One woman in four will experience domestic violence at some point in her lifetime and two women are killed each week in England and Wales by a current or former partner.
In February I will be walking 56 miles to raise funds and awareness for Refuge.
I’ve never shared this story publicly before, but as this is the place I seem to come these days, I’ll just give you the headlines.
For 8 years, I was in a relationship with a man who was a controlling bully. I was married to him for 5 of those years before I had the courage to walk away, and I left with nothing but my then 10-year-old son (not his father, thankfully!) and a bin liner full of our clothes.
During those years, he tore me apart with his words. He gaslighted me, ghosted me, bullied me and more hurtfully he didn’t speak to my son for 5 years.
It was lovely in the beginning, which I now recognise as the ‘love-bombing’ phase. I recently read a book by Professor of Public Protection at University of Gloucester, Jane Monckton Smith – In Control and I can say hand on heart that if I hadn’t left when I did, I would now be yet another tragic statistic.
Jane Monckton Smith is behind The Homicide Timeline, an eight stage ‘road map’ that sets out how a controlling relationship can lead to homicide. It is currently being used by police forces nationwide. In my situation, we reached Stage 6: A change in thinking. We had separated at this point and he became a stalker; turning up at my work place with flowers, he found out where I had moved to and would turn up late at night, often drunk. He would call me at all hours with excuses why he needed to see me (getting locked out of the house which we still jointly owned was a favourite). When he didn’t get the response he wanted (as in I didn’t react or go running to his side) he got verbally abusive with family members and even work colleagues. Thankfully, he eventually gave up when he met someone else.
I had counselling twice a week for two years before I could build any semblance of a normal life for me and my boy. I’m glad I did. It made me realise that I am a good person, that I’m not the crazy, selfish, paranoid lunatic he made me believe I was. I turned 51 in January; I left him in 2002, so this December (8th) will make it twenty years since we left and I still (though rare) have flashbacks in certain situations. I’m still learning about me, I’m still growing and I am a very different person or perhaps I’m the person I was always meant to be. I’ve learned to love myself so that I can allow others to love me. I trust my instincts. I have a strong set of values that I honour and live by. I met a new man ten years ago who rebuilt my faith in men and who I love deeper than I have loved any man (apart from my boy of course!).
Recently, after the last couple of years and all that has entailed, I could feel myself slipping backwards. The cancer diagnosis obviously knocked my confidence, losing the hearing in my right ear in 2018 and having to wear hearing aids didn’t do much for my ego and more recently losing my darling dad all added up to an existence that didn’t amount too much. Of course, we were all in the same boat thanks to ‘Rona but as restrictions on the nation lifted, I decided I needed to lift some of my own restrictions too. I’m still cautious about busy coffee shops and shopping centres but I can walk. Not far, and not for long, but I can definitely walk further thanks to the steroids I’m being pumped with every week so when I came across an online advert for Refuge I thought – why the hell not? And when I realised it was twenty years then, hell yeah – what better way to show my support.
If you would like to support me, you can do so here >> https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cat-yaffe or if you’re on Facebook the page to donate is here https://www.facebook.com/donate/423611256174136
With every step I take throughout February, I will think of those women (and men) who haven’t had the chance I have had. Who, for whatever reason can’t escape. I hope that by raising awareness and talking openly about my experience it might just help at least one person realise that there is another way. A better way. And there is hope. Just reach out. A phone call, a click on the website – all the details are below. Please share and let’s change the appalling statistics.
No one should live in fear or be afraid in their own home.
Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk (access live chat Mon-Fri 3-10pm)
Finally, if you have already supported me (even just a share of this blog post, the Facebook page or the Just Giving link) then from the very bottom of my heart, thank you.
It’s getting harder, of that there is no denying. It’s the fatigue more than anything and it’s really hard to describe, but as this is the place where I try to help others and work things out for myself I’ll give it a try.
Before ‘shit happened (SH)’, I was a long-term survivor of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and underactive thyroid. I’m on meds, have regular reviews and mainly self manage symptoms either through my diet (avoid gluten / wheat), low carbs and take gentle exercise, usually swimming. I’ve been self employed or worked from home in one capacity or another from 2017, and I’ve been privileged to have the time to be able to listen to my body’s needs. My usual working day would start in the Shed around 8am, I’d work until 2pm with a 30 min lunch break at around 12.30pm then the afternoon would be swimming, walking or more often than not, napping – it was/is what my body needs and I’m fortunate and grateful to be able to do that. The fatigue I feel now isn’t sleepy tired (though I can still sleep through several storms!) It’s more of an all-encompassing lack of energy, like my batteries have gone flat or I’ve run out of juice. The only option is to stop, sleep if I want/can or sit and do nothing. The brain crashes too or is full of cotton wool, so watching TV (though nice for background noise) or reading a book is hopeless because I can’t concentrate or follow the thread of a story. I do knit, or do some colouring in which is very calming and helps with mindfulness. I must stress that it doesn’t feel like this every day or all the time, but when it does it, it hits hard and there is no rhyme or reason to it (trust me, I’ve tried to keep a track).
Of course, everyone is different and I have had rather a lot on my plate!
When SH, I moved in to look after my parents full-time who were both having a difficult time health wise, then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Once I had sorted care out for them, I moved back home (that first night in my own bed was bloody lovely!) and concentrated on my own health. How I longed to have my organised, slow-going-days back; a leisurely breakfast with fresh ground coffee, a lie in if I had no deadlines to hit, or a sofa day if my body just wasn’t having any of it. Or a steady swim followed by a sauna and 30-minute session in the Hydrotherapy pool. Ah, what a bloody life I lived!!
In the last 6 months, I have undergone 2 major operations to remove cancer, supported my dad through end-of-life care, helped my mum deal with a dementia diagnosis, tried to be there for my son as his own mental health suffered as a result of all the above, and tried to be a loving wife and step mum. That’s a lot, right? Add to that intensive chemotherapy sessions initially every 3 weeks then bumped to every week, losing my hair, putting on 2 stone, all whilst living through a global pandemic. Sign me up to the nuthouse please??!!
BUT – I can now see a little chink of light at the end of the tunnel. I only have 2 more chemo treatments left and I can look forward to a 4 week break. I then need to have radiotherapy, 5 days a week, for possibly 4 weeks. That will be followed by hormone suppressants, which are tablet form thankfully, so no trips to the hospital.
I am gradually stealing time back for myself. I have 2 Shed days a week currently which will increase once the chemo stops, but then I dare say I’ll lose them again when radiotherapy starts but it’s only 4 weeks so again, light at the end of the tunnel!
So what will I do with this newfound freedom? Will I return to my previous sloth-like existence? Well, you can read all about my next ‘challenge’ in my next post!
Any guesses what it might be?