How dare they?
How very dare they?
I thought again and again, as yet another woman left her relationship, sometimes an abusive one, and fell straight into a new one. Some of them got married. Some of them had babies with their new partners. Their new lives looked picture perfect despite the secret hell they had just been through, which nobody knew about while it was happening.
I saw other women surrounded by support as they left their abusive marriages: money collected for them, meals cooked and delivered on their door steps, gifts bought for their children.
Where was my support? Where was my crew?
Was I really that good at looking like I had my shit together? Surely not.
I wrote about falling apart and hurting all the time, and not just on my blog. People must have been able to see. Mustn’t they?
So, where were my people? Why was nobody holding me as I fell? Why was nobody gathering around to protect me?
Looking back, I have an inkling as to the reasons why.
I also know that while people project a certain version of themselves to the outside world, inside there might be a whole different, darker story. What possible unresolved issues might be sitting, like an unexploded land mine, in a new relationship of a previously abused woman? What demons might her children be dealing with as they are forced against their will to spend time with their psychologically manipulative father? What hurts might be hiding under the happy Insta photos and cheerful Facebook posts from a woman seemingly happy in her new blended family?
As I had those thoughts of “How dare they?”, I always saw myself as a victim and an object of pity.
The poor abandoned woman who had no idea who she was living with for 18 years and who now must face the consequences of her choices on her own. She only has herself to blame. I felt pathetic and hated my situation.
But even back then I had moments of feeling like a superwoman.
Doing it all on my own. Working full time, raising two small children, managing a house and my own very fragile mental health. I realise now that I only survived because I had spent the previous five years, since my diagnosis of post-natal depression, gathering resources around me, the building blocks of an amazing support system.
It wasn’t friends or family who came to my rescue, it was my amazing team of health professionals. I had found them all for myself. As soon as I had my second child, I reached out to the Maternal and Child Health Service and asked for extra in-home support.
I joined their playgroup for mothers with depression and anxiety. I asked around and found an awesome doctor, who then found me a social worker and a therapist.
I found myself a meditation teacher and later an art teacher.
I had pooled all these resources around me as if I knew that I would need them real soon.
It was my psychologist who first uttered the phrase “emotional abuse” and my doctor “narcissist”.
When my husband announced he wanted to leave, I fell in a heap. The only things that kept me going were my regular appointments with all my people. I lived from appointment to appointment, from playgroup to playgroup, from meditation class to meditation class. Even my meditation teacher talked to me about emotional abuse.
They all knew, and I had never said a word about my husband.
When he lost his job and went to jail, I was left with a mortgage I couldn’t pay and no income apart from Centrelink payments. Once again I reached out for help. This time to a financial counsellor to help me figure out what to do with my debts and to a community support service to get supermarket gift cards so I could feed my children. I’d never felt more humiliated.
And my friends were nowhere to be found.
I joined a support group for women who had experienced domestic violence and felt guilty that I had never been physically abused, not realising just how badly I had been traumatised and scarred.
Over a period of three years I sold two houses, bought one, moved house three times, the third to another town to get away from everything familiar that reminded me of the trauma of deceit and abuse. Things were hard. Crying on the kitchen floor at night because I didn’t know how to go on alone and broke, crying in the shower when I realised I would have to sell the family home, crying at the real estate agent’s when I dropped off the keys on settlement day, because all my dreams were in that house.
When I look back at the last nine years I realise that what one might indeed ask is “How dare she do it all on her own?”. Why doesn’t she need people to hold her up? I guess I wasn’t raised that way. Theoretically, I was raised to stand on my own two feet, which I hated, I could have used more support growing up. I always relied very heavily on my romantic partners for emotional support and felt bereft when my husband left. There was no one to fill the void but me and my health professionals.
Now, I truly do stand on my own two feet.
Perhaps too well. I find it very hard to get close to people, let alone trust them. My blog is where I open up, but I never expect anything back. It’s been said that I am a different person in real life, to what I am on the blog.
My friends praise me for what I’ve been able to achieve on my own, but really, I didn’t have a choice. There just wasn’t anyone there.
And now I wonder if there ever will be.
I never had the desire to throw myself back into the dating scene. For most of the last nine years, men have terrified me. Even now I find it really hard to talk to them. I find it quite strange that women who had left abusive relationships have been able to hook up again so quickly. I’m surprised that they haven’t been more heavily scarred. Or perhaps their scars are just different.
For now, I will just keep doing it on my own.
If you or a loved one is experiencing physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse, please reach out to one of the resources provided below:
Dorothy is a truth talker, opinion owner, feminist, solo parent, business owner and cat minion. She is forever opening and closing doors for them.
Dorothy has been blogging since 2009 about what’s going on in her head, because it’s cheaper and more effective than therapy. She also works as a business coach and virtual assistant for women entrepreneurs.
She is based in Ballarat, Victoria, but works with clients from all over the world.
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