as I loved it so much as a child I would buy her some Lego, so I ignored the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ aisles and headed straight for the Lego. I’d noticed they’ve introduced a new Lego Juniors range, aimed at four year olds with easy to build models and easy to follow instructions, I figured I’d get some of that.

When I found the Lego it was again separated into boys and girls- Lego! Probably the most Unisex toy on the market! Even the Lego aimed at four year olds was available in red boxes with cars and pink boxes with princesses. It’s a big disappointment to me, I never had pink Lego, I never had minifigures with boobs, I had regular Lego, I played castles and pirates and cops and robbers with my Lego- why do todays girls have to miss out on all this fun in favour of shops and princesses! Bleugh.

My sons immediately picked up a pink box and said “this one is for her” I asked “why?” they replied “because it’s girl Lego” I questioned again “why is it girl Lego?” they replied “because it’s got girls in it” (at least they didn’t say “because it’s pink”) I asked them which Lego they would like to play with, they picked up one with diggers in it, I said “I’m a girl and I’d prefer that too, lets get her that one” and we did. I hope she liked it.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Abuse is not....A Class Issue

Several years ago, after my husband had made a series of his excellent financial decisions we ended up living on a "rough" council estate. I must say it was an eye opener. Firstly I couldn’t believe the difference in the way I was treated when I moved from a nice middle class housing estate to a council estate, secondly I had some of the most honest, kind hearted, friendly, hard working neighbours I have ever had. I believed that any snobbery I had, any judgements about what people who live on council estates were like, were eradicated by that experience. I honestly thought I was not judgemental at all.

But I am ashamed to say that when I started to let people know about the domestic violence; when social services became involved, when I was being referred for support at the children’s centre I was incredibly uncomfortable with it. I found that actually I was still a bit of a snob.

I didn’t want to talk about my experience because I still couldn’t quite believe that it was happening to me. I figured the Women’s Aid workers would be shocked to come out to a relatively nice area of town and it was important to me that social services, Women’s Aid and everyone else knew that I wasn’t a typical abuse victim, I was a nice middle class mummy, a Christian. Not one of “those” women.

Yet the ladies who work for Women’s Aid tell me they have been in every kind of home, that doctors, solicitors, clergymen, policemen, are all just as prone to being abusers as anyone else.

And we know this, we only need to look in the news, Charles Saatchi, Chris Brown, Oscar Pistoruis- a seemingly nice bloke, all perpetrators of domestic violence. Nigella is the epitome of the posh domesticated goddess, the tough career women who won’t be messed with. It didn’t make her immune to domestic abuse. Abuse knows no boundaries, it doesn't discriminate.

And it wasn’t just that it wasn’t a class issue that shocked me. It isn’t a faith issue either. I honestly thought that the figures for Domestic Abuse amongst Christians would be lower, but they’re not, and worse abusers who are Christian use the bible to justify their abuse or even further abuse their victims- but that’s a whole other blog post. 

This myth that I believed about abuse was particularly damaging because it made me feel shame and that bought my silence for longer. Whoever you are, whatever your circumstances, rich, poor, mild mannered or a bit feisty, highly educated or unqualified, black, white, religious, irreligious, straight or gay,  you can still be experiencing domestic abuse. There is no typical abuse victim.

Please check out the rest of the Abuse is not series by clicking on the tab at the top of this post

Monday, 19 May 2014

First Love

It’s spring cleaning time and for me this has meant sorting through the few remaining effects of my marriage. I decided to look at everything and store a few things, like the wedding photos, that I cannot yet bear to part with, in a box put away out of sight. The rest of the stuff I have either binned or sent to him.

I’m a bit of an old romantic and I had kept all the love letters he wrote me over the years, in fact not just the love letters, but all the birthday/Christmas/valentines cards and even the many many “sorry it won’t happen again” letters. As I found them I read a couple. I thought I would find remembering his words of love painful; I thought it would make me feel a huge sense of loss that I don’t have his love anymore. Not so. I felt a little cross and irritated as I read them and realised what utter rubbish he was talking, I read a couple and realised that none of his long eloquent words were sincere. I had thought I might keep a few special ones in my memory box but with a big “pft” I threw the lot in the bin, not really feeling anything.  A friend suggested I burn them, but you know they were such a load of insincere tosh they weren’t even worth the effort of striking a match.

The realisation that he never properly loved me has been hard for me recently. I know it’s not my fault and that the reason he didn’t love me was because he is broken, that he is the one incapable of loving, nothing to do with me being unlovable. But, I have felt melancholy that I have wasted so many years when I could have been with someone who loved me, actually loved me for me. I had been thinking how tragic it is that I have never known real love.

But then  after I had finished going through the stuff to do with my ex husband I decided I may as well sort through all my other old treasure, maybe let go of some more possessions from my past as I embrace my future. And that’s when I found them.

Real love letters

They weren’t full of eloquent poetry like my husband used to write. My boyfriend before him was a musician, he could write a beautiful melody but he wasn’t so great with words. But they were real, they were genuine. There was not a hint of manipulation in them. But two simple phrases of three words each changed my view of myself. They were “I love you” and “I miss you” There were no apologies for having hurt me (because he didn’t) there were no long passages about how I was his princess or the one who completed him, there were no empty promises about our future together. Just simple heartfelt words about how he loved me and missed me.

And whilst ultimately we weren’t right for each other,  I can look back and see the mementos of that young first love I had with a functional human being, capable of giving and receiving love,  who taught me to give and receive love and I realise I don’t need to mourn that I have never felt real love, because I have. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Lord is my shepherd

Psalm 23.
The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
 He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honour me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Probably one of the most famous passages in the bible, you don’t need to read your bible or even be a believer to have heard this Psalm, you just have to have been to a funeral.

But it’s so much more than a standard reading for a funeral. This Psalm has brought me so much comfort in the last year, it has been a constant reminder to me that I don’t make this difficult journey alone, that no matter how dark the paths I tread my Father is treading them alongside me, protecting me, guiding me, strengthening me.

Whenever I’ve read this Psalm I’ve felt an enormous sense of God’s peace in my life, that even though I may be in turmoil, walking through the ‘darkest valley’ I have a spirit of peace residing within me, whatever happens in my life, with God I don’t need to simply look forward to ‘green meadows and peaceful streams’ I have that sanctuary right now.

In the early days of the split from my husband when things were very raw and painful, where I could see nothing but a bleak and lonely future I would read Psalm 23 and the sense of fear would lift, I would know that somehow, although I couldn’t see how, somehow I’d be ok.

Last night I read it and felt so incredibly blessed to have had God walking with me on this journey. I was reminded of how far I have come from that broken woman who sat sobbing from morning to night, I can see how much I have been strengthened. And as I read “He guides me along right paths bringing honour to his name” I realised that a lot of the worries I have felt recently about what God’s plans for my life are, and what I should do are needless, he’s walking with me, he’s guiding me, and as long as I look to him he’ll make sure the paths I take in life are the right ones, as long as I continue to look to Jesus he will use me to bring glory to him. And that's what it's all about.

I used to read this Psalm and read the line “I will not be afraid” and say “that’s right, I have no need to fear, it will be ok” now I read it and read “my cup overflows with blessings” I look at my life, I look at my lovely home, my three boys, my wonderful friends and family, I consider the freedom I now cherish, the peace I now enjoy, the love of a saviour who never once abandoned me or let me go and I think “wow, my cup really does overflow with blessings” 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Abuse is not....A side effect of steroids (or other drugs or alcohol)

 When I first left my husband I felt like the lovely guy I had married had “turned into” a monster. And I blamed the steroids he took for this. I was angry, really angry. Still hopelessly in love with him and wanting to excuse his behaviour and see the good in him I contacted his dealer and publically told him on facebook that  he was to blame for the abuse I’d suffered.

But over time, as memory blanks have been filled in I have realised this isn’t strictly true. I can remember being scared of my husband long before he started to take steroids. I ‘left’ him several times for pushing me, for punching out walls. I remember making excuses for finger sized bruises on my arm all long before 
                                                                                      he took steroids. 

I’ve also read lots of books about the early warning signs of an abusive man, about how he will seek to establish control right from the start of the relationship and I can see these signs from day one. This shows that he was always the way he is now. It also shows that his abuse is down to his attitudes and his desire to control me rather than the side effect of a drug. My husband would have been abusive even if he had never taken steroids.

I’m not sure how much the violence would have escalated from the pushing and shoving without the steroids though. My first memory of my husband really hurting me was when he first put me in a choke hold and this coincides with the time he started taking steroids. The violence and aggression definitely worsened when he started taking steroids. But it was violence that was already present.

My husband used to say “steroids don’t make someone violent but if you’re a dick before you take them they’ll make you even more of a dick” I agree with him. Thing is he didn’t seem to realise he was “a dick” before he took steroids; I don’t think many people do see themselves this way.  My husband’s steroid use heightened his aggression and increased the violence. However without them he’d still be abusive. Whether he was taking a drug that made him feel aggressive or not he still knew right from wrong, and I know plenty of people who use steroids and manage not to be violent.

Men who chose to abuse do so because of their beliefs and their attitudes. Mainly these men feel entitled to certain things, to a certain lifestyle and when they don’t get those things they also feel entitled to behave abusively.  Therefore whether his particular demon is steroids, recreational drugs,  or alcohol it’s not the chemicals which make him abusive, it’s his attitudes. The chemicals merely reduce his inhibitions so he is more likely to choose not to exert the same control over his behaviour, but sooner or later, because of his entitled attitude he won’t bother to reign himself in anyway whether under the influence or not.

I don’t think it is possible for my husband to learn to stop being aggressive and violent whilst he is taking a drug that increases these attributes. However, for most men to address their abusive behaviours it takes more than changing the chemicals they are pumping into their body, it takes a complete re-wiring of their attitudes, and whilst this re-wiring isn’t going to happen whilst taking steroids, stopping his drug use alone won’t fix him.

Being an alcoholic, or a junkie, or a juiced up on ‘roids is not an excuse for abuse and neither will abuse stop if he ‘cleans up his act’ 

Please check out the rest of the Abuse is not series by clicking on the tab at the top of this post

Monday, 12 May 2014

The abusive Christian: a not so rare breed.

It’s taken a long time for the full realisation of what my children and I went through to creep up on me. Now that it has I often find myself in a serious state of shock and disbelief that this could happen to us. Suddenly in what can seem like a fairly ordinary and mundane moment of life I’ll hit a wall of horror and disgust that this happened.

But that’s not the only thing that horrifies me.

What I find more shocking is that this awful, life changing experience is not unusual. I am not some unlucky victim who was unfortunate enough to pick the wrong man. I am not a one-off, my life is not an ‘isolated incident’ within a society that condemns this kind of behaviour. No. I am normal. I am a statstic and a pretty big one at that. I am part of a group of 25% of the UK’s female population. That’s 7.85 MILLION women in the UK alone who have, are or will experience what I went through.

We spend time telling abuse victims that what they went through is not normal. Sadly it is. If 25% of the female population experience something it’s hardly abnormal.

Wrong- yes
Not their fault- correct
Abnormal- no!

And it’s not just women, one third of all children are affected by domestic abuse. To put it in perspective there will be three classes in my children’s year when they start school- 90 children. This means that statistically speaking a whole class of children in one year group at their school will have been affected by domestic abuse. Doesn’t that terrify you?  It does me.

But there’s something that horrifies me and angers me even more than all of this.

It’s the fact that these statistics are no different in the Christian community. 

Aren’t we called to be different?

What happened to “you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:20)   or  “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
How can it possibly be that within the Church Christian men are abusing God’s daughters and Christians are not up in arms outraged by this?

Recently something like half a million Christians signed a petition against gay marriage. How can it be that half a million Christians care so much about what two consenting adults do but aren’t making the same fuss about what Christian men are doing to women and children in their churches and Sunday Schools?

And I am angered when I talk to the Christian community about this in the context of my experience and am told that “it’s a private matter” and “it isn’t right to talk about that sort of thing publically”

I’m angered when I speak to other Christian abuse victims and they tell me their pastors told them to keep quiet, or to focus on being a better wife, or to practise forgiveness or that divorce is a sin or to pray for their husband and 'trust God' and other such words which keep women trapped and add to the abuse.

I’m angered that every single church in the UK is not standing up and saying “abuse is wrong, we will not tolerate it in our communities” that proper church discipline is not being applied to abusers and victims are not being wholeheartedly supported and believed.

Next Sunday morning look how many women are in your church. And remember that 25% of those women are likely to be suffering, or have suffered domestic abuse. You might not know who they are, you might not be able to go and rescue them. But does your church live out a culture that supports women, that enables and empowers women, so that when they realise for themselves what is happening they'll feel safe and supported. Or does it have a culture that encourages inequality and secrecy, so victims stay silent and perpetrators continue unchallenged?

Friday, 9 May 2014

This kitchen is for dancing

When I was fifteen my first boyfriend took me to the after show party for the show we’d just been in, it was in a nightclub. I was terrified of the notion that I’d have to dance. I’d been in a car accident almost a year earlier and broken my pelvis and I was relieved for the excuse that I couldn’t dance on it. The idea of dancing in front of all my friends and my boyfriend, and looking stupid terrified me, I vowed I’d never dance in public. By the time I was eighteen however I’d worked out that dancing was bearable with a few drinks inside you.

But in private that’s another matter….

I’ve always danced in the kitchen, the older I’ve got the less self-conscious I've got and the more I’ve danced.  It used to be met with tuts and comments like “Stop farting around and get on with it” (“it” usually being making his food for the day) It was hard to not let those comments steal my joy but if I’m honest I’d still be dancing inside even if on the outside I was dutifully cutting up chicken.

I REALLY dance in my kitchen now, I am lucky I have a big kitchen with a breakfast bar where my boys sit and eat, or watch me cook with calls of “is dinner nearly ready?” I’m not a natural mover, I don’t have rhythm, I have no doubt I look ridiculous. But I dance. My boys sit at the breakfast bar and laugh their socks off as I stir their dinner, chop veg and still manage to boogie at the same time. On occasion they’ll even come and take my hand and dance with me, although I have to admit that takes a lot of persuasion.

For me dancing in the kitchen is the epitome of my freedom, I dance, I feel happy, I feel free, rather than have somebody sniping about how I’m making everyone late or how stupid I look, I have three kids who take pleasure in the fact that I am happy, and if I don’t feel happy when I start to dance I certainly do by the time I finish. If a man complains about me dancing in the kitchen again, for me this will be a game changer- love me, love my dancing.

My dancing looks quite a bit like this, and I hope I’ll still be doing it when I am this lady’s age. Enjoy

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Abuse Is Not...The result of being abused yourself

Growing up I knew two brothers whose Dad was not a nice guy. I don’t really know what went on behind closed doors but I do know he was bitter, negative and used to demand his much more qualified wife stay home and ‘keep house’ returning home from work to say “where’s my dinner woman” and other such niceties.

One of his teenage sons was starting to be very much like his dad, also demanding his mother iron his clothes before a night out and referring to her as ‘woman’ he was starting to display the same sexist attitudes as his dad. The other however couldn’t be more different. He was mild mannered, respectful towards women, loved to spend time looking after children and was able to iron his own shirts.

Like these two boys everyone has a choice about how they behave, what attitudes they follow. If your Dad is a poor role model I am sure it’s more difficult, but when you become an adult you have a choice about whether you do what he did or reject the notions he held.

When I married my husband his mother said to me “you don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for, he’s just like his father” 
She was right.

My father in law was not much of a Dad, my husband used to tell me his Dad never said he was proud of him, didn’t show him much affection and was lazy and workshy, leaving everything to my mother in law. I suspect he was abusive too.

I always blamed my father in law for my husbands lack of self esteem, and this lack of self esteem for his abuse. I was convinced that if my husband had had a loving father
who was a good role model his life would have turned out differently.
And maybe it would.

But that’s not an excuse. As I see my husband re-living his Dad’s life I feel sad. But I look at my sons and see that cycles don’t HAVE to repeat themselves. Loads of children grow up with an abusive or an absent father and don’t do the same things he did. They have happy productive relationships because they choose to reject their father as a role model.

And as I raise my boys I will always teach them to be discerning in who they see as a role model. To think carefully about the choices they make. To be their own person and take responsibility for their own actions.

Men who have grown up in abusive households have a tough time, they may be profoundly affected by what they’ve experienced but if they themselves become abusers that is something they have CHOSEN to do, not something imposed on them by the baggage of their past, which they have the power and control to let go of.

Please check out the rest of the Abuse is not series by clicking on the tab at the top of this post

Monday, 5 May 2014

Abusive Dad- Oxymoron.

Abusive Dad, it’s an oxymoron.

You cannot be both a dad and an abuser.

They’re mutually exclusive.

Every day we all make choices. Our behaviour is a reflection of those choices. It’s not a reflection of how stressed we are, or how skint we are or of our mental health problems, or our addictions. It’s a reflection of our choices. Regardless of how difficult our life is, regardless of what rocky paths we tread we have a choice about how we treat those who stumble along beside us.

And when a man chooses to be abusive he chooses not to be a Dad. 

  • A Dad puts the needs of his children before his own. An abuser puts his own needs first
  • A Dad protects his children. An abuser harms his children ( if not physically then emotionally)
  • A Dad is a role model to his children. An abuser is a bad influence on his children.
  • A Dad loves his children and teaches them how to love others. An abuser teaches children to disrespect those they love.
  • A Dad encourages his children. An abuser belittles his children and their mother.
  • A Dad provides for his children. An abuser provides for himself.
  • A Dad helps his children to grow as individuals. An abuser believes children are his ‘possession’
  • A Dad is involved in his children’s lives. An abuser expects his children to fit in with his life.
  • A Dad listens to his children. An abuser shouts at, talks over his children or insists they should “be seen and not heard”
  • A Dad disciplines his children in love. An abuser is harsh with his children, or in some cases indulges them and undermines their mother’s discipline.
  • A Dad teaches his children about equality. An abuser disrespects his children’s mother and gives them a distorted image of the role of women.
  • A Dad empathises with his children. An abuser is unable to empathise with anyone but feels entitled to have his own emotional needs met, even by small children.
  • A Dad accepts, apologises for, and learns from his mistakes. An abuser does not make mistakes!

I could go on but I am sure you can see my point. Being a dad is not compatible with being an abuser. The choice to be an abuser is the same thing as the choice not to be a dad to your children. 

If your children have a father who is an abuser, always remember it’s HIS CHOICE not to be their Dad, it’s his choice to miss out on the joy that comes with being a Dad, and it’s more his loss than theirs.

(All pictures taken from pinterest

Friday, 2 May 2014

One little Piggy

When I was about seven my mum and dad took me into our local branch of Natwest to open a children’s savings account. Anyone over a certain age will remember that as you saved up with Natwest you were rewarded with piggy banks until you had a whole family.

Well I didn’t save that much so only had two, but my favourite was the first one you get, the baby. One day I decided to count the money in my piggy bank, after climbing up to reach it from the top shelf I tossed it onto my bed while I climbed down. Unfortunately my bed wasn’t as soft as I thought and my money box smashed into tiny pieces.

Well my dad, he can fix anything, and seeing the tears in my eyes he carefully gathered the pieces up and painstakingly glued my money box back together. I still have it to this day.

Those Natwest piggies are worth a pretty penny today, but not mine. It’s not in mint condition, you can see all the cracks where it’s glued together on the back. But you know what, I don’t care, I wouldn’t part with it anyway. It’s one of my most treasured possessions. Not only because it reminds me of my childhood but it reminds me of the love and care with which my father ever so gently put it back together.

Some days I feel a bit like that piggy, like I’ve been smashed to tiny pieces, but that my heavenly father has ever so gently picked me up, and with love and care put me back together. I may not be in ‘mint condition’ I may have scars from being broken, but I am treasured and loved by God. And  unlike my piggy I think when God puts us back together he doesn’t just hold our fractures together with super glue, but he rebuilds, he forms a new creation, better and stronger than before, even more beautiful and precious . 

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3)

How awesome is God!