Nearly 2 years to the day my life changed more than I ever imagined. I packed a bag and left my old life behind, never to return to that life again. (It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made but, despite everything I know deep down it was also the best decision).
I know that I have a long way to go and no doubt there will be some bumps along the way, but I suppose that’s part of the journey. Some days, I fully embrace it and find it exciting, other days it can be overwhelming.
Looking back, I had completely lost my identity and my voice. I had become a little shadow of a mouse who did as they were told, never got a say in anything and kept quiet.
Sometimes that makes me feel sad and other times it makes me feel quite angry, with the situation and with myself. There is no way now that I would allow myself to be in that situation or to be treated the way I was.
Aged 32, I had never lived on my own let alone with a 7-month-old and a 24-month-old. To begin with I was scared, I had moved to an area I hadn’t lived in since I was a child, every noise made me jump, every car that pulled up and every time the letter box went, I would jump out of my skin. The local domestic abuse service had extra security fitted on the house which I still use nearly 2 years later which has helped me to be less jumpy, but it hasn’t completely disappeared.
However, I now enjoy living on my own (with my girls!). For the first time in my life, I got to choose the furniture I liked, the plates, the curtains, the cushions, the bedding…everything. That was alien to me, but I can now say that everything in my house I have chosen.
It can be hard to break habits of a lifetime and things don’t necessarily happen overnight. I still find it hard when eating out as a menu can make me feel like a rabbit in headlights. No doubt you’re thinking, what on earth is she on about?! In my previous life with my ex, it was rare we went out but when we did, I always had to pick the cheapest thing on the menu, or they picked for me. I still naturally gravitate to the cheapest thing on a menu rather than allowing myself to choose what I would actually like. I remember the first time I went out for a meal and fortunately I escaped my dilemma as I went to an Asian restaurant and as I had never been to one before I was able to ask my friend for suggestions (therefore taking away some of the panic I was feeling), however I did choose what I had after I was guided through the menu which was a first for me.
Fortunately, I feel as though I am starting to find my voice and allow myself to have opinions and make decisions for myself. Despite previously being belittled for wanting to train to be a counsellor, I am more than halfway through my first year and I am loving it.
I have reconnected with friends and family which is lovely.
I have somehow found the strength to ‘fight’ through court cases (initiated by my ex), despite it being an uphill struggle and knowing that my ex would never have imagined in a million years that I would have that strength. They also expected that I would be unrepresented as I am on benefits and not entitled to legal aid, however I am incredibly grateful to have been supported by family and friends (despite meaning that I am in debt for the first time in my life).
I won’t stand by whilst my ex continues to make incredibly hurtful and horrendous false statements about me. I am surprised that I haven’t crumbled, but here I am, feeling stronger than ever before. I can’t and won’t let them destroy me or my life which is why I left in the first place!
I used to really struggle when my girls went to stay with my ex and of course I miss them and hope they are ok; however, I have now realised that when they do go away, that is time for me. Even if it’s just so I can recharge my battery in order to be the best Mum I can be to my girls. I can have a lie in, enjoy a shower in peace (and actually shut the door!), have a bath, watch anything other than CBeebies and Frozen for the 100th time, blast songs in the car that I want to sing to etc. It’s easier said than done and I know that I used to always fill this time with housework or jobs but now I try to use the time for me. If we weren’t in lockdown, I’d probably go for a drive to the beach, see friends, go to a café or the cinema but we can’t do that right now. I’m still determined not to just fill my time with everyday tasks and instead think about what I would like to do.
However, I’m still discovering what I enjoy doing after spending years being told what to do and being made to lead an incredibly sheltered life away from the world, society, my friends and my family. (For more than a year prior to leaving, the only people I was allowed to see on my own were my GP and midwife.) Sometimes it feels like I have missed 10 years of modern-day life.
I find it odd when people who knew me before my previous relationship tell me that I was confident, cheeky, and strong willed. I don’t really remember being like that, but parts of my true self are starting to appear and sometimes reveal themselves.
I still have my barriers which go up to protect myself and I don’t always know when or why they do, and they can be hard to take down. I find it hard to be completely true to myself which I think stems from fear of judgement and not wanting to upset or hurt anyone. I am someone who cares about people and would do pretty much anything for others, but I am also aware that I need to look after myself and not always put myself at the bottom of the list. That doesn’t sit right with me, but I am working on it!
In the past few weeks, I have started to say more to people than I ever have done, and it feels liberating. To be able to share feelings and thoughts and to be truly honest with yourself and others does feel like a weight is being lifted and quite liberating. I always try to be mindful of how I say things and sometimes write it down as I do worry. Despite this, I hope that I will continue to feel able to say things rather than let them eat away at me.
I am looking forward to what the future holds! Goodness knows what will happen when I find my wings!!