I flirted in the ice cream queue.

I’m aching from normal heartbreak today. It’s funny how unexpected this is co-existing with the need to get away physically and emotionally. More dominant is the need to be safe.

Under this, a small voice tells me I’m sad, I’m just sad. I wanted a loving relationship, a family which felt good and complicated only with mundanity.

I have to let go of the promise of a relationship which didn’t ever happen. I bought in to the beginning (I think it’s called love bombing) and I had to step back more objectively to realise it didn’t actually happen.

It. Never. Happened.

To him I am the most beautiful and loving person, he will be loyal forever. We will have a wonderful life ahead, together. He’s trying so hard but my behaviour ever increasingly makes me filth, not fit for anyone least of all him, he loved me in spite of my repugnance. He cared even though I wasn’t being a good girlfriend. I flirted in the ice cream queue standing with my children at school when I asked the grandfather behind if I’d accidentally cut in. I smiled too generously at the helpful couple I asked for directions. I don’t understand that my friendliness is flirting and so I need to stop talking to people at all. Don’t look anyone in the eye because they will mistake my love of human connection for something else. I need to learn how to behave in a relationship. I have it all wrong. Sometimes I’m still beautiful to him but I’m failing more and more, I’m ignorant, he says and calculating and slutty.

A flash flicked over my mind and I realised it wasn’t me, this is the reality of the relationship I found myself in.

I’m a normal person. Not beautiful or repugnant, not callous or ignorant but just average. I couldn’t understand how I gave the wrong impression in the queue or asking for directions or any of the other countless times…I didn’t. It wasn’t rational, it was him.

I’m grieving for a paper relationship, one which didn’t exist beyond the promise, beyond the boardroom proposal. It didn’t get off the ground, the blueprint stayed sketched on paper, he didn’t invest in it. I did.

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Do they feel bad for hurting us?

I was talked down from rising panic today. One of my biggest supporters gifted me the perspective to stop short my catastrophe in the making.

The fear was that this new found anxiety will stubbornly not shift. My long term health would be affected.

It will shift, it doesn’t need to be forever and this feeling doesn’t have to consume me.

Do they know, these abusers, of the long term hurt they cause? Are they still keeping score? Celebrating as the women they claimed to love succumb to fear, panic, the darkest depths of depression? It is an unintended consequence of betrayal and twisted control from utilising our trust and kindness? Perhaps the damage left behind is the penalty shootout or the final round to shift the score in favour. Probably the scoreboard excitedly flips higher as the victim sinks deeper.

I’m determined to do everything in my power to let the underdog recover her worth and build her self respect in time. We can’t get that time back but now I want to battle-cry as I pull my family to happier times away from his torment and abuse. I’m not strong enough yet but I’m working on it.

This feeling isn’t forever. I won’t be his victim forever, I’ll just be me.

I’m free from his audible voice but it’s ringing in my mind.

I managed to battle my anxiety a little last night, which maybe feels like gentle, private success.

I feel I’m flipping from emerging confidence to sub zero self esteem with alarming speed and frequency. But then, maybe it’s positive to be feeling more determined to recover myself from the wreckage at all, however much it’s interrupted, overshadowed by the rest?

I’m doing everything I can to protect my mental health now, it’s so easy to lose my footing and slide, flailing to the bottom of a dark pit.

I signed up to an exercise group, I shifted finances everywhere to do it. I am seeing friends, or at least finding out which friendships have the potential to be rebuilt after the isolation from my jailer. I’m eating better, and forgiving myself when I don’t. Trying to keep myself organised.

Mostly I’m working consciously at giving myself the compassion I’d gift willingly and unhesitatingly to someone else struggling, but this is the hardest thing sometimes.

I’m still incurring damage even while safe(er)

Today I look ‘glowing’, ‘radiant’ ‘open’ and ‘relaxed’. (So I’m told.) We are protected for a full 365 days.

I’m relieved, I do feel safer. I took a huge, frightening leap, I faced near insurmountable fears to grant us this space.

The sad truth is under this tentative freedom the damage from these men still courses, hindered but surging; It’s still forging a path, a fire tearing through my mind of it’s own accord. It needs no further instruction from malign forces to sear my soul. I am firefighting with support surrounding me.

I woke slowly with gentle help to this feeling, realising I’m struggling to adjust to a home without threat and fear. I’m overprotective in the face of no tangible danger, my body does not know a safe time of calm. No comprehension of peace.

I wake a child in sleep to check for breath,

not enough to see the rise and fall of chest,

Must assure this child will rouse from slumber.

I disregarded a need to rest, recover.

Undefinable threat should my vigilance stall.

How do I learn to adapt to home as a haven? What does it take to ease tense, painful, trepidation?

Soothe myself with repetition, a full year can be transformative with help. The people around my little family provide more than I know how to express and one day I’ll chink a glass, squeeze a long beat hug, stammer a few inadequate words, thrust forward thirsty supermarket flowers, bake an offering – burnt edges, blush and bluster suffused with gratitude.

I need, apparently, to understand the fear I’m seeing is my own perception right now, it’s not here today in person, not breathing my breath as I wither and diminish. This is the chance I need to use my own resources as mine, to fortify and find a future.

Asking for a friend

Everyone gets angry at times, especially when I’m being so annoying. My friend wants to know, if she’s got everything wrong?

I know he can’t stand it, she says:

when I forget to text back,

stay out too long,

talk too much,

look at my phone,

put photos on Instagram (attention seeking slut – even if it was a silly selfie with the kids),

see my friends,

read a book,

complain about pain,

answer back,

criticise,

ask for support,

disagree in any small subverted way,

talk too little,

empathise too emptily on repeat,

embarrass him (and myself, everyone can see through me. I think I’m caring but I’m not, I choose when I want to be nice and when I don’t. If I loved him properly I would…),

tell the truth,

be myself,

say no, I don’t want to,

have a voice or a single thought in my stupid f****d up head.

It’s normal isn’t it, my friend wants to know, to swallow your voice and fill the void with whatever magic words or deeds make it better for a moment? It’s the same for everyone, isn’t it? The eggshells, except they’re made from shell shaped landmines with no detonation override.

I’m just asking for a friend, she’s a bit of a mess. He wouldn’t have to deal with her messed up issues with anyone else. Nobody else would put up with her. She’s lucky to have him, never been loved more, she’s told.

It’s normal, right? Can someone help my friend?

Since when did gravity reverse and how far can a person lasso?

I couldn’t lasso my truth to keep myself steady

In this moment, only this tiny stretch of a few seconds each side a word, I am a full, swirling, indecisive moon. I’m orbiting my truth but I cannot stay still. I want to stop the dizzying sway, I feel sick. Get me out.

I want to lasso my honest sun, steady myself on it’s uncomfortable face and anchor my aching body deeper than it’s surface but it’s too hot to grasp that way. My rope scorches each time I try leaving me singed, helplessly gripping nothing but empty hope further away. Black smoke billowing around me, burning my eyes and swinging out my orbital path further away.

How else to touch the truth, to soak up rays and bask in unhappy confidence?

I tried another lariat today but span further, crying out, smoke spiralling from my attempt. Reverse gravity when truth hurts too much.

The inexcusable list says what?

There are 54 items on my list.

My counsellor suggested I write a list of things which are not ok no matter what the excuses or circumstances. Even if it is only 3 or 4 things.

There are 54 items on my list.

I began hesitantly but I knew I could write a few right off the starting block. No pause when the pen began. My handwriting scrawls, stretched, unhindered by legibility. It’s only for my eyes. I come to a stop but when I pick it up again fifteen more inexcusable abusive behaviours leap forward. Again, the next time.

My list isn’t ordered, it’s not chronological or categorised. It’s a messed up, f***ed up heap of torture on several pages of a book I only have a photograph of now. To refer to.

There are 54 private items on my list, in an evidence bag at the station. I refer to the photographs to keep me strong.

He messed with my head, it feels ‘it’s my fault because…’, ‘he didn’t mean it the way it seemed because…’, ‘I got that wrong.’ … ‘I know it upsets him, I shouldn’t have…’ ‘But he feels rejected if I say no…’ ‘he’s ill/stressed/worried/tired.’ ‘I overreacted.’ ‘got it wrong’ ‘it was my fault really because…’

The list proves it isn’t my fault because…

It’s his fault.

(But I still struggle to believe it sometimes, because…)