‘I will RUIN you.’ I packed for my LIFE.’: Mom and kids escape abusive relationship, ‘I want to help bring justice for others’

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Disclaimer: This story contains details of domestic abuse and suicidal ideation that may be triggering to some. 

“‘Why didn’t you just leave?‘ It’s a question I’ve been asked so many times and a question I’ve also asked myself over and over. Even after being headbutted so hard my nose burst open and my front veneer tooth came out, my face swollen with black eyes, even after I was left knocked out unconscious on the floor sitting in my own urine, I still stayed.

I stayed because it wasn’t always like this—he was my husband. My knight in shining armor. He swooped into my life like a whirlwind, and to be honest the first few months were just that, a whirlwind. Everything happened so quickly, I didn’t really take a minute to slow down to notice the red flags, the subtle hints, the warning signs, and of course my gut instinct warning me the way I was being treated wasn’t right. Looking back now, I can see the signs and a year of the red flags are very apparent. Every book I read, every program I watch, every magazine article I flick through, I feel like I’m reliving my own story.

Things went so fast—the relationship was full on, full steam ahead. I thought he was being romantic, but in hindsight he was beginning to control me. He told me he loved me almost instantly, he talked about marriage, moving in, moving away, a fresh start, just being us, a little family. At the time, it sounded like perfection and everything I had dreamed of. But in reality he was preparing me for isolation. Cracks began to show when I was away from my friends and family—more signs showed, but I was unaware of coercive control, emotional abuse, or financial abuse.

Courtesy of Emma Henderson

I had to write on a whiteboard in the kitchen if I’d spent any money or took any money out of the joint account. I had no control over anything. All were red flags, but I just saw this as a way of him helping me, him supporting the family’s finances, sorting out our debt. I dropped from a size 16 in clothes to a size 10. He would comment on women’s shapes, he would poke at my tummy (I ended up having a tummy tuck). He would only allow organic food in the house—at one point, we couldn’t go out to eat unless he wanted to go. I just thought he was looking after my health. I didn’t see this as controlling until things became physical and more verbal.

I didn’t ever feel comfortable ordering what I felt like to eat or drink when I was out. I felt I had to please him, keep the kids under control, not cause a fuss, or he would explode. His temper and his rages in public worsened over the years, he had outbursts at strangers, his driving was out of control and I felt frightened sitting in the car with him. But I felt lucky to have someone love me. When I met him I was a single mom, but more importantly I suffer from hypermobility syndrome, also known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It’s a genetic disorder where the connective tissues and tissues that provide support to the body are somewhat ‘faulty.’ People who have this syndrome have a faulty collagen gene, and it means although on the outside we look normal, inside our bodies have to work about four times harder to just do normal stuff.

Our bodies find it hard to ‘hold’ us together, and every person varies so differently I can’t even go into detail on signs and symptoms. But I can tell you I sublux (my joints pop out and back in slightly). I have bladder and bowel weakness, issues with chewing and swallowing, chronic migraines, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia. I felt I wasn’t worthy of a relationship and no one would be interested in dating someone with so much baggage and so many health issues. In the beginning he was so loving, so attentive, so understanding, and so caring. Things were blissful, almost too wonderful. As my health deteriorated, I made the heartbreaking decision to slow down my work at my own business and have other staff in to lighten the load, but he persuaded me to sell.

He also persuaded me to sell my home and move to a military home to be with him, where he could take care of me and I could have some time to rest. A few months later, I was isolated from my friends and family, but not actually resting. I was indeed further under his control. My knight in shining armor was losing a bit of shine and some of his appeal. We no longer had coffee dates, he seemed less and less interested in the things he once said he used to enjoy, and he would comment on small things about the house—the mess, my cooking. There would be arguments and I would apologize, always believing I was in the wrong. He did so much for us, didn’t he, he’d say. He paid the bills, bought the food, gave me my medications, and came to every doctor’s appointment. He would call me a useless c*nt, and a worthless mother.

Courtesy of Emma Henderson

As time went on, my health deteriorated further—my migraines became unbearable and my medications were upped. I relied on a walking stick, and going out became harder and harder. We had moved farther down south with his job in the military and I became further isolated from family and friends. I loved being around people, but he hated this and it caused so many arguments. I would be locked in rooms and shouted at until I saw sense, I would be pushed, physically pushed, into a corner until I listened. I was physically pushed until I sat down in a chair, or a bed or a sofa. His arm would stop me from moving anywhere until he decided I could go. At one point, he jammed my foot in the door and repeatedly slammed the door backward and forward.

He would punch holes in the wall, he headbutted two tablets and smashed them, he kicked and punched our dog (I feel physically sick typing this) so I re-homed Hank straight away. He broke his finger doing it. He would smash rooms up, and smash my son’s room up if it wasn’t tidy. You may be reading this and wondering the question, ‘Why didn’t she leave?’ and yes, you are entitled to ask this question. I was threatened, I was told if I ever left I would be destroyed. I would be hunted down, killed, and ruined. ‘I will find you and kill you. But before I find you I will ruin you, financially and emotionally.’ I was terrified.

Things got worse with my health, not just physically but mentally. I wasn’t eating, I was restricting food and throwing up after meals, my weight dropped and my mental health suffered severally. I was suffering with panic attacks, hallucinations, severe depression, thoughts of suicide, and yet I told no one. I believed it was all part of my condition and learning to adapt to this new way of life. The abuse worsened when we moved yet again, isolated once more. His drinking had spiraled and I was physically punished for pouring alcohol away before heading up to bed. He said he was so stressed with work, buying the new house, and the pressure of my health he needed to drink. He was drunk and didn’t remember half of what he said.

He asked me over and over and over to have it in my heart to forgive him, he begged me to give him another chance, that deep down I knew he wasn’t a bad person, he wanted another chance, we could go to counseling, make this work. Move to a new house, a fresh start, he would leave the Navy and be there for me and the kids. He promised he would cut down on his drinking and be a better husband and father. He said the person he was that night wasn’t him—I had to believe him, he isn’t a monster, he was the kind, loving man I met and married. He just needed to be supported and loved. The remorse was Oscar worthy, and of course I believed it.

He would dampen every situation down, he would remind me of his broken childhood, he would remind me of everything he had done for me, he would remind me this was my second marriage and I had two children to two different dads. He would remind me I was getting older and no one else would want me. Starting over again with two kids on my own with a disability would be impossible—I wouldn’t have a nice house, I would have to bring the kids up in a council house with no money, no support, and the kids would hate it. Of course, I probably wouldn’t even get the kids because of my health issues, and of course my mental health. He would remind me I was better off with him, he wasn’t all that bad—in fact, he would remind me I was hard to live with. I had a debilitating illness, I was hard work, no wonder he got stressed! No wonder he drank!

Courtesy of Emma Henderson

In fact, no wonder he ended up lashing out, and actually, did he even punch me??? Hmmm, no. I think he maybe just pushed me a wee bit in the heat of the moment. This is what I ended up believing, because that’s what perpetrators do. They twist the lie so much you believe their version. I kept my mouth shut, smiled with a broken heart, and believed all the false promises. But there was nothing I wanted more than the man I first met. I knew it was time to leave when his behavior was impacting the children. My son confided in his teachers, and on the very same day I had a meeting with them, my husband had me and my daughter in the car and was revving it so hard. He threatened to drive us through the entrance to supermarket.

He had no care or consideration to the children’s feelings, never mind anyone else’s. I became aware of his cocaine use and was also horrified to find out he had been growing cannabis in our own home. I knew I had no other choice but to leave. I had no idea how to do it, but I knew I had to find my strength and go. On January 1, 2018, after being in my bed with an awful migraine, I came downstairs to find him drunk and possibly on drugs. I had no other choice but to ask him to look after our daughter. The house was a mess and our daughter was still in nightwear and basically looking after herself. He was in a mood with me because I’d missed New Year’s, and nothing was made. Our daughter ran to me and hugged me and sat with me on the sofa.

He started an argument and stated he was going out before things got worse. Before I knew it, something came over me, to this day I still do not know how I managed to do this. I packed for my life. He had taken a taxi and left the car and house keys. I used my son’s Christmas money and lifted the basics—my medicines, the kids’ stuff—all while I was checking and double checking the door, because I knew if he caught me, he would kill me. I packed the car, shaking, with my daughter, and drove to the gas station. I didn’t even know how to put gas in! I needed help. I stood there, in my baggy bottoms, my slippers and cardigan, and I was crying with my 3-year-old in the back, convinced he wouldn’t be far behind.

One year on, life is better but it’s still hard. It turns out he had been taking cocaine, cannabis, and ecstasy. He has put $30,000 in my name and has also denied all charges of assault and domestic abuse. My children are both under a psychologist’s care and my son has PTSD. He wants access to our daughter, which I believe isn’t for the right reasons. He would have owned up to what he has done, taken responsibility, stayed on a drug rehabilitation program, and worked hard at being a better person—not tried to destroy himself and the mother of his child. I have PTSD. I relive the physical attacks day in and day out. I’m working hard to move on from this. I’m working hard to be a better person and learn more about domestic abuse and violence.

I’m blogging daily and I want to reach out to others, not just victims of domestic abuse and violence, but those who may find themselves in the same positions as myself. A single mom with health issues, a mom on her own with anxiety, a migraine sufferer, a mom who finds it hard to go out. A person who can’t face the world some days, a women struggling with body issues, a person with hypermobility who feels singled out, a walking stick user who gets stared at. I want to be able to change people’s perceptions and help bring justice to those who truly deserve it.

My blog has helped me so much. It gives me a chance to express my story and my journey, but to also connect with so many other people, and this is the best feeling ever. It’s also helped me realize this hasn’t been my fault. I want my blog and my stories not to come across as ‘feel-sorry-for-me posts,’ but to reach out to others and let them know domestic abuse and violence is real, it’s okay to talk about it, and most importantly, get help and get out when it’s safe to do so.”

Courtesy of Emma Henderson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emma Henderson. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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