Life as a Domestic Violence Survivor

Life as a Domestic Violence Survivor

October was officially Domestic Violence Awareness month but as this month will host White Ribbon Day and I have been asked to sing at an event ‘White Ribbon Fest‘ put together by the Men Against Violence campaign and to raise finance and awareness for Preston Domestic Violence Services.  Here is my survivor story…

February 7th 2010 – my worst birthday

There were many instances of domestic violence within my marriage to my ex-husband but with this being my birthday it definitely stood out.

Looking back now it’s hard to remember what kicked it all off, it would happen so often over so little, that it’s difficult to separate instances. On this particular day, it was my birthday.

We got married September 26th 2009, things were ok for a month or so, but to be fair we’d honeymooned in the Maldives and Dubai and then I was sent to South Africa and Zambia with work when we returned, so he hadn’t really had chance to start complaining (aside from complaining he hated Dubai because he had to carry his own bag in Atlantis when it’s a 5*). There had been issues when we were engaged, many issues, but to be perfectly honest I didn’t see them as that big a deal. Due to the way I was raised and past experiences I wasn’t a stranger to drama and dealing with these patterns was one thing I have learnt to overcome. Pre-wedding though the violence calmed down for 6 months – ish, I had convinced myself he had changed.

On my birthday I can only remember thinking that his guilt over the fact he hadn’t bought me a present had started him off.  I have no idea now if this was true or not, but at the time this was what I believed.  He would often react at me when he felt guilty about something; I just used to struggle to connect the dots.  With it being my first birthday as a wife, I was very disappointed *obviously, and he didn’t like that he could see I was hurt.  The rest is kind of a blur, but what I do remember was we were rowing in the kitchen, I had my nightie on, by the time he had finished with me I was covered in cuts from the car keys he had in his hands, he had torn my nightie from me (literally ripped it off my body, maybe with the help of the car keys, can’t remember), and I had wet myself in fear.  He then left me in this state and drove off somewhere in the car.  WORST BIRTHDAY EVER!!

We were supposed to be driving over to go out for a meal with my family, so I made the usual call (that I had made many times before) to say I wasn’t feeling very well, and that Mick had gone somewhere in the car so I couldn’t get over.  ‘Sorry, we’ll do it another time.’  My sister said that it was unacceptable for me to be on my own on my birthday and that they were coming to collect me, even if I was too ill to go out.

Fortunately (disturbing thought process as obviously it would’ve been better if people had known), my birthday falls in winter so I wrapped up as best I could and put a scarf around my neck so they couldn’t see the damage that he had done.  We went out for a meal (I was just sat there feeling so surreal with all my family around me but thinking, I don’t know where my husband is, I’m married, it’s my birthday and I don’t know where my husband is).

that night

Picture of me before we went out (found on my sister’s facebook)

My now husband James once asked me the question (obviously at some point I shared this tale with him), ‘how did he talk his way out of that one?’  I told him that I genuinely do not remember, I can’t remember how I ended up back home that night, or why we spoke to each other or what possessed me to buy him an awesome Valentine’s Day gift just a week later.  I have absolutely no recollection.  Which only affirms to me how frequent these events took place and how well I hid from my family (apart from the fact that our marriage was off to a rocky start) what was going on.  I’m sure if they’d known they would never have let me go back there that night, but I did.

Even now, writing this, it disturbs me to think how normal all this was, I just went back to living my life until the next occurrence, and the next occurrence.  The pattern was not changing; the violence was just getting worse.

The beginning of June I’d paid for us to go to Mallorca to see my sister, she was working out there as an entertainer in a hotel in Palmanova (just outside of Magaluf, yak!).  Mick loved Mallorca, we went each year so he could train (he was a cyclist, Tour de France style and there are lots of mountains in the North).  He would literally go out for 12 hours at a time as we were staying in the South and put in over a hundred miles a day to go and train on his bike.  Before we set off we were going to go and see my Auntie, she had been very ill, she’s still on dialysis and various other things, but at this point she’d just come out of hospital after another episode of ill health.  He took so long wrapping his bike ready for the aeroplane that I needed to ring her to cancel.  It had got to nearly 9pm and she lived 30 mins drive away and I was aware she had dialysis at 6am the next morning.  I think because he felt guilty again (I don’t know, for taking too long, because I wanted to see her, because she’d been ill and we were going away for 2 weeks, or because he said we would and had been 3 hours longer than originally stated) he screamed down the phone ‘WE ARE STILL GOING’ when I called to say ‘sorry it has got too late, see you when we get back’.  I was so embarrassed.  My uncle Pat had answered the phone, and as most of the time he works in New Zealand (he was back because my auntie had been ill), I barely know him, I was humiliated, I could just imagine all my extended family laughing and talking about my screaming mental husband.  I just hung up on him whilst Mick was mid scream.

He then proceeded to strangle me on the couch, he pressed his thumbs deep into my cheek bones just under my eyes at the same time, the pressure was horrible, I can remember as I tried to get him off me that if I had had a knife next to me at the time, I would’ve stabbed him without hesitation.  He obviously stopped before I ceased breathing, and somehow we went to the airport the next day to see my sister in Mallorca.

My sister could see that I was miserable, but she didn’t know why, she had always been a fan of my husband, mainly cos he was a talented singer and musician (which was an area she worked in) and she only saw that side of him really.  She started to write me a song whilst I was there actually, she finished it after everything came out but the first verse and chorus she played to me during my stay.  The video is cheesy but I’ve attached it so you can hear her beautiful voice.

It was my sister’s friend who noticed my body language, I had never met the girl before, but she blatantly told my sister ‘she’s being abused’.  This resulted in my sister questioning me and my bursting into tears.  I had an epic row with Mick then that night and he abandoned me in Magaluf.  As a former singer myself (he had knocked all the confidence out of me and I hadn’t done it for a while) I put myself in to sing at the nearest karaoke bar (Magaluf is FULL of them) and performed Beyonce’s ‘Listen‘.

I received a standing ovation and everyone kept asking me where my passion came from?  It was the start of a turning point for me.  I realised that I had to focus on making myself happy whatever form that took.

When we got home I put this into practice, started going back to church, as he had stereotypically been isolating me from all my support networks, trying to hang out with some friends.  I don’t think he liked that my confidence (although still completely on the floor at this point) was starting to come back.  5 weeks after that holiday he left me whilst I was at work one day.  He moved everything out into a flat that he had sorted, took all my wages out of our joint account and just left me.  It was an awful rainy day, torrential, I had been trying to contact him to see if he would be ok cycling home from work and he hadn’t answered the phone all day.  He finally contacted me about an hour before I was due to finish work to inform me that he hadn’t been to work that day, he had been moving out.  In hindsight, I now know that this was another one of his mind games, he probably was trying to shake me up again so that my confidence would again be knocked and I would worship the ground he walked on when he returned once more.  (He told me the next day he would’ve spent all night moving everything back if I’d responded differently).  I didn’t react though, I just informed him that with such scheming what could I possibly say to fix things, as far as I could see he had ‘plotted, planned and executed, what could I do?’  I fell in a heap on the floor at work, informed my friend who found me, he had left me.  The first thing she said was, ‘good, he’s done what you never could’ve, he’s done you a favour’.  I wasn’t ready to hear it but she was right.

He tried to come back to me a month later, we met up to close some bank accounts, he broke down in tears on me.  My heart sank as usual, he could do that to me.  I told him that if he wanted to work at it, I was willing, we would get counselling, as individuals and as a couple but I couldn’t have him move back into the home until I felt safe.  He wasn’t willing.  I remember going back into work (it had been on my lunch break) and just collapsing in the tiny toilet.  I didn’t leave the floor for 3 hours.  I couldn’t get my head around it.  I loved this man but he wasn’t willing to do that for me.  It was hard to accept that he didn’t love me enough but I can now look back and see it was not about my worth.  Someone posted on facebook recently ‘your worth isn’t decreased by someone’s inability to see your value’ (paraphrased).  Or a picture my Mum used to use when leading Women’s confidence seminars, she would take a £20 note, crush it up, get someone to come and stand on it and stomp it into a muddy puddle.  Then she would ask ‘does anyone want this now?’ of course people did, the £20 was still worth the same.  It’s value hadn’t changed.

Many other things happened to lead me to a place where I realised that the best thing he EVER did for me was leaving me that day.  I enrolled on a course at the ‘Hope Centre’ a place run by our local women’s refuge called ‘the Freedom Programme’.  This taught me the patterns of abuse that had occurred in my life in the lead up to my marrying Mick (too many to go into this post, but I will write another one about the importance of male, particularly paternal role models).  That next year was difficult I ended up in a refuge due to the financial mess he left me in and had to rebuild my life, was signed off with depression for at least 6 months, but things started to change the year that followed.

I am now extremely happily married, with 2 step-daughters (8 & 5), a little boy (2 and a half) and 3 weeks away from my little baby girl Eden’s 1st birthday.  It has been just over 4 years since he left.  What has changed in my life has been immense, but it wasn’t easy.  Putting yourself first, learning to communicate with people when there are issues, and especially not putting up with ANY crap at all, my poor husband will now tell you, he doesn’t get away with anything, because I won’t stand for it.  I have learnt my own worth and it is important to me.  It’s important to me that I show that to my step-daughters and daughter.  It is important to me that my little boy sees my husband’s positive example.

It may seem strange but the honest truth is, the day I finally brought Judah home (we’d been in hospital over a week), I sat with him on our bed, holding him and just cried, with happiness, that I knew I had chosen the right man to bring a little life into the world with.  I know that James is a fantastic role model and a great Dad and treats me with amazing respect and care.  The relief as I pictured my little boy on his 18th birthday knowing that I had done the best I could do in choosing his Dad to assist him in becoming a good man one day.

I am willing to chat to anyone about any of my experiences if they would like, highly recommend the Freedom Programme and above all, put yourself first people, if you are happy, your children will be happy.  You are also much better at looking after them when you look after yourself too.
//
Love Alexandra

xxx

My Life with a Dyspraxic

My Life with a Dyspraxic

dyspraxia awareness week, blended family, step mum, dontcallmestepmummy,
dyspraxic and dashingly handsome

It’s Dyspraxia Awareness Week and as my husband has severe dyspraxia, I decided I would take part in the awareness raising.

Reading through the list of symptoms on the dyspraxia foundation website really made me chuckle. It sounds awful that it’s comical to me if you are a severe sufferer, but my husband and I have learnt to live with it and I find it endearing (most of the time).  Things I forget can be related and I get at him frequently for include ‘Slow to finish a task. May daydream and wander about aimlessly,’ ‘Difficulty in following instructions, especially more than one at time,’ and ‘Difficulty in planning and organising thought.’

One of the main reoccurring rows with my husband happens when I am having a hormonal day and I decide that he can’t love me very much as he NEVER plans anything for us to do. I am a compulsive planner, he laughs at me for having a list for everything ie. I composed a Christmas list for each of the things I want to buy our children in August, and have been purchasing from it and wrapping presents since August. I will spend a lot of time planning things like his birthday, surprises and just all of our family life in general. All the day to day running of what we are doing, or where we are taking the kids, how we are making our ridiculously busy Saturday happen is all by my design and we usually stick to the plans. Even writing this now makes me realise that I have to reassure myself that it is definitely not because he doesn’t love me that he doesn’t do any of these things. It is because he has Dyspraxia.

Reading through the list of symptoms makes me cherish all the things he strives hard to overcome so that we can live as normally as possible. He is a fantastic cook, despite the fact that he finds it difficult. He is currently learning to drive, which he finds especially difficult. This is something I know my encouragement (which he never had in the past) can really help. I 100% believe that he can conquer driving, it will eventually click and become like breathing, it just requires more effort for him to get there than the average person.

I treasure the events that he has planned for me in the 3 and a half years we’ve been together. My amazing proposal at the ‘Titanic Spa’ (highly recommend by the way), my beautiful engagement ring he designed and had made, my 30th Birthday which he had really put the effort in for, so despite my family life crashing around me at the time I made sure we didn’t cancel. It was a lovely escape for 24 hours from a nightmare situation. He took me to the ‘BroadOaks Country House’ which was a beautiful boutique hotel. A lot of thought always goes in to getting me to these places, especially as at the time neither of us drove.

When you’re as easy going and full of good humour as my husband is, you can see the funny side. The first time he met my family, he was soaking wet through from falling in a lake near their house. When he met some of my friends, we discovered that it’s worse when he’s nervous. He walked into 7 different lamp posts on a 10 minute walk home. On our wedding day my maid of honour was in hysterics, as he managed to fall off a chair whilst just sitting comfortably and signing the register. The registrar nearly didn’t let us wed as they were debating if he was drunk.

The amount of times that he has fallen down the stairs, I stopped asking if he’s ok, I just listen to hear that he’s still moving. My friends think that I’m cold, but it is such a normal occurrence in our lives, it used to make my heart stop with fear as I was so afraid of him hurting himself, but I guess I’m now just desensitised to it all. The most random being the time he went to fix under our bath and set himself on fire. He couldn’t find a torch and decided it would be a good idea to take a candle into the enclosed space so he could see what he was doing.

He has most of the symptoms on the link above, no specific hand that he writes with, sets knives and forks the wrong way round at the table, very forgetful, clumsy, but he doesn’t let it stop him doing ANYTHING.

He joined in with football on the local youth project that we used to work with. He has an interesting way of dancing but still joins in with the girls when they play Just Dance on the wii. He has definitely shown me that it doesn’t hold him back at all.

When I ask him what the most annoying part of having dyspraxia is for him, he answers, ‘struggling with organisation’. Even with that though, I am so proud of him as a Social Worker there is SO much paperwork. He has just finished his final year at University, I was pregnant throughout his first 2 years at Uni, we had a newborn whilst he was on each of his placements, and he is still finished 2% off a First Class Degree. I am so proud of all that he achieves, and need to remember to cut him some slack when he fails to remember things I ask him to do (even if I have written them in a list, lol).

It is a very misunderstood condition. We are still learning to adjust to it everyday, but I must stress my husband is living proof that having dyspraxia does not need to define you, and it doesn’t need to prevent you from achieving anything you want in life. I’m not saying it doesn’t make it harder than some of the rest of us have it, but ANYTHING is possible if you’re determined enough.

Writing this post has reminded me, I’m proud of you babe, proud to call you mine, and I’m excited for all you will continue to achieve in the future. Nothing holds you back.
//
Dyspraxia Awareness Week 12th – 18th October 2014.

Baby Loss Awareness Week

Baby Loss Awareness Week

*WARNING – this post is full of my faith and belief in God, I cannot write about these circumstances and not reference my faith, if you’d rather not read then please don’t*

I had only been with James a few months when I found out that I was pregnant with our first child.  With my first husband I had been told that I wouldn’t be able to conceive, I had problems with my hormones that would make it extremely difficult.  So James and I had never seen the need to prevent conception.  We had both been through traumatic relationships and marital breakdown and so we had leapt head first into each others arms when we realised we were loved back.  We held nothing back and conceiving a child was not unplanned despite it not being the best timing.  We were so excited to have a child together.  As soon as I knew I was pregnant I cried tears of joy, I rang my Mum to tell her, we rang James’ parents to tell them.  We were just so happy, and of course it explained why I had passed out whilst we were on holiday in the Peak District a couple of weeks earlier.  I have very low blood pressure normally and was feeling unwell.

I had only known I was pregnant for 8 days when I began bleeding, going to the hospital was not a pleasant experience, I was so upset and convinced that I needed to calm down because I believed I would make myself miscarry if it wasn’t already happening, or that somehow I could make it worse, or even make it stop miscarrying if I calmed myself down enough.

Can you tell this was the first time that I’d ever been pregnant?  The thoughts were silly, but the guilt is normal, somehow no matter what you do you decide it must be your fault when you lose a baby.  Of course it isn’t, but the little niggles in the back of your mind don’t seem to go.  I had been at a friends little girls birthday party that week and swinging her around dancing.  I thought, it must’ve been that, I’d been around people smoking, it must’ve been that.  Silly thoughts and mainly silly because the answer I will never know, so it is just torturous with no end result.

They could see by the thickness of the lining of my womb that I had been pregnant, or that I was pregnant and it wasn’t in my womb.  I had to go away after they’d done some tests, taken some blood, and I was to come back in a couple of days to have the tests done again so they could compare the hormone levels to see if I was indeed miscarrying or if it was an ectopic pregnancy.  This is a scary time as obviously if it was in fact ectopic this was not the end of the procedure and they would have to terminate the pregnancy.  This ended up not being the case for myself but I have MASSIVE sympathy for anyone who goes through that as I don’t know how my emotional state would’ve coped.

I went away praying and praying that the baby would be ok somehow, even that if it was ectopic, that God would move the baby into my womb somehow.  The morning I was due to go back to the hospital I woke up with this overwhelming fear.  I sat and read my bible and then put on some worship music.  I sang and sang and sang, and as I sang I cried.  I told God that it was ok, that He knew what He was doing, He was in charge, and that I trusted Him.  I told Him that even if I miscarried this baby I would praise Him anyway.  Nothing would stop me believing that He was in control.  I’m sorry if this seems a strong post but I cannot talk about these experiences in my life without referencing God, because it was my faith that helped me through without severe emotional damage, it kept me positive and hopeful for the future.

I watched a video about a lady who was a singer at a church in Australia whose music I love.  She had lost her baby at a very young age as he had been born prematurely, her story challenged me that if she could still praise God, so could I.  I thought of the scripture that Job said, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him..’ (Job 13:15 NIV).  So my heart was set and off we went to the hospital.  They took more blood and then I had to go home and wait for a phone call.

These lyrics in particular spoke to me :

‘All of my life

in every season

You are still God

I have a reason to sing

I have a reason to worship’ – Brooke Fraser

I had my friend with me for moral support and my sister came too.  I just felt as though I needed people around me.  We went to the mall for a drink.  I needed to keep busy.  I went to the loo in the shopping centre and came out white as a sheet, I had passed so many blood clots I didn’t really need the phone call.  My friend Colette, said to me, ‘you know don’t you?’ and then began to explain to me how it was ok and if I’d conceived once, the good news was my body would be able to do it again and not to see this as the end.

The phone call came and it was as I had suspected.

Positive memory from this tragic time – James dancing around the hospital room in between examinations etc.  he decided to do an ‘interpretive dance’ to cheer me up.  The doctors thought he was hilarious.  He managed to make me crack a smile even in my anguish.

Negative memory – seeing the empty sonogram, anyone who has been through this experience knows how horrendous that moment is.

The most tangible memory – feeling empty.  There is no other word to describe how you feel after a miscarriage – EMPTY

We had miscarried September 15th 2011 at 7 weeks (very early I know) but it was my first pregnancy, with a man I was deeply in love with and excited to marry.  I had only known I was pregnant for about 8 days, but the bonding… oh the bonding.  It was instant.  I had trundled off to the nearest Sainsbury’s and bought lots of fruit and veg so that I could stock up and eat healthily so this little bundle would get the best nutrients I could give.

I wanted to give my family opportunity to partake in the release of a lantern so that we could say goodbye as my Mum and sister had also bonded very quickly with the idea of me being pregnant.  In fact, they refused to see the evidence in front of them when my body started to miscarry.  Telling me God wouldn’t let that happen, I’d had enough rubbish in my life etc.  but I knew, the writing was on the wall, God and I made our peace, as did my then fiancé James.

I had conceived Judah 10 days after the miscarriage although I didn’t know the dates until they dated me weeks later, but I had just had a positive pregnancy test the day that we released the chinese lantern.  Judah means ‘praise’ and was named because we had decided to praise God anyway despite the miscarriage and then he was conceived.

James parents sent us a card for our angel baby that we believe we will one day meet in heaven.

‘Little Snowdrop’

The world may never notice
If a Snowdrop doesn’t bloom,
Or even pause to wonder
If the petals fall too soon.

But every life that ever forms,
Or ever comes to be,
Touches the world in some small way
For all eternity.

The little one we longed for
Was swiftly here and gone.
But the love that was then planted
Is a light that still shines on.

And though our arms are empty,
Our hearts know what to do.
For every beating of our hearts
Says that we love you.

– unknown
//
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