Living with emotional abuse and learning to walk away
Almost two years ago Katy, of South Ribble, spoke anonymously about living with dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder). Now, she is ready to discuss what she claims was emotional abuse from her former partner, to help other people in similar situations spot the signs and find courage to walk away.
Katy says: “I thought I had a good marriage and I thought I was lucky to have him.
“I was only 20 when I met my ex through friends. We slowly became close. I was in a bad way after coming to Preston from Devon when I was 18. I was a really scared girl with a lot going on in my head.
“Something wasn’t right and my mental health was not good at all. When I lived in Devon I lived alone in a flat and was taking drugs. I didn’t know how to shake off this awful feeling of extreme anxiety and depression. I was close to suicide daily.
“I once got on my knees and prayed to God to recuse me from my misery, to save me as I was suffocating. I was locked inside my head. I was scared, paranoid and very alone. I felt my only way was to move far away from this town and get help to save myself.
“I knew if I stayed any longer I would not be here. I had to save myself and so I moved to Preston. I met Fred* and he seemed really laid back and we clicked straight away but it wasn’t through great circumstances. I was a mess. I felt broken and desperate for someone to have the answers I craved for: for someone who can explain why I felt so unwell in my head.
“I felt very different and I didn’t seem to fit in well. I covered my pain with a confident smile. I was happy, bubbly Katy, but behind closed doors I was a mess. No-one knew my agony and no-one could help me.
“I just had to try to get through the day. I had to keep myself safe, keep a roof over my head.
“It wasn’t long before Fred and I were in a relationship. I felt very lucky as he accepted me. I felt I could rely on him and trust his honesty, that his love would always help me beat the demons I carried within me.
“He saw me on my worst days – non-stop crying as my thinking was not right.
“I didn’t know what was going on – I just knew I was not well and needed help.
“We both dabbled with drugs and together we decided we wanted to get married and have children. We promised our partying wild days were over. I was 22 and Fred was 25.
“We got married and had our son. I felt I had my own little family and all I wanted was to be a good wife and mum and to be happy and healthy.
“Fred put up with a lot, with my mental health. He saw me cry every day and how needy I was of his company as I was scared when I was on my own. My head was not in a good place.
“Fred was a fantastic husband and we shared a lot of good times together. We loved each other dearly and always had each other’s backs and we were a team – or so I thought.
“Over the years, things went missing and I kept saying to Fred that my head was not right and I could swear I put some money in a drawer and he would help me search for it.
“Then after a few minutes he would tell me not to panic and that he would replace it. But as lovely as that was of him, I couldn’t relax. I would go through the whole house, whilst Fred would watch TV. I was crying and very frantic.
“This happened weekly for years. I was losing my marbles and I begged Fred to take me to hospital as I kept imagining things which at the time were not true.
“I turned to my husband, who was my best friend, for answers as I could not rely on myself anymore. My memory was not reliable. I just couldn’t trust my thoughts so I became dependant and childlike to my good old Fred, who I trusted and who I believed in.
“I felt so lucky – he never gave up on me or judged me. He thought the world of me. He never liked going out with the lads and he was a family man. He was very reliable and always put me and my son first.
“But towards the end of my marriage, things changed dramatically. My health was getting recognised and I was getting help.
“I had three diagnoses of dysthymia, Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) and bipolar disorder.
“I was put on medication and I began to function better. My thoughts were clear and my brain didn’t feel poorly. I began to see the world around me instead of being locked in my head.
“I had an awakening and I felt alive for the first time since I was at primary school. It was an amazing feeling.
“Everything started to change drastically in my marriage.
“Fred’s behaviour was scaring me, as he was acting shifty and tripping up on his own lies.
“I started having strangers knocking on my door, asking for money Fred owed them. One debt alone was £800, another was £320 and so on.
“I was mortified.
“I asked Fred for the full story. He promised he just needed my support in getting himself out of this mess.
“We went to marriage counselling for eight months and Fred went got extra counselling.
“Another year passed and it was almost our 10-year anniversary. We had booked to go away and had saved money for the trip. I said this was either going to be a fresh start or the end – it was up to Fred.
“Some of that money went missing and Fred tried convincing me I was imagining it.
“I was heartbroken. I knew I had to say goodbye to the only real friend I had. I was in a little bubble in my marriage, I had no family at the time – it was just me, Fred and my son.
“I ended my marriage and I reconnected with my family and friends, who supported me.
“I was growing and learning about the world and for the first time, I was me, I felt free but I had to start again.
“I was not at the same level as others my age. They were grown ups and acted their age.
“My mental health deteriorated so much over the years and I would often go into ‘child mode,’ acting like a child and asking simple questions any adult should know.
“This was brought on by years of trauma. It does something to your brain to protect you.
“I thought and always believed Fred was a good man but he conned me into believing him and let me think it was my mental health. He used my trust and illness against me.
“I do believe I was lucky I was diagnosed and was on medication and got out of my marriage.
“I’m proud of myself for having the courage to walk away and save whatever little sanity remained.
“It’s been three years and I still get confused with who is being real with me.
“My friends have pulled me through some really hard times. My family all understand me and listen to me, which is really important while suffering with any kind of mental illness.
“It’s taken a long time to get over the confusion of who I am and what has happened for an extremely long time.
“I wanted to tell my story to help me heal and leave it behind me.
“I did go to the police, but they said Fred hadn’t broken any laws, and how could he steal from his wife as it was shared money as a couple, so I felt no-one took responsibility for what happened.
“It is like saying this emotional abuse is acceptable but it is not and I want others to read this who may be going through emotional torment and know it is domestic abuse and it is wrong, They need to reach out and get help.”
*Katy and Fred are pseudonyms to protect the identities of those involved.