Last night I had just over two hours sleep. I woke up shouting. I was freezing cold but drenched in sweat. I was petrified. I checked L was alright. He was fast asleep beside me oblivious to what was happening to me. I jumped out of bed to check that no one was outside. I could hardly breathe and I felt dizzy. My heart was pounding so hard in my chest and I was shaking. I was petrified. I tried to think rationally “we’re safe and no one can hurt us” but it didn’t help. I tried the breathing exercises I’ve been taught. Couldn’t manage them last night, the panic had already taken hold too deeply. I went downstairs to check the doors were locked (again) and then panicked more because I’d left L on his own in my room. Then I felt guilty to L. I sat on the bedroom floor with knees up to chest watching L sleep for as long as I could before the need to ‘move’ kicked in. Then I paced the bottom of my bed back and forth. Back and forth for a good 3 hours. Other than take L to school I haven’t left the house today. I couldn’t. Sometimes I can easily go out, sometimes I can force myself out. Today was not one of those days.
This is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (C-psd) This is my reality now. This is my life.
C-ptsd is common after domestic abuse yet diagnosis isn’t often given. It is similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but whereas PTSD usually occurs because of one isolated incidents c-ptsd occurs after prolonged continuous trauma/abuse particularly if the victim feels they are trapped in the situation with no way out.
Although c-PTSD is common after domestic abuse it is not very well known to GP’s. There is a risk that a misdiagnosis can be given and in some cases c-PTSD has been misdiagnosed as borderline personality disorder. If you suspect you may be suffering from c-ptsd arm yourself with as much reliable information on c-ptsd as you can. Many respectable psychologists have written papers on the subject that are widely available on the web. Take your research to your GP and request to be referred to a trauma specialist.
Here are some symptoms of C-PTSD.
Hyper vigilance – always thinking danger is everywhere. Being scared to leave the house. Looking around constantly checking for danger.
Panic attacks – hyper ventilation, being petrified, heart racing, shaking, sweating, unable to be still.
Over eating or not being able to eat.
Insomnia or over sleeping.
Night terrors – waking up petrified with no idea why (usually with no memory of dreaming)
We often tend to ‘just get on with it’ and try to deal with everything on our own. You might not be aware of what you’re suffering. Again confusion sets in. You ask yourself what the hell is happening because you are over the moon that you’ve escaped so why is all this happening. It was SUPPOSED to get easier now. Logically now is the time you can start to feel safe again. Truth is though as your psyche is so used to being on high alert and in fight or flight mode that that has become the norm. Now as life becomes safer and you start to let your guard down your subconscious goes into overdrive trying to ‘protect’ you and get you back into fight or flight mode.
In this way it is such a cruel disorder as every time you think you’re ‘getting there’ something in your brain drags you right back to panic mode. It really is dibilitating and life changing.
To change tack a bit here…
I’m not going to focus on my story this time. Instead I’d like to focus on listing some red flags to watch out for as an outsider looking in.
The chances are someone you know will be suffering at the hands of an abuser. There are 3 reasons why they won’t come forward.
- They are too scared.
- They don’t know they are being abused.
- They are attached to their abuser or they are co-dependant and don’t think they can function without them. (See Stockholm Syndrome) All premeditated on the abusers behalf and part of the control and manipulation. So what to look for. There are many red flags and warning signs that could mean someone you know is in an abusive relationship. Again, as with the other red flags, if you spot one of them it doesn’t necessarily mean abuse is taking place but if there seems to be a few similarities take note and be vigilant. 1. Apparent over happiness. Of course everyone is thrilled to be in a new relationship. That’s normal. But when someone is over the top with repeated sickly announcements of finding their soulmate and how wonderful said soulmate is and announcing every ‘sweet’ thing their new partner has said or done take notice. Especially if it carries on over a prolonged period of time past what would be normally be considered the honeymoon period. And especially if that kind of talk is something you know wouldn’t be normal for that person (ie they’re usually quite private or dont like attention) 2. They start avoiding you or stop getting in touch with you. Again, there’ll always be a certain amount of excluding others when a new partner is on the scene but after the honeymoon period things should start to get back to normal. 3. Everything they write on social media they now tag their partner in even if it isn’t anything directly to do with partner. Narcs need to be included and in control of their victims. 4. Alternatively they go quiet on social media. Another potential red flag that their partner is isolating them. 5. Their friends list drops dramatically for no apparent reason. Narcs will either convince or make their victim ‘ get rid’ of people in their lives. Usually the ones that seem quite savvy and could potentially see past their mask. They will do this outright by telling the victim they have to get rid or coersively “oh i fell out with them, if you keep them as a friend it feels like you’re condoning their behaviour towards me” 6. They start to change their appearance according to what the narc see’s as appropriate. If the narc dresses in a quirky way watch out for the possible victim to start dressing the same. Again control. Yes choosing what you wear is control! 7. You see behaviours that aren’t expected from that person. I.e. they become aloof or they become extroverted or introverted or bitchy or drama queens or quiet or loud. Basically anything that you feel isn’t ‘that person’ should be viewed as a red flag. 8. Their opinions and beliefs change to fit with the narcs. Where that person once had very strong views and opinions they now might have done a complete loop to become the opposite of what they believed. (Note- their opinions and beliefs will not in fact have changed but they now have to follow the narcs lead and do as he says) 9. Every conversation, fb post, tweet involves their partner. Gone are the days when they spoke of their friends or their kids or whatever. Now it’s all got to be about keeping their partner in the spotlight and making sure everything (Yes everything) is about them. 10. The potential victim develops a nervous twitch or tic. Or they appear to always be anxious or rushed and can’t wait to get away from you or the conversation. They’ll avoid you if they see you coming so they don’t have to stop and speak. (When you’ve been isolated you know you’ll be in big trouble if the narc finds out you’ve been talking to someone he doesn’t want you to) So there’s a basic list. Be vigilant. Remember the old saying – if something (a relationship) seems too good to be true it probably is. Now the hardest bit. ….what can you do if you suspect someone is being abused? In truth there is not a lot you can do unfortunately. Remember the above reasons for the victim not coming forward. All you can really do is post articles on social media pointing out red flags etc and what a narcissist is. Also, posts of local domestic abuse helplines can be helpful. The victim will probably not know what they are dealing with. Most don’t until they get out and do their research. What they will know however is that something isn’t ‘quite right’ although they might not equate it to their (seemingly wonderful) partner. They will know they feel different to how they used to feel but might not be able to identify the anxiety or fear they are suffering from. Do things indirectly. I wouldn’t advise approaching the person outright for the reasons above again. (Why they havent come forward) post articles on social media, start a conversation about a ‘friend’ of yours who is being abused, get some leaflets from local domestic abuse centre and hand them around. Basically do everything in your power to educate them and let them know that abuse takes many forms. Finally, please do not judge the person thinking how they have changed for the worst. The chances are they are silently screaming out for help but know it looks like the complete opposite and that they are the ones walking away from you. Trust me, it may look like they’ve dropped you from their life but the reality is they’ve never needed you more.
So, we’re now 5 months in. As stated by now I’m constantly anxious and have the feeling of things ‘just not sitting right’ The examples I gave on my last post ie the meal and the phone are 2 of very many and alone they don’t qualify as control. You might be sat reading thinking ‘well he didn’t do anything wrong, this is all in her head’ I don’t blame you. That’s what I thought (and to some extent still do think) too. That’s why it was impossible to relate my anxiety to anything he had done.
However,CG was a very angry man. He had little control over his temper. I will point out here that he NEVER lifted a finger to myself or L. Never physically harmed us. But he was angry. At his ex wife, at people at work, some of his family, people he knew, companies he felt had screwed him over….the list goes on. I took the brunt of that anger. Not necessarily directed at me but nonetheless I was the scapegoat for his anger. Again, this didn’t sit right with me. I shy away from confrontation whenever I can. I like a quiet life. I realise now that all his pent up anger even though it wasn’t me that was making him angry (at that point) was having an effect on me. It all added to my constant anxiety.
This particular day he had a phone call from a company that said he owed money. To be fair, he didnt. His ex wife did but she had rigged it all in his name (apparently. I didnt question it at the time though I would question it now) He starts screaming into the phone. (Understandable I thought at the time) the phone call ended with no solution found. I remember sitting on his bed listening to his (I thought justified) fury. I tried to calm him down. Big mistake! The anger was then directed at me. “How would you like it if this happened to you…I can’t believe you’re sat there taking sides with them….where’s your loyalty” etc. His anger was now full on directed at me and I was well and truly taking the brunt of it. And one thing about CG. He didnt let things lie. This anger at me carried on and on and on. I was now the person who deserved his wrath. I was the person that had done him wrong (by trying to support him) During the verbal attack on me something snapped in me. I couldnt take the drama and the anger anymore. Bear in mind this wasn’t a one off, his anger showed itself every day. There was always a drama going on and he was always the victim in it.
I told him I was done. I told him I couldn’t take his anger anymore. I left. An hour later he called me. Said “I’m sorry for what I’ve just done, say goodbye to everyone for me” WTF???? I asked him what he’d done. He’d slit his wrists. I jumped in my car whilst keeping him on speaker phone and screaming down the phone “stay awake! Speak to me! Oh God please don’t die” etc. He said nothing. Stayed silent. Let me think he was dead. HE LET ME THINK HE WAS DEAD!
When I got to his house he was fully conscious. He had been fully able to speak to me on the phone but instead he let me think he was dead! He and his bedroom were like something out of a horror movie. Blood everywhere. I’ll add at this point that L was due to be dropped off there within an hour. I couldnt ask for him to go to my parents or anyone else because it was his birthday treat with 2 of his friends in 2 hours and we had to get to the venue. So there I am bandaging him up as best I can (he refused hospital) whilst hiding duvet covers covered in blood and scrubbing walls and floors of dried on blood. Never knowing when my son would walk through the door! My 7 year old son!
And that, was the day I became well and truly trapped.
That was the day when he knew he had full control. He knew I would not risk having his suicide on my conscience and more so would not risk having to sit my boy down and tell him CG, who he still adored, had died.
I wanted to call this post ‘The golden years’ but that wouldn’t be true. The golden ‘months’ is stretching the truth to its limits….
So from the first kiss I became his property. His appliance, to do with what he pleased. He didn’t tell me that of course otherwise I would’ve been off faster than a kid after an ice cream van. No, I wasn’t aware that I’d signed up to become his source of ‘fuel’ (search ‘glossary’ for explanation of fuel) his whipping boy, his puppet that does exactly as he wishes. No I had no idea. I thought I’d found a top bloke! Oh how he must have laughed! To start with I was very taken in by his charms. I’m ashamed to say I let him meet my son almost straight away. My son ADORED him. He fell for him quicker than I did. CG was L’s new best mate. In fact L’s love for him was instrumental in me falling for him. I thought I finally had my perfect little family unit. Something I’d longed for.
In many ways I think CG was so good with L in the beginning because it gave him the chance to relive the childhood, I believe, he missed out on. He certainly matched L in terms of emotional/mental age. (L was 6 at the time) and that’s not me being sarcastic or detrimental, that’s me being truthfull.
So, everything was rosy. Except it wasn’t. The control had already started unbeknown to me.
In hindsight I can see it all now. It’s subtle and he remains unaccountable as there’s no actual firm accusation I can make regarding the control. But it was definitely there. Coercive control. He had said to me how his ex wife never had his tea ready for him when he finished work even though she didn’t work. Therefore I made sure he had a meal on the table every night. Nothing major there though hey? Just making sure I looked after my man. He didn’t tell me I had to make sure I had a meal ready and waiting afterall. However, I remember my niece talking to me one day (within the first couple of months) and when I realised the time I got anxious and said I needed to leave to get started on the meal. She asked why and couldn’t it be 10 mins later than normal. I said no I wanted to make sure it was ready for when he got in. That was true but looking back the anxiety I felt was not normal!
Another example – I was driving one day and my phone started ringing. Obviously I didn’t pick as I was driving. I got a text straight after saying “don’t you ever pick up your phone?!” (It was what I call one of those WTF moments when I had no idea where the hell that’d come from) when I called him when I’d finished driving he didnt pick up! (Revenge?) I didnt bother calling again but I text to say I had been driving that’s why I didnt pick up. I got no reply from him and spent the day wondering what the hell has just happened and why was he giving me the silent treatment. Anxiety and confussion encompassing me all day. That evening when I called him out on it he said “I just got worried because my ex never used to pick up and that’s because she was having an affair” Did he tell me from that day forward I needed to make sure I picked up straight away? No. Did he tell me that no matter what else I was doing I needed to stop doing it and reply to his texts straight away? No. Did I do those things anyway? YES! From that day forward would I feel the twist of anxiety in my stomach every time my phone rang or beeped? YES! Did one missed call and a text ultimately lead to him controlling how I used and viewed my phone? YES! Did I rudely stop listening to whoever I was with or interrupt them if my phone went? YES! Did I do this knowing it was rude? YES! But I daren’t not. Absolute control. Subtle, unaccountable manipulation.
As I say though, I wasn’t aware of any of this at the time. I knew I was starting to feel anxious and ‘not myself’ but I never once equated it to this wonderful man who was showing L what it was like to have an amazing step dad in his life. This wonderful man that took me out and bought me clothes (That he chose, ahem) This wonderful man that cared so much about us…..
So who the hell knew a simple friend request on FB from an old friend would be the catalyst for 3 1/2 years of hell.
From the first message with him it was all ‘woe is me’. His wife had left him for someone else, he had fallen out with a girlfriend, he had some terrible medical conditions from a motorbike accident etc etc et friggin cetra. I quickly became aware that he was a delicate little snowflake. (Credit to Lucy for coming up with this name) Poor lamb had had a bad life. Red flag? Definitely. Did I see it? Course not. Instead I felt sorry for him. Thought I could fix him. I was a nice person back then….
After a few, (well loads in a short amount of time) messages we met up for a drink. I hadn’t seen him for near on 20 years at that point. I have to give him it- he was drop dead gorgeous. Very well styled and very ‘my type’ I found his (apparent) shyness and nervousness endearing. I can’t say I was hooked but I did think that maybe there was ‘something there’
Next day L was with his dad so I spent the afternoon with CG. That’s when we officially got together. Red flag alert….he put it straight on FB “CG is in a relationship with ET (easy target aka me) around 2 hours after our first kiss. Did I see this as a red flag? Nope. I thought it was sweet and I felt it was a compliment to me. Puke. I’ll admit that it also made me feel pretty damn special. Idiot…..
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