“You can sleep on the floor, like a dog”

I am someone who has struggled with mental health issues, probably my whole life. When I was young I was always so quiet and extremely anxious, which was usually brushed off as shyness, but as I have gotten older I’ve realised that I have probably dealt with social anxiety from a very young age. I have also struggled with depression for a long time; I think I was about 16 when I can first remember having symptoms (but it could have been way before that). In more recent years I have also been diagnosed with mild PTSD, and am currently looking at getting a diagnosis for potentially having borderline personality disorder (bpd).

There are a lot of things that have happened, or that I’ve been through, over the years that have contributed towards my mental illnesses. Things that have had a massive impact on my confidence, my relationships with family and friends, my work life. One of these things being a relationship I was in for 4 years, in which I would now consider to have been a mentally, and emotionally, abusive one.

You don’t really see it at the time, especially when you’re someone who deals with depression which comes with a big side helping of self-loathing. You think it’s your own fault, and you’re the one in the wrong – and they’re telling you you are, so it must be you. I lived that relationship feeling like I was completely nothing; I was worthless, stupid, selfish, ugly (inside and out), inconsiderate, boring, like I couldn’t and would never amount to anything.

This was a person who would tell me he would pick me up from a night out to “make sure I got home safe… at whatever time you like” – what a nice guy, right? Except he would sit outside in his car, the whole time I was out, and send constant texts (sometimes calls), throughout the night… “where are you”, “how long will you be”, “I’ve been waiting for over an hour now, you’re taking the piss”, until I would eventually cave and leave my friends.

This was a person who would belittle me, humiliate me, and deliberately make me look stupid in front of other people for his own amusement.

This is a person who was entirely aware of my mental health issues, and did absolutely nothing… Except for use it against me.

This is a person who would ignore me and completely blank me, as if I wasn’t even in the room, whenever I was upset – or even sobbing. His game or the TV was more important than me having a bad mental health day.

This is a person who would become verbally abusive, would scream at me, and would desperately have to leave a room before he physically hurt me… Because he knew the consequences of this, not because he didn’t want to hurt me.

This is a person who never once did a single thing for any of my birthdays, but once made me pay for us to go to Rome for his birthday. One Christmas he bought me cleaning products, and the following year bought me an ironing board… Because he thought it was hilarious.

This is a person who point blank refused to listen to me about any issues I had going on with my Dad, at the time, but would happily stay awake until 3am texting another girl to listen to her problems she was having with her Dad… All whilst telling her how special and amazing she was. Oh, and then he would lie to me so that he could go and spend time with said girl.

This is a person who once drove me to lock myself in his car, after running out of the house because he had become so verbally aggressive, and had physically pushed me down. Then told me he would call the police if I even thought about leaving in his car.

This is a person who convinced me to have an abortion. Then, when his family found out it was, of course, my fault. Their whole attitudes towards me changed; I was no longer a “part of the family” they had once told me I was. They made me feel ashamed.

This is a person who told me that I would be f****d without him, that I wouldn’t know what to do. He wore me down so much that I believed him. I believed that I was nothing without him; how would I ever function and get by without him?!

I’m ugly, no one else will ever love me.

I’m stupid, no one else will ever accept me.

I’m broken and have too many issues, no one else will ever understand.

I’ll never amount to anything, so I need him to get anywhere in life.

I’m the one in the wrong.

I shouldn’t have tried to speak to him about my problems. I shouldn’t expect his support.

I shouldn’t treat him in this way.

It’s understandable that he gets aggressive towards me, I must be really difficult.

He deserves better than me, so I should be grateful he’s still with me.

I’m a terrible person.

I don’t feel anything towards this person anymore. Not anger, not hate… not anything. So, why have I written this today?

Well, I recently stumbled across something that did spark some anger. This is now a person who is fundraising for Mind charity. Who has written about his own experiences with mental health. Who has, apparently, volunteered for a mental health site in helping to listen to others and help them get support for their mental health.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I commend anyone who does volunteer work, and I commend anyone who wants to help others with their mental health. However, not when someone doing this is (or has been) an abuser.

I also understand that people can change, and that people can go through their own difficulties. Mental health can affect anyone, and can affect each person in its own way. However, I can honestly say that I have never abused someone because of my mental health, so I cannot excuse this now because he has now decided to speak about his own issues.

I sat and skimmed through the content he had written about his own experiences with mental health, and read over words like…

“We can all improve on our understanding and awareness of what it entails or at the very least remove the “stigma” that surrounds it, and as Mind put it, give “support and respect” to the people affected”

“We all have to understand that depression is an illness”

“Forcing me to bury these feelings for months, even years”

“I feared judgment”

I know, as someone who is an advocate for better mental health, I shouldn’t think badly of someone speaking out about their own experience. I will always support anyone who is brave enough be open and share their experiences. However, whilst I was reading these words – written by a person who treated me in such a way – all I could think of was one specific memory I have, and all I could hear were the following words going over in my head…

“You can sleep on the floor, like a dog. You don’t deserve to sleep in the bed.”

This is the kind of person he was, and this only really scratches the surface. Am I supposed to respect someone who now wants to raise awareness to himself for being such an inspiration? Am I supposed to just stay quiet, like I always did, and tell myself I am in the wrong for being upset by this? At the person who would sit outside of my house, after I had left him, to make sure I wasn’t with anyone else.

I am not angry or hateful towards this person (I know it probably sounds that way ha!). I am angry and hateful towards the amount of people who get away with being controlling, coercive, and abusive (either physically or emotionally), and then portray themselves as an amazing, inspirational, caring person. It happens too often!

Abuse is not always physical. Abuse is not always seen. Abuse can be in the mind too.

It is only now, that I am in a relationship with someone who listens, is supportive, caring, loving, and genuinely wants to be there and help me, that I realise how bad things were in the past. I was under the impression that my past relationship was just how things were, as if it were normal. If it weren’t for my current partner, I don’t know where I would have ended up in the aftermath of the previous.

Resources:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-abuse-how-to-get-help

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/domestic-abuse

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/gender-violence/domestic-violence-and-abuse/

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm/

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