So often I’ve had times when I’ve found it so frustrating that ending the abusive relationship that I was in wasn’t actually, well, the end of it. For months afterwards I was stalked and harassed. He started a smear campaign to discredit anything I said. I felt like I constantly had to watch who I spoke to and what I said. I was doing everything to avoid backlash. It was as if he was cutting off the oxygen I needed to breathe at every angle and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to just walk away.
Throughout the harassment it escalated to a point of the police having to become involved for my safety and over a seven month span a case was built against him. I was granted a restraining order which should have given me space from him. In reality he just found other ways to continue behaving in the way he was. He used solicitors as a go-between for matters outside of contact for our son. He used friends and family on both sides to try and initiate contact directly with me. He even went as far as harassing my parents in the street. So why, when it should have been over, was it not over?
I have asked myself that question so many times over the years. Why does he feel he can still abuse me? Why do I have to put up with it? Why does he get away with it? Why do my family and friends have to put up with it? So many times I tried to say enough is enough, but somebody like him will never have enough.
For years I felt like a broken record. Explaining the situation I was in to solicitors, barristers, police, schools, nurseries and so on. I felt like I was droning on and sooner or later somebody was going to tell me to give it a rest. I felt like the more I had to explain myself the more I’d question myself and get confused as to what really happened. I was trying to speak about a time when I was living on autopilot to save myself from as much damage as possible. I also felt that people would start to become bored of hearing the same old same old, like I was stuck in a particular time and just needed to move forward. It’s not always as simple as moving forward though, is it?
The truth is sometimes I have wondered why people didn’t understand that I was stuck; that’s exactly how I felt. I had spent so long being told what to do, what not to do, how to do it, that I was useless and not needed that I had completely forgotten how to just ‘be’. I’d had so many restrictions put on my thought process, behaviour and life that I didn’t know what to do without them. I had fought for so long to get my own life back that I didn’t stop to think that I might not be the same person I was before once I did get my life back, and I wasn’t.
I had given up a lot to make the relationship work. It had obviously been in vein. I didn’t recognise the person I was left with. I didn’t recognise myself and I didn’t know what I was doing with the life that I had been left with. I was naïve in thinking that once I got out, all the trauma would melt away and I’d be back to my old self after a few weeks. In reality I was this person that I didn’t even recognise and if I wanted any form of life back then I would have to rebuilt it.
Rebuilding wasn’t easy. I’d take one step forward and it would feel so liberating. Then something, whether it be a random trigger or contact from my ex, would send me flying five steps back. At times I wanted to give up on building, what would be the point? Why was it so hard? But I soon realised that if I stayed in the box he put me in, if I didn’t try and claw back any form of my own identity again, then I would always be what he made me. I didn’t like the person he made me into.
So all of the steps backwards I was forced to take soon became less and less. It got easier as my confidence grew. It got less overwhelming when the triggers would jump out of nowhere. I got a lot stronger. The frustration of being pigeon-holed into a ‘victim’ unwound as I started to feel less of a victim. There was a time when the abuse I suffered was all-consuming. Now, it is just another chapter that taught MANY lessons.