My head spun. I was still recovering from a health issue that had seen me in hospital for the week and now everyone was talking to me at once. My husband, toddler, and my oldest all wanted separate things. Wanted to be heard.
"Mum, mum, mum!"
I felt my brain snap. Heard an audible ping. I ripped off my top and screamed. It had finally happened. The stress had broken me. I ran to my room, still topless and screaming.
No one followed. No one came to check on me or ask if I was okay. When I emerged a few hours later, calmer and having dressed and composed myself, no one mentioned the incident.
I felt embarrassed and shocked that I’d done something so extreme and bizarre. But both, it seemed, had become normal in our house.
A few months later, my husband had his own extreme, bizarre moment. It became just one of many in our marriage.
Watch: Mamamia Confessions: When I knew our relationship was over. Post continues below.
I arrived home from work to an empty house. The message from my mum on the phone sounded tense, her voice tight like she was choosing her words carefully.
"Just letting you know, everyone’s over at ours. You might want to come as soon as you get home."
I didn’t bother getting changed from my work clothes and rushed over. When I arrived, my parents greeted me in the driveway.
They gathered in close and each gently held placed an arm around me. The comforting gesture scared me. "Is everything okay?" I asked, tasting bile in the back of my throat.
"Just so you know," my dad whispered. "He came over to pick up some things this afternoon. We realised he was planning on taking her."
I looked from my mum to my dad and back again, trying to work out what they were telling me.
"He was planning on kidnapping her," my mum said, her voice shaking slightly.
"Oh." They released my arms and the three of us stood in silence, arms hanging uselessly at our sides in the driveway.
After a moment, we gathered ourselves inside; I gathered my baby girl into my arms. She was happy and smiling, as if nothing had happened. To her, they’d just had a nice visit to her grandparents' house. My husband sat on the couch looking like someone had punctured his side and let all the air out.
Later that day my mum pulled me aside. "You don’t have to stay with him you know," she said gently. I got defensive and argued that everything was fine.
No one mentioned it ever again.
Dysfunctional homes don’t feel strange to the people living in them. Even years after leaving my marriage it was hard for me to realise quite how dysfunctional it had been. Then I started writing about my experiences and reading the comments. The recurring theme seemed to be: "My situation isn’t as extreme as yours but..."
Extreme? That surprised me. I write about the toxic parts of my former marriage, but I hadn’t thought of it as extreme.