It’s been a long time since I’ve been me.
This is a chapter I’m finally ready to read out loud.
I’d post a photo, the likes, the comments;
I thrived off that validation, I started to believe it.
I used it to justify his behaviour.
I was trapped in this toxic sensation.
Monday 19 February, 2018
I woke up to loud clinking noises coming from the kitchen. He'd already begun pouring himself a glass of wine. The cycle had started, again.
I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach, like when you're swimming and you want to put your feet down on something solid, but the water's deeper than you think and there's nothing there.
I saw the look in his eyes. Something was different.
My anxiety sky rocketed as I waited for my ride to arrive. I could see his aggression building at the notion of me leaving; about to boil over. I clung to my phone, pressing it tightly to my ear. I was panicking. If someone else was there nothing would happen to me, I knew that.
I also knew that in that moment, alone with him in the apartment we called "home", I wasn't safe.
Something had snapped.
I soon found myself cornered on the balcony where I'd stood admiring the view just the night before pleading with him to let me leave. He blocked my path, trying to intimidate me with his size. Bear in mind as a measly 5'5', only weighing 42kg, I couldn't compete. He knew that and took advantage.
He was hurling abuse at me; every word stung more than the last.
I took a deep breath.
With a burst of adrenaline, I pushed past him and rushed inside to gather my things.
He grabbed my arm, now absolutely fuming and began pulling me towards the front door. He proclaimed that he was done with me, taking my decision to leave into his own hands. I fell to the ground trying to escape his grip.
I was trembling with fear; helpless. You know in scary movies when there's danger approaching and you can't understand why they don't just turn around and run. You're screaming at the TV but they just stand there and stare blankly at the impending danger.
My body just wouldn't move and there's nothing I could do.
I was frozen.
Now grabbing my leg, he started to physically drag me out the door, my back scraping against the cold hard-wood floor.
I screamed for help with everything I had left.
No one answered, no one came.
My survival in that moment was dependent on how loud I shouted five simple words, a position I never expected to be in.
With a firm grip of my neck, he pulled me up and pushed me against the corridor wall.
He wanted to hurt me. There was a fire burning in his eyes.
Was this it? In that moment, every single thought the human mind attempts to suppress about death consumed mine.
I fear, and more so believe that if I’d had enough fight left that day, if I hadn't just submitted myself, he actually would’ve punched my skull in like he threatened. What's worse is that if he had seriously hurt me, he was too drunk to realise what he was doing and he wouldn't have until it was too late.
It was all a blur from there.
That's the last time I saw him.
I heard those words repeated over and over again from what seemed like every face I saw.
I was in complete shock. My head was spinning as my mind tried to comprehend what had just happened. Voices were coming from every direction and people were asking me things I couldn't even begin to process the answers to.
It didn't feel real, it was like I was in a trance.
I sat there shaking as police asked me a series of questions. I soon realised the only word leaving my mouth was “yes”. “Has he ever done anything like this before?” I looked down, ashamed. “Yes”, I mumbled, tears streaming down my face.
Therein lies the problem, I hadn’t stopped to assess my reality; the reality that is domestic violence.
Undoubtedly the hardest phone call I've ever had to make.
I couldn't talk, I just sobbed. Desperately trying to calm me down, I could hear the fear in dad's voice, he knew this was serious.
I'd always kept everything in. Of course my family had noticed a change; I'd lost a tonne of weight, was constantly stressed and had distanced myself completely but this was the last thing anyone expected to hear.
Finally telling them was me letting go of that relationship and in that moment I wasn't sure if that was something I was ready to do.
There was no coming back from this.
Yet in reality, I could've easily gone back again this time, many women do. Even after they are handed that green piece of paper designed to protect them that police decide to administer based on their own assessments of the situation like I was, they go back. I can relate. It's not stupidity, it's love. It's that being with that person is comfortable; almost a security blanket that you're not ready to let go of.
I've come to realise that I deserved better.
It was instant.
Mum & Dad went into damage control mode, they dropped everything and came to my rescue immediately starting to pick up the pieces of my broken self. It was like the world stopped for me.
The paramedics who came to the scene that day had actually been the same ones called to the scene of a recent public domestic violence incident. He’d hurt her badly and they’d told her the same thing they were telling me.
This was serious.
I shouldn't go back.
I couldn't go back.
She went back and and just a week later, she was murdered.
That could've been me.
I sat there in a hospital bed, tears coursing down my cheeks as a room of doctors and nurses inspected my body, taking photos of the scars he’d caused. We were all women in that room and it seemed to deeply affect each of us in some way.
I felt so small.
I gripped the blanket around me tightly, using it as a false sense of protection. The one person who was meant to protect me was the reason why I was there. I just couldn’t understand or come to terms with how that could be.
I kept receiving calls, his broken voice on the end of the line pleading for forgiveness. It wasn't enough, it'll never be enough.
I'm good at pretending everything is okay. I'm so used to saying "I'm good" when someone asks how I am. The truth is, I'm really not and I haven't been. I run a business and deal with people on a daily basis so my ability to fake a smile or laugh when I'm not feeling 100% has become second nature. I actually went to work the day after it happened. Hiding my feelings, acting like everything is fine and that I'm fine has become my norm.
The morning he broke my toe, I told anyone who asked that I’d stubbed it on a door. “Typical Noti, you’re so clumsy”, they laughed. My mind was playing games. I started to believe what I was saying.
I actually posted an Instagram story talking about it so casually the day it happened. I seemed to forget that hours earlier, I had locked myself in the bathroom, scared and crying my eyes out in excruciating pain, his fists pounding on the door demanding I let him in.
This time, I really can't pretend. The hardest thing when it happened was that I couldn't just disappear without an explanation. I'd made most aspects of my life public so it was hard to hide when everything fell apart. I have responsibilities and people depend on me. For the first time, I had to be completely selfish, put myself and my health first and just detach myself from the outside world. I changed my number, deactivated and basically went into hiding. If you wanted to see me or talk to me, you had to physically come to my house.
My life has literally done a three-sixty. Right now, it's doctors appointments, therapy, court proceedings and cases. Constant letters in the mail, legal jargon I don't understand; that's my reality. Mum & Dad have been trying their best as parents to protect me from seeing the things that'll get me down. Everyone is constantly keeping my spirits up. I'm incredibly conscious of my weight, now weighing significantly under the norm. I've been focusing on gaining this back with the support of my doctor, family and friends. It's really important that I'm healthy again. It's one aspect that'll help me get back to feeling myself and boost my self-confidence.
This is without a doubt the worst thing I’d wish on anyone. Being so young, I've had to grow up very quickly. There's good days and there’s really bad days where my mind plays my worst enemy and I'm trapped in my thoughts. Sometimes I just want to disappear.
It's going to be a tough journey and everyday is an obstacle. Being out of the public eye has definitely lessened the distractions. It's been refreshing. I'd developed this addiction to social acceptance and was dependent on the validation of others to feel confident in myself. I was completely and utterly consumed in other people's lives in an attempt to forget the harsh reality of mine.
You never know what's happening behind closed doors.
That's the beauty of social media.
I couldn't walk away, I couldn't just leave. I know that's what you're all thinking.
Trust me when I say, it wasn't as easy as a walk in the park. There's a certain calibre of mind control and manipulation that makes it almost impossible to make an informed decision and take the plunge. I tried, on several occasions, I just couldn't do it no matter how bad it got. He had me wrapped around his finger and I just couldn't seem to cut myself loose.
The quirky things I did became things he convinced me only he would love and appreciate. I started to hate myself. He'd completely tear me down just to bring me up. I saw this person every single day. We'd go everywhere together. Hanging out with friends, he was always there. More so, he always had to be there. My means of communication; he controlled them.
He was my everything; the best and worst part of my life.
Born exactly a week apart, similar personalities, same style; he was like the boy version of me and I was fascinated by that. I couldn't let go of the idea that I'd possibly found the "one". I was holding onto his potential self and the person I thought he could become. I'd seen glimpses of it; one moment he could be every thing I wanted and dreamed of. I couldn't seem to let that go. Any time he showed signs of improvement, I felt myself getting closer to the "perfect" life that I wanted with him and only him.
I used to liken his character to mine. I put him on a pedestal. I trusted him wholly and completely based on his words but I realise now, not his actions. I see myself as being a good judge of character. This has made me question that and I hate it. He made me so happy but also so sad. It's hard to understand how that works.
Don't get me wrong, what he did was awful and there's absolutely nothing that can justify his behaviour. I still can't bring myself to forgive him. It's not as black and white as saying he is a bad person though. I don't think he is. I think he is a damaged human-being with terribly dark demons and is dangerous in his current state. I can't regret my time with him, it has taught me a lot about myself.
It's an especially difficult concept to grasp because this monster only came alive with alcohol. It wasn’t just drunk after a party on a Saturday night, it was drunk before 11am on some days. It was almost like dating two people with two completely different personalities. Sometimes I’d get loving, caring, thoughtful and others I’d get aggressive and abusive; two completely different ends of the spectrum.
The bad outweighed the good by drastic proportions.
I just turned a blind eye.
I was in denial.
It was never a hit, that’s one thing you have to understand. Perhaps that's what kept me coming back and convincing me it was okay. We have this clear image of domestic violence as Rihanna's completely bruised and busted face and Chris Brown's mugshot but it comes in many forms and categories. It started with hurtful words, then a push or he’d grab me in a sudden burst of aggression; escalating each time. He’d break down and cry, ever so apologetic and ashamed of the “man" he’d become. I'd forgive him and we'd start again, everything would be perfect; the honeymoon phase. It was a cycle.
I started to notice a pattern.
In the end, it was always my fault.
My fault for making him get to that point. I shouldn’t have said that one thing or done what I'd done. He'd always hold on to the things I did "wrong" so he'd have something over me. These things varied from the present time to things I'd told him I'd done almost 2 years in the past.
Each time I came back after he hurt me made him think his actions were okay. That's one of my biggest regrets. He’d manipulate me to think it was wrong to be scared and I believed it. He'd make me feel like I was crazy for feeling how I felt even though it was entirely justified by his behaviour. I’d be standing there shaking saying I was scared. I could see a hole in the wall in the corner of my eye; the white plaster residue still on his knuckles.
"No", I'd reply reluctantly. Or sometimes when my answer was yes, according to him it came down to a matter of me not understanding how much he loved me and that I should know he never would.
I didn't deserve that. No one does.
I feel like I'm in a movie or a nightmare that I just can't seem to wake up from.
We see these stories in the news and they just seem like stories we can't relate to. But right now, these moments are not stories.
This is happening.
We all go through something. This is just my thing, however bad it may be.
Reading over this the first time, I felt like an idiot for some of the choices I made. What I've come to realise is that the choices I made in that moment felt right and were based on my emotions and the information I had at the time. That doesn't make them invalid or idiotic. I can't help how I felt and I shouldn't blame myself for that.
I can look back and wish that I'd listened but I didn't. One thing I remember is that anytime I ignored my gut feeling with him; that persistent uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that told me to stay away, I always ended up hurt. The warning signs were there, my intuition was screaming at me to turn around but I ran straight ahead.
I'm definitely not the first, and probably won't be the last. What I know and am sure about is that I'll do whatever I can in this moment to prevent this from ever happening to anyone else. This experience gave me much needed time to reflect on myself as a person. I'm not a sad story and I refuse to be. I'm a strong woman and I know I'll get through this. I'd been advised to consider deferring university, to quit business and to entirely focus on getting better but I refuse to let this define me and my future. I rather look at this as an opportunity to educate and support a movement now close to my heart. I'm sure had that day not happened, I would’ve stayed in that relationship until one day he squeezed my neck just that little bit too hard.
I could've been a statistic; somewhere between that 80 and 100 Australian women that die at the hands of their male partners every year.
When these things are happening, you don't realise how bad they are. You're so engrossed in the moment. I was blinded by the hope that it would change, he would get better, I could fix him. That's an incredible burden for one person to carry. I lost myself in the process. I wish I could tell you the stories and everything I've been through in the last 5 months but it's almost too crazy to be true. It's honestly content with a plot worthy of a book or movie one day.
I do however, grapple with the concept that this was the universe's ultimate warning sign. I needed a good shaking, a slap in the face. That was the only way of telling me my life was headed in the completely wrong direction. I'd seen the signs but chosen to ignore them.
I asked the police officer before they took him away that day if he'd owned up to what he'd done.
He paused, desperately trying to think of the best way to say what I didn't want to hear.
He said he'd been vague in what he said and hadn't completely taken ownership of the severity of his actions.
Hearing that, I made a decision to put my emotions aside. I made a decision based on what was best in the long-term. After talking to women who've been in a similar position with the same person, I realise it's an engrained pattern of behaviour that has been allowed to fester. The saddest thing is they did it alone. They kept it to themselves, like so many women do and formed a support group together. I can't imagine how hard that would've been. I admire their courage. It's also sad that this person was given the opportunity to impact several lives. We wouldn't have had to go through this had it been addressed and dealt with earlier but I understand and accept that I now have the power to break this cycle. I'm confident that the legal system will do it's part. I know I've done what I can.
I'm currently faced with the reality that someone I once loved will stand trial and be charged for a crime he committed against me. I’m faced with the reality that someone I once loved may spend a period of his life behind bars and I’m the one who made that happen.
It's a hard pill to swallow.
This chapter is long from over, there's still plenty more to write.
I do admit, writing this down has been quite therapeutic for me. This was actually something I wasn't going to share. I've been writing my thoughts down here every day for about three weeks now just so I don't drive myself insane. I do think this is something that needs to be shared and is important for people to read. If you are reading this and you're going through something similar, you can talk to me. Don't do this alone.
I used to hate Monday's like every other person but now Monday's are an important milestone for me. Looking back from now to the Monday when it happened, I get stronger and stronger, better and better as time passes.
To everyone for your kind words, I am thankful and I really do appreciate it. To those who texted me: I'm sorry I didn't reply. I've changed my number as I said so I'm certainly not ignoring you. Thank you for thinking of me.
It’s going to be a rollercoaster for sure but I’m ready to ride it and am grateful to my friends and family who've strapped in beside me.
I'm not okay and I won't be for a long time.
One thing I do know is that it'll get better.
I'll get better.
A quote to live by: