couples

"I escaped my abusive ex. And then he committed suicide."

A week and half has gone by since I found out my ex killed himself. Prescription medication overdose. I got a phone call from my boss during my lunch hour on Monday 9th March telling me that the police needed to speak with me.

I was terrified. What the hell had I done wrong? I called my husband and asked him to come with me, I was worried that it might be something I didn’t want to hear. By the time we sat down with police we had narrowed down the possibilities to two things- my parents had somehow been killed, or my ex was dead.

I was hoping it wasn’t my parents.

It was him. Apparently a couple of campers discovered him in his campervan at Mitchell QLD. He had been dead a few days and there was a suicide note. He had been in trouble with the police about a month before, no surprise there. He had a criminal history bigger than the Grand Canyon. I wondered what was written in that note. I hoped the kids weren’t mentioned in it. I would hate for them to carry that burden. He had split up with his girlfriend 3 weeks ago. Why do I see a horrible pattern emerge……..

"He has a criminal history bigger than the Grand Canyon."

I was a little choked up when I was told about his death, and in a bit of shock but not for the reasons that most would think. I left this mongrel 13yrs ago. All I felt was relief. Sweet blessed relief. He was gone. No longer a rock hanging around my neck, no more stress and pain to be inflicted on me or my babies who are 13yrs and 15yrs. As I left the police station hand in hand with my husband, I did cry but they were tears of anger. I was, so fucking angry. Why did he have to put the kids through so much shit and to do this!!! The dirty coward. How were we going to explain this? How do you explain suicide to anyone let alone a child.

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In the end we omitted the word suicide, but the pain on my children’s faces was too much. We chose the straight forward approach, there really was no other way. My daughter didn’t speak for a little while, she didn’t want a hug. She went to her room and sat quietly for a while. We left her there for a bit while we spoke to my son. He has Aspergers. He was upset initially, but we haven’t seen much emotion regarding the death of his father in the weeks since then. He sometimes gets teary when we sit and talk about him and how we all feel and I can get hugs when he’s upset but its more to keep mum happy than actually wanting a hug himself. I look at him and see a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.

I go to my baby girl to find her bawling her eyes out. It breaks my heart but I feel relieved that it’s all coming out now. I hug her tight and I talk. I tell her that I’m angry at what her Dad has done and that it’s ok to be angry. She cut contact with him two years ago so her anger is pointed in slightly different direction. She wanted to tell him he’s an asshole, she wanted to tell him a lot more than that, but missed her chance. She so desperately wants to get it out of her system. I tell her that I am relieved that he is gone now, because we no longer have to put up with his abuse anymore and she cries harder. Turns out she felt so bad for feeling relieved that he was gone. She felt that something was wrong with her.

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For two days I felt light as a feather. Then it all started to unravel. I talk to my children everyday about how they are feeling and their thoughts about their father, I need them to know that nothing they think or feel right now is wrong. But I don’t have anyone to talk to. I don’t want to burden my husband. He’s is fantastic and the most wonderful father to my babies. We’ve been together 10 years and married for five. I know he understands, but I don’t want to pile it all on him.

And back then, in the thick of the violence and abuse, I didn’t have anyone to talk to either.

"For two days I felt light as a feather."

Slowly at first, the memories began to return. Just a few.

There was the night he first hit me. I'd been getting fed up with him smoking bongs with his mates downstairs, the night before his daughter's first birthday. I kept picking at him and eventually, when the other men left, I got a black eye for embarrassing him in front of his mates. The countless times he came home drunk just itching for a fight, yelling and screaming at me.

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Then there was the very first time I remember feeling scared of him. We'd been together for a few months and I moved in with him, in the share house where he was living. I'd been living with friends who were a couple but they wanted some space to live alone.   I was 22yrs old, a country girl not long in the city. I liked a few drinks now and then, and a few joints. I thought nothing of it. Until that night.

He hit the piss, and the pot, and, in hindsight, I’m sure there were other drugs as well. He began to get angry and picking arguments with people. I was the good girlfriend and tried to calm the situation. I was thrown across the bed and into the wardrobe door. He ran outside bellowing about how horrible he was and how he needed to be locked up, then he put a hole in the fibro wall with his fist. I sat there huddling in a corner crying, wishing I was anywhere else but here. But I didn’t leave. I had nowhere to go. I had no friends except my best mate, and I certainly wasn’t going to add to her problems. I didn’t leave. But things were ok for a few months after that.

All these little memories started to filter back into my conscious mind. Nasty little pictures seeping out of the box I thought I had locked tight. Little pictures turned into short films in my head, which seemed to pop up at random times. Then my sleeping patterns started to change, nightmares invaded my sleep.

Then my attention span shrank to that of a goldfish. That's where I am now a few weeks after learning of his death. I feel scattered and disorganised. Thinking has became a chore, concentrating on conversation is impossible and gives me headaches. At work I find tears randomly running down my face for no apparent reason. And tired, everything I do makes me feel tired.  I feel like I’m going to burst into tears every time I step out in public and the relief I feel when I walk back in the door of my house is AMAZING. I'm starting to feel far away. What the hell is going on with me?

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Try this: Imagine if we treated physical illness the same way we treat mental illness.

I have this big empty space inside of me where my ex once lived. His evil, vicious personality took so much space, and time in my life.  This stress and pain had consumed almost 18yrs of my life. Consumed. Like a slimy beast from hell with an insatiable hunger for happiness. It took up residence inside me and I didn’t realise it was there. How could I have let this happen? I feel like I have ruined my life because of him, ruined my children’s life because of him.

What do I do with this space now? More to the point, what the hell do I do now? I have nothing to do. That’s what I feel like. I feel scared of that feeling, scared of that empty space. How do I fill it? What do I fill it with?

That's when I realised that I was not the best person I could be, not living my best life. I realised that my kids did not have the best Mum that I could have been. I have not been the best wife to my new husband that I could have been. That black cloud that I have been living with, that I thought was normal, most certainly was NOT normal. I couldn't even see the black cloud until my ex extinguished his own life.

After this revelation I finally admitted that I should have gone to seek professional help all those years ago when I first left the father of my kids. I didn’t have the time or the wherewithal back then. I just needed to get on with things. Carve out a life for my little broken family. My daughter was 2 1/2yrs old and my son 3 weeks old when I left.

I was feeling low Monday just gone. After crying in the car on the way to work, tears that are becoming increasingly difficult to predict or control, I went to the medical centre and saw my GP. I spoke to a health professional for the first time about my life, my past. It was so hard.

"I realised that my kids did not have the best Mum that I could have been."

I now have a regular counselling appointment and I start my meds tomorrow. That in itself is a mammoth effort. I watched my ex self-destruct. He saw four different doctors because they weren’t ‘helping’ him. I watched him abuse his medication, and drink, and do illegal drugs.  My kids watched this erratic behaviour play out in their fortnightly visits with their father while I spent 13yrs making sure I was NOT like him. I didn’t want them comparing me to him. I don’t want to be him. But somewhere during the years I was with him and the years he hit and abused me, I lost myself. I lost myself long before I left. And I don’t know where to start looking?

I almost left work early today. I had a mild anxiety attack. I’ve never had one of those before. My concentration just disappeared, my nerves felt like they were all buzzing and I couldn’t stop fidgeting. I almost burst into tears………again.

I have depression and anxiety. I know that now. I have been carrying this burden for years not knowing that it wasn’t normal. I have only touched the tip of the iceberg. My ex is dead. He will never hurt us again. Time to clean out my closet once for all. Time to start healing. I look forward to this with excitement and dread.

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