Escaping from abuse isn't as easy as 'just leaving'. You can't get up and walk away when you decide you've had enough. I wish it was that easy. It is often a long process, a long time of wanting to do it but not knowing how. Then comes how to do it, you need a window of opportunity, a carefully devised plan of action to minimise any threat to your safety. Sounds dramatic, but for some it really is a matter of life or death. If you stay it will get worse, if you leave will you even get out? What if they find out, reel you back in?
For anyone who's ever said or thought 'why don't you just leave' (before it happened to me that's exactly what I thought), this is why. You are scared for your life.
With this blog my aim is to encourage everyone in this situation to leave. Plan carefully, really think about what you're doing. You are not crazy, or as stupid as they make you feel. You had a life outside of this and you deserve to get it back. If you stay it won't fix itself, you might think that leaving will make things worse but trust me, it only gets better. Not that I'm saying it's easy, but regaining your life, your soul and your identity is something that I never thought I'd get back, that's worth the fight one hundred times over.
My 'escape' was relatively simple, in the sense that I have a very strong network of family and friends. If I need anything I always have a safety net. Although for over 2 years I never retreated to that safety net and never gave anything away to any of these people about the abuse, no matter how strong your network is the abuser will always find a way to infiltrate and limit contact, sometimes preventing it completely. Whether you feel you have that safety net or not, it's equally as important for everyone to know that there is always a way out. No way is easy, but it's better than staying.
My decision and path to the escape was made for me after I discovered his labyrinth of lies and cheating. However the hardest part for me was the aftermath, post-escape, the part that I'd imagined for so long as my 'freedom'. This part didn't quite go as the way I'd played it over and over in my head. The initial feeling is that of empowerment, finally having the upper hand and being that all important one move ahead. Everything fell into place, and I started to analyse his behaviour, seeing through the lies and catching the tell-tale signs. He couldn't look me in the eye, his lips tightened and creased, his body tensed. When you know what you're looking for it's surprising how bad they are at it, how could they have fooled you for so long? It's so obvious now. It was staring me right in the face (well not exactly as he couldn't hold his gaze, his eyes would flit back and forth, briefly locking into my eyeline as I silently picked apart his lies). With this great feeling of power came anger, the intense confusion I once felt had been replaced, or at least suppressed, by an unfamiliar and uncharacteristic feeling of desperately seeking 'revenge'.
During the 17 days from finding out about the cheating and finally getting out, I cried once. To this day I stand by that it was purely from anger. Not that there's anything wrong with crying, I've done a fair bit of that, but I think it's important to know where it comes from and the emotions that are behind it. Understanding your emotions is crucial, contrary to what the abuser may have told you, you are not pathetic or stupid, and you're not overreacting. I think that was maybe where I went wrong after I escaped, I shut down and ignored my emotions. Everything I felt was packed into a box and labelled as 'unimportant', I pushed it to the back of my mind and off I went to get on with the rest of my life. There I was thinking I was doing just great, carrying on like nothing had happened. Meanwhile the box in the back of my mind held the ever impending threat of erupting, like a dormant volcano, waiting to spew my true emotions all over my unconvincing facade of a 'normal life'. The box lay untouched for over 2 years. During that time we were still in touch, we were in regular contact for at least 6 months following my escape. Most of whatever I felt during this time was succeeded by more anger, usually towards myself. I was angry that I felt sorry for him, angry that I still text back, called back and met up with him. I was angry that despite what had happened he still had some control. Eventually the anger became the dominant emotion, I realised this was completely stupid and put a stop to any ideas he had of ever getting back together.
You may feel stupid and weak if you get drawn in again, but believe me it's surprisingly common. These people took control of our emotions for so long we don't know how to control this sudden whirlwind that's firing these scary emotions in all directions, expecting us to pick them up and know what to do with them. Was it my fault? Should I have tried harder? Was I overreacting? Every single one of your emotions can be validated, you feel that way for a reason, not due to the aforementioned 'overreacting' as they'd have you believe.
Another year down the line and I finally opened the box, not voluntarily I might add, but with the help of someone who intuitively knew that I did not have my life together. Instead of a violent explosion of emotions that I had been void of for years, the box slowly began to throw stuff out and I either had to deal with it or start packing another box and go through the whole emotion-blocking process over again. Something in me eventually realised that I needed to address this head on and admit that I needed help to do so.
When you know you need to escape that is the first step, now to ride that gut wrenching emotional roller coaster to collect the on-ride photo at the end, I promise you when you come out the other side you'll be a better person.
I can't even begin to imagine how difficult this is for some people. However just know that there are so many others that have ridden that same ride, and got off at the other end.
- If anyone reading this has any similar experience, direct or indirect, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Particularly how this kind of abuse looks from the outside, can you tell what is happening? How can you tell? Have you ever told anyone to leave? I plan to continue this blog in stages of the relationship and recovery, and welcome opinions -