We were the family with the white picket fence around our house and the smell of baking permanently wafting from the kitchen. In our drive way were three newish cars always polished even though there only two of us to drive them. Our house had more bedrooms than we needed, our wardrobes more clothes than we could wear. At the weekends I tended the garden and three times a week we attended church. We socialised, holidayed several times a year and put pictures up of those times on our walls.
So what could be so wrong I hear you cry? Well for a start we didn’t have a white picket fence, I made that part up to emphasise what an outsider might see; a family life that was not far from perfection. And that was what I wanted people to see back then. I didn’t want to admit there was any kind of problem. So I kept it to myself when my first baby came along and we struggled to bond and that I went to sleep every night dreading the moment I would wake. I couldn’t cope but I never let on; that would mean admitting to failure (or so I thought) and I don’t fail – ever. I told no one that things were not right between my husband and I. They didn’t need to know that at the very beginning he’d made a will stipulating that I would get nothing if anything happened to him and that everything would go to his sister. He controlled all our financial affairs and on the few occasions when I came into money he just took it. Over the course of our sixteen years together I lived in constant dread of anyone overhearing how he spoke to me, the contempt he had for the one he was supposed to love. I felt ashamed as if it somehow reflected on me. And some broken instinct told me that I was to blame. I was not enough. I needed to be more.
So I tried to be a better wife, Christian and mother thus shouldering the burden all by myself. I avoided asking for anything and gave my all in whatever he asked no matter how unreasonable or unfair. At the start of 2002 I fell pregnant again and having almost died from preclampsia the first time and miscarrying the second I desperately needed his support at the birth. In truth I was terrified. Since this was common knowledge to those that knew us he promised he would be there but when the time came things were a little more complicated than that.
My waters broke on the 28th of September and he’d drank far too much to be able to take me to the hospital. So I drove myself sitting on a huge pile of towels, grimacing between each speed bump in the road. When we eventually got there he was restless but I put this down to the fact he was nervous when in actual fact it was nothing of the sort. Less than an hour later he calmly told me he was going home. I begged him not to in front of the medical staff. To my humiliation they told him there was somewhere for him to sleep just down the hall. But he didn’t want it. In his own words he wanted his own bed. So I let him go.
For me that was a turning point. I was at my most vulnerable and I meant nothing. What was the point in trying any more? A few hours later I had a reason to keep the family together. My little boy. My son. For him and for his sister and because I felt I had no place to go I continued smiling for the camera for the next few years. I hid the bruises from his punches and kicks, from his words that hurt me far more. Only now without knowing I was keeping an account and one day the bill would be due in full.
I began to feel strange, detached from reality, unable to enjoy all the things I had done before. Movies held no interest for me any more, books were dull, shopping was boring, food was pointless and my faith disappointing. Furthermore I felt nothing for anybody, not even my beloved children. The poison I had clasped to my heart for so long in all my unwillingness to share had tainted my world with its colours of black changing its vibrancy to grey.
There was no denying it. No more pretending. The bill had arrived.
‘You must go to the Doctor,’ my mother said. ‘He’ll give you something to pick you up a bit.’
And so he did. The pills helped a little but they made me sick. So we tried another and another until we finally hit on one that didn’t make me puke. And then I filed for divorce.
‘You’re just depressed,’ my husband said. ‘Why not wait until the tablets work and see how you feel then?’
In my head I laughed uncontrollably. I needed the tablets BECAUSE I’d spent years ignoring how I’d felt. My emotions had finally given up communicating with me because they felt so ignored. I owed it to myself to listen to what they’d been saying all those years, not let my medication dull my new found nerve.
Thankfully it didn’t even though I kept taking them. I found the strength to file for divorce and somehow survived the ensuing horror of discovering him dead in our bedroom a month later. A few years later I wrote my story and published it and in doing so I found strength in acknowledging what had gone before. Too much denial is dangerous. It takes strength to say ‘this is happening to me, I need help.’ I found counseling to be helpful in this respect. And that’s why I’m now in my third year of training to become a counsellor. Because no one should ever have to suffer alone.
* * *
I live in Northern Ireland and I’m a mother of two. I have a strong interest in genealogy and history, which was initially a key motivational factor behind my foray into writing.
For seven years I’ve researched my Scottish roots and have visited Scotland many times which has given me the interest and drive to write my first two novels The Sands of Carsaig and its sequel Night Chorus.
My first love though has always been science fiction so it came as no surprise that I went on to write a SciFi entitled The Ison Delusion which was released June 2012.
Since then I have been working on another SciFi and also an autobiographical work entitled Not Your Legacy. It covers subjects such as spousal abuse, suicide, marital separation, self-discovery and growth. You can find the promotional video on my Amazon profile and also on YouTube. The book itself can be purchased from Waterstones, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major international retailers.
Samantha can be found:
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Touching and well-told…thank you Samantha!
Thank you for sharing your story.
Wow. How amazing you finally found the strength to leave that toxicity. So touched to read this. Thank you
Your story is so real and so devastatingly horrific. I’m proud of you for surviving and thriving and sharing with others, Samantha. #hugs, girl.