BETHESDA, Maryland, October 23, 2014 — Wendy* is a survivor of domestic violence living and raising her family in Scotland.
Before the relationship, I was young, innocent and rather starry eyed. I thought people were fundamentally good and that if you loved someone enough, all would be okay. I had a close circle of friends. I argued with my parents but was close to my sisters. I loved life.
During the relationship, I was on edge constantly. I felt constantly bad and not good enough. I had no close friends and no contact with my family. I looked forward to falling asleep. I survived; I did not live. It was hell.
Immediately after the relationship ended, I was confused, vulnerable and unsure of myself.
To lure me in, he made me feel like I was the most important person in the Universe. He made me feel beautiful and like the most desirable girl in the world. He once brought ten cuddly teddies to my work and on another occasion, bought me six bunches of flowers at the same time. He made me feel special and unique. He also made me think he needed me, and I loved feeling needed and useful.
I was cut off from my friends and family. He insisted on knowing my every single thought. I was eventually diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) because of my compulsive thoughts and trying to control my mind so I had nothing to tell him. That did not work, and I do not have OCD.
No matter what I did, I could not keep him happy. I was never ever good enough, and it was always my fault for not trying hard enough. He made me feel like I was a tart and a flirt. He tore up my clothes and made me dress like a seventy-year-old woman. He told me my friends were a bad influence.
After I had our daughter, he decided I had committed adultery because a male doctor had examined me. His pet name for me after that was slut. He reported me to our clergy in our church for committing adultery and was outraged when I was not disciplined.
From that point forward, he treated me as an adulterous wife and refused to sleep next to me unless he wanted sex. He refused to speak to me and often ripped the covers off me during the night if he could not find his.
He controlled every aspect of my life: what I wore, what I said, what I thought, what I ate, who I spoke to. I had to hide food in the house. I had to tidy away things before I went to bed or he would be into everything. If he was angry, he broke my things, smashed up the house and threw away food to punish me. He once threw away all the milk, because he suddenly went vegan. I had a newborn baby and no milk in the house. I could go on and on and on and on.
I had to change who I was to cope. I tried to control my thoughts to please him. I changed how I dressed. I gave up my friends and all contact with my family. I left my job. I changed all my behaviors to please him.
I am very outgoing and love being social. He felt our world should revolve around him and no one else. He was innately jealous of my daughter. He hated the attention I gave her and was jealous of her. He let no one else babysit her, feed her, change her, etc. He wanted me to homeschool her so his domain would not be altered. Fortunately, I had got rid of him before she started school. I felt horrendous not letting my family near my baby. I missed my friends and suffered stress because of this.
I once took a packet of pills in the hope he would leave me alone. He did for about an hour. I used to fantasize about cutting myself, but I never did. Instead, I focused all my energy on my daughter.
My biggest challenge since ending the toxic relationship has been breaking the hold he has on my mind. I have tried to be more open with others about what happened. I am trying to talk about it. I have read a lot of self-help books. I have taken an interest in myself. For example, I pay attention to how I look and started travelling again and having fun, especially with my daughter. I have joined the Women’s Aid forum in the UK. I am on the waiting list for counselling.
Today, I know who I am, where I am going and that I am a good person. I am happy and love life. I treasure my friends and my family and live for my daughter. I am strong, but I miss the innocent person I used to be. I now have my own house, full custody of my child and my divorce is almost final.
My best advice for anyone struggling in an abusive relationship is to realize that you must free your mind from your abuser before you can physically break free. Without a hold on your mind, he/she cannot keep you.
Each day during the month of October, column author Paula Carrasquillo will feature a story written by a survivor of domestic violence. At the end of October, a compilation of all stories will be available for free as an e-book.
*All names have been changed to protect the survivor and the survivor’s family and friends.