By sharing a snippet of my story, I hope to inspire other women to tap into their inner creativity, their passions and their dreams, and to realise the full potential of their lives.
I couldn’t even recognise the young, broken-faced girl sobbing back at me in public bathroom mirror, at a highway truck stop. The top lid of my left eye protruded so far over the bottom lid that the eyeball below was no longer visible.
Blood was still pouring out of my nose and the pain above the ridge was nothing short of signalling that the bone was in fact broken. Clutching my one-year-old son under my arms, I silently wept in pain and humiliation. Inside my protective womb and under thick layers of winter threads, my 12-week baby slept peacefully.
Just moments earlier, my husband and I had been driving in our car. What led to his sudden rage-filled outburst I may never understand, however the usual triggers were related to stress induced by financial concerns, frustration, nicotine cravings, or jealously – both of the opposite sex or career related.
It was some 15 minutes before a highway exit presented itself, and in those desperately long minutes I had explored all potential opportunities of escape, but sobbing in silence was to be my best chance of surviving without further injury.
Unfortunately, I had become used to my husband’s violent outbursts, having succumbed to his belittlement since three months into our initial romance when he first showed a scary alternate side to his otherwise kind and loving character.
I had several opportunities to walk away from the relationship in the early days, however my love for him, and the bond we had developed as a creative partnership, encouraged me to stay. He was also away often, sometimes for a month or more at a time, flying around the world for his job.
It seemed the absence made the heart grow fonder, and during his stints away I was able to enjoy the independence and freedom I had always cherished. At times he was incredibly inspiring, teaching me much about the media industry and instilling hard work ethics that I still retain to this day, but at other times I was completely terrified of the man I had made my world, as his hideous rage kicked me to the ground, both literally and metaphorically.
By now I was one and a half children in, with a small trickle of income from my work that helped keep our family afloat. And in the midst of the natural disaster, I felt trapped in a prison cell-life that I had chosen independently for myself.
The strong, adventure-seeking, ocean loving girl seemed a world away. Now, all I saw was a lost child desperate to escape, but deep down I knew my husband’s world would be shattered if I did in fact walk away. Instead, I allowed his routine flood of remorse and subsequent apologies sing me back to holding a grain of hope for our family to find happiness in the future.
My husband had lost his mother to cancer, the reason I had not been willing to relocate back to Australia earlier; I felt he needed his wife and son by his side to help him through one of the hardest goodbyes of his life.
The turning point
Back in Oz, our life savings spent re-starting our lives, thanks to the help of friends and family and the universe we landed on our feet and our second son was born naturally in the water, into the arms of very humbled parents. We were living on a friend’s farm in a self-sustainable cabin, grateful for the simplest things like untainted water, fresh produce, and a nuclear-free ocean.
We had no money, but we had each other and for a time the ghost of our violent past seemed behind us. After a few months spent simply bonding amongst nature with our newborn baby, I knew I had to start looking for work as we couldn’t rely on the support of our friends and my family for much longer.
Immigration was taken excruciatingly long to grant my husband’s visa – it ended up taking over a year – and thus I was to become the primary breadwinner of our family.
It didn’t take me long to find an incredible job. I spent two years living the dream with a full-time salary and all the perks: five star hotels and business class flights, and even family trips where my husband and sons could join at no cost.
Gradually, however, I noticed my husband slip into a routine of jealousy-fuelled laziness and then depression, and before long the rage returned. Over the next two years the up and down cycle of physical, verbal and physiological violence continued, until an overseas work trip signalled the end of my patience.
I had since taken a redundancy from my company to begin my own start-up, and was enjoying a modest salary with far more flexibility to spend more time with my family whilst simultaneously accelerating my career.
On the morning I was set to fly out for two weeks, my husband, who had been surprisingly supportive of the upcoming trip (in the past he’d been extremely jealous each time I went away, not replying to emails or allowing me to skype our kids), launched into an unprovoked spectacle announcing I was a terrible mother for leaving my kids among other derogatory comments before dumping my bags on the side of the curb outside our local airport and speeding off without a goodbye.
I was shaking, tears welled in my eyes, and my stomach churned; my body’s now routinely reaction to the emotions that would torture me each time he’d blow up.
As usual, I spent the first week of my trip trying to do my job whilst living in the moment and channelling my inner happiness – after all, I had one of the best jobs in the world that I loved dearly.
At any given moment when wifi was available, I would text apologies and try to justify to the man I’d now been with almost nine years that this was my paid career that I worked hard to earn, and remind him that I had supported him throughout his jet setting career and that I’d appreciate some support in return.
When a text message came through calling me every degrading name under the sun, I laid in my hotel room in a pool of tears for hours, before feeling an overwhelming sense of calm. I’m not sure I realised it at the time, but the stomach-churning feeling had gone.
Breaking the cycle
I had finally, after almost a decade of abuse, switched off the ‘love’ button, and decided instantly that upon return I would ask for divorce.
Watching a shattered man realise his wife was finally serious about leaving was heart breaking. But I knew there was no going back. I had lost the love, and whilst I still felt compassion and sympathy, I knew he would never change if I continued to accept his violent ways.
Similarly, I was very aware that my sons were witness to this unacceptable treatment of women, and as my husband’s father was also physically violent, I stood firmly in my decision to break the cycle of abuse.
My sons would grow up to respect women and not repeat the patterns that humanity has, to the most part, encouraged females to endure.
A year and a half on, I have evolved through intense healing and emotional growth. My tears are now provoked by a sad movie or my sister’s recent walking down the isle, and my injuries are generally surf related.
I have spent countless hours repairing physical ailments caused by the release of emotional trauma trapped within my energy layers with a number of natural professionals.
Despite the struggle of juggling a start-up business and two kids without financial support from my ex, I wake up each day grateful for the opportunities that lie in the present.
As such, my career has moved forward in leaps and bounds as I have rekindled my childhood passions and life dreams.
My friendships and relationships with my family feel transparently real; I no longer have to hide the terrible secrets I kept from them for years.
I joke and sing and dance freely in front of my sons without fear that my personality flaws may put me in hospital.
I work with incredibly inspiring and honest men who have re-instated my trust in the opposite sex, in particular my business partner who I owe so much to; together with his wife and I’ve received incomparable love, support and encouragement both professionally and personally.
Above all, without constantly trying to make my ex-husband happy, and without the eggshells I spent so many years tip-toeing over, I am mostly enjoying the freedom to discover myself again.
On average, more than one woman per week is killed by a current or former partner.
Do you need to speak with someone? Support is available from DV Connect via 1800 811 811 or the website. Alternatively, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or if you’re in danger, call 000.