Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Full Hands

“You’ve got your hands full” calls the old guy peering over the hedge he’s clipping. He doesn’t realise that the lady over the road carrying her shopping in said the same thing two minutes earlier and the postman as I left the house. My twins have started school, they look adorable in their little uniforms. We get a lot of attention as we walk to school. I smile at the old man, just as I did at the lady with the shopping, and the postman, I dutifully say “yes, yes I have” after all, he’s only being friendly, he thinks he’s being original. Some days I have to grit my teeth but usually I am thankful that I get to share in these little guys lives. It’s so much easier to be thankful these days.

Two years ago when strangers would say “you’ve got your hands full” I hated it. I used to think “you don’t know the half of it” I wanted to say “Full? Full? These two are nothing. Besides having another child at home I have a husband who regularly wakes me up by yelling at me, who keeps me awake all night- yes the husband, not the babies. Who screams and swears at these guys and makes them cry most days, who pushes me around, hurts me and complains about me, who leaves me to look after all three kids on my own while he sleeps in front of the TV or watches porn in his office, who can’t even aim straight when he has a pee.” I’m not sure how that would have gone down with strangers who were making a friendly comment about my cute kids.

I remember a couple of months before I left him sitting in the GP’s surgery asking for some anti-depressants because I just couldn’t cope anymore. The GP made a comment about how having preschool twins plus a child with autism and a husband with mental health problems must be stressful. I found myself saying “if it were just the children I’d be okay, it’s not the children making me feel like this at all, I just can’t cope with him, it’s all him” At this stage I was completely overwhelmed with what I felt were my responsibilities, caring for three children and trying to manage the emotions and behaviour of an unstable adult. Since learning that one of those people was not my responsibility life has become so much easier, my hands don’t feel full at all.

So now, when I smile at those lovely people commenting from their manicured suburban gardens about how full and busy my life must be, with no idea of what goes on in their own neighbourhood behind closed doors, I say “yes” but really I’m thinking “no my hands aren’t full, not really, not anymore”

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


The #whyIstayed and #whyIleft hashtags have been really informative. I know they have made a lot of survivors of domestic abuse feel they have a voice and I really hope they’ve helped to educate people a little about the dynamics of abusive relationships. Raising awareness about domestic violence is why I write.

But that’s not the only reason I write. I write to encourage. When I first left my husband it was the stories told online by other brave women that kept me strong. They told me I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t over reacting. They told me my husband wasn’t special, our relationship wasn’t “unique” or “meant to be” he was just an abuser, like every other abuser, nothing more, nothing less and no more likely to change. Without those stories I don’t know if I’d have stayed away. Those stories kept me safe and empowered me.

More than that those stories gave me hope. I read stories of women who’d learned to love themselves again, who found new homes, new careers. Who built afresh their relationships with their friends and their children. Women who described finding a joy, peace and freedom they never knew existed. These women told me, from their own experience that there is life after abuse. Abundant, joyful life. Life full of freedom, peace and laughter. At a time when I despaired, when I couldn’t bear to think about the future, when I felt like I could never be happy again I needed this. I really needed this.

One of the countless reasons I stayed with my husband is that he made me happy, or I thought he did. He didn’t hit me every day, sometimes he was lovely and I genuinely passionately loved him, I’d built my entire life around him and I couldn’t imagine ever being happy without him. And so I hope, I really hope that my blog lets other women, still in abusive relationships, or who have just left them know you can be happy, you can be so much happier without him.

I’ve written a few posts on how much better life is since I left my husband, such as:
Me and My Mystery Machine 

I think it would be awesome if the thousands of women who shared why they stayed could also encourage those about to walk that same painful path that the path widens, gets brighter and life becomes something wonderful. It really does.

So let’s all tweet not only #whyIstayed to raise awareness but also why #lifeisbetter now we’ve left to encourage one another. I’ll go first

#lifeisbetter because I can dig in the butter.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Me and My Mystery Machine

I love that feeling in the pit of my stomach as we sneak swiftly over the crest of a hill, I love the sound of my little boys squealing “faster mummy” and I love to glance over at the grin on my oldest boys face as he proudly looks down at the country side whizzing past from his new vantage point. Most of all I love the feeling of freedom knowing I can go anywhere, that I’m in control behind that wheel and the world is my playground.

I bought a camper van in the summer, we have had a few nights away in it and we’ve been for countless days out. Sometimes we just get in it and drive. Today after school we went out into the countryside just for a spin for an hour. 

I missed the turning I had meant to take. Two years ago this would have been a disaster, had I been with him it would have resulted in panic and shouting, had I been on my own I’d have been scared of being lost, scared that the roads would be too difficult for me to drive on, scared of getting home late….

Today missing the turning meant I discovered an amazing road where a tiny pretty stream cut through imposing hills covered in masses of deep purple heather and lush ferns. It was spectacular to drive along but more so as I realised that two years ago I’d never have dreamed I could have done.

My husband liked his cars, I had a tiny old hatchback, which he proudly told everyone that he had graciously bought me (with money from our joint account!) he changed his cars on a regular basis, but it was invariably large, shiny and fast. I’d get shouted at for closing the doors too hard, for making the car messy, for not watching where I put my feet. He regularly told me that I was burning out my clutch, that I was driving too close to the kerb, that I was a terrible driver. And this made me so because I was constantly nervous behind the wheel. I certainly would never have dared to drive his car for fear of scratching it. I hated country roads, I hated not knowing exactly where I was going and I was terrified to drive anything big.

Slowly I have got my confidence back, I have chosen to drive a van, and I love it, I feel like a total boss sitting up there, cruising along to the sounds of Tim McGraw and Lady Antebellum ambling along country lanes in awe of the breath-taking scenery on my doorstep that I never even noticed when I lived in my box with my ex.

In many ways overcoming abuse has been about overcoming fear, and that fear permeated so many aspects of my life. Driving a van might not seem like much of a challenge to some, to me it was, challenging myself, stepping out of my comfort zones and forcing myself to experience those things I previously thought were unavailable for me has been one of the greatest tools in my healing. I’m working this next year on being able to do all the things I previously thought I couldn’t.