Abusive relationships and me

Why did I tolerate abusive relationships?

Coloured characters with words written on them like selfish, no good, careless, ugly - feelings in abusive relationships
Feelings in abusive relationships — Image by Pixabay.com

This is the 12th in a series of My journey through anxiety, panic disorder, depression and psychosis. Read parts I, II, III, IV, V , VI, VII, VIII, IX, X and XI for the backstory. It might make more sense. You’ll read about me and my abusive relationships over a period of many years.

For those of you who don’t know, I started writing about my journey six months ago. I only ever intended to write it in four posts. However, it’s become clear that my journey was longer and more painful than I remembered. That’s made it difficult to get the words down on paper at times. I’ve taken many breaks and written lots of other posts in between. I’ve had time to reflect and bounce back a bit stronger each time.

Part XI ………. we hugged and cried, but this time we cried with laughter. Ian was calling across the road “Can you get us a taxi?”

Moving on from an abusive relationship

Black and white image of legs wrapped in barbed wire - moving on through abusive relationships
Moving on — through abusive
relationships

Despite the fact that I could laugh in that instance, once the boys went off to bed I was left reeling. Everything had happened so quickly. I felt blindsided once again, and p’d off with myself for getting into yet another abusive relationship. But please, before you judge me, “walk a mile in my shoes“. You know my name but you don’t know the whole story yet.

I’d been separated from an angry and violent man (father of my adorable sons), married to another insecure and passive-aggressive neanderthal within a year, and separated the following year.

Is it any wonder my mental health took a nosedive? I constantly felt disconnected to everything around me and that I had no control over anything. Anxiety and panic hit me in waves, overwhelming me at times, and I struggled to remain connected. The panic attacks tended to reach their peak after about ten minutes and took half an hour or so to subside. That’s an extremely long ten to thirty minutes when you’re drowning in quicksand.

What is panic disorder and what to do

Young female, hands over her face, panic attack in a public place
Panic attack in a public place
Tero Vesalainen – Dreamstime.com

If you didn’t already know, panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear. Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times. It’s a natural response to stressful or dangerous situations, NHS, UK.

But for someone with panic disorder, feelings of anxiety, stress and panic occur regularly and at any time, often for no apparent reason. A panic episode leaves you feeling temporarily exhausted and drained.

Having a panic attack doesn’t necessarily mean you have panic disorder. Panic disorder is when you have repeated panic attacks that severely disrupt your life. You can read more about anxiety and panic attacks on the NHS website here. Or you read my post on How to manage panic attacks here.

I’ll kill myself if you leave me

Black and white photo - female head shaking violently and pulling hair - abusive relationships feel like this
Abusive relationships can feel like this — Image by Pixabay.com

I was exhausted, jittery and tearful when my phone rang one evening. It was Liz, Ian’s younger sister, calling cos she thought I should know that Ian was in bits. He was crying down the phone to her and threatening to kill himself.

She pleaded with me to give him one last chance, begging me to call him as she lived too far away to help. I stressed that that was Ian’s choice and I would not be emotionally abused this time, or ever again. “Call his friends” I suggested. I was way past caring and unwilling to engage in more emotional intimidation from either of them.

She told me how he’d have to sleep in a phone box because he had nowhere to go. “At least it’ll be familiar cos he’s done that a few times in a drunken stupor,” I laughed. “He’s also threatened to kill himself before, so it won’t wash with me anymore. Sorry Liz, I’ve got to go.”

I had no intention of being in contact with Ian, other than when I had to – at work. The thought of talking to him at all made me feel nauseous. So I seriously couldn’t have stood listening to his pathetic crying or his sad sorries.

Did no one see the red flags?

White background red images of flags and stop signs, listen to your gut - Red flags in abusive relationships
Red flags in abusive relationships

My last related post (If anxiety was a person) garnered comments on social media like “Did you not notice all the red flags?” and “What took you so long?” Let me tell you, I wish I’d seen flags of any colour before I married him. If I’d had one iota of evidence that he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, of course I wouldn’t have married him. I certainly wouldn’t have paid out for the huge wedding either.

I wish I’d known that he’d regularly drunkenly slept in phone boxes that stank of stale ciggies and human pee. It would’ve helped had his work colleagues informed me, tho’ I can’t blame them for his narcissism or for my own foolishness.

If only my own friends or family had noticed something untoward, prior to the wedding. I would have called it all off and put the financial loss down to experience. However, since I had no indication otherwise, I had the big fat wedding, the hundreds of gifts and the honeymoon. I was embarrassed about the whole damn thing, no doubt the reason for me hanging on for a year. I was ashamed and felt guilty that I was putting my sons through the shame of an early divorce too. Hindsight is indeed a very wonderful thing.

Inappropriate laughter at other people’s misfortune

Coloured photo of woman on a giant swing in front of a waterfall
We all deserve peace in our lives — Image by Pexels.com

I thought I’d be able to move on and sleep easy now I was on my own with no one to answer to and nothing to complicate my life. You’d also be forgiven if you thought that after the storm that was my marriage, there’d be peace and tranquility. But it doesn’t work like that. Just because I’d had and ended abusive relationships, it didn’t mean that was the end of my mental illness. It was back to the beginning for me.

I was plagued with generalised anxiety which, tho’ invisible to others, made me scared of everything. I’d jump up at the least little thing, causing other people to jump back in fright. I’d giggle hysterically and inappropriately if friends mentioned any bad news, leaving me embarrassed and them p’d off. It’s a nervous reaction but try telling that to your friend after you’ve laughed uncontrolably because her pet tortoise died.

I needed help

I’d recently accepted a coveted Band 6 post at our Day Hospital, which meant more managing and training junior staff. I wanted to make a good impression and obviously didn’t need any unnecessary stress. Luckily, the Day Hospital had little call for Rapid Response so I wouldn’t bump into Ian as much there either. But still the recurring panic attacks continued to deny me sleep and threatened to spill over into my work.

Coloured picture mixed race lady standing by white board covered in post it notes - delivering training
Staff training — Image by
Pexels.com

I needed help, and fast. Fortunately I managed to access six sessions of therapy through our NHS Wellbeing at Work programme. While this wasn’t as helpful as I’d expected, therapy gave me a place to dump my baggage each week. This left brain space, allowing me to prepare and effectively deliver teaching sessions for staff, without choking on my words.

I chose to tell only one co-worker about my current anxieties. Callum had also experienced mental illness and had previously been an inpatient on one of our wards. We started working at the Day Hospital on the same day and we soon became great friends. Callum was a gorgeous young gay man and could cut anyone to the quick with his wicked dry sense of humour. He would later tell me that he’d wondered what I’d ever seen in ‘Quasimodo‘, as he’d named Ian.

Should I have warned his new girlfriend?

matchstick image of person holding up a red sketched heart
Image by Nick Fewings – Unsplash.com

About six months on, I was happy to hear that Ian had started dating Olga, a Social Worker colleague. That meant he was leaving me alone, mostly. When I next bumped into Olga at work I asked if there was anything she’d like to know. She responded with an odd look and an emphatic No! I should have explained the red flags but I also understood that no loved up twenty-something wanted to hear from an embittered forty-something ex.

Some four years and two year old twins later, Olga approached me in the local cafe. I wasn’t in the least bit shocked when she asked whether Ian had been jealous and controlling with me. I smiled sympathetically but too bad, I was running late and needed to get back to work. Ian called my office that afternoon, reprimanding me for telling Olga tales and ordering me not to interfere. He then asked how I was — I had to laugh.

I haven’t been too well physically as of late and it’s the early hours of the morning here in the UK. I need some sleep now but I hope you’ll stay with me on My journey through anxiety, panic disorder, depression and psychosis.

Over to you

Large red question mark and small white character lening up against it.
Clipart.com

In the meantime, have you or anyone you know ever experienced anxiety or panic attacks? You might want to read my post on How to manage panic attacks here or 19 free Mental Health apps just for you here.

Do you think I should have warned his new girlfriends? Do we (as exes) have a moral obligation to do so? I’m happy to answer any questions and as always, I look forward to reading your comments.

If you or someone you know are experiences mental health problems please seek professional health. It can be extremely beneficial to talk to a professional.

You can read part XIII.

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

29 thoughts on “Abusive relationships and me”

  1. Based on my answer with how I was affected by my first relationship, no, I wouldn’t have warned the next person about him. I was at the point I could not be in facing short distance of him and I know I would be the same now.
    The person would have to find out for themselves, because there be no way I could put myself in the proximity of the ex. And if person was like how I once was wouldn’t have listened, then I would have put myself in more unnecessary stress and physical sickness.

    1. Hmm, I know. However, he was still in my workplace, after following me there! I saw him a few times a month if he came onto my ward or if I had to go to his. He eventually left and went into the community 🙂
      You’re right, and I didn’t want to interfere – she wouldn’t have listened and would have probably told our colleagues that I was bad mouthing him 🙁 x

      1. Oh that wouldn’t have been nice working at the same worplace.
        I known my ex via a work place. But thankfully I wasn’t working there before I broke up with him.

  2. While warning the new girlfriend seems like a good idea on the surface, I doubt whether it ever accomplishes much for anyone. It would likely just reinforce the picture that the abuser painted about the bitter ex, and you can’t force someone who’s willfully blind to see.

    1. Yep, you’re right Ashley. I would have looked like the bitter ex – it was him that was bitter and I know she realised it at the end and they split. Now she’s stuck with him as he’s a parent to their twins 🙁

  3. Interesting, I’m able to like and comment on your post in the WP Reader, but not on your actual site. My blog was acting up in the exact same way yesterday, and it turned out that it was a plugin I’d installed that getting in the way.

    1. Yes, I couldn’t like something on a couple of your posts yesterday 🙁 Mmmm, can you see anything different on my posts? Just wondering why you can’t comment on my site? Caz 🙂

      1. I’m not sure. I tried liking a couple of your pages, and that seemed to work fine, but it’s still not accepting comments on your actual site.

      2. Hmm! I followed instructions and deactivated a plugin and now the like is working. Not sure about being unable to comment – I’ll take a look 🙁 Thank you for your help.

  4. This is a tough one… as you feel morally you should warn them as you do not want them to go through what you have.

    However everyone has to make their own choices.
    And as hard as it is, people often learn by experience, and sometimes that’s bad experience.
    It’s difficult, but I have learnt that it is a bad thing to warn or have any involvement with the new relationship at all, because these narcissistic players are simply using this opportunity to triangulate you and keep you in the relationship dynamic so to speak.

    1. Yep, I agree. I just wondered what others might think – it was just because she was someone I spoke to a lot and liked. But even without me saying anything to her, he said I was interfering and bad mouthing him.

      I had my professionalism to consider too so there was no way I’d be seen to be bad-mouthing anyone. I continued to deal with him professionally and he left eventually! It turns out – nobody liked him!

  5. WP wouldn’t let me “like” this, but anyway.
    No, I don’t think you had a responsibility. It’s one thing to respond to a question, but quite another to offer something pro-actively. Besides, what would she have thought? Just that you were the vindictive ex, trying to split them up. If you couldn’t have him, nobody could, blah, blah, blah.
    You did the right thing to keep out of that nonsense, not even a second thought required.

  6. See, on the question of whether or not you should warn the new girlfriend as the ex girlfriend, I’m torn. I’m torn because, on the one hand, if an ex-girlfriend warned me, I probably wouldn’t listen. But I also know that people like Jian Ghomeshi get away with their behaviours for decades because women don’t talk to one another. Women don’t ‘warn’ one another. Part of me feels like warning is a bad idea, but the other part of me feels like warning is something you can give to a woman and they can take it or leave it? I don’t know, maybe I’m stupid on this matter…

    1. Yes, I’m torn too. And like you say, this is how people get away with. However, on the other hand, loved up newbies don’t want to hear it and they think the ex is just nasty and no wonder her new man split with the ex! Well, they just got to learn the hard way 🙂 x

  7. Difficult question to answer, I know I wouldn’t listen if what I thought to be a ‘bitter’ or ‘jealous’ ex spoke to me, but then I would struggle with my conscience and whether I had done enough if it was me that knew the truth. A horrible predicament to find yourself in. Hope you feel better soon!

  8. It would be nice if we had a culture that made such warnings easy to deliver and receive, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. Part of that is just human nature. It’s hard for listeners to tell what is idle or malicious gossip and what is a genuine warning whereas it’s easy for speakers to go either way. If someone had warned you about Ian, I think you would have heeded it because you had experiences that motivate you to avoid getting into those situations again. However, a lot of people may react to criticism of their new significant other by becoming defensive. It can even drive them to cling harder to the relationship despite being handed a clear warning sign. It was kind of you to want to warn her, however.

    1. Yes, I like to think if someone had warned me about his jealousy, I’d be on the lookout for it. Unfortunately, he didn’t show it til our wedding day. But I’m sure there must have been more subtle clues.

      Yep, we know a lot of people don’t want to hear it and even if they do and they believe it, they think they’ll be the one to change him/her and stick with them. Yep, it;s all human nature x

  9. I think you should have worn the new girlfriend, of course. But would she be able to listen? Would it be beneficial at all? I don’t think so. What you can do is listen to her experience and be there ’cause you lived the same thing. But that is after the facts. Sometimes life teaches you hard lessons.
    If she would approach you – before getting serious with Mister Manchild – with questions why the relationship ended, I would say tell her in a nice way, so she can make an informed decision but the initiative needs to come from her.
    You can’t be expected to warn everybody he is dating after you. Just imagine!

    1. Yep, I suppose I could only inform her if she asked me. Otherwise she’d just have thought that it was sour grapes cos she’s got him now lol. She was so welcome to him. Though his parents and sister keep in touch with me (not sure why but I just remember to send a card at Christmas), they tell me he’s still the same. I don’t ask, they just tell me lol and say we should have stayed together. Urgh!
      No, I’m not even interested – and glad to hear he’s moved away. 🙂 x

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