What motivated you to write your piece Katrina?
Well, I'm a 53 year old woman who had a good childhood and terrific married life up until when my mother became terminally ill in 2012. I was happily married to my childhood sweetheart whom I'd met when I was 14 and he 15. We had motorbikes, sports cars, horses, dogs, a house, holidays and lots of fun and laughter. Obviously we all have our up and downs in any relationship, but we were looking forward for our future together. And then my mum died and I lost my way.
Can you explain this a little more?
Well, I went into depression from the grief and, at the same time, had severe menopausal symptoms. During that time I went to a school reunion and met someone who at first was just a friend and we connected and chatted on Facebook, but soon he started playing mind games with me, and started controlling my life. In the ensuing mayhem my husband no longer recognised me, and found another woman to love. I was devastated and confused, I got into a relationship with this person and it all became unbelievably crazy. I became isolated and alone and really didn't understand what was happening. It became a very toxic relationship, with physical and psychological abuse, rape and punishment in all forms if I were to even mention my husband's name or other friends. All I ever wanted was my husband to come back to me and save me, but he had gone for good. I tried to escape on my own several times but it was impossible. He destroyed my mind. Finally I broke free, but I now live day to day with C-PTSD, no friends, isolation, and no trust in anyone. The day I lost my gorgeous husband was The Day I Died.
And is that why you wrote it?
Yes, I wrote it because I am still suffering day to day with what happened and thought it may help to release some of my trauma and heal some of my pain. Everything still haunts me, including my suicide attempts and self-harming; mental abuse is far worse than physical abuse and carries no visible scars.
Can you give me just one incident of his mental abuse that had caused you so much trauma?
My perpetrator played so many games with me, and if he didn't get his own way he would threaten to kill himself. For example, once he called me and told me his was in his car and was going to kill himself, and lured me to a field in Suffolk in the middle of the night to save him. I found him in his car, with a pipe from the exhaust through the window, which was stuffed with blankets. The ambulance was called along with the police, but he just made a mockery out of it all by saying he wasn’t really going to finish himself off. I was absolutely in turmoil and couldn’t get my head around any of it, it was so extreme and cruel. Another time he wanted to do a double suicide with me and taunted me with it all the time as I always said no. He called me a chicken. Another time he sharpened a knife, gave it to me, and told me to kill myself whilst he went to bed. My husband was my everything and now I had a monster who would not leave me alone. It was all my fault, I deserved it. I loathed myself.
How did you manage to handle these emotions and experiences?
I didn't really manage to handle my emotions because they were total chaos. One minute I was up the next he would bring me down. When I told my husband I wanted to die and I needed help, he wouldn't help. I didn't understand how he would rather let his two children be motherless than help me get away from this perpetrator.
What happened when you finally got away?
I had no friends so got so lonely that I started to befriended ‘heavy’ people. They either wanted sex, I would run, they would want to rape me, never succeeded, or they would want money or a roof over their head. So eventually I learned to hold everything in from people because they didn't want to know, or to help, or to care or to understand. I isolated myself even more. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t function. I did have one male friend who would talk to me, but he was a very troubled person himself and ended up drinking himself to death. I was devastated and wanted to end my life with him. I soldiered on though, with more grief, self-harming, hitting the bottle and having very suicidal thoughts but keeping everything to myself. Not pleasant.
How did you managed to move past everything to where you are today?
I haven’t really moved on or away from these thoughts. I have just deviated, hoping that one day something will be good in my life again, something to lift me up and away from it all. I am still trapped in the nightmare, and have feelings of despair. I try to do little things, but motivation and self hatred stops me from doing what I really want to achieve. I used to be bubbly, lots of things to do, laughter and lots to look forward too. Happiness and contentment. Now I am not even a shadow of myself. I was once told I will never be who I was. I agree with that statement now. I was aghast when I was first told but it's true, I will never be who I was. So I have had to accept it. Like I have accepted everything that happened.
What does the future hold?
Personally had never felt suicidal or self harmed before this started and now I wake up every day wishing I didn't wake up at all. At the moment I don’t see any future, if I did it would all go wrong anyway. I have no purpose anymore. Having a purpose would be great. I need to grieve for my mother properly, and grieve for my marriage and ex husband, to which I never had the chance. A quote from Shakespeare “I think the devil will not have me damned lest the oil that's in me should set hell on fire.” I will find my way though, I have been to the most darkest of places and survived. I will survive. I do not give up easily and even though I fail now, I will get right back up and try again. I am not crazy, I am not a fool; I am me. And me is broken at the moment, but I will be back. A different me, apparently, but I will be back.
Any advice for anyone else facing their own troubles and trauma?
Firstly I don’t want to be hypocrite and say there is light at the end of the tunnel straight-away. I guess there is for some, but I personally have not found the source of that light yet and when I do see a glimmer of light, it is instantly put out. But I am learning to love myself again, whoever I may be. All I can say is if you feel suicidal, that moment doesn’t normally last longer than an hour or so, so hold on, and remember the thought will go soon, keep fighting. Do it for you. No one else. YOU. There is a massive stigma with mental health and it needs to be addressed. It does not mean you are mad or crazy or insane. Absolutely anyone can get depression, anxiety, panic, suicidal thoughts or self-harm. There is help out there, so don't ever be afraid to speak out and tell other people how you feel.