Why did I tolerate abusive relationships?
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
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
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
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?
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
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.
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?
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
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.