Balancing on the edge: my worst nightmare

In 2015 and after years of both physical and emotional abuse, I was finally balancing on the edge of death’s door. This fairytale had turned into the worst nightmare. My partner was no longer my Prince Charming, but the perpetrator who fuelled my fear. To be honest with you when I look back now, I can see that there had been subtle warning signs from the start that this was how it was going to be. However, love is blind and hindsight always arrives far too late for these situations.

Gone was the woman who was fun loving, independent and successful in her own way. Her replacement now just a shadow of her former self. I had long forgotten what it was like to be happy or even to feel safe. I only hoped that the thickly applied makeup would hide the tell tale signs that lay beneath it. The shame if anyone knew what was going on, he of course would be angry at that, and as always the blame would be laid clearly upon me. The possibility of help from friends and family had been exhausted long ago. Besides, it only served to make things worse when I relented and went back to him. After everything I had suffered at his hands I still thought I could change him. I now know that was a naive mistake to make. The only person that can change you is you.

So there I was after many failed attempts, trying to run for my life again. Alone and frightened I booked myself into a hotel room and wondered what would happen to me next. All I knew at that point was that I didn’t want my daughter to receive a knock at the door from the police. A knock to say the unspeakable had happened to me. I picked up my phone and called the National Domestic Violence Helpline. I remember shaking and god knows I cried an awful lot. I picked up the phone again and called the Colchester-based refuge. The woman on the phone was so kind and supportive that she made me feel brave enough to make the journey to them the following day. Little did I know then, that the voice on the phone belonged to the support worker who would play such a prominent role in changing my life. I will be forever grateful to her.

The journey felt like the longest trip I had ever taken. I’m not going to lie to you, not knowing where you are going or what it’s going to be like is scary stuff. I needn’t have worried. On arrival I was met by my support worker who made sure I had everything I needed and gave me time to settle into my room. They are friendly at the refuge and they even stock your cupboards with the essentials until you find your feet.  There was no attempt to rush me into  talking about what I had been through and for the first time I felt like I could just breathe.

It took me a few weeks to adjust to life in the refuge. After I had stopped eating cold baked beans out of the can I finally started to socialise with other residents and the outside world. The support you receive comes in the form of support workers, children’s support workers, volunteers, and from the friendships you make with the other women. You will share stories and share experiences and help each other in ways you would never have imagined possible. The staff run help programmes like Freedom and Roads to Recovery, that I strongly advise attending if given the opportunity. They help you understand the minds of the perpetrators and help provide you with the tools to make better decisions in the future. The situation I found myself in was not my fault, it was his and I know that now.

Being in the refuge is one hell of an emotional roller coaster but I’m glad I did it now. I finally have a home of my own where I’m safe and a future to look forward to. Everyday is a blessing and I’m so thankful to the refuge for standing by me all the way. If you are reading this because you are thinking about asking for help I would urge you to just reach out. The experience will save you and change the life you have for a better one.  I once was a victim but now I’m a survivor.

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