"CAPABLE OF NOTHING"
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 know someone who possess narcissistic traits - whether it’s someone with an inflated ego or someone who demands everyones attention. 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, belittling people they see to be inferior, manipulating people to get what the want. NPD can have similar traits of a sociopath.
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 be 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 having spent 10 years in the Special Forces, and suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He also told me that his parents had passed away...turns out none of this was true but that’s a WHOLE other story!! So a lot of his bad behaviour was masked by his so called PTSD, so when I would be struggling to deal with his mood swings I’d go on the internet and search ‘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 “why do you make everything about yourself!”
He was psychologically abusive, he would say to me “are you bipolar?” “Have you got phycological problems?” “You’re mentally unwell! I’m worried about you” then would accuse me of being cold, unemotional and unsupportive when he was grieving the loss of his parents (who are very much alive). This is a tactic that a 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 saving was 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.
I am lucky to have infinite support from my family and friends, 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 also be put in danger. They seek help from Women Refuges around the UK from where they can seek safety and receive support for themselves and their children.
If you’ve ever heard an account like this before you may have 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, isolation, 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. Its taken me just over a year to feel anything other that numbness. I am constantly second guessing myself and all his past negative words still resonates in my mind on a daily basis. 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 Smith. She is an incredibly woman and if you know anyone who is/has suffered with domestic abuse then I would strongly recommend her. Also, please don't hesitate in contacting me if you need someone to talk to.
A year on and I have managed to solely raise two beautiful, kind and empathetic boys. I have my own clothing company, Putu and Pickles, along side my business partner Ali. 10% of our profits goes to Women's Aid. I am continuing to shout loud and send out awareness of Domestic abuse!… Not bad for a girl that was “capable of nothing”
FOLLOW KATE FORSTER
If you are triggered or need help with any issues mentioned in this article, please be sure to check out the resources page where there is a directory of health organisations and professionals, where you can ask for help. There is even a panic button.
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