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After abusive marriage. I am not a survivor, I am broken.

(44 Posts)
Glabella Sun 12-May-13 16:05:49

I left my abusive husband of 6 years, 6 months ago, and for a while things were better for me, it was such a relief, but now I find myself overwhelmed by memories. I have lost sight of what was normal and what wasn't, lost sight of what was true and what wasn't. I was holding it all together, had put all my memories in a nice box in my head marked marriage, but I have started counselling and my box has opened and it is all overwhelming me. I am having a breakdown, I can't get out of bed. I just want to say what happened to me to some people who will understand, who won't ask questions or think it was my fault. I can't bear the question that I know people will ask- 'why didn't you just leave?'

He was emotionally abusive through most of our relationship, although I thought this was normal at first having grown up with parents who had a similar dynamic. I was only 18. It was only little things at first. He would make little digs, jokes that weren't funny, put himself first. He was awful when we argued, would always threaten to leave, or say that I had no right to ask anything of him since he earned all the money. I was a full time student, and also working part time. I felt I had nowhere to go, apart from back home to my bickering parents. But when he was nice he was wonderful, he made me feel amazing, and all that happened was that the worse he was on the bad days, the more I ignored those days and clung to the good ones, because I believed they were all I had.

The first time he was violent it took me totally by surprise. In hindsight it was an escalation of the abuse, but at the time I couldn't see it as abuse, it just seemed to be out of the blue. Our families were helping us decorate our new house, he refused to help because he was in a bad mood. I got angry with him, told him to get his act together and come and help. He stormed out of the house, then as I turned to go back down the hall he slammed open the door, and pushed me against the wall by my throat. I was terrified, I couldn't breathe. He told me that if I ever spoke to him like that again he would kill me. I slapped him hard across the face and he let go, but because our house was so full of people and I was in shock I suppose I just pretended nothing had happened, intending to talk to him later. But later somehow he managed to talk me round, told me he was very stressed, he cried, seemed so genuinely ashamed of himself, and it had seemed so out of the blue. He agreed to get help, and I just didn't let myself think about it. We got married 3 months later, I believed things were better, that we were happy.

Things got much much worse when I got pregnant. It was like his nice guy facade was gone altogether. He was horrible to me, ignored me, did very little around the house and was verbally abusive. The smallest request for help was met with him calling me pathetic, telling me it was me who had wanted the baby and I should just deal with it. I had a very difficult pregnancy, was severely sick and had very low blood pressure that left me exhausted. Some times his verbal abuse went on for so long I was left sobbing on the floor, begging him to stop. He would block my exit, back me against a wall so I couldn't get away. A few times I was sick from crying so much. I felt so utterly helpless, he made me believe I wouldn't cope with labour, or the baby, that if I left him he would take the house and the baby and leave me with nothing. I was so scared and so tired and I believed him. I didn't leave. He had been diagnosed with depression, and was always ready with a very convincing excuse, a promise to get help. My family were encouraging me to support him, to stick by him because he was ill, although I didn't tell them just how bad things were. When I was in labour he went to bed, and refused to get up for an hour when I woke him terrified having progressed very quickly and gone into transition.

After our daughter was born things were better for a while, and I began to feel stronger since I could focus on her. But still he called me names, refused to help with the baby, did no night feeds or settling. He made me feel I was a shit mum, told me that all our friends and family thought so too. That there was no way I would keep the baby if I left. Once I came close to leaving, and he swung his fist towards my face while I was holding our daughter, telling me that the next time I threatened to leave he wouldn't pull his punch. I knew I had to leave then, I stopped fighting back, stopped arguing with him, tried to get my head straight so I could go.

Then he told me he didn't love me anymore, and I was devastated. I suppose I should have been relieved, but I was still holding out hope that it was down to his depression, and I loved him. It was a new tactic to break me, and for a while it worked. Our daughter was teething, still breastfeeding round the clock and I was beyond tired, just barely getting through the days. He was so distant, he wouldn't speak to me apart from to make nasty comments. And he became nasty sexually, a few times not stopping when I said no (he would say he hadn't heard me, I'm not sure why I didn't shout it louder, I just let it happen), a few times pressuring me into it or holding me even though I made it clear I didn't want to. A few times he tried to have sex with me in my sleep, holding me down, although I woke up and kicked him off. He said he was asleep, but that seems pretty unlikely. I am only just letting myself know that this was rape. I don't know how to live with that.

Eventually I built myself up enough to kick him out- I planned, researched finances, read mumsnet, made some new friends. Convinced myself I wasn't as worthless as he had made me believe. I did it, and he has stayed gone, and I am much better without him. But now nobody really understands why I am struggling, they just say 'well he's gone now'. But its always running through my head, trying to disentangle his lies, realising just what he did to me. I dream about it. It is just so hard. I ask myself every day why I didn't leave and I still don't really know, it was like I was in a horrible nightmare where there is no way out whichever way you turn. I don't know what I want you to say, just that it wasn't my fault? I don't know how to get out of the horrible dark place I am in now and get over this.

Roshbegosh Sun 12-May-13 16:12:08

None of it was our fault. It will be a long, painful healing process for you but you will find yourself again. You lived in all this trauma and abuse for so long but now you have given a future to you and your daughter. You are amazing to have got out. Inspirational.

ThereGoesTheYear Sun 12-May-13 16:22:04

It's not your fault. You did your best and, hard as it was, you got out and you've stayed out. That's truly amazing. Not everyone manages to do that.

I read on another thread here a wise woman saying something along the lines of: you're not like glass; you won't stay broken. You're a living breathing, healing human being. You will heal and grow stronger.

Counselling is a good start. Have you thought of the Freedom Programme? IME that's a great place to talk with people who know exactly what you've gone through, and what you're going through now. E.g. I did the programme with about a dozen other women, and they had all had their partner do that awful sleep sex thing.

There's also the Emitional Abuse thread in Relationships. You'll be amongst friends there.

It does get easier. But make sure you have support whilst you're opening that box in your head.

gettingeasiernow Sun 12-May-13 16:45:17

You sound like a very brave, intelligent lady. You have come so very very far to break the dynamic established by your parents and get out. You have gone against the default position they programmed into you and this requires so much discipline and intellect and insight. Now you've flopped into a heap of emotional exhaustion. You've made the first steps but there is still stuff to mend in your head. But you'll get there - you will be buoyed by your love for your dd and your desire to avoid setting her the default that you had. Little by little you will move to a brighter future. Good luck and keep posting.

Ponyofdoom Sun 12-May-13 16:58:32

I think you sound brilliant. You got out after only 6 years which is pretty damn good, it took me 15 years and it takes many others a lot longer. It seems to me that it is often the good character traits of the abused person that means they stay- I think I stayed because I was kind, stoical and loyal and loved him, I put it down to his bad childhood etc, so I know it wasn't my fault, just as it wasn't your fault apart from your good character! I hope you can try to see it as I see it now- a learning curve/life experience that will make me appreciate the good times in the future and help me to spot the red flags next time! I do kick myself about staying so long and think about it a lot, but am otherwise fine. You are obviously a strong person to have got away so I can tell you will be absolutely fine. Not sure if this helps but I wanted to reply as I went through similar abuse and really feel for you x

minkembra Sun 12-May-13 17:21:06

glabella i am really sorry you had such a horrible time. no one deserves that. it was not your fault but sadly that doesn't make it go away.

you are a survivor just to have gone through all that and come out the otherside. you are very brave.

it is hard to recover especially when the person who did this to you will never apologise never be punished and will probably never even admit they did anything.

but you will. you have compassion and strength and love on your side.

he on the other hand will never change.

offering you (((hugs))) and hand holding.

come to the EA thread if when you feel ready.

minkembra Sun 12-May-13 17:27:10

glabella i think i know what you mean about how no one understands how you feel now. people think you ought to be happy to be free.

think of it like this- it is as if you have been in an accident. initially you feel lucky to have escaped. but no one is happy to have been in an accident in the first place.

you have had a horrible experience.

my EA r/s injured my sense of myself. I am still reconstructing myself. it is hard. but i think with time i will get myself back. older and wiser hopefully smile

Soundofthecrowd Sun 12-May-13 17:28:14

Six months is not really that long to get over such a traumatic experience. Meanwhile you are caring for a very young child. You sound lovely and I'm sure you have a wonderful future ahead with your dd. You will definitely get there. You did an incredibly strong thing. Good luck.

Hissy Sun 12-May-13 17:32:34

Sweety, well done for getting out so soon. Took me longer than it did you.

The first 6m you get through on adrenaline alone, that's worn out now, so it's a little more real and you have lost the umph you had that got you here.

Now you have to tap into your own strengths. You have them, but they have been covered up for years by the actions of a warped and inferior man.

What you are feeling is text book. Happens pretty much to everyone.

There are phases in recovery:

You get out, you feel relief, stupidity, trauma, fear, tired, elated and proud.

Life ticks along and the drive of the adrenaline lessens, fear is gone and RL lays out before you, the fog of the abuse lifts and you can see ahead for the first time.

it's daunting, it's terrifying. That is where you are now.

What you need to do is remind yourself of why you are out, remind your self WHY you knew you had to end it. Set yourself small short term future tasks, and work toward them.

Get yourself on the Freedom Programme. It's not the golden bullet you think it is, but it shows you how you are not alone and how there are people out there that understand you.

Can you try and get some therapy? I did and it transformed my life.

Post on the Emotional Abuse threads here, again, lifesavers.

Your recovery is a flight of stairs. You started at the bottom, you are few steps up from there now, but there are more to go to climb back up to where you ought to be.

I'm over 2 years on, and am stronger than I have ever been in my life. In a funny way, perhaps I would not be so happy now, if I had not had the abuser in my life and the resultant necessity to put myself into therapy/group/FP. Perhaps it'd alarm him to know that actually, a whole lot of GOOD has come from my experiences.

Have you got the Lundy Bancroft Book? Why Does He Do That? it's really good at helping you see the truth of it all, in that none of this was anything to do with you and you could no more have stopped it than been the first woman on the moon.

GirlWiththeLionHeart Sun 12-May-13 17:35:25

You poor thing. You're probably suffering from PTSD from years of abuse. Well done for leaving, I hope you find peace soon x

FairyFi Sun 12-May-13 17:46:18

you did remarkably to do all that acknowledgement of huge problems, planning, moving out and moving on.

This is your functioning self surviving. You survived for all those years, but during that time, the inner you was battered to a place of submission, sadness and possibly terror. That part can't surface when you are with someone who tears apart your vulnerabilities.

Now you are sufficiently distanced from it all, you can really start losing the front woman, and let out the suppressed self that took all the battering, as you obviously feel safe enough to do that now.

This is you on your road to recovery hun. Although it probably feels far from that right now, it won't always.

I'd recommendd FP too, it is full of women who struggle to make sense of 'what just happened to me'!

The result of abuse is you feeling sad, mad, bad. This is what happens, and why you feel this way. Going to FP does help you to identify the 'what happened'.

You have had a massive trauma, it doesn't matter that it didn't put you in hospital and take doctors to tell you, you must rest and take it easy and start doing things slowly, and stop when it hurts, but all those things apply. As well as powerful medications like Validation and Support. The other very powerful remedy is lavishing lots of kindnesses on yourself, relaxing and resting, all of which you must overdose on regularly.

These things are the antidote which will start reversing the toxins he poured into you.

It will come to you whatever you need to do to help yourself best, just know that there are lots of ways of going through this, but whats best is at your own pace. There are amazing helps out there, a book springs to mind, plus WA, plus the EA thread, along with lots of websites links that help pull that jigsaw puzzle back together.

Well done for posting this, writing is also one of the best ways of processing this, as you need the space, and respect for that, to say your words in your own way, when you are ready, another profound change for you, and one thats esential to welcome back into your life now.

I think the EA thread could make useful reading for you, if you wanted to pursue that, or felt you could post there too, you would certainly be very welcome.... above all, you are your focus now, ask the questions you want to the help, you need, and to help you discover what helps.

warmest wishes xxx

butterflymeadow Sun 12-May-13 20:42:05

Huge hugs to you. I can't say much to add to what others have said, but you were 18, you had a toxic childhood, this man was supposed to love you, you were working into the ground, you had a baby, you were exhausted, those are only the most obvious reasons why you did not leave, that is before you consider the complex ways abuse works. Be gentle on yourself, be kind to yourself, you will slowly but surely heal.

I think part of it is when you are in, it takes all your energy to survive, it is only when you are out, you start to hopefully feel safe enough to process what happened. And it is a lot to process.

The other thing, and I struggle here too, is that if your parents were abusive, and you recognise that led you to accept a similar dynamic you have to process that too, and you are doing it all without parental support and love which you should be able to rely on.

Finally, I am sorry you were raped. I think you have made an enormous step naming it on here. I know how difficult that is. If you have the strength, maybe Rape Crisis can help. But when you are ready.

All the very best.

WinnieFosterTether Sun 12-May-13 21:16:21

You need to give yourself time to heal. It is like suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. When you're in the midst of an EA relationship, you're focused on surviving and it's only once you escape that you have space to process everything. It's part of the healing process.

You are brave. Being brave doesn't mean not having weaknesses, it means being strong enough to leave and to recognise when you need help. I left an EA relationship and didn't acknowledge it, or get counselling so I fell back into another one.

Your counselling will help you to understand how he abused you and why you stayed and enable you to give your dd healthy relationship models. You're doing incredibly well.

Be gentle with yourself.

CharlotteCollinsismovingon Sun 12-May-13 22:08:22

You had so many good reasons not to leave - low self-confidence, believing it was your fault there were problems, ignoring as much as possible the stuff you couldn't process (because why would anyone behave like that, who is also capable of being lovely? You can't just jump to the conclusion that he's an abusive monster - you loved him and naturally wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.), mental and physical exhaustion (from the abuse, the baby and the lack of support).

And it's a lot to move on from. Before you can move on, you have to deal with it. It's a lot of sorting out, sifting through (although it feels a lot more chaotic and raw than that!) and coming to terms with - and you will come out the other end stronger and wiser, but it will take time. For now, be kind to yourself - none of it was your fault (Lundy Bancroft's book can help explain that), and your feelings are nothing to be ashamed of. Sit with your feelings: just let them happen, watch them as it were. They're part of your healing; don't be scared of them.

And post on the EA thread when you're ready, if you want. Best wishes.

PurpleThing Sun 12-May-13 22:11:29

Don't beat yourself up for not leaving him sooner.

Get the Bancroft book (one about children healing from abuse is excellent too) as it explains that in some cases getting out straight away is not the right thing to do, sometimes it is not safe and you are the best judge of what is right to do in your own circumstances.

I feel ashamed that I 'let' it happen to me. I was also very sick in my pregnancy and I think it terrified me that I needed to rely on someone who was becoming so cruel, I just went into survival mode. Trying to keep him happy or not rock the boat.

ponygirlcurtis Sun 12-May-13 22:34:58

You've been through a terrible, terrible trauma. The very fact that you left is in itself an achievement. But what Hissy said resonated for me as well - I have been out nearly a year, and I am starting to wonder when I will stop thinking about all that happened on a daily basis, when will I stop playing it all over and over in my head. I too was sexually assaulted, and I can't say it in any other way than that, and even that has taken me all this time to be able to say.

Have you been to the doctor? There might be something he can give you - they wont make you 'happy', but might take the edge of it off. They did/do for me. And just talking to someone like that, talk to as many professional people as you can - your GP, your Health Visitor (mine has been amazing), a solicitor. The more people you tell, the less difficult it gets to talk about it. It doesn't lessen what happens, but makes you less afraid to talk.

Above all, be kind to yourself. Let others help you, if the offers are there. Even if it's just coming and doing the dishes, or taking DD out for a while so you can sleep. Don't try and do it all yourself. People have told me I must be 'strong' for getting through what I've been through, but I don't like that. I prefer: resilient, resourceful, determined. And that's what you are too.

Hissy Sun 12-May-13 23:36:12

Pony, it will stop, but you have to let go first I think. You have to really take on board that this was done TO you, not BY you, or BECAUSE of you. It was nothing about you, never was, it would have happened to whoever he was with, perhaps the details would change, as the triggers or weak points would be different. You didn't do this. But you CAN heal yourself.

Sure we all kick ourselves royally about not leaving. I know the precise moment I should have kicked his arse to the curb, and in fact I did, but the bastard came back all sorry and upset and ladled on the guilt trip about being all alone in the world... <slaps self>

I had nightmares, horrible, terrifying lucid nightmares for a while. I changed my bedroom about, bought new duvet covers etc, moved all the pictures about and made it MY room. the nightmares never returned.

I think if feelings are unmanageable, if we are utterly crushed, then ADs might be of use, but the actual fact of the matter is that the things that have happened to us ARE sad, they ARE tragic and to NOT feel them somehow MAY prevent us learning and growing.

SAD is an emotion that can make us stronger. Trauma however, one that hangs around, seems to be something that ought to be brought to the attention of the medics.

Please, imagine recovery from abuse as a flight of stairs up from a deep dark cellar. At the bottom it all feels scary and confusing, at the top, or near it, we wonder WTF we were doing in the cellar in the first place grin

Keep talking, keep climbing. To all of you in similar situations as OP or Pony, I say this.... THIS TIME NEXT WEEk/MONTH/YEAR.... you will ALL feel a bit and then a lot better than you do today.

If we had stayed with these terrible men, we would be feeling WORSE, and in a years time EVEN WORSE. Now we are out, there really IS only one way and that IS up.

If anyone is in Hampshire, North Hampshire particularly and needs RL support, I work with a charity that runs groups (free) where DV victims can go and talk/listen and just be. It really helped me.

Hissy Sun 12-May-13 23:40:00

Actually Pony, a year is significant too, you may get some, 'this time last year' issues. Be mindful of these and be strong and tell yourself that when you knew better, you did better, and remind yourself of how far you have come.

If you wobble lovey, please let us know if you need hands, hugs etc?

it does get easier, it really does!

Snazzynewyear Sun 12-May-13 23:40:24

Much better advice already here than I can offer but I just wanted to add, one more time, IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. No way was this your fault. It is a long journey to heal from something like this so don't think that because you feel broken now, you will feel that way forever.

butterflymeadow Sun 12-May-13 23:42:20

Thank you hissy, for posting about your bedroom. I have been thinking I need to move house sad but also having ideas for changing the house. It is really positive to know these things helped you.

OP, I hope you are okay and find the strength to keep talking, in rl or here, to find the support you need.

venusandmars Sun 12-May-13 23:43:18

Glabella my story is different to yours, yet horribly similar. When exh tried to have sex with me and I said 'no' (and he carried on anyway) he said that I was frigid sad. I was not allowed to spend any money (despite me earning a decent salary in a good job and despite us having £000s in the bank) sad and although he was not violent to me I lived in fear that one day he might kill me sad

But how the hell did I let all that happen? I had been a strong independent woman, so why did I not assert myself earlier, or get out earlier, or tell someone, or do something about it? For me, I'd bought into a particular 'myth' about marriage and married woman, and I was trying to live up to that ideal, even though it was completely contrary to my innate character. I tried and I tried and I tried until I'd completely lost sight of myself. So when rape occurred - I tried to believe I was being dutiful, when anger loomed - I thought it was my responsibility to calm things down.

When I did garner enough courage to leave I was called a home breaker by him and his friends/family. And my friends/family asked why I had let it get so bad.

What I needed was complete and unconditional support (which I hope you get on here). Support that says you did the best you could during your marriage, and that you that you did the best thing ever by leaving.

Many years on I am now in a lovely relationship with my kind and gentle and exciting dp (we've been together for 16 years), and this has helped to put the past hurt into perspective and to help me understand my own helplessness in the situation. You are NOT to blame.

minkembra Mon 13-May-13 00:10:21

thanks thanks hissy for those excellent posts. I found them really helpful.

hope some of this is helping you too glabella brew

onwards and upwards.

DistanceCall Mon 13-May-13 00:34:53

You did leave him, in very, very difficult circumstances. And you were so young!

As other people have said, it's been a short time. It will get better, please believe that. This is normal, and you are doing really well, and you are a brave, wonderful woman.

Keep working on the counselling - it's hard, but necessary. And feel very proud of yourself.

mcmooncup Mon 13-May-13 09:31:45

As you are seeing from everyone else who has been through this, you definitely seem to follow the change curve.
Denial - fear - anger - low/depressed - acceptance - moving on.

You are maybe at the low part.

I think the thing about it all coming to the surface about what our marriages were like, all those incidents that you filed away somewhere to survive the day, all the damage they have inflicted on us......it's got to be done. I see women who unfortunately don't go through this period of realisation and remain in denial. They then seem to be vulnerable to entering another destructive / abusive relationship.
The hardest times genuinely make us stronger, and I mean in the sense that you are authentic, real and at peace.
I'm 2 years on from leaving a 15 year abusive relationship and I'm good. Mostly I'm happy, have great things going on. It's fun but also overwhelming finding out about yourself after so long being controlled.
My dark moments are about the time I wasted and a little resentment at how damaged I am...(bad boundaries etc.)
But I snap myself out of it pretty quickly now and look at how far I've come.
You'll be right smile

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 13-May-13 09:54:54

"Eventually I built myself up enough to kick him out- I planned, researched finances, read mumsnet, made some new friends. Convinced myself I wasn't as worthless as he had made me believe. I did it, and he has stayed gone, and I am much better without him. But now nobody really understands why I am struggling, they just say 'well he's gone now'"

You are a survivor, despite what you say. You've overcome so much in such a short space of time already that I take my hat off to you. It's incredibly difficult to do what you did. Yes, you're struggling because you've been through a very traumatic experience and the counselling you are receiving is opening your eyes and forcing you to relive the hurt rather than leave it in the past. However, if you've acknowledged how bad it was you can tell your counsellor you want to start leaving that behind and working on the future... There's no obligation to keep raking up the past if it is damaging you.

What I wanted to say about 'well he's gone now' is that you don't need other people's understanding necessarily. In fact, it's very difficult for anyone to empathise when they haven't been where you are now. Support is different. If you need support ask for it specifically. Say what you actually need others to do. If you just want them to listen rather than comment, tell them that up front.

Good luck

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