Not a great year

Not a great year

Today marks one year since my life changed dramatically. I have been promising to write this post for a long time, and I have started but failed on several occasions.

It’s hard writing personal posts like this given that I’m already in a pretty vulnerable emotional state and people like to criticise my personal life, but I am trying to focus on all the people I know I will help by writing about domestic abuse and depression.

As a brief summary, one year ago today I found out my boyfriend had been lying to me on a grand scale. He had had another girlfriend the entire time we had been together, and he had lied about his past drug habits and criminal history. His abusive behaviour still deeply affects me to this day.

I started dating Chris soon after Rob and I separated. It was too soon. I had met Chris at the gym almost a year beforehand and things progressed much faster than I’d expected. I was enchanted by all the qualities he had that Rob did not have, and I quickly found myself in a pretty serious relationship. In hindsight, I think I was afraid of being alone and I was unconsciously searching for a replacement husband.

There were a number of warning signs which I conveniently ignored. He told me that he loved me after we’d been dating for two weeks and just a week later he asked me to move in with him. Although he made me feel very loved, he was also extremely jealous and emotionally abusive. We had more arguments in a month than Rob and I had had in 5.5 years together. Chris dictated which of my friends I was allowed to see, what I was allowed to wear, how I spoke to him, and even what I posted on social media. I glorified the good aspects of our relationship and convinced myself I was lucky to be dating him, while I blocked out all of the negatives.

I had an unexplainable suspicion that he was lying to me about something, but he made me feel crazy for doubting him. Every time we argued, I was the one who ended up in tears, begging him not to leave. I walked on eggshells at home. He repeatedly accused me of cheating on him and he became violent with a number of men for simply looking at me.

When I found out about his lies, and he realised I was not going to forgive him with open arms, he transformed into a monster before my eyes.

He threatened to kill me twice, including pulling a knife on me. There is something devastating about being threatened by  someone you once trusted and thought you loved. And it is all the more terrifying when that man is a huge, roided-out strongman who could destroy you with his pinky finger.

There were so many times afterwards where I looked at him, hoping to find some remnants of the man I once knew. But he was a stranger.

When I had read about domestic abuse in the past, I assumed it was something which would never happen to me – surely the only women who wound up in those relationships were the weak and meek types. During the actual duration of our relationship, he never laid a hand on me, so I refused to admit that our relationship could even be considered abusive. And yet I knew something was deeply wrong.

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We broke up a year ago, and yet he was not out of my life until May this year. I have always remained pretty cordial with exes, so I found it difficult to cope with how ugly our break-up became. We had a lease together, and I had to get a lawyer involved on more than one occasion – something which is always difficult, nevermind the fact I was dealing with a broken heart.

I finally thought everything was settled and I flew to Australia, having simultaneously secretly moved out of my flat so he wouldn’t be able to find me. I felt happy and relieved for the first time in months, but it soon came crashing down around me. As I sat in Perth airport waiting to board my flight back to London, I found out Chris was trying to take the entire deposit of our flat. Half of it was legally mine and, even though my lawyer had assured me I’d be able to get the whole amount and then some for having taken on the entire burden of the exorbitant rent for six months, I had decided not to fight him for his half.

I never thought he would be so spiteful as to try to steal from me as well, and I knew it was because it was his last tie to me. Once the deposit was resolved, we would have no reason to speak ever again. Right up until I left for Australia, he was still regularly texting me to tell me that he loved me and still wanted to marry/impregnate me (despite the fact that a friend of mine had spotted him with his “other” girlfriend, who appeared to have taken him back… it’s her funeral).

I broke down in the middle of the airport. I was absolutely dreading going home and having to resume the emotional toll that this was taking on me. I was tempted to just give him everything to get rid of him. I felt completely exhausted and I will admit that it was a huge factor in me leaving London as soon as I did. I am a coward and I needed to run away.

Some of you may remember the documentary I was featured in last year. This shows me competing in England’s Strongest Woman, just five days after I found out the truth about Chris.

Although I am smiling and laughing in the video, I had never felt worse in my life. On the day, people were telling me how strong and amazing I was, when I felt the furthest thing from that. I held it together for most of the day, but bawled my eyes out in the arms of a friend when it was over. I didn’t stop crying for two days, not even to sleep.

I was not in a good place when this picture was taken...

I was not in a good place when this picture was taken…

I honestly have no idea how I got through that competition, or even the one in February. Chris had caught wind of the fact I was thinking of leaving the UK and decided to text me at 3am on the morning of my meet to ask me about it.

I briefly blogged about it, but I wasn’t honest – to anyone – about how bad I felt and still feel. I barely sleep anymore. I am usually awake until 3 or 4am because I can’t stop replaying every moment and blaming myself for what happened.

I often feel ashamed about the fact that it has been a year and I am still struggling so much, especially considering I was only with this man for six months. I remember seven months had passed and I called my best friend in Australia in hysterics. I had been up all night crying and asked her how I could possibly not be over it yet. I know you can’t put a timeline on grief, but when I cry myself to sleep yet again, I ask myself when it will end.

I am very good at pretending things are okay when they are not. I was recently clinically diagnosed with depression. It’s something I have known for a long time, but have not wanted to admit. The psychiatrist said it is a continuation of PTSD caused by what happened.

People regularly refer to me as being strong, but it’s not a title I feel worthy of. The past year has given me the darkest moments of my life. I have felt completely broken and lost all respect for myself at times, and there have been moments where I have honestly not wanted to live anymore. I think the last full day which has passed without me crying was in Australia, five months ago.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to trust  again. Not only did he make me question my judgement of other people, I also questioned myself and why I stayed in a situation which I had known was bad for so long.

Throughout my life I have been adamant that I don’t want to have children, and Chris started changing my mind. He repeatedly pressured me to come off birth control, and thank goodness I didn’t. I had dreamt of travelling as I am now for a long time, and I let Chris take that away from me. I feel deeply ashamed for letting someone change me, and this is what keeps me awake at night.

Many days I do not want to get out of bed, and this is not ideal considering I am self-employed and work in a city where I know almost no one.

I am seeing beautiful sights, but it's not always sunshine and rainbows

I am seeing beautiful sights, but it’s not always sunshine and rainbows

I take things one day at a time, and I do not try to force myself to be happy. The experience has changed me forever, and not exactly for the better. I feel more empty inside than ever before, and I know I have hurt a few people in the past 12 months because of it.

Chris took a lot of things from me including empathy, self-respect and the ability to trust and love. But he also gave me the most important gift of all: true perspective about what I desire not only in love, but in life.

I try to remind myself that what happened was a reflection of him, and not me, and I hope that one day I will be able to love and trust again.

If you made it through all that, thank you for reading.

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