I had this grand plan in the beginning, that after a year I would be able to write something positive and hopeful. That obviously didn’t happen.
I have no profound observations to make, and my head is still not really in a space for writing, but I do want to try and include some positive reflections here on how life has changed for me for the better since removing myself from that abusive situation.
In no particular order, here are some of the things that have made me smile, brought me comfort, or made me feel like I’ve achieved something – basically some of the reasons I’m glad and grateful I’ve had this opportunity and been able to experience the world without abuse:
– progressed from forgetting to turn the lights on to being a fairly confident light switch operator.
– had my first landline installed and have tentatively begun using it to make phone calls, safe in the knowledge that nobody else is listening in.
– have learnt to feel less afraid of food and having to eat with other people around. The thought of trying new foods no longer paralyses me with panic, and this is something I’ve felt increasingly comfortable with doing when I’m alone.
– have stopped trying to replicate my old life and old home, and have begun trying to phase out all the old rules I was meant to follow at home (at least the ones I’ve managed to identify).
– feel comfort instead of fear and despair when I look at my own front door. It still feels nice to be able to come and go as I please without having to plan my route to the door so I can get myself out the house without being intercepted.
– like fearlessly standing in the kitchen, for no reason, and without worrying about anything happening because I’m in there.
– finally finished painting my home in colours that I like, that I chose for myself, and that make me feel calm and safe. (It looks amazing, if I do say so myself.)
– feel able to listen to music or watch TV without panicking about having the volume high enough for me to hear it properly.
– bought my first freezer and spent a very joyous hour in the frozen aisles of the supermarket acting like a kid in a toy shop. Shortly thereafter I declared freezers to be one of my favourite ever inventions. (I wasn’t allowed to use the freezer before. I love being able to. It’s really, truly brilliant.)
– sometimes I get moments at home where I don’t feel like I’m being watched. It’s pretty brilliant when that happens.
– am less terrible at communicating verbally to strangers/professionals.
– have enjoyed being able to make spontaneous decisions to go out in an evening without having to worry about getting in trouble, plan like I’m undertaking a military operation, or prepare for the possibility I won’t be allowed back in the house when I get home.
– discovered the lovely feeling that it is to come home, walk into the house, and not feel immediately afraid. I think I finally understand what people mean when they talk about going home and “chilling out”. I really used to have no idea what they meant when I heard people say that, it was an unimaginable concept.
– went to Bosnia by myself, hired a car and drove around without anything completely disastrous happening. (I still have no idea how I managed to get myself to do that. It’s a shame things have nosedived since.)
– feel more confident about beginning to make my own decisions about things – even if I do have to sternly remind myself “yes, you ARE allowed to make choices” when I begin to panic about having done so.
– love being able to clean without being watched and supervised (and everything that came with being supervised).
– was lucky enough to have the support and encouragement of folk online – generally, but more critically during the many times I was convinced I needed to return to him, or was sure I could not survive another night.
– have had times where I’ve been able to laugh about some of the rules he made me follow, and things he did, rather than only becoming distressed. (I don’t suggest everyone should feel obligated to do this, simply that it’s a relief for me to be able to do this sometimes.)
– have stuck with horse riding for over 6 months now. It’s strange to remember how I nearly cried when asked to get on a horse for the first time, didn’t think I could survive the first hour and had no intention of ever, ever returning – yet now I can (mostly) canter without freaking out, have started doing jumpwork, and have been out riding on the roads (without freaking out at all – I expected to be terrified).
– survived all the horrific – yes, horrific – things that happened after I left.
– am managing to vaguely survive the unleashing of all the suppressed trauma I spent so long running from.
– am very lucky to finally have the support of the mental health team in place, and to have had some brilliant people step up to help me and who saved me when I’d reached breaking point and couldn’t keep going by myself anymore.
There are probably plenty of other things – great and small – that I could list here, but I will leave it there.
Things are still tough for me, and the future feels scary and uncertain, but whatever happens I don’t regret leaving and I will always be glad I had this opportunity to experience this world: where I’ve have the chance to be free and safe, and where I know – and can see – there are a whole lot of decent people.
I am proud of myself for being able to make it happen, although luck had a lot to do with it, and I remain grateful to all the people along the way who have helped me.