Why am I alive? Choice? Not yet. I am alive because I am under orders to stay alive.
That is going to sound strange to a lot of people; this is a switch. I have been programmed NOT to stay alive. This is so deeply ingrained in me, that these current counter orders are very difficult to deal with.
Apart from the childhood stuff detailed elsewhere, my children and I were subjected to eleven years of intense psychological abuse.
Everyone knows about physical domestic violence. That’s visible. The cuts, the bruises, the unbelievable excuses and justifications. But psych abuse is hidden. It is harder to see, and the victims are very hard to coax out. The damage is long-term and very, very deep.
BPD me really wanted love, and family and validation and a new life away from the past. So young BPD me got myself into a relationship that I knew was wrong. I knew was dangerous. I knew would end in tears. But by the time I knew this, by the time I walked up the aisle – there was no way back.
I was already distanced from family back in the UK. I was now in Australia. I had burned all bridges behind me and was out of funds within six weeks of landing. I placed myself squarely in the hands of a very dominant male with issues; paranoia, jealousy, extreme possessiveness, and fuelled with rage by the slightest thing.
The romance was sudden, brief and all-consuming as is often the case with BPD. I believed the unbelievable within weeks of knowing him; things about my own family, I would ordinarily not even consider. The accusations levelled against them, looking back were so utterly unbelievable, yet in this man, I believed. I trusted completely, too quickly and when the little niggles of fear tickled the back of my mind, my desire to be loved and cherished forced them away.
I lost my family, except for grandparents who stayed in touch across the miles. They knew but were smart enough not to challenge me as others had. They didn’t want to lose me, nor my young son but stayed in touch to be there when the time came.
I trusted him with everything; he chose where we should live; we built a house; all in his name. I trusted when he told me that as a resident I wasn’t allowed things in my name; I was not a citizen, he was. I didn’t know the neighbourhood. I didn’t have any friends. I was discouraged from having friends. I was discouraged from being too involved with his family. He would tell them that I said things about them that I didn’t. Who are they going to believe? They will believe their own. It’s natural.
Slowly, we became isolated. Things became dark. I quickly learned obedience, for when I was not, my son would be punished. I couldn’t carry to term and lost several babies. He told my young son that it was his fault; he was such a bad son he was killing his future brothers and sisters. He was punished.
My second child eventually came; premature, but ok. He became the centre of my ex-husband’s universe. He now had a son of his own. For my eldest son from a previous marriage, life got progressively worse. The more I objected, the more I tried to protect him, the more I intervened – the worse life got for him.
The only way for my eldest to be ok, was for me to become totally obedient.
To stay obedient required further isolation. Kids were removed from school as they were learning what appropriate parental behaviour was and what was not. My son started to question.
Homeschooling was the answer. Keep us away from the world.
We had little in the way of furniture. We only had carpet because grandparents paid. They didn’t like the thought of children sitting on a concrete floor. No oven. No cooktop. I was allowed a microwave and an electric frying pan. He only liked meat, potatoes, frozen peas and carrots. Nothing else was permitted. He would rage if I tried to cook anything else.
He couldn’t hold down a job, so I would take short-term contracts. But under control. I was watched; sometimes he would follow me; turn up at my workplace with the children. He would challenge my clients, my co-workers or anyone who came near me. He would threaten people. It became harder for me to work.
I tried to study but was asked to leave TAFE as he kept turning up and threatening my fellow students and lecturers.
My youngest son was treated well, my eldest forced to sit in a corner, not permitted to eat with us. Not allowed to watch tv. Not permitted to play. I was required to be covered from neck to wrist to ankle and be at the same level as him or below at all times. This meant spending a lot of time on the floor.
I would continuously be grilled; “What do you think of this?”, “How do you feel about that?” but no matter what I said, my answer was wrong. I would be yelled at, told I was wrong, and stupid and dumb and my son would be punished for my wrongness. My every thought, every word, every action, every movement was wrong – until I became nothing; no-one; an empty vessel; paralysed unable to think or to do. Every little part of me was stripped away.
I endured. I would tell myself that although my eldest was being deprived of everything (bar food and water separate from us); although he was forced to write pages and pages and pages of lines; at least he wasn’t physically or sexually abused.
What I didn’t know was that while I was out of his sight, his paranoia would kick in. I thought by being obedient I was protecting my eldest son. I found out years later that when I was out of sight – rage would kick in and he was physically abused.
Alcohol was not permitted. He knew in himself that he couldn’t control his rage when under the influence, and for that I was thankful. But twice a year, I was encouraged to have a drink. He wouldn’t buy me a drink. He would insist on a bottle. And demand I drank it all – quickly. Being unaccustomed to alcohol, I would promptly vomit. This was done in front of the children. I was held up as an example. This is how alcoholics behave; your mother is an alcoholic; your mother is bad; your mother is shit; your mother is a failure, etc.
Every perceived wrong I did was held up as an example. Proof of how bad I was. My every behaviour, any opinion – always demanded and given under duress was ripped apart, cruelly dissected and shown as evidence of my wrongness and badness.
My children were forced to write letters to me on how bad I was; what a terrible mother I was; how they hated me; how they would be better off without me.
I came to believe it.
People say, why didn’t you walk away? Well, I couldn’t. I had been so strongly programmed; I could not. I could not leave; I could not ask for help. It is not that simple, when every part of you has been stripped away.
He would always appear, he would always threaten anyone who spoke to me. He would rage in the street and tell people I was a whore, that I was having affairs with people at work. He would say to my children not that I was working, but that I was off having sex with other men.
He knew that. He would smile and tell me that he owned me. That he was the only one able to take care of us; that I wasn’t able to do it myself because I was so useless and incapable and weak and helpless. He would tell me that if I ever did go near another man, then he would abandon me and take my children; that I wouldn’t survive without him. If I found someone else, I would be alone.
A tiny part of me saw this as a way out. If I could let another man touch me, and dare to tell him – I could be free, and that as a mother, I could rescue my children.
I tried this. I let another man kiss me. I locked myself in the ladies and threw up. I was ashamed and terrified,
Then I went home and told him.
He sat on the floor across from me and glared. Silence for a while. I dare not move. Then he did the unthinkable.
He offered forgiveness and made me burn what I had been wearing.
Then he reminded me how bad I was and that I shouldn’t stay alive; he reminded me that it was best for my children if I died.
That’s when I tried to take my own life.
I could see no way out.
But I failed and wandered the streets in a daze until someone found me and took me to a doctor. From there my life started to turn around. She began to reprogram me. He found and threatened her, but she persevered. I began to stand up to him, just a little. I invited my son to join us at the table for dinner. Furious, he charged at my son and stubbed his toe on the vacuum cleaner. My son sniggered. He asked my son what he was laughing at, and a brave twelve-year-old boy said “You. You are an idiot.”
Then he tried to kill my son.
I pulled him off.
It took eleven years … then a further four in a series of bizarre court battles to gain our freedom.
I have functioned since then, and performing and being able to make choices, make decisions and have opinions is a constant battle. I still have no identity; I have no idea how to want to be alive; I have no idea how to be a good person; I have been so profoundly programmed that I am wrong and that I should not be here walking this earth … that I struggle daily to do it.
I still instinctively obey; I am completely vulnerable and malleable to men.
I am here now because others understand this and have told me to live.
I know HOW to do this now. But I still have to find something within me that WANTS to.