For those of you who don’t already know, I started writing about my journey some months ago and only intended to write it in four posts. However, it’s become clear that my journey was a lot longer and more painful than I remembered, making it difficult to get the words down on paper at times. I’ve taken breaks and written other posts in between, giving me time to reflect and bounce back a bit stronger each time.
……… After more tears and begging, it seemed Tony had eventually got the message. I was calm but clear — I wasn’t budging this time. So he left the house, without slamming the door, and was gone for hours.
It was time for Tony to go
Meantime, mum had arrived so I explained how he’d been hitting me and cheating. She said she had kind of guessed who with so she was glad I’d told him to go. I didn’t have time to explain all the other stuff I’d been talking about in counselling because Tony returned. He continued on about staying, he’ll change, he’ll get counselling, he won’t do drugs any more, “Tell her Helen, I’ll change. I don’t want to go. I haven’t even got bed linen in my flat!”
“Ah, Tony. Look, it’s for the best. She’s told me what’s been going on. You need to go. I’ll come with you to buy some bed linen, come on.” Mum had loved him dearly and I knew she wouldn’t be unkind to him in that moment. Even I felt sorry for him. So off they went, shopping for bed linen. I think mum just wanted a way to get him moving – out of the house with as little stress for me and less pain for him. Mum had told me later how he’d said to her “I’ve f*cked up Helen, big time eh?”
“Aye, you have that Tony. But there’s no going back now.” I knew she’d felt his pain because, no matter what had happened, he’d been a good guy once.
I explained to the boys, now almost 16 and 12, when they came in from school and although I knew they were upset, they hugged me and said as long as I was okay, they were fine. I just said mummy wasn’t happy any more and this would be for the best, they could still see daddy anytime, as he only lived across the road. Tony moved his stuff out over the next few days and you’d think that would be that.
The psychosis I’d been experiencing was slowly abating and I felt I was beginning to regain some sense of sanity although my sleep remained poor and my dietary intake was erratic. I was still depressed, probably more for what I had lost- the family; hubby and 2.2 kids. I was still anxious and on the verge of panic although I was more able to hold off an actual attack, so I continued with counselling.
Telling mum about the childhood sexual abuse
I was now starting to tell my mum about the sexual abuse (there, I’ve said it!) that happened when I was around eleven years old and how it started prior to her marrying my stepdad. She was devastated, angry with herself for not ‘knowing’ and wanted to know why I hadn’t felt able to tell her at the time. I couldn’t tell her because she was so happy with my (now) stepdad and I was afraid that if I’d spoken up, they might never have gotten married. She’d had such a bad time with my own dad I wanted her to be happy.
Each time I told her a bit more of the abuse, she’d come back another day and said she remembered small things that were beginning to make sense now. For one, she’d recalled how I’d been hysterical when my (b*stard) step-grandad died a few years ago, I’d choked and sobbed then laughed outrageously before I howled and cried again. At the time, she couldn’t make sense of it. Now — she was shocked and horrified.
I could see how painful all this was and I didn’t want to hurt mum further by telling her everything, so kept it as brief as possible – I had my counselling where I could dump all this, she didn’t. You see, child sexual abuse doesn’t just affect the abused, it also impacts upon and distresses other family members and I couldn’t bear to see what it was doing to my mum, she didn’t deserve it. In time and with my permission, mum discussed it with my sisters, one of whom was also abused, but by someone else. Not only did mum want them to know but I think she needed to offload too.
While I’m not quite ready yet, all this — the childhood sexual abuse, the effects on an abused child, the impact on others and how it never leaves you — is something I might consider writing about in the future.
Right now, however, I believe that the dirty rotten old men concerned (my sister’s abuser too) saw that we were vulnerable as mum was a single parent to four young children and there was no man around to protect us. This is why I hated my own dad so much. The fact that he’d gone on to remarry and have five more children wasn’t such a big issue – he hadn’t been around for us for years anyway. I do know that if he’d been in our lives, these men would never have dared do what they did. Anyway, I digress.
Gone but still there
Once Tony had gone, our home was a happy one and the boys seemed settled. However, on the day of our eldest son’s 16th birthday, Tony rang asking to speak to him. He asked Nic to babysit for the ugly sister’s two kids as he was taking her out for her birthday. Nic said no, he was going out with his girlfriend for his birthday. I could hear the yelling and screaming as Tony called Nic a selfish c*nt, a lazy f*cking sh*t and I saw our Nic’s face go white as he clenched the phone and sneered “You’re the f*cking c*cunt!” I gasped in horror and told him to put the phone down.
While my heart was breaking for Nic, I was still shocked at his foul language. However, I knew he’d apologise to me at some point, without prompting, so I let it go.
Not even a happy birthday from his dad! I could see how upset, disappointed and angry Nic was, so I asked his girlfriend to go round the local shops with him — on the pretext that I needed something. I phoned Tony immediately and asked what the heck he thought he was playing at, reminding him he hadn’t even said happy birthday and that Nic was absolutely choked!
Tony barked back, “All right. Calm down. Get him to call me. F*ck sake, I don’t know what the f*cking big deal is.” I told him it would be best if he called again in ten minutes or so, which he did.
“All right boy? Listen, I’m sorry. Happy birthday mate.”
“Listen, mate, we need a babysitter. It’s ‘er birthday. You can bring your girlfriend, err Ana is it?” No prizes for guessing who put the phone down without a word.
Growing concerns for my son
Life moved on but after a few months, I was starting to have real concerns about Nic. He was hanging around with the local older boys and although he hadn’t done anything, he was brought home by the local policeman once – to keep him off the streets. Fortunately, this local bobby knew Nic well, through football, karate and other sporting activities and wanted to ensure he stayed on the right side.
However, I then knew that Nic was drinking outside, despite his protestations. He was often moody and I caught him a few times ‘bunking off’ school. One afternoon when Nic said he had free periods, his Form Tutor called and asked why Nic wasn’t at school. “Hold on a second,” I turned to smile knowingly at Nic, who was waving wildly like “no mum, no” and I giggled, “ask Nic himself. He’s here.” and I handed the phone to Nic. I knew the form tutor well and he knew I’d have Nic take responsibility for his own actions so I let them deal with this issue.
Finally, after around six months, Nic staggered into the kitchen one night and sneered at me “You tell me why Dad left?”
“No Sunshine. You don’t need to know. I’ve explained and —“
“Tell me,” he interrupted — and the conversation went on like this for a while until eventually, Nic said “Mum, I know. Dad’s told me.”
“Okay, well if Dad’s told you, what would you like me to say?”
“He’s told me,” now pointing at me angrily and almost taunting me, ” but I want to hear it from your mouth.”
“Sunshine, no — I …” he stormed up to his room. I followed, obviously I wanted to know why he was so angry with me. But also as my son, I wanted to ease his suffering, I hated seeing him so distressed. I went in, “Sunshine —,” I faltered. “Look if Dad’s told you, why are you so angry with me?”
“Because. I. want. you. to. tell. me.”
“Okay, so you know. Dad was hitting me —”
“No…..” he howled — like a poor wild animal.
My heart almost stopped and I felt I was letting him down — I didn’t know how to help him — and my own emotions were going haywire. What the hell was happening?
Hey, it’s getting late for me now and I’m in pain because of my physical disorder so I’ll stop here and continue in a few days. I wonder whether you can relate to anything I’ve written? I really wanted to get this post out today because it’s
Time to Talk Day 2020
Time-to-change.org.uk‘s Time to Talk Day 2020 is taking place on Thursday 6 February.
Choose talk, change lives.
Mental health problems affect one in four of us, yet too many people are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless because of this. Time to Talk Day encourages everyone to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives — so, here I am, talking. I hope someone’s listening.
We know that talking about mental health can feel awkward, but it doesn’t have to, and being there for someone can make a huge difference.
There is no right way to talk about mental health, but these tips will guide you to make sure you’re approaching it in a helpful way.
1. Ask questions and listen
Asking questions can give the person space to express how they’re feeling and what they’re going through, and it will help you to understand their experience better. Try to ask questions that are open and not leading or judgemental – such as “how does that affect you” or “what does it feel like?”
2. Think about the time & place
Sometimes it’s easier to talk side by side rather than face to face. So, if you do talk in person, you might want to chat while you are doing something else. You could start a conversation when you’re walking, cooking or stuck in traffic. However, don’t let the search for the perfect place put you off!
3. Don’t try & fix it
It can be hard to see someone you care about having a difficult time but try to resist the urge to offer quick fixes to what they’re going through. Learning to manage or recover from a mental health problem can be a long journey, and they’ve likely already considered lots of different tools and strategies. Just talking can be really powerful, so unless they’ve asked for advice directly, it might be best just to listen.
4. Treat them the same
When someone has a mental health problem, they’re still the same person as they were before. And that means when a friend or loved one opens up about mental health, they don’t want to be treated any differently. If you want to support them, keep it simple. Do the things you’d normally do.
5. Be patient
No matter how hard you try, some people might not be ready to talk about what they’re going through. That’s ok – the fact that you’ve tried to talk to them about it may make it easier for them to open up another time.
And there are lots of things you can do to support them even if you’re not talking:
- Doing things together
- Sending a text to let them know you’re thinking of them
- Offering to help with day-to-day tasks.