The runaway parents’ club

There are several stages of parenting, and you tend to share them with your girlfriends. The excitement of the first pregnancy scan, the birth, followed by the toddler stage, comparing first steps and first words, the funny things they say, the adorable things they do. Then comes the (mainly) harmless pre-pubescent stage and finally the bit we all dread that bridges childhood and adulthood. Yep, the teenage years.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but as the mother of a couple of girls who were nicknamed the ferals by a close friend back in 2008, I predicted it wouldn’t be easy.
It is not, but as with the other parenting stages, I am not alone. A lot of my friends are going through similar (and worse) things than I am. One friend had her car stolen, driven all over the county and dumped in a field, filthy and rather predictably out of petrol. Another left her daughter staying with friends while she went abroad for a few days. When she got back the daughter had hosted an enormous party, trashed the house (including a broken floor, I mean how the hell do you do that?!), drunk everything that even resembled alcohol and even managed to damage the next door neighbour’s place.
As I lay in bed last night fuming over the injustices linked to being the parent of a teenager and wondering if I could run away from home, I had an idea.
As my heroine Nora Ephron was fond of saying: “Everything is copy.” There was a film in 1996 starring Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler called The First Wives Club. imgres
It tells the story of three friends whose husbands have all left them for younger women. The first wives plot their revenge with hilarious consequences. How about a similar film about three friends whose teenagers have ritually abused them, trashed their homes, flunked out of school, stolen from them (I could go on) plotting how to finally get control of their offspring?
I imagine something like a kidnap where the three teenagers are whisked off to some awful boot-camp in Wales by the mothers all wearing cat-woman type disguises, armed with whips and Taser guns.
Here the adolescents are subjected to the kind of things they subject their parents to on a daily basis, as well as some rigorous exercise, hideous arithmetic and French verbs thrown in for good measure, possibly even the odd (fake of course) life-threatening situation. When they eventually “escape” (also part of the mothers’ plot) and get home they are so grateful to be there they are utter lambs.
And at any sign of dissent the mothers have only to drop the word ‘Wales’ into the conversation to trigger terrible flashbacks…

St Trinians for grown-ups?

Has anyone else found that the more choice we have on TV the less there is to watch?
Last night I scrolled through the channels. At the last episode it really was too late for me to get into The Great British Bake Off. I love The Simpsons but just wasn’t in the mood. Channel 4 news annoyed me, again. And England are out of the Rugby World Cup, so no point in watching that.
I wished then that I had done something about an idea I had a couple of years ago for what I think would be a brilliant reality TV show. Something to rival The Great British Bake Off, only less fattening. The plan is this: you pick a suitably snooty girls’ boarding school, Benenden for example, or maybe even Heathfield Ascot. You take say three or four of the girls, possibly from Lower Sixth or maybe from various age groups, and you replace them, for a period of two weeks, with their mothers.bfi-00m-mjh
Obviously you need to pick the mothers wisely. You need women who will create good TV. It’s no good having someone who doesn’t say anything intelligent, stupid or outrageous. But my experience of these boarding school mothers is that they have plenty of chatter. The mothers would live at school, wear the uniform, attend lessons, play lacrosse and eat the ghastly boarding school food. In short they would live their daughters’ lives for a couple of weeks.trinians_682x400_405423a
We viewers would monitor their progress. How they were doing conjugating their French verbs for example, or being told by matron when to get up, sharing a bathroom with ten other girls who are all trying to steal their La Prairie face cream, attending chapel on a compulsory basis. It might be a good idea if one of them was an ‘old girl’ so she could compare life then and now. “Well, in my day we didn’t have heating, we had a hot water bottle, but only in Upper Sixth.” You can imagine the sort of thing.
There would obviously have to be some kind of competitive element in order to make it more interesting. Maybe the mother who wins the most votes from the viewing public gets a term’s free schooling for her daughter?
At around £11,000 this would definitely be worth embarrassing yourself on national TV for. I think it would make great viewing, and if someone wants to make the show they can count me in as one of the mothers. Bea will be grateful for the time off and I would even be willing to subject myself to chapel for two weeks. It can’t be more boring than television.

The Ballad of Fifth-Form Square

“We know not whether laws be right
Or whether laws be wrong
All we know who lie in gaol
Is that the walls are strong
And each day is like a year
A year whose days are long.”

This is an excerpt from Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Goal, which I was reminded of the other day when I had a call from Bea’s school to say she was being ‘internally suspended’.
“That sounds dreadful,” I said. I imagined Bea being hung by her arms from the beams in chapel by a bungee rope. Actually being internally suspended entails being taken to a room in fifth-form square (where the fifth form live) and left there, alone, for two days. You are let out only for meals. Sadly for Bea her sentence coincided with the hottest day of the year.
Meanwhile Olivia, having finished her GCSEs was camping on the Norfolk coast. While Bea was in bed staring at the ceiling for the 705th time that minute, Olivia was enjoying the view. “It’s so beautiful,” she wrote to me in a text message. “We are looking at the stars.”
Which of course brings me to another Oscar Wilde quote. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
In Bea’s defence, that is probably what she was trying to do when she was caught committing her crime of climbing onto the school roof. Incidentally my mother-in-law, who was here when the call came through, admitted that she was an appalling roof climber at school and constantly in trouble. “But I gave it all up by the age of 12,” she added. Very wise.
At the end of this term the girls, for the first time ever, are going to be in separate schools. Olivia will leave boarding school to do her A Levels at a day school in Oxford. We have rented a place I have affectionately named “the little house” and during term time this is where you will find us. It is little, but it’s charming, and now stuffed full of furniture from Peter Jones and crockery from Emma Bridgewater. It is also a five-minute walk from M&S, so frankly it can be as little as it likes. Olivia will be studying French, Spanish, English Literature and Religious Studies. We have the first three sorted; a French neighbour to the left, a Spanish one to the right and I can help with the English Lit. We have yet to find an expert in RS but this being Oxford I’m sure it won’t be difficult.
But Bea’s internal suspension did get me thinking about how best to punish Olivia if she misbehaves. There isn’t much room to suspend her in the little house. I suppose I could ground her, but then again no one seems to go out any more anyway, they just talk to people online. Punishing the children for bad behaviour is something I have never been very good at, and I was extremely relieved to leave it to the professionals at boarding school. I’m not sure I’d be capable of incarcerating Bea in a room for more than five minutes. When we lived in Abu Dhabi I was always threatening to take away their phones or stop their pocket money but I never did. I blame my mother, she was far too nice to me. But I suppose if the worst comes to the worst and Olivia behaves truly appallingly, Reading jail is not far away…

It’s a long way down…

On our way to the south of France from England, Leo and I passed the time listening to Desert Island Disks podcasts. One of the best ones was Bear Grylls. He spoke about his decision to climb Everest as he lay in hospital with a broken back.
It was in part this that inspired our adventure today to a rock we have named Wright’s rock, about a mile from the house. I have a vague memory of climbing it once before, but I was sure there was a path. Today there was not. And as we stood looking at the sheer stone rock-face we were going to have to climb to get to the top I felt less like Bear Grylls and more like the vertiginous coward I really am.FullSizeRender 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband was all for it. He has some new walking boots and wanted to try them out. Leo was keen too, and started climbing immediately. I stomped off in a downward direction convinced they were both going to fall and refusing to watch. It was all about to end in tears when Olivia came to the rescue, discovering a slightly less horrendous way up that involved crawling under a tree.FullSizeRender 2
We all made it to the top, which had seemed impossible ten minutes earlier. “There,” said my husband, surveying the stunning views. “We’ve all achieved something today.”
“Let’s go home for a cup of tea,” I suggested. And we started looking for a way down. No one ever really talks about getting down, it’s all about reaching the pinnacle, getting to the summit, scaling the heights etc. How come no one ever mentions getting down?
The way down in not to be underestimated, especially not when you are dealing with bare cliff-face. My husband admitted that he had put us all through the adventure of climbing up to make sure we weren’t deprived of that lovely sense of achievement. “But I’m sure there is a path down somewhere,” he smiled.FullSizeRender 5
I thought about killing him on the spot, but decided to wait until he’d found the path.
He didn’t find the path, so we had a rather harrowing descent, mainly on our bottoms. I have never been so happy to see a gravel track in my life.FullSizeRender 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The moral of the story is two-fold; definitely push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you’ll feel great afterwards (and really enjoy your cup of tea). But don’t forget about the way down. While I was happy to get to the top, I was even happier to get to the bottom.

Bullying: how to spot the signs and put a stop to it

I am delighted to present a guest blog from my great friend Floss who runs a brilliant website called uktherapyguide.com. Her son was very badly bullied so she speaks from experience. 

In my work as a psychotherapist and my life as a mother, I have witnessed the long and short term effects of bullying. At least 70 % of my clients have experienced bullying at some point in their lives, often for the first time at school. I used to be surprised that bullying was a common denominator in the narratives of stories of so many clients, but now it is predictably present.

The feelings brought about by being bullied on a daily basis, fear, isolation, chronic anxiety and helplessness, can create a deep cavity of sadness. The victim can be left with a distorted core belief that they are somehow at fault. Children, often boys, hide incidents from parents, because they don’t want to ‘worry’ parents or show their vulnerability. Often, pleas for help are brushed aside and diminished, compounding feelings of loneliness and desperation. In addition, there will always be the cases where the child has experienced bullying at home by a parent from an early age and this is likely to form the deepest cavity of all.shutterstock_108866654

While we are made up of an infinity of memories etched on our minds and bodies, when we have a bad experience it can distort the good memories and lay a shaky foundation for the future. Being humiliated or hit, tripped up, laughed at, told you are bad, ugly, stupid, fat, skinny on a daily basis can create a distorted world view. Such negative roles are often re-enacted in relationships, friendships and the work place. Victims of bullying are more likely to repeatedly attract bullies into their lives via behaviours and unconscious processes, unable to break free of this vicious cycle and their familiar role.

“I didn’t want to go out in case I bumped into them and I was anxious a lot of the time.

“It started with bitchy, unkind comments, little comments that would just chip at me and make me feel small. Then the others would join in, laughing at me. I started cutting myself, it was the only thing that I felt I could control. I hated getting up in the morning and in the evenings I just wanted to cry.”

Sometimes with maturity comes a moment of clarity, when those that feel broken and fragmented realise that they are yet again in the familiar territory of pain and angst. For some, this “eureka” moment might lead them to reach out for help through therapeutic intervention. Sadly the majority of victims of bullying remain imprisoned in their past, haunted by their trauma and terrifying experiences. Sometimes, when the suffering becomes too much, they turn to self harm and in extreme cases, suicide, because it feels like the only option left open to them.

We all know how vulnerable our children are and we strive to teach them to be open, kind and gentle. Sadly, the world does not always operate on a level of reciprocal kindness and respect. As their guardians, we need to be vigilant to the signs of encroachment on their sensitive delicate worlds. We need to arm them with the tools that will safeguard them on their journey.

My son is now a secure and popular young man, with a positive sense of self and a good understanding of right from wrong. However, when he was about 8, I started to notice that my bubbly, talkative little boy had become withdrawn and no longer wanted to play football and other sports. It preyed on my mind, but I was pretty busy with work and didn’t really notice just how troubled he had become. One day I received a call from the school to say he had had a ‘little accident’, nothing major and there was no reason for me to leave work.
It was only when I arrived to pick him up form school, when I was met by his grazed and bloodied little face, wide-eyes staring up at me, shocked and confused. His mouth was covered in blood, his lip swollen and embedded with gravel and his front tooth cracked, the nerve hanging out like a tiny little worm. He looked at me with tears in his eyes, but he didn’t cry, just held my hand very tightly.
I took him home. I was so terribly upset and angry, particularly as I had trusted the schools claim that at it was only a little accident and that there was no need for me to come. After a lot of cuddling and reassurance he slowly peeled away the resistance and let me into the world that he had been living in, for the past 4 months, since the beginning of the school year. He told me how a group of older boys had started to pick on him. They would push him over in the play ground, hit him, kick him and tell him he was shit at football and couldn’t play. This had been happening daily, becoming more extreme culminating in the ‘accident’. The boys had tied skipping ropes around his legs and ankles and started to pull him, face down on the gravelly play ground floor.
I was horrified. How had this happened at school? Where were the teachers, where was his protection? The school, when I confronted them, were ambivalent. They denied any knowledge of bullying and refused to deal with the children who had been the aggressors or approach their parents. My son was left with long term damage to his teeth and the scars of the repeated intimidation. In the end, we decided to change schools and place him somewhere with stronger leadership that would not foster “bully culture”.

“I didn’t understand what I had done, why they hated me. I hid it from my parents. They would only worry and if they got involved, it would be even worse.”

Luckily, the new school was very different, dealing with the children as individuals and confronting unkindness in an open and immediate way. My son gradually regained his confidence though I was still wary, watching for signs of the distress that I missed, leaving my little boy in such a vulnerable position.
A couple of years later, I began to see subtle changes; withdrawn behaviour, mood swings and a loss of confidence. This time, I recognized the signs and was able to intervene, speaking to the school and finding him some outside support. Talking to a trained professional (I called him a “coach” rather than a therapist to destigmatise it) helped him to process his feelings and move beyond this experience and break the pattern before it became habitual.

Now, I know to watch for the most common indications of bullying:

-Low self esteem

-Your child suddenly seems withdrawn and is spending lots of time alone and is quiet.

·-Self harm

·-Suddenly not being included or engaging in with their ‘friendship group’

· Not participating in school activities

· Over or under eating

· Lack of energy

-A marked change in character, whereby your child unusually appears anxious, angry, detached, distant or tearful.

Some of the above are of course all part and parcel of normal teenage angst. Yet, if you do have any concerns about your child, act on them, because nothing is lost by showing concern. Try find a quiet moment to have a chat with your son or daughter to ‘check in’, preferably out of the family home and in a neutral and relaxed setting. Avoid attempting to talk when you are busy, driving the car or when time is a pressure. Make the time to engage, observe body language and really try to be present, listen and hear what is being communicated to you. They may not want to tell you, but continue to be vigilant and available.
Cyber bullying is yet another way for those with negative, unprocessed feelings to project them on to others from afar. As it is usually done anonymously, the attacks can be vicious and deeply humiliating, spreading like wildfire across social media.
If it transpires that things are not as they should be, the best advice I can give any parent, is to act on immediately, nip it in the bud. Do not ignore your child’s reality; do not hope that that it will go away, because bullying scars run deep. Early intervention can be crucial in dissolving the impact and collateral damage.
Some suggested Action points:
-Keep a watchful eye for significant changes listed above.
-Act immediately.
-Talk to your child alone in a calm way in a neutral environment.
-If you child has asked you not to get involved, to let them ‘sort it out”, put your own time limit on how long you will wait for signs of improvement before intervening.
-Remember you are the parent and your child’s protector.
-Early intervention can limit damage.
-If the bullying is taking place at school, contact the school and ask them what their policies are and insist on complete confidentiality.
-Try to help them establish friendships with ‘good friends to reduce the feelings of isolation. Invite them to your house so your child can feel safe.
-If you are not happy with the schools reaction and procedure, set a time limit on how long you will wait before escalating the matter to the board of governors
-If you have a gut feeling that you need to exercise damage limitations, go with that and move your child to another safe school, but always be very open with the new school about why you are moving your child and notice their reaction. Ask them what they are going to do to help your child settle in and regain his confidence.
-Keep on checking in with your child and if the impact is great then find a therapist, or buddy to talk to. At this age it can help to have a same sex therapist to avoid awkwardness. If it happens again, they will most likely need help; you cannot keep moving and behavioural pattens are set relatively early in life.

Therapeutic intervention is sometimes viewed as a defeat, as the end of the road. It is really the beginning. You can not see the scars of bullying but they exist beneath the skin like a thousand cuts. Dealing with these issues will prevent them from festering. There is no more important and valuable gift you can give your child than the tools to resolve their problems and conflicts both in the present and in their lives ahead. A different kind of unique relationship, one that is neutral, safe and containing, where they can discover they have the power to make different healthy choices. That is a priceless gift that endures the test of time.

Good parenting

The other night I had a drink with a friend of mine who had just had lunch with her parents. She took a sip of her wine and sighed. “For everything they’ve ever taught me, I may as well be an orphan,” she said.

My friend had what I would describe as a pretty traditional upbringing; two siblings, no divorce, living in more or less the same house throughout her childhood. The complete opposite of mine I suppose.

But her comment really got me thinking about what does make good parenting?

523931_466908883349736_884495519_nWhen my father was on his deathbed, barely aware of his surroundings, I told him he’d been a great father. He practically sat up in shock, sending the tubes flying. It made me laugh at the time. I wish we could have laughed about it together and talked, but he could no longer really speak.

Of course when I said he’s been a great father I didn’t mean he’d changed my nappies, driven me to and from school, cooked me beans on toast for tea and so on. What I meant was that without him I would have been, as my husband puts it, “an infinitely less interesting person”.

While he may not have taught me anything about the practical things in life, such as the importance of saving money on the rare occasions you have it, he taught me so many other things such as the importance of words (he used to read dictionaries like novels), humour (he would never lose his sense of humour, apart from when I was unable to recite Dante) and learning. When I finally stopped being a drop-out and decided to go to university I was in a quandary about what to study. “The important thing is not what you study,” he told me. “The important thing is that you study.”

He said so much that I will never forget. One of the best pieces of advice he gave was to “chiedi Bach” that is “ask Bach” if you have a problem. The idea is that you listen to Bach and the answer will come to you. It is not fool-proof, but a lot of the time it works.

IMG_2051I guess my point is that the fact that he said things I will never forget means they were significant. And surely one of the points of being a good parent is to be just that? And to teach your children to live well, and not be an idiot. Of course my father was an idiot in lots of ways, as we all are, but he got away with it, because he taught me so much that made me become less of one.

If we can make our children less idiotic we have done a good job. And if we can do that without being mundane or boring so much the better. I really don’t want to be remembered solely as the kind of parent who came up with tips on how to clean an oven, or which building society account to opt for. And if that makes me a bad parent then so be it.

The 50 year old teenagers

Never mind 40 being the new 30, it seems 50 is the new 15.
A few nights ago I went out with some friends. They bought along a couple I had never met. They were my age (in fact possibly even older) but spent the entire evening kissing, touching and feeding each other bits of raw fish. It will come as no surprise to you that they were not married. In fact they have only known each other a few months and were clearly at that early romantic stage I have a dim and distant memory of.
Another friend has recently decided that rather than stay at home with her husband, she wants to go out partying, drinking and dancing. If the evening ends with a snog from a relative stranger so much the better. And another friend who is almost fifty has just married a 20 year old.imgres-1
The one thing all these people have in common is that they have no children, well apart from the man who just married one.
I have often wondered what the effect of not having children is and I guess one is a certain reluctance to grow up. I am not being critical, not growing up sounds like much more fun than being responsible and dull, but I wonder how long it can go on for? Do you suddenly look in the mirror and realise that dancing to house music when you’re 60 just looks insane?
My husband was telling me about a friend of his the other day who is single and has never had any children. His main aim in life seems to be to get tables in London restaurants where there is a huge waiting list. “I guess that’s the difference,” said my husband. “I’ve got a perfectly good table at home.”
Maybe if you don’t have children your priorities are totally different. Things like restaurants and parties and luxury holidays all become very exciting (and obtainable). As well as giving you more financial freedom, I think in some ways not having children gives you the freedom to be whatever age you want to be. I have a childless relation who is able to get away with dressing and looking like a woman in her mid-fifties, whereas her real age is 30 years older. If I try to dress like Olivia and Bea when I am 85 I will just look like a nutter, and they will be the first to tell me so.
Which brings me to my final point, having children is a great leveller. There is no one in the world who will bring you back down to earth quite so quickly if you even try to act like a teenager. Because that’s their job, not yours.

A cure for cancer? Get on with it please…

Last night I dreamt that Petr Cech had cancer. Most you won’t know who he is, and there’s no reason why you should unless you’re a football fan. He is Chelsea’s brilliant goalkeeper, has been since 2004.For some reason I was with him when he discovered he was ill, and we were busy discussing what he should be cremated in. We opted for his green goalkeeping strip (with underwear, as opposed to my father below). I wept hysterically throughout the whole dream, I just couldn’t imagine life (or Chelsea) without him. imgres
On waking I realised that there are probably three main reasons I had this nightmare.
First, my father has just died, so death and cremation are at the forefront of my mind. Second, I watched another Chelsea hero, Juan Mata, playing in a red Manchester United shirt for the first time last night. It was a little bit like watching an old boyfriend you are still in love with kissing another girl. So there’s the losing a key player link. Third, my girls told me the tragic news yesterday of a first former at their school who has lung cancer. She starts chemo today and is 11 years old.
This is just about the saddest thing I have ever heard. One day you’re a little girl roaming around the glorious grounds of your school wondering who you’re playing in Wednesday’s Lacrosse match and the next you’re in hospital, terrified, in grave pain and danger. I just can’t imagine what she and her parents must be going through today and will go through for the next few months. It really is one of those things that puts everything else in perspective. Apparently cancer in children is particularly violent. How bloody cruel is that? What a hideous, nasty twist.
I have read encouraging things about finding a cure for cancer and of course some people are cured. I can’t understand why there isn’t a tax levied on all businesses for example to raise more money for research. Where the hell does all that VAT go for example? Would we resent paying it if we knew it was going to help children with terminal illnesses?
If you’re moved by this little girl’s plight, please click on this link and donate http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/support-us/donate.

Just remember it could be you sitting in a hospital next to your child today and not as you are at your desk reading this.

Wish List for 2014

Now that New Year is finally over, it’s time to look forward to the rest of 2014. Bea, for example, has compiled a ‘Wish List’ with the item on it and a little box to tick when it has been fulfilled. For those of you wishing to do the same I have scanned it. Scan
As you will see, she already has two of the five items on it. Not bad considering it’s only January 10th.
On my wish list I might have a few more than five items. Obviously the bubble wrap calendar would be number one, but after that I might wish that women in Saudi Arabia would be granted the right to drive, or that girls in India could live their lives without fear of gang rape and murder. In fact why limit that to India? I would also wish that some miraculous peace reigned in Syria and all those languishing in jail there (especially the children) would be freed. Although it is hard to imagine what kind of homes they have left to go to.
Once my world problems wish list had been completed I could move on to more personal matters, such as losing three kilos, and writing a best-selling book. High on that list would be that the children are happy at school. I know that top of Leo’s wish list (even before world peace and human rights for all) would be me living in Surrey two minutes from Woodcote so he could be a day boy, and sometimes that figures on my wish list too. But we spoke to him last night and he was very happy. Unbeaten at pool and six goals in the hockey match.
I hope whatever you wish for in 2014 comes true. My advice is to start small, with a list like Bea’s, most of which can be obtained online. Happy New Year!

Sticks and stones…

This is not usually a forum for serious topics, but I want to highlight Vicki’s story. She is a friend of a friend, who is in the process of escaping from her husband and emotional abuser. They have three small children, twins aged four and a toddler boy, all born in Dubai. The children are wards of court while their future is decided. Vicki will have to return from the UK to Dubai for a hearing. She may well lose custody of them.

What follows are Vicki’s words. She describes what effect emotional abuse had on her. As a child I lived through physical abuse, and always thought that was the worst thing that could ever happen to you or someone you love. It seems that emotional abuse can be just as damaging, and even worse in some ways. Although of course the two are very often used in tandem to devastating effect.

“Emotional Abuse is as bad if not worse than physical abuse. Wanna know why? Because no one sees your bruises or scars and no one else really knows what is going on ‘behind closed doors’.imgres

Emotional Abusers are clever. No doubt about it. They prey on someone’s weakness until a small crack becomes a large crevasse. Imagine someone using the one or two or more things you have an insecurity about and building on it daily. Building is the wrong term, chipping away at you is what they do, they build nothing.

I’ll admit mine, mine was definitely confidence. Whilst I come across as a funny and bubbly person, I am actually incredibly shy and have had to learn confidence over the years. When my EA (Emotional Abuser) met me I was a sitting duck. Instead of being happy with my chirpy personality, he saw it as a threat. His insecurities rose up and in an effort to feel like the ‘big man’, he decided to make me smaller instead of grow himself. Its not done over night, its done chip by chip, day by day. A thought, a comment, a mood, a reaction, even just a facial expression, usually of disgust. The moods are bad, where you just so want them to snap out of it you almost apologise for something you haven’t done, especially when there are kids involved. You so want the norm to resume, whatever a norm is, that you are willing to turn into that door mat just to appease a situation. You start to become someone you don’t even like, but you can’t take the reactions anymore. So bit by bit you start to conform to what is expected of you and try ANYTHING not to ‘rock the boat’. It doesn’t matter if you know you are in the right and they are in the wrong, in my case with children, I was so trying to create a happy home environment like I had had that I was willing to do anything to keep the peace. They make you feel like you are going crazy with this up and down personality. One minute loving, next psychotic, next flowers as if nothing had happened that you do actual begin to think did you made it up, made something out of nothing? That’s when I decided to keep a diary. To log these episodes and see the pattern, and make sure I wasn’t going mad?!
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It’s so easy when you are living in it to feel like the issue must be with you, that you must be doing something wrong. When, if you are lucky enough to escape, you look back you are embarrassed at the treatment you put up with for so long, but at the time you know you had to do it.

My EA was/is very clever. He would write the most amazing messages during the day, so that anyone who read them would think wow, what a husband, but the man who wrote those messages in the day, was not the man who walked through the door at night. I wish it had been! The man who walked in at night would have the ability to make me walk on eggshells until I went to sleep. Scared to get onto the wrong conversation or say something that he would misconstrue. I felt emotionally exhausted every night at having to think before I spoke about anything. I can’t begin to explain what that feels like.

I’ve had a few moments in my life that could be termed the straw that broke the camels back, but somehow he always managed to talk his way out of it and make me believe that there was hope and we could be a happy family unit. Alas, it’s never the truth. The last night that I was laying in my daughters bed after he had accused me of something utterly ridiculous, I had texted a dear friend asking her to keep her phone on because I was scared. I didn’t really know what she could do at the time, but it was just nice to know that someone was there. I was lying in my daughter’s bed, willing him to come upstairs and hit me. Just hit me so I would have a physical bruise instead of all these internal ones. Just hit me so I can prove to others what you do to me mentally every day of our lives. Just hit me so I don’t have to hide it anymore. But that’s when it really hit me, that our marriage really was over if I was laying there hoping that a 6ft 5” rugby player would hit me. I thought then that I didn’t have to wait for someone to hit me to be believed. I had to leave.

When I spoke to my supportive Doctor, she also took it to another level. When it was just about me I could cope but when she said, Do you really want Izzy growing up believing it is acceptable to be treated like this? And I thought, do I really want my adorable boys growing up thinking its ‘cool to treat a woman like this. The minute its about loved ones and not you, that’s when the moment comes.

So this is a very brief synopsis of Emotional Abuse. Unfortunately very difficult to prove but I wont give up and I’m glad to be free of the marriage, even if at the moment I can’t be free of the EA himself.”