Thursday, 3 November 2011

Domestic Violence Part 2 - Where It Led

Warning: This post will contain triggers regarding domestic abuse and upsetting images as I talk about my own experiences. 

This is a continuation of my last post regarding the early years of my abusive relationship, this one will cover the years afterwards.



As we were planning our move to the South I began to notice something, in both of the jobs he'd had since we were together he was 'being harassed by management'. I was worried my partner was being picked on so I dug a little deeper. I transpired that he had been insulting team members, making it clear he was above getting involved, he was 'bored' by the work and therefore not doing it and in one instance, when told planes had crashed into the World trade centre (where the company he worked for had offices) he stood up whilst everybody else was in shock and whooped for joy. Of course he spun it that they were stopping his freedom of speech, other people hated Americans so why make an example of him and so on and so forth. He was a nice guy (or, as I later learned a "Nice Guy") being tortured by anyone with power over him, normally women, me included - and he was bitter about it. Bitter and angry.

When we finally moved my Student loan was delayed, couples accommodation at the Uni wouldn't take us so we ended up staying in a guest house whilst we sorted a flat out. I discovered I was liable for paying my tuition fees because my parents didn't have the spare money and I was only eligible for minimal financial support leaving us with no money. My £700 student loan would only cover a couple of months rent in the South. I quickly got a job with the supermarket I'd been working at before we moved. He could not get a job because "The bitches interviewing him didn't like him". He was also very hurt that I had done well enough to get into a good university so he would make me feel so guilty. In the end, I managed to convince a manager to take him on where I was working but he was fired after two months because he was 'rude' and 'always calling in sick'.

Over this time the passive-aggressiveness reached a whole new level. We had a home that needed cleaning & food that needed preparing and I was at Uni all day then at work nearly every evening as well as all weekend, so we decided to share the chores. After all it wouldn't be fair of me to leave them all to him. Within a week all cooking, shopping & daily cleaning was my job too. He would iron his shirts and carry the shopping (whether I asked him or not). Everyday I was made to feel horrible which compounded my belief that I deserved it when he lost his temper.

Looking back I can see how his control was taking over my life. He continued to build on my self-loathing until it eclipsed everything else. I don't think he was doing this consciously. I don't think he ever sat down and planned out exactly how he could intimidate and coerce a person to do exactly as he wished. I think he had an idea of what life should be like when with a girlfriend. He wanted it to be like he was living at home with Mum, someone else should be doing the 'boring chores'. He didn't want to question whether or not his behaviour was to blame for his lack of employability or for his lack of positive interactions with women. So he just ignored it, he lived in a state of denial, backed up by pathological lying. He would do something horrid then make out it didn't happen. He would steal money out of my purse then shout at me when it wasn't there, even though some part of him knew full well he was lying. When I say he was (and probably still is) a pathological liar I mean it, not only would he lie about most things he would believe the lie was reality after a couple of times of telling it. Even when there was evidence to the contrary right in front of him. I was too scared to call him on it publicly or privately so I didn't, something I lived to regret later.

Then, after a year or so, he started getting nastier. When we first met I was recovering from having been badly burned all over my back and the back of my legs and looking back I can see the symptoms of PTSD were present afterwards (I still get agonising flashbacks now). When he was angry and I was cooking he'd 'knock me' so the scorching oven door closed on my arm, which wasn't only painful, it would trigger flashbacks to my severe burning before. I would spend ages trying to placate his every more irrational demands just to avoid his temper. Sadly they were all so contrary and liable to change it was impossible, he wanted me to knock loudly before I came in, but at the same time he wanted me not to do it if he had company, which was something I couldn't judge from outside a flat. So whichever way I did it I was often wrong.

By this point I had lost most of my sense of self. All that I had was the fantasy that if I just tried a bit harder everything would be ok. I didn't think of myself as being scared or anxious (mainly because I was psychologically disassociating from the emotions), in fact I remember going to the doctors because I kept getting attacks of crushing chest pains and going white as a sheet. They told me it was probably panic attacks but at the time I could feel no fear or terror I was so numb to it all, only the physical pain.

He only ever got more resentful about me earning all the money. To others he'd exclaim we had a 'modern and equal realtionship', to me he'd complain he felt emasculated. In the end we agreed that he'd control the banking and the bills so that he could do his 'man of the house' bit. I also discovered he didn't like any of my friends at university, they made him feel bad for being unemployed. So in the spirit of compromise I drifted away from those people and by the middle of the second year I was only the seeing people he would allow me to see. If I tried to arrange to meet anyone without him he'd tell me I could, but that he was going to call over that girl he'd been flirting with and then if she carried on being all sexy he'd have no choice but to sleep with her. Other times he'd just tell me he'd have to spend £40 that we couldn't afford on buying some DVDs and having some mates around for takeaway if I went out. Each time I'd end up cancelling and another friend would drift further away.

This is where things went from bad to worse rapidly. Once I stopped seeing people that he didn't approve of I was his. There was no one who was close enough to notice what was going on behind the facade. The only people I got to speak to were drug users, party folk looking only for a good time or sexist metal fans who were big into gender conformity. I received no messages from anyone around me that my life wasn't normal. In fact, my life was hailed as inspirational - on for a 2:1 whilst working 25-35 hours a week as well as cooking, cleaning and making time to go out on a evening and dance into the small hours. People thought I had good reason to appear so happy.

The truth was that my life was anything but happy; I was miserable. I was terrified all the time, "Would doing 'x' upset him?" was the first thing I thought of when posed with any choice, even of sandwich filling or brand of loo roll. His temper tantrums got more frequent. More and more glasses were smashed over me. More and more bits of furniture needed dodging. I had to pretend everything was ok, that I was the one in control, that I earned the money and had the education and that he was just a normal guy being hassled by a powerful woman. After a while I began to believe it. Not only was I a horrid person who deserved to be hurt, I was a horrid person who was forcing him to hurt me. All of our 'mutual' friends brought it. Most were of a similar outlook to him and women were the enemy, an enemy that held the keys to sex but refused to let them in. It was always the woman's fault that relationships broke down, they were always the 'evil bitch' when they didn't accept their advances. I started to see myself and my gender as something inherently evil. Over this period I tried to kill myself twice, I never told anyone about it when it failed, I just saw it as another sign there was no way out of this. I always comforted myself with the knowledge that at least I had someone who loved me.

By the spring of the second year things were getting worse. I had started having to use drugs (amphetamines) to keep up with all the demands placed on me. I was up and dressed by 7am, doing uni work until 4pm, working until 8.30 then having to go out clubbing/socialising until 1 or 2pm then having to sort the house out and do any Uni work afterwards or on any evenings we weren't out. I don't know how I survived. I discovered he had spent all my saving which were supposed to pay for my big University field trip so I had to arrange another way to do my dissertation (which was something I had no interest in, so didn't go too well). I think he felt bad about the money thing, which is why he reacted so angrily to my discovery. I kept telling him it was ok but he wouldn't accept it. The nasty stuff he'd been doing before when he got mad started to reach a new level of awfulness. To the point I blocked them out for a while, they only came to visit in flashbacks* and in half remembered fear.

One day I was about to cook with beef mince and he saw it and lost his temper. He was sick of cheep food, he didn't want to eat it... but if I wanted to eat it I could. At that point he began forcing raw mince down my throat as I chocked, unable to breathe, feeling sick to my stomach as I tried desperately to swallow so I could get another breath. After a bit, after I had realised there was nothing I could do and that without air I was going to die, he decided not to kill me and left me sobbing on the kitchen floor. Afterwards I couldn't think about the what happened, my brain just went blank. I developed a habit of getting little panic attacks when I saw mince in a shop but I couldn't think why.

One evening I was showering and I heard him through the wall loose his temper. He stormed in to the bathroom to chuck things about and got furious that I was cowering. He slammed the shower screen into me, knocking me over with such force I fell over covered in blood from a big head wound. He stormed out and I, labouring with concussion and the fear inherent in being naked and covered in your own blood, desperately tried to clean the bathroom so he wouldn't be angry at the mess I'd made. I went through to the bedroom and he followed me in, that evening I was violently raped and once more sure he was going to kill me. I lay in agony making peace with the world and feeling sad I'd been so disgusting he'd had to do this to me. Evidently he didn't kill me. At university the next day another student told me she thought I had a bug in my hair and started pull it out. It wasn't a bug, It was a big chunk of scab. She asked me what I'd done and my mind went blank, I couldn't access the information so I assumed it must have been a drug related injury I'd not noticed.

I'm not going to list all the things that happened because I don't want to type it all, but that should give an idea of what was happening. I was regally being tortured at his hands, never knowing when my last day alive would be. I didn't think that he might kill me, I knew he was going to. When I would break down in tears begging him to just kill me he would throw me a pack a drugs and tell me if I wanted to die I should do it. The packets only ever had 6-8 pills in the though and of course I never died. I became too scared to even try and kill myself for fear it wouldn't work and my life would be worse afterwards.

By that point I had broken completely. I could no longer think of my needs, I just had to keep working so that he, the only person in my life that loved me, would decide he didn't need to punish me anymore. The months passed in a daze. I dropped out of my MSc to work full time so I could support him and his cannabis addiction, because when he wasn't stoned he was violent - though when he was stoned he'd do things like spend all our money and then he'd get mad afterwards.

A friend who had been made homeless came to live with us for a while and suddenly he had to be on his best behaviour, he couldn't treat me like he did in front of a guest. I got some respite, I could feel safer when someone else was around. When he went out to his part time job, I got to talk to someone and see people without him around. To my shock I discovered they liked me! I spent three months slowly developing some sense that something wasn't right in our relationship. Then, just before Christmas he went into hospital with a rumbley appendix and I couldn't afford to visit him everyday. I was on my own! I could eat what I wanted. I wasn't scared. Everyone was shocked by how happy I was. Then he came back. I was back to normal again but something wasn't sitting right in my mind. I fell into a self-destructive cycle and spent a couple of weeks taking drugs and trying to avoid him. He couldn't cope with having to hide his temper so it started to slip out in front of our guest and our friends. They were shocked to see him scream in my face for having borrowed £1.87 for milk and bread and not having repaid it 4 hours later. They didn't know what had come over him. I was so used to it I didn't understand why they didn't think it was normal. Isn't that how you are supposed to treat someone who's betrayed your trust? Why weren't they all angry at me too for upsetting their friend?

Another week passed and something about that incident was niggling in my mind. I felt like I was going mad, I couldn't sleep, sometimes I'd scream if he came close to me. I didn't want him to touch me and I didn't know why. Then one Tuesday evening it hit me. I realised I didn't love him anymore. I told some people and they said they'd stand by me if I broke up with him.

On the following Wednesday afternoon when I told him he was to leave the flat as he hadn't paid rent in a year. I told him to get his stuff and go, I wanted him out when I got home after nine that evening. I apologised for not having noticed the love had gone sooner but I couldn't change the past. I told him I hoped we could one day be friends.

I wish I could say that's where the story ends but I can't, this is contiuned here; Domestic Violence Part 3 - The Aftermath



* flashbacks are thought to happen when one experiences a extraordinarily traumatic event and the memories, including sensory ones don't get properly stored so they can be hard to retrieve and often pop up involuntarily when something triggers them.

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