My biggest regret is that I didn’t talk about it. I just let it happen.
Abuse. When people think of abuse it’s the physical form. But there are so many different types of abuse, and there are signs of a controlling and abusive relationship that I wish I had seen sooner. But I did not know until I saw it.
This isn’t a story of my relationship with someone, this is my story of 18 year old me living in an abusive household and seeing the mother I look up to become a shell of herself. Both myself and my mum felt this was important to share, because the signs are sometimes hard to see.
I’m an only child raised by my single mother, and I have no contact with my biological dad. But at 13 my mum met and fell in love with a man I once called Father, and although he looked intimidating, he couldn’t do enough for people and seemed to get on with everyone. He was a big part of both mine and my mum’s life, but they did not live together, that was until I was leaving for university. My mum didn’t want to be alone with just her and the cat, and asked if I minded her and my ‘dad’ moving in together and of course I encouraged it. I thought it would be great– we’d be a real family.
When moving day came along, I was overwhelmed with the the scale of the house we were moving into and the new things he had bought for me. My small retro TV was upgraded to a plasma HD model, my single bed now became a double and my once broken wardrobe was now replaced with a walk in closet. I was speechless, and with the unpacking of the delivery van came more and more surprises. Italian leather sofas, from Italy themselves, all his clothes were designer, there were 3 plasma TV’s for no reason, a huge music system and gadgets galore. As I sat trying to figure out the cost of all these things, I knew he must have a very stressful and successful career, yet you’ll be as surprised as I was, that as I turned up for my first shift at a care home, that he was there. That we both earned £6.50 an hour, and I couldn’t understand the lie.
I went straight to my mum asking if she knew that he worked in a care home, and of course she did, he used to be in business, but switched careers. But from that moment on I became suspicious, and the tell tale signs began flooding in. Lies after lies. Secrets galore. He hid everything. He even lied about his passport saying British national. Hidden debts, hidden letters, hidden identity, and the more I dug, the more I didn’t like what I found. And the more questions I asked, the more trouble I got into.
Two months. Two whole months we had all lived together and I become fearful in my own home. I had to watch as my full of life, positive and empowering mother became a corpse of herself, where all her thoughts centred around him. If he was mad, it was her fault. If she was running late because of traffic, her fault. She was waking up hours before she had to be at work to take him to work, pick him from work regardless of his shifts. Anything he wanted she was there at a drop of a hat. And everytime I stood up to him, everytime I’d gathered more evidence to prove to my mum that he was dangerous and we needed to leave, she shook her head and said she couldn’t leave. Her reason; “He’s never hit me”- she was under his control.
His control. His emotional blackmail. We felt alienated in our own home, trapped in our own minds. I lost loads of weight without noticing, nothing interested me. I would burst into tears for what would seem like no reason, when no one knew what was going on. I drank to numb the pain, to numb reality and block it out, and it worked to a certain degree, until I’d wander off at 3 in the morning and sit and sob, wishing I were dead. I was exhausted. Exhausted from being the punching bag, from having to hide what was going on from my family and friends. Because I couldn’t get my mum to believe that emotional abuse was real. Even though I saw in a very short space of time, my mum faded into someone she wasn’t. Even though when I looked in the mirror I didn’t know who I was, she couldn’t see how he could do it. How someone she was in love with could do this.
But in November 2013, after being made to sleep in a flea ridden bed, with scabs covering my arms and legs, we finally left. After the year of emotional abuse, of him asserting his power and controlling her life, it took one physical form of abuse to happen to her, for my mum to find the strength to leave.
My mum finally told her friends what had been happening and they all rushed to her aid. In taking what was rightfully hers; in taking control of her life.. But amidst all the pain , we felt relief. We were sofa hopping for a bit until a woman’s refugee found her a flat. And for the first time in that year I slept the whole night through, on a sofa in a one bedroom flat, I slept peacefully, because it was over. We were free.
I’m 22 now, and it’s took until now for our lives to be back on track. I’ve got my old mum back and she’s better than I remember. I no longer drink to forget, I told my friends what really happened. Although we’ve been left with emotional damage, where I suffer with anxiety and get panic attacks, and my mum suffers with depression. We have our freedom, and we are in control of our life. I am no longer afraid in my own home. I am no longer searching for peace in alcohol.
The thing with abuse in relationships is, you keep hoping that the person will change. You blame yourself, you make excuses for them- it’s not their fault, your the difficult one. But they will never change, you don’t deserve any of it. Emotional abuse and controlling relationships exist. Your not alone in this.