Trigger Warning: Suicide, Domestic violence, Rape.
The very beginning
My story can sometimes be seen as unreal – why? Because often people don’t talk about all the elements of mental health, depression, misery. When people meet me, I am considered young, vibrant and evervessant. What they don’t see is the story that brought me to this point. Its my story. Mine to own. Mine to live with.
When I started studying I was studying medicine. I was proud I was accepted into such an amazing course. Who wouldn’t be? My Mother, my best friend. Was so proud. She would boast about it to everyone. But that is not where the story starts.
In 2007 – I was travelling on vacation, in Thailand, when I got severe stomach pain and had to come home. It wasn’t serious, and just felt like some serious period pain. At the time I was in my 4th year of medicine and was doing my some clinical placements with an OBGYN who asked if it could be an ovary. I said – well we could check! We did. It was a cyst that had become cancerous and needed to be removed. Ok. Not a big deal. I was young, one ovary wouldn’t be a tragedy and I was assured I could still easily have kids – although might be challenge. I went for the surgery and it was awful. They cut a hole from hip to hip to get this shit out of my body. Funny – turns out I am allergic to morphine. Discovered this coming out of surgery.
For the next 7 days my mother sat with me, reading to me a gorgeous book, which will forever be my favorite. She would read a chapter a day, pass me ice chips and tell me what the happening were at her local church and the family gossip. She was considered a pillar of the community. The church treasurer. The local police department accountant, family Matriarch and so much more. She was funny, and was generous. Most of all, she loved me more than anything else in the world.
It took me weeks to recover and my studies struggled. At about the same time, I met a wonderful guy. A little older than me, smart, talented and well like. One of the things he pointed out to me was that my mother and I were “too close”. When we moved to my home town, we had a house built for us by my Aunt – on some communal land, the house was intended to be barn, so the layout was a littler weird, and the rooms for example had no doors. This is what the new boyfriend was referring to. He didn’t like the fact that as an adult, in university, I was practically sharing a room with my mother. Yes. We were close. If i wasn’t texting her, she was texting me, and if we weren’t texting we were talking on the phone and if we weren’t talking we were with each other. I went almost everywhere with her and she with me. I can see how this would be construed as unhealthy, and we would joke that we were like an old married couple.
The big change
So on a Sunday, I made the decision to start putting some distance between us as. Not maliciously, but to preserve my adult sanity. So I moved downstairs into the spare room – which had a door, and privacy. She lost it at me.
“How could you do this to me”, “Do you not love me”, “I do so much for you”, “Why would you do that?” The comments were ridiculous. And unjustified. I stuck to my guns and stayed downstairs. She stopped talking to me completely and went into active ignoring more. I stuck to my guns.
On the Thursday morning 6th September 2007, I was leaving early to take some flowers from the church to a sick lady. By this time in the morning, my mother was already at work. As I was driving out with the flowers, she drove in. Our cars stopped next to each other, I wind down my window and asked why she was at home, she said she’d forgotten something and that she needed to pee so was in a rush – I then made some quip about her being senile and incontinent and that shouldn’t be a thing at her age – and she stopped – looked at me sternly and said “You know I love you right?” “I will always love you”. “Ok” I replied – “Love you too crazy lady”, and she drove off, I delivered my flowers.
That evening I was making dinner for the boyfriend. She hasn’t texted me since the flower drop off and that was unusual. I told him, and he immediately asked me how long it had been that I hadn’t heard from her. I said 10am. We had dinner and at 8pm he said we should look for her. In South Africa, you can ping peoples phones for locations, because of all the high jackings. It would ping sometimes and sometimes not. So we hopped in his car (and I will never forget his words) he said “Hey, whatever happens tonight is not your fault” – Ok!?
We drove to my place, and checked the cellphone ping on the closest station, it was coming from a weird location, but we printed it out and headed out that way, by this time it was like 9.45pm and really dark. We drove and drove and drove. And finally, came across her car. Had she been highjacked? Had someone stolen her car? The BF told me to stay in the car. Did I listen? No. In hindsight I should have right? I looked around the car. She wasn’t there. We ran into the bush a little ways and there she was. Sitting under a tree. She had shot the side of her head off, with her hand gun in one hand and her bible in the other. You can’t unsee that. Its all I see. Everyday. I dont remember much from that point onwards about what happened, it was just a blur of movement and dark, and then sitting for hours at the police station with no information. I was so confused.
Over the months that followed, the truth started coming out about what had unfolded that lead to this. I had been totally in the dark. She had a gambling problem that had escalated to theft, where as an accountant it was easy to siphon money off the top of bank accounts. She was also physically unwell, she was morbidly obese, and the doctor had said they would need to remove her leg due to diabetes.
Those months were also a blur. I couldn’t study, I couldn’t concentrate. I was depressed too. I went from a straight A student to barely making it past the easy papers designed to let me pass with a BSc instead of a medical degree. I was just a husk. My family made it all about them, my friends couldn’t understand, her friends just cried every time they saw me. Support was non existent.
The big move
So after a year of bumbling through the mess of my life, I left. I moved to Thailand. To learn a new language, a new culture, and get out of the rut that was my life. I was in a bad place. On arrival in Thailand I saw a psychiatrist. (I really should have seen a trauma counselor originally). The psychiatrist was amazing, and holistic and helpful. She gave me medications that realigned me, helped me focus on my work, day to day tasks and just getting me back on track.
Another big move
That’s when I met my ex-husband. We were introduced by our parents (my step mother and his step mother) He seemed lovely. Personable. Smart. People liked him. He came to visit me in Thailand and we totally hit it off. I moved back to Australia with him and lived with my father and step mother. There is a bit more to the story – and at this point it isn’t relevant, but it did cause me to have to move to to New Zealand as I couldn’t stay in Australia. So we got married so we could move to New Zealand. That means we were married in 6 months from meeting each other.
My precious son
I was always on the fence when it came to kids, I was more focused on my career and on my life. I was on the pill, and we usually used protection, also my chances of having a kid were far lower because of my one ovary. My ex husband desperately wanted kids. Over our first year of marriage, I started noticing warning signs. Like for Christmas, he I disagreed with an opinion he had, and he pulled the car over to scream at me. I was like WHOAH! I’ve never had someone scream at me like that. It was surreal. I stuck it out, because that is what is socially expected. He started showing more redflags, like beating his dog, or punching walls. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good debate, but never an argument.
In 2012, I was studying my MBA. It was my birthday and a weekend. We went out for some drinks. He got angry that I spoke to someone. I had a few more drinks, and he got more angry. When we got home, simply put, he raped me. I said no. Marital rape isn’t something we speak about is it. “be a good wife”. I fell pregnant and I couldn’t understand how or why. I know he had not used protection that night, but I was on the pill as back up. Nope. Hed swapped out my pills. So I was pregnant. Mid way through an MBA. Working full time. Focused. Career Driven. All coming screeching to a halt.
I muddled through those 9 months (waddled) and in the first 12 weeks was the first time he hit me. He pushed my face against the wall. Told me I was just there as the “cow to carry his baby”. I knew I was in trouble. I had no one to talk to.
We knew it would be to expensive to live in the big city we were in – so made the decision that when the baby was born we would move to a smaller town – what I didn’t realise was this was another one of his tricks to completely isolate me.
Once my gorgeous beautiful son was born .- we moved almost a week later to a small rural town. I was on maternity leave, with no support around me. No family. No one I knew. And I was unwell. Birth was not kind to me, and I could feel myself slipping quickly into postnatal depression. I had tears and illnesses all over. I couldn’t breastfeed. I kept getting infections in my breasts, I needed botox in my anus to heal tears. It was a total mess. I wasn’t connecting with baby. I felt so alone. So so so alone. This was his opportunity to pounce. Isn’t that how narcissists roll? He was so supportive, spoke at breastfeeding support groups, he was the picture of “Perfect Supportive husband”. But he was starting to loose control at work. Work was becoming overwhelming.
Now let’s give some insight to his life for a second. Here’s a simple guy, with skills, and seemingly nice parents. Parents who didn’t ever disclose to him that they had mental health issues. His mother, deeply depressed and his father, with well managed and medicated bipolar. They could have told him something. But they didn’t. I this rural town we lived in – he started smoking marijuana, to “settle him” after work. As a non drug taker my whole life, this behavior for me was unacceptable. I also didn’t realise that for his certain set of mental health problems, marijuana was a trigger not a settler or a calming effect.
The first time
The marijuana triggered an episode one evening before I left for work, that had the man panicked and scared. I was flying overseas and asked if I should cancel. He said no, he would be fine. When I arrived overseas, I got a call from his mother, he had driven 3.5 hours to drop our son on her front door step at 2am. He was MIA.
I finally got hold of him, and was so worried. He was scared, and he was paranoid. I came home as soon as I could. His father also came to see him and while they were visiting, he had his first of many violent episodes. On this occasion, he had locked himself in the garage, I walked over with our son who was about 1.5 at the time and knocked on the door, asking if he was ok. He opened the door, grabbed my by the throat, and told me I should kill myself like my mother did because I was worth nothing to him. He then grabbed my son and locked them both in the garage. I panicked. I broke through the locked door to try and get my son, he put my son in the car, I grabbed the car keys from the bench. By this point my son is screaming, I’m screaming. I gripped those keys with all my might, and he broke each finger that held them. He left with my son. His father, who had been on a walk, came back just as he was leaving down the road, to a bloodied and panicked me. He called my ex-husband and spoke him into coming back with my son. He sat us both down, and could see he was paranoid and unwell, and told him quite bluntly to get help. He didn’t. To this day my throat has a scar and my fingers are incredibly sore during winter.
The second time
About a month later, I had a bachelorette party coming up and thought it would be fun to get out the house for a little while, as my life was consumed either by work, my son, or my insane ex-husband. I asked him if it was ok for me to go and of course he obliged. I reminded him weekly for 2 weeks prior and then finally daily in the week leading up to the party. On the day of the party, “he had forgotten”, and got angry at the fact that I hadn’t told him. Urg. So eventually he relented and took me to the party.
I wasn’t having fun at the party and it finished at about 10pm. When I called him to come and pick me up, he was angry. Because he had to pick me up – “why couldn’t you just stay at a friends he asked on the phone” – “A little late to work that out now” – so he came, reluctantly. When he picked me up I could feel the tension in the car. My son was in his car seat on the back seat, sound asleep. I had had a couple of wines but was not drunk. About 10mins into the drive, I asked why he was so angry. He screamed at me, that I was a worthless bitch. A selfish cunt that didn’t deserve to be here. I put my hand up to ask him to stop, which he took as an affront. He stopped the car and dragged me out the car by my hair. He used his steel cap boots to kick me in the ribs, face and stomach. We were so rural I had no mobile reception. I lay there for a second. He let me back in the car. He kept driving. Just as we were approaching home, I stupidly asked “Why did you do that?” – he told me “I deserved it” proceeded to stop the car and do it all over again. I was lucky that this time I was close enough to home to get a bar of wi-fi and was able to send a text to a friend who sent the police. I got away with broken ribs, bruising and lacerations. My son witnessed the whole thing.
I made the decision to move back to my the city we had moved from to be closer to my friends. He followed me. At this point he had an accident which had him on disability off work for an extended period of time. I couldn’t be around him. I quit my job and moved to another town. He followed me again. This time, breaking his back in the process. (Karma right) And he needed somewhere to live. I’m either a nice person or really stupid, but I decided a man with a broken back cannot attack me.
He didn’t. Thank god. He got angry at me a couple of times, always after he had smoked out, but eventually when he was well enough to find a place of his own. When we finally divorced. He left with with $55k car debt and spent up LARGE on the credit cards to a fine total of over $20k.
I will always be ok!
For about a year after that, he would send me abusive texts, telling me how worthless I was.
That was 3 years ago.
Today. I am a single mom, who works full time. I blog on the side and do side hustle things to pay off his debt. He still isn’t working, and as the debt was in both our names, I’ll be paying it until I’m old and grey I guess. (Unless blogging takes off!!)
But in all seriousness – lets talk about what I learnt:
- I absolutely do not ever regret having my son. I love that child more than every one of my cells.
- I will always try to see the positives in life. No point in focusing on the negatives.
- I am drawn to narcissists and my self worth is based on value and how well I am achieving.
- I do not judge people, because your chapter one might be very different from my chapter 13 and I dont know what struggles you might have
- I will never compare my situation to yours or say mine is worse. It’s how we perceive them, and we all perceive things differently.
- I absolutely have PTSD. Its proven by a professional 😛
All my love Natalia (my mothers name)
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