Sunday, 6 October 2019

My PTSD & Anxiety: A Year On

“Everyone’s going to think I’m an arsehole but it’s over” he said to me coldly, completely emotional-less.  I sat on the sofa in disbelief, two hours previous we had returned home from A&E where I had traumatically lost our baby in the toilets of the waiting room.  His words shook me to my core, how could he do this, today of all days? It was the 6th October 2018 and this day, as well as the previous few months leading up to it it, still haunt me a year on.   This is my story of a year of recovery.

Mental health, it’s all you hear about now isn’t it?  For me it separates into sub categories, those who suffer from it directly, those that have or are watching someone else suffer, those who have a vague grasp of it and those who openly admit that they don’t.  The latter normally make reference to “not believing in it,” and I’ve been told this first hand.  I’m afraid to say this isn’t Father Christmas we are talking about here, mental health issues actually exists and to a certain extent it’s possibly one of the most terrifying situations to be in to be suffering inside your own head.

Me in 2015
Me before I met him

This post is going to be a lengthy one, this is me who’s writing it after all and we all know I can talk for England.  As with all of my personal posts, I hope that some of you gain something from it.  Telling this story for me, even after all this time, is like trying to breathe properly with broken ribs, it’s extremely painful  but I feel it must be done.  It’s not a “poor me” post, I’ve had all the love and support of hundreds of people but I wanted to put it together purely based on my experience, the cause, the symptoms and what I did to try to help aid my recovery in terms of treatments.  I’m also hoping that publishing this is one of the final releases to what has been the worst 15 months of my life.

October 2018

Let’s rewind all the way back to 2013/2014, I was 28 and in the middle of a year’s course at college doing Pre-Blended Aromatherapy.  I was in a marriage that I was no longer fulfilled in and I will try my absolute best to describe my mental state.  The grey clouds were in the distance, I could see the storm heading towards me, somehow the air felt like it had changed and everything had the feeling of being different but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.  I told my friend at college “I don’t feel like myself but I can’t explain it.”  I remember specifically saying those words to her.  A sense of dread washed over me each day coupled by the strangest feeling of almost mini power surges in my legs, the blood pumping violently and making my muscles visibly twitch.  It scared the life out of me, how was I not in control of my own body?  I was watching my legs with no control, almost like they belonged to someone else.  That’s the bit that got to me the most, the lack of control of myself.  If my brain could do this and I had no say in it, what else could it do?  I was petrified.  My husband was a gentle soul but didn’t know how to comfort me and my parents fall into the category of “we know about mental health but we don’t really understand it.”  In their wisdom they told me not to go to the doctors as they were worried about me ending up on tablets.  They meant well but this unknown world meant I was left to suffer for 9 months, every single day I would wake up with a heavy heart, full of dread and scared that the sensation in my legs would start again and that ultimately - I was going mad.  

Ironically, it was during this time that I started this blog.  I needed something to sink my teeth into, something I could work on in the quiet hours through the night and focus my attention away from the way I was feeling.  I joined the gym and went religiously every morning and finally somewhere around the 9 month mark it lifted and I realised the dread was less frequent and my legs were mine again.  It was that strange calm after a storm, what the heck was that?  I had no idea.  It was a good year or so later that something sparked my interest as I was reading and after a few google searches I had symptoms of anxiety and depression, the mini power surges were anxiety tremors - my body’s way of acting out the fight or flight method and building adrenaline for an invisible war.  

Let’s fast forward to 2016, my marriage has ended and I’m in a new relationship.  We spoke about what had previously happened to me and he promised me faithly that he would do anything in his power for me to not go through it again, I remember the whole conversation and him saying it.  

I also remember a whole conversation at the beginning where he told me how interested he was in NLP.  I had no idea what it was so I’ll give you the google definition.  

NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Neuro refers to your neurology; Linguistic refers to language; programming refers to how that neural language functions. In other words, learning NLP is like learning the language of your own mind! Let's make this simpler with an example.

To me, NLP was mind control, or so I joked.  I asked him if he could read my mind or change my thoughts and he said “everyone manipulates Karen.  Babies manipulate, they cry to get attention.”

Ten years older than me he was strong, mature, confident and a gentleman - I believed him.  He came into my life and swept me off my feet.  He was passionate, romantic, thoughtful.  I couldn’t believe he was single!  My luck was in to have the love of this incredible human being! I would constantly say to him “how are you even single?! He would shrug and reply “I’m just me.”  Knowing I had somewhat of a following on social media he was keen to remind me constantly that everyone in the town he lived in knew him, it was a strange thing he kept saying to me.  He couldn’t do enough for me, he went above and beyond to impress me and within 5 months I had moved the 200 miles to be with him leaving all of my friends, family and my business behind.

In April 2018 I earned an all expenses paid cruise with my Scentsy business.  I would say our relationship was perfectly fine at this point, from my perspective.  I was very happy and proud to be with him.  Whilst on board we went into a jewellery shop with my friend and her husband.  Her and I did the girly thing of looking at rings and I found this beautiful diamond ring.  He came over, puffed his chest out and said to me “is that the ring you want?”  I was under no illusion, he was in the midst of a long divorce but he told me he would buy me the £1500 ring to show me “his commitment to me.”  Trust me when I say these words were to swirl around my head for the rest of 2018 like  dark black clouds.  

By July 2018 however everything had dramatically changed.  He went from my biggest protector to my harshest critic.  He was constantly enraged, flying down the motorway in the fast lane at over 100MPH because he was angry, me crying and pleading for him to slow down with my parents on FaceTime also begging him.  He assassinated my character telling I wasn’t good at so many different things, every time he did it I tried my best not to react but in time I realised that this meant his comments were relentless as he wasn’t getting the reactions he wanted from me.  Whatever I did wasn’t good enough, I’d cook the tea and he told me I should be doing the dishes as well.  I wanted to make him happy so I started doing the dishes as soon as dinner was eaten but then I was told I was “doing the dishes too fast,” I couldn’t win.  I walked on eggshells constantly, the mask of his public image was incredibly different to the person I lived with.  I watched as he manipulated every situation to his advantage, whether it be his son, his job or gain popularity for potential customers for his other business.  For my own survival I needed to be silent but this came as the highest cost - my mental health.  

His public persona was a caricature of the real him.  If he wanted people to think of him as a certain way I would watch him morph into whatever character was required.  In time I had realised this was exactly what he had done to me, he realised the type of partner I was looking for and he simply became it to lure me in.  The only issue with becoming something you’re not is that eventually the cracks have to show and the ugly truth will be revealed.

At the end of August 2018 we returned from holiday with his son to which he caused an almighty argument.  I had my suspicions and a positive test confirmed that I was pregnant for the second time following a silent miscarriage in 2017.  Despite everything, our sex life was extremely healthy so this baby certainly wasn’t a shock.  When I say healthy I’m talking most days and often multiple times a day.  At this point in the relationship he acted like he hated me but to mentally torture me he would constantly seek intimacy from me.  Of course, all I wanted was things to be good between us so I was happy to accept every tiny bit of affection that was kicked my way.  It was only 6 months later I was to learn that emotionally abusive partners do this as a method of control.  They enjoy punishing you, treating you poorly but that they can click their fingers and still be intimate with you when they choose.  It’s a cruel, twisted game and classic narcissistic behaviour.

Another thing that was becoming more frequent was me “forgetting” that he had told me about an extra shift in work, a training event or an appointment he had to attend.  Once maybe, I’ll admit I haven’t got the absolute best memory but when it started happening over and again I started to realise that he had no proof he ever told me at all but he was insinuating I was losing the plot.  I started keeping a diary of everything he told me he was doing of course, these ‘magic events’ I would forget were still happening.  

September 2018 was when my mental health finally started to break me.  He was happily taking my life savings to pay his legal fees for his divorce.  I loved him, what was mine was his and we were going to have a baby together.  He even referred to me as “wifey” that month.  He told me after I paid that last payment and my account was now empty that he had already decided to end our relationship beforehand.  

So many days are etched in my mind of what he did, we went to the midwife and he humiliated me to her.  I sat staring at the floor in her office, willing myself not to cry.  On numerous occasions throughout September 2018 he would come home from work and announce he “couldn’t do this anymore.”  It became a regular pattern.  We would talk, I would tell him what else I would do to make him happy, he would agree and then he would initiate sex with me.   I had become completely submissive to him.

One week in mid September 2018 he did the “I can’t do this anymore” routine but then decided he was fine again, pulling me in for cuddle in bed and then having sex with me.  Again the following morning he initiated sex again, we went for a scan and found out our baby had a heartbeat.  I cried a thousand tears, our first baby I had been told at the 12 week scan those words no one wants to hear, “I’m sorry Karen but there is no heartbeat.”  That night however he went back to saying he needed space and left for a few hours.  The following day he came home from work and announced once again he “couldn’t do it anymore” and that he needed to get away, he packed a carrier bag and left.  These last three incidents are three consecutive days, the final one involving me being home alone all night and totally inconsolable.

That night the tremors had gotten completely out of control.  If I was to rate what they were like in 2013/2014 out of ten I would have given them a five, they were scary but this time around they were completely off the scale.  I couldn’t eat, I would rock back and forth, crying that I couldn’t feed the baby growing instead me.  I didn’t have morning sickness, I just physically couldn’t hold food down when my anxiety peaked.  Eventually I did all I could think of in the early hours of the morning with all of my family 200 miles away, I phoned the Samaritans.  I’ll never forget that man on the line for the rest of my life - wow I’m actually welling up all this time later just thinking of him.  He calmed me down, he listened and I felt that he really cared about me.  He could only really listen, he had no answers but he did something invaluable to me, he calmed my tremors down enough for me to be able to eat after a complete 24 hours with nothing but water.  As for him, he didn’t contact me at all through the night to check on his pregnant girlfriend.  I “slept” on the sofa on tenderhooks, waiting to hear the key in the door through the night that didn’t come.  

Questions swirled around in my head constantly, why do I deserve this?  What have I done?  I’ve given this man nothing but love, been his biggest supporter, became a step mum to his son and he is treating me like I am the worst human on earth.  I felt worthless.

The next day, at 9.30am he phones me.  I had developed a monotone voice, no matter what he said I was void of emotion, my sparkle had gone.  I hated who I had become, I didn’t recognise myself at all.  I was greeted with the happiest voice telling me all about the “boys night out” he had been on, how there had been a pub brawl and the police had been called and how he was taking advantage of being in another area and popping by a local business meeting there.  In the back of my mind I was upset that I had had such an awful night, struggling to feed myself whilst he had gone out drinking with friends but I was so numb to his treatment of me, I said nothing. 

My life had become totally unreal, a mix of guessing and predictions that I was never really going to get right.  The goal posts were moved constantly so I could never, ever catch up.  He didn’t speak to me that weekend either whilst I was at a Scentsy event in Manchester because in my haste leaving that morning, I had forgotten to put the food recycling bag outside.  To him, I deserved silence for the entire weekend as the bag had been knotted but left by the sink only he didn’t tell me why he was punishing me until after the weekend was over.  I was so distraught that on my four hour drive up to Manchester I diverted to my parents in a desperate attempt to seek respite from my circumstances.  My devastated parents pleaded for me to eat, worried of the effects on me and my baby but I struggled to choke anything down as I sat crying and shaking.  Things were so severe that by the time it came to me needing to leave for the hotel, Mum had to come and stay in my hotel with me in Manchester as the tremors had gotten so violent that I couldn’t calm myself down.  I was hysterical, I thought he loved me, what did I do to deserve this?  I drove home after that weekend with the anxiety tremors in my legs so severe I’m not sure how I worked the pedals of the car.  I was greeted with silence from him but a big cuddle from his son.  Pregnant and having already miscarried he didn’t care as he left me to drag my little suitcase and bags of Scentsy goodies into the house myself.  Eventually after a few hours of that he cracked a smile and opened his arms for a hug, I cried, I was so grateful that he was being nice to me.

Throughout September I was surviving on as little at an hours sleep a night.  The air in our home felt like it was filled with something poisonous.  He started strangely putting his phone on flight mode at night, he disabled his Facebook profile and I found out he had made a new one which he denied.  I only knew this as I was the admin on his Facebook customer group and he invited this profile into his group from his main profile!  He would constantly disappear on me and meanwhile, my monotone voice never changed.  I was unrecognisable, people who saw me during this time said that they knew something wasn’t right with me but they didn’t want to say.  I helped out at his work and he would be snarky with me and then turn to his customers perfectly normal and loving to me in front of them, I sat dumbfounded watching how quick he was able to flip his persona.  

I knew I had to be careful around him as whilst he had never been physically violent to me as yet, there was an incident where he insisted I did as he said and picked up something outside of the house.  I refused to be spoken to the way he did and walked in the house.  Infuriated he grabbed me and dragged me outside, ripping my boot and snapping the strap of my handbag.  He would also lock me out of the house and one time he drove off and left me in the city centre. When you’re not from the area and with limited battery life, I was left trying to google where and what transform I could get back to our tiny village, too embarrassed that he would treat me this way.  I actually got my mum on FaceTime when I knocked at the door to witness anything, frightened he would do something on my arrival, I knew he wouldn’t dare do it around anyone else. 

Somewhere during this time my parents had a conversation with him by phone that prompted my mum to ask if he was cheating on me.  He hit the roof but she justified her question that he was constantly disappearing, he was hiding his phone, he made another Facebook profile and things weren’t adding up.  He was furious at the suggestion so of course, I felt the wrath of her question later on that evening. 

I was convinced at this point he was having some sort of a breakdown and that I needed to be the strong one and get through it.  I’d wake up in the night to turn over and he was awake, lying on his back with his eyes eerily wide open and staring at the ceiling.  He had said a few extremely disturbing phrases to me such as “I can see model buildings and they’ve all been destroyed” and the other one he said to me more often was “I feel like I’m on a merry go round and I can’t get off.”  I needed to be there for him, let him do whatever he needed to do as he clearly loved me otherwise he wouldn’t be having sex with me, would he?  He wouldn’t have bought me that fairly expensive engagement ring four months ago?  He wouldn’t be giving me the occasional cuddle surely?  The odd affectionate moment?  He was in there somewhere and I was going to be there for him and we would be stronger than ever.  I even called the charity MIND convinced that the bizarre phrases he had said to me could mean he was in danger. 

My mum speaks often about the time during this month that I had driven up to theirs on my regular fortnightly trip.  At this point I had become wise to his erratic behaviour and I needed witnesses so his calls were all on loud speaker.  I sat in their living room with him frantic on the other end of the phone.  He was talking to me totally irrationally, shouting at me that he had had to clean the entire kitchen because there were flies in it.  He was shouting down the phone about the kitchen and the flies, repeating himself constantly.  Mum says that if she didn’t hear that unreal conversation herself she would think I was making it up.  This was another example of me thinking he was having a breakdown and I needed to support him so I sat calmly and listened.  The following day I mentioned the flies and he said he didn’t remember the conversation.

Then came the trip Majorca that he went on with work which I was told partners weren’t allowed.  Another reason to hate me was one of our four bedrooms had a stack of miscellaneous items in it because he refused to use the loft space.  The majority of the boxes were mine and he told me he couldn’t even think about our baby until I sorted them.  A shadow of my former self I agreed that I would do whatever it took to make him happy with our pregnancy so whilst he was away, I started moving suitcases, portable radiators, clothes from early morning until midnight for those five days he was gone.  The most painful part was that he didn’t contact me once after the initial “we’ve arrived” message that Friday.  What did I do to deserve to be despised this much?  He had sex with me twice the night he left for the airport but he was happy to leave me home alone and pregnant with his child without as much as a courtesy call from Majorca?  I say Majorca, a fortnight later I found a bus time table in his pocket from Benidorm and a receipt from Alicante airport, another lie I’ll never have an explanation for.

I remember the tremors had reached a whole new height the night of his return. I had pre arranged to go to Nandos with my friend there and I spent the entire meal sobbing my heart out, she had work in the morning but I didn’t want to be left on my own. I was crying on FaceTime to my parents “what if the room isn’t tidy enough for him?  What if he’s still not happy with it?”  Looking back now I hate the woman I had become, I was frightened of the man I was suppose to love.  My parents looked at me dumbfounded and completely helpless.  My dad is a man of few words but he said “Never mind if the room isn’t tidy enough!”  When he arrived back in the early hours of the morning the first thing he did was go to the bedroom and turn the light on.  “That’s better” he said flippantly and walked out again.  This was a game to him, he had gotten me so worked up that he couldn’t acknowledge our baby and when I had pushed myself to my limit to make him happy he just pretended suddenly it was no big deal.  Mind games, constantly to try and break me although the truth was I was already broken.

It was late on the following day that the bleeding started and I knew right there and then, our baby was dead.  I had moved ten bin bags on my own whilst he lay in bed that morning.  Some of them were so heavy that I could only roll them across the floor and lift them only when I had to do get over a door frame etc.  I might as well have laid with them for the bin men to collect as that’s how much care he had for me.  In a bizarre twist he told his customers he was surprising me and taking me out of a meal that evening, we walked hand in hand into the pub.  The following morning the bleeding gradually got heavier.  He whispered in my ear that I was beautiful and amazing, I will never forget that.  It was another example as to how he intended to destroy me with his mental torture.  I lay on my side with his words swirling around, my life has become a sick joke.

The bleeding got progressively heavier until Saturday 6th October 2018 I lost our baby in the toilets of A&E.  We had been there for hours waiting for the triage nurse to call my name.  I was pacing back and forth as the pain quickly escalated.  I had strong painkillers in my bag from the missed miscarriage but I refused to take any in the slightest chance that our baby was still alive.  Eventually whilst waiting for a porter to finally take me up to gynaecology, it happened right there in the waiting room toilets.  The pain was so severe that my legs and heads went completely dead, I’ve never felt anything like it.  If my mental health hadn’t suffered enough, it was about to get a whole lot worse.  

Returning from the hospital, I FaceTimed my mum to let her know our news.  He sat next to me on the sofa talking normally and then suddenly jumped up and said he had left something at work 15 mins away.  Mum watched him kiss me on the lips on FaceTime as he left.  Two hours later he returned with the grey drawn expression I had seen many times before from previous weeks but what he said next nearly floored me.  “Everyone’s going to think I’m an arsehole but it’s over.”  I think it was that moment that my soul left my body and I almost felt like I was looking down at myself and this conversation.  “Sorry?” I stuttered.  He repeated it.  Words came out of my mouth that I had no control over “But you’re a gentlemen? This isn’t you.  But you love me? But....?”  The person he had gone to see, clearly also void of a moral compass, had helped him reach this decision telling him “well there’s never a good time to end things” (he told me this himself) -  today of all days.  He continued to tell me he would be staying away for the weekend and then he ‘would sort it from there.’  We have now been home three hours from the most traumatic experience of my life, my relationship is over and I’m hated this much that I don’t even deserve to be looked after for the evening.  I didn’t know what to do, my fight had left many months previous.  I got my phone out and called my parents.  Worried for me they begged him not to leave, concerned I could haemorrhage.  Begrudgingly he eventually agreed but an episode an hour or so later had me insisting he went.  He had been sat on the sofa next to me in silence.  I was clearly devastated, in this surreal moment of my life so I couldn’t believe it when he complained to me that he could feel me shaking on the other end of the sofa, as usual I said nothing.  I knew very well I wouldn’t be allowed to cry, he didn’t deal with criers.  If I’d ever cried previously he told me he wouldn’t listen to me until I stopped as it was emotional blackmail.  We sat there for a while when he suddenly shot up to his feet and started pacing the floor.  He went from the corner of the living room, into the hall way, up the stairs and back again whilst chanting constantly “I feel like a caged animal, I feel like a caged animal!” with his hands punching the air. I sat on the sofa in silence, clutching my phone.  I was petrified of him and what he was capable of.  The scariest part of it was I had made a decision that if he headed into the kitchen I was going to ring the police.  To me he had completely lost his mind at this point and was capable of stabbing me, every last scrap of energy I had left was going to make sure that didn’t happen.  After probably 20 to 30 times of him pacing the floor and chanting this phrase I convinced him to leave.  As he left, I tried to hug him.  I realise I’m an idiot but I loved him, I was sure by his behaviour that he was mentally ill.  He batted my hands away, he wanted nothing to do with me.  I deserved this.  I was scum.  I was worthless. 

Early the next day I decided to speak to his “auntie.”  She was a family friend really as neither of his parents spoke to him.  I had asked her if I could speak to her in confidence and she said yes.  I called her and told her what had been going on and she said it definitely sounded like a breakdown and she would try and get him to her house that day and get to the bottom of it.  In sheer desperation I then visited the out of hours service in the local hospital and begged them to give me something to calm me down.  I was frantic and lost, I hadn’t slept, I still remember all of those feelings that this absolutely couldn’t be real, could it?  No one does this to another human do they?  The long and short of it was she gave me a few Diazepam which when I later looked at the dosage, was less than half the required dosage for anxiety.  He returned that evening and I took the Diazepam as soon as I saw his headlights.  They had absolutely no effect on me what so ever, I was devastated.  I had managed to contact his “auntie” after he left hers but before he had arrived back.  I knew instantly she had been conned by him as she told me he seems absolutely fine and he’s just not happy with me.  I was later to find out he had been so convincing she actually went against her own promise and not only telling him I had been in contact but showing him ever text message I had sent.  She clearly was totally oblivious of the danger she had put me in by doing so but, he was so convincing so could I really blame her?  I had downloaded the Headspace app which I tried to listen to with headphones whilst he slept in his son’s bed.  My anxiety was through the roof to the point where I was silently rocking and crying in our bedroom.  I wasn’t allowed to cry, I couldn’t let him hear me.  I couldn’t concentrate on the app, I couldn’t even sit still.  I was absolutely inconsolable.  

I got out of bed at 6am.  I noticed that he had left the door to the room he was in half open which was strange.  I showered and washed my hair.  As I dried it, he walked in and said to me  “aren’t you going to talk to me?  I left the door open for you” in a friendly voice. Mind games.  He was a master manipulator, trying to make me question my own sanity.  If I had of gone in he wouldn’t have wanted me there but because I didn’t try he couldn’t have fun with my emotions and reject me.  The reason I had gotten ready so early we because I then headed directly to the doctors for an emergency appointment whether he gave me Sertraline, an anti depressant but this was to manage my anxiety and the correct dose of Diazepam if I needed it.  The above image was exactly what the doctor said to me, he told me it sounded like my partner was the one that really needed to come and see him but I needed to remember to put my own oxygen mask on first, something I had refused to do.  

It was later that day that he was to continue the most confusing, incomprehensible mental torture.  “I’ll be honest, I’m in two minds whether to end it,” he said “I’m 50/50.”  I sat on the edge of our sofa with my usual emotionless face with him on dining chair opposite me.  I asked him what the pros and cons were and if I couldn’t be more dumbfounded, I was about to be.  “Well pros are that I love you, we have lovely memories together and I miss you when you aren’t around” so then I asked for the cons to which he replied is the most bizarre fashion sporting a slight smirk, “that’s what I’m trying to figure out.”  We went for the scan to confirm our loss.  With tears streaming down my face, the sonographer seemed to take ages checking me.  He sat beside me watching me cry and refused to hold my hand or offer any comfort to me.  If I reached out to hold his hand he shook it so I couldn’t.  What had I done wrong to deserve this?  I was so deep into this and I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the cruelty he was showing me.  

That night, two days after the loss I begged him for a trial separation.  I felt that something was going on in his mind and that if I was away he would be able to seek help.  He helped load my car with some items to get me through the next few weeks as I didn’t know when I would be back.  I found it strange that although I was bringing my cat Poppy with me, he insisted I brought every scrap of her, her toys, her food, everything with me like she wasn’t going to be returning but as with everything, I went along with it.  I was to later find out he was livid I brought Poppy with me but I was expecting to be gone a few weeks and with his erratic behaviour I didn’t feel she was safe there.  I also brought the ashes of my boy Henry with me which was a last minute decision and thankfully I did or he too would have been dumped into the storage unit.

Petrified I would be caught, I whispered to his son early the following morning that I wasn’t sure when I would be back, it was a gut feeling I had. I will not publish what he said about his own father but he knew something wasn’t right with him.  Before he left for school he gave me two friendship bracelets in pink and purple “I thought you’d like the colours” he said “and I’ve got some too so we can match.”  It broke my heart to watch him cuddle Poppy for what was to be, the last time.  He loved her and they would sit and play with his cars.  His dad also cuddled Poppy but when it came to the very last moment for him to say goodbye, he turned and patted me on the head.  It beggars belief.  In hindsight I wish I had hidden cameras because I realise that this story is already shocking and virtually unbelievable but I wanted to give you the full background as to where my issues stem from.  

Three days after the pregnancy loss I was now driving up north to my parents, little did I know for sure, permanently.  I can’t even put into words what it’s like to drive away from a home I had created and built up with him for two years, unknowing that his plan to ensure I was to never ever be able to return it or claim all of my belongings.  

I arrived back up north early afternoon Tuesday 9th October and instantly a sense of relief hit me.  I was with people that truly cared for me, I can’t tell you how valuable that feeling was.  This was a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time and the first night I was there I slept for 9 hours straight.  Of course I had friends but they all had lives of their own.  I had spent days and nights alone hoping that he would suddenly see that he was destroying me and care but he was about to take it a whole step further.  The man who promised he would never let my anxiety return, was about to take this to a whole new level that I could have never foreseen.  

He called me that weekend and I briefly got to say hello to his son to whom he promised could call me the following day.  He never did, his son told me later he had asked to call me but was told “No because Karen’s in a bad mood.”  

His son called me in secret early on the Monday morning and what he was to say was to shake me to my core.  The first thing he said was “you know what Dad’s been doing, don’t you?”  My anxiety started to build, I braced myself, I had been gone less than a week.  “He’s taken your stuff, put it in boxes and then we have spent all weekend going back and forth in the car to a Storage Unit.”  He then goes on to apologise to me that he’s had to be the one to tell me, he was only 11 years old after all and that he loved me.  I couldn’t believe that at his age he knew how very wrong what his dad was doing and was willing to go against his own father to let me know what was happening in our home.  He also told me his dad had changed the locks, he has asked why and he was told the lock was rusty but told me “Karen I saw that lock and it wasn’t rusty!”  Since the Tuesday I left he would message me telling me he loved me and that he missed me, it broke my heart what he was being put through.  I spoke to his dad straight after, he said nothing had been moved from the house.  I didn’t say I had been told but I even asked him if he had moved any of my things and he snapped at me sarcastically “nothings been moved Karen?  Why would you think that?”

Weeks passed and I struggled so hard.  My tremors were unbearable, I willed time to pass, I cried so hard I would throw up.  I felt like I had lost everything, my partner, my step son, my home and I had already decided that there was no way possible I would be able to continue my Scentsy business.  Sometimes I’d sleep a lot, others I was up all night alone.  I reverted back to being a child, knocking on my parents bedroom door at 6am  because I couldn’t bear being alone with my own thoughts and flashbacks any longer.  I would go over so many things in my mind, he bought me an engagement ring months previously to show his commitment?  He told me he loved me and he missed me when I wasn’t around?  He said I was beautiful and amazing to only a few weeks ago, how could this all change? 

Fast forward a fortnight, we are now three weeks from me leaving our home and he finally tells me our relationship is over.  He gave me four reasons for ending the relationship.

1) I told his “auntie” I was worried about him.  
2) I had too many shoes, clothes and Scentsy.
3) I wasted too much food, making reference to a broccoli he had thrown out.
4) We spent all of his money, no mention of my 5k of course that paid his divorce. 

Believe it or not, I actually have his phone calls recorded so this isn’t from memory, this is fact.

He finally tells me that all of my “shit” is in a storage unit, telling me he had paid for 6 months up front.  He also took this opportunity to say “you think I need help?  It’s YOU that needs help!  Everyone’s thinking it but they don’t want to say!”  After this conversation I had an extremely serious talk with my parents.  I asked them if there was something wrong with me that perhaps I couldn’t see, I knew they’d tell me the truth.  “Karen it’s him, not you.  He’s mad.”

“Does he want me to kill myself?  Is that what it is?” I asked my parents.  Mum looked at me sadly and said “yes I think that would make him happy.”  They were devastated, they couldn’t sleep for worrying about me but also dealing with their own pain.  This man had been welcomed into their home on a fortnightly basis when he returned to theirs with me.  Mum came into my room one day and said to me “we let him into our home.  He fed him and gave him anything he wanted and this is how he treats us” I saw the hurt in her eyes as she said it.   

As for the engagement ring that I had soothed myself for three weeks with, convinced that he wouldn’t have bought it if he didn’t see a future.  I had left it in the house with him still in it’s box the day I left.  I was on FaceTime to my friend a few days later.  This was who was with me the day he bought it and she was able to add another piece to the puzzle.  She told me after he had bought it, her and her husband had asked if he planned to propose on the trip.  He laughed and spat “No, I only bought it for her to shut her up.”

My parents continued to liaise with him on my behalf regarding my belongings and outstanding money he owed which he promised faithfully he would pay when his divorced was finalised.  During one conversation I was in my bedroom and all I heard my mum say was “that would be cruel” and I jumped to my feet and went into the living room.  “I knew you’d be there” he snarled on loudspeaker.  So far I hadn’t spoken to him at all apart from the nasty hour and a half long phone-call where he told me his four epic reasons to end our relationship.  Not once had I ever gotten the courage or strength to say anything of what I thought of him but this was my one and only chance.  “I was in my bedroom actually and I heard mum say ‘that would be cruel’ and knew instantly she was talking to you because you’re the cruellest man I’ve ever met.”  I walked away.  I later found out that he had threatened to remove my phone number from his son’s phone and that’s why mum had given the response she had.  Not once, in person or any phone call or message to me or at all to my parents did he ever ask if I was okay after losing our baby, not a single time.

His son continued to call me, the conversations of what was happening at home will remain private for the most part but at this point I was trying to battle to keep myself going each day and also appear to be upbeat so as to not effect him but inside I was dying. I was concerned for his boy.  He would tell me Dad spends all his time in his room on his phone and he would hear him saying things like “this house is a mess and my life is a mess.”  Using his own son as a weapon, he would tell him bits of information such as he had changed the locks to the storage unit so I couldn’t access it and a week after he ‘officially’ ended it he was looking for a new girlfriend and had already been on 6 dates with the same woman.  “Karen! I can get you into the storage unit, if you come down here you can pick me up, I know the codes and I’ll get you in to get your stuff!” I meant so much to this child he was willing to be punished by his father for me.  His son eventually was asking his mum for a second mobile phone to call me from as his Dad had lead him to believe all of his calls were being listened to, another unbelievable tactic to cut his ties from me.  

“He’s trying to get to you” my friends and family would say, “don’t let him.”  All I could keep asking was “Why?  What did I do?  Why has he got such a vendetta against me?”  Nobody could answer me.  The weeks to follow carried on horrendously.  His son wanted to keep in touch with me telling me “he’d never forget me” but his Dad was determined to put an end to it. He called my parents and told them that his son’s mother was getting a restraining order against me contacting him.  I wasn’t contacting him at all, his son was calling and texting me (as shown above.). I called his ex wife up immediately for clarification.  She told me “Karen, he’s a liar and a narcissistic.  He believes his own lies.  My son sees you as his step mum and for as long as he wants to talk to you, he can.  Honestly, I was left scratching my head at the end of our marriage as I couldn’t work out what the hell had gone on.”  She had voiced exactly what I was going through and I firmly believe he has done this many times previously and will continue to do so.  All of his exes were crazy and he had been engaged five times, two facts I knew from the start but just dismissed them that he had just had bad luck.    He also told me from the start he had punched a ex-girlfriend in the face so I knew he was capable of domestic violence.  Of course now I know the common denominator in his previous relationships were all him, many of the women were not local to him so there was no chance of the truth of what he did getting out either which I think is a very clever tactic. 

One day he called my parents up and told them that I had been lying to them.  I was devastated.  They never asked him what I was apparently lying about, they couldn’t stand him needless to say but we worked out between us this was another grenade he was throwing to try and destroy me.  If he could plant a seed of doubt about my integrity to those closest to me then I could lose even more of my support network.  I was later to find out that many of the ‘customers’ that I knew through the company he worked for were warned not to speak to me with an equally as clever grenadine.  “Karen’s been speaking about the brand on social media, they’re taking her to court so as you’re a customer you’re best not to speak to her as it will get her into more trouble.”  I actually had some unfriend me on Facebook, can you imagine how upsetting that was?  I’ve lost yet another baby, I have done nothing wrong but love this man until he decided he didn’t want me and not only that, he wanted to destroy me!  It broke my heart.  I would never believe he was capable of this level of evil until I witnessed it myself so I had to comfort myself that he was so convincing that neither me or any of my family, friends or followers could see what was coming and therefore I couldn’t really blame any of these people falling for his lies either.  Chillingly the week I left on “a break” he told one of his customers that he had been doing some ‘spring cleaning,’ literally his words.  Of course what he really meant was he was giving himself three weeks to look through all of my personal belongings and decide what he wanted to keep and everything else got dumped in the storage unit before finally telling me it was over. 

It was the around this time that I started to try and rebuild, determined that this would not effect me long term.  I’ll not lie to you, it was so difficult.  Friends would tell me “Karen if I had been through what you have, I’d have been sectioned.”  I considered myself lucky that I hadn’t reached that point but I needed to find my self-worth so despite some thinking it was too soon, I got myself onto a dating website.  I’ll not lie, I had a hoot and whilst that mightn’t be something many would be ready for, it showed me that I was very much desirable and was a good distraction for me.  I found myself in some hilarious situations that I have been so tempted to blog about but in time it flagged up other issues.   

I also gained my determination to re-launch my Scentsy business now I was back up north, I had kept it going and muddled through helping my team but mentally I wasn’t there.  It’s only been this last few months that I’ve found enough strength to actually start talking to people again and next month I have booked my very first event again.  My business had been a sore subject in our relationship.  I had launched it back in December 2016 and it was virtually an instant success, something he was incredibly bitter about as his two year old business had barely made it off ground level but we were a team, it was never a competition and I would constantly tell him that.

I met someone I was really fond of, the comparison of him to my ex was night and day. As time passed though I realised that I hadn’t gone through this ordeal unscathed.  If he didn’t message me after a few hours, my anxiety kicked in, the tremors were back only this time they were coupled with spiralling thoughts.  “He doesn’t want you, he’s gone off you, get the hint.”  Spiralling thoughts plagued me.  I would be crying on the phone to my friend.  That feeling of being abandoned remained with me and every time he finally messaged me back, I would calm down until the next time.  It was a vicious circle, I was angry, I wanted to walk away from the part of my life without a bruise but it seemed they were there underneath the surface.  Eventually on Valentine’s Day 2019 I called the doctor and got the wheels in motion for cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling funded through a local charity.  

CBT was assessed in a mental health unit.  I’ll admit that I was a little freaked out going there, it’s not the sort of place I would have ever thought I would be visiting but the psychologist I saw was amazing.  I was given the option of online CBT or a classroom version once a week.
I opted for an 8 week online course via a website called Silvercloud.  I have access to that website unlimited for a year should I want to go back over any of it or listen to the meditations again.  Alongside that is a personal “supporter” who checks your progress and assists you.  I definitely took a lot from this course, over time the combination of it with counselling allowed me try to stop the spiralling thoughts.  It taught me how to recognise the feeling or emotion and let it pass me by.  I also think that I can reason with myself more because I know deep down if he hasn’t messaged me for example, he’s working.  

The counselling I had was a ten week course.  My counsellor was brilliant and whilst we spoke intitially about my ex, the conversation generally stayed around the new relationship.  Ultimately that is my future and I needed to make sure that the damage I had developed was not long lasting.  Over the course I noticed a change in my thought process and since I did both forms of therapy at the same time I can’t really pinpoint whether it was one, the other or the combination of both.  The woman who walked into that first session was very different than the woman who emerged around session 7 and my counsellor told me that she could see the improvement as well.  She went from constantly falling into a black hole of self doubt, feeling that she could be abandoned at any moment and helpless back to the Karen she had always been for a while, outgoing, standing up for what she believed in and loving without limitations. 

There’s been bumps in the road during the time period of my therapy.  My parents went to the storage unit once my Dad had retired and cleared it for me, something I physically didn’t believe I was strong enough to do.  The sheer thought of being down there with him knowing where I was brought my anxiety back in awful waves.  My parents had checked with him that all of the items I had brought from my house down there to him were in the unit “yep they are” came the reply.  My exhausted parents returned and we were mid opening the mess of the boxes they had brought back when I had someone message me to tell me he had started selling my belongings on Facebook.  I already knew at this point that the crystal bedside lamps I had bought long before we met he hadn’t given me back but it was difficult to see what else was missing in the chaos.  I had only one option and not knowing what else he’d kept planning to make a profit from me, shaking I called the police.  The police were fantastic as I explained what had been done to me and he liased directly with him to return the items he had tried to sell along with my crystal lamps, my lovely friends down there collected them on my behalf.  I was also forced to sign an agreement that I would now not claim anything else from the property which I did.  Two days later we finally finally opening the boxes, where was this?  Where was that?  Where was £1200 worth of my Scentsy display products?  He had kept the lot.  “Let him have them” I told my family, I will rebuild my life and he will always end up with nothing.  I knew in my heart that I was at breaking point though, I had to keep myself together somehow.  

I got my hair done a week or two later and that’s when my friend and hairdresser found a bald patch in the back of my head.  It was that that got me, my body now officially displaying the distress I was in and if I wasn’t careful, it would get worse.  The above photo is the patch and 6 weeks later, thankfully this warning sign I really listened to and tried to allow everything he was still doing 8 months on to wash over me.  

“Toughen up buttercup, you can do this” I thought as I went to Citizen’s Advice about the money he owed me including the £1800 bed I was still in paying that he’s still sleeping in.  I’m going to gloss over this a little but basically I sent him a letter before court which he has the ordascity to come back with that he had now decided to charge me rent for our entire relationship, I was to pay for the broadband in the home, my own birthday presents he had given me, the storage unit he said he’d paid for and had dumped my entire life into and the thing that crippled me the most, I was to give him back the vet fees for putting our cat to sleep last year.  I therefore apparently owed HIM £1800 but he was going to “let me off” with it.  Dumbfounded isn’t the word.  I said to my friends and family “I physically can’t do this anymore, I just can’t.  I have no fight left.  He is evil, he is a monster and I have no idea who I wanted children and spend the rest of my life with.”   He never did give me the money he owes me despite promising my parents faithfully he would.  It was his final knife in me but in fact, in the end it wasn’t me he stole from but the innocent people who couldn’t have been more welcoming to him.  

As for me going forward, I want to tell you it’s all behind me, trust me I do.  That’s not the case though.  I have flashbacks of so many things, our time together, the false promises, things he said to me and things he did to me.  All of the masks he would wear to transform himself into whatever he needs to be to the person he’s talking to.  He’s a chameleon, shape shifting cleverly into whatever is required.  I wanted a strong gentleman, he became it.  It sickens me that I shared him all over my social media and that everyone who followed me on snapchat or in Facebook saw those masks too.  I’ve been told since that people would wonder why I was with him, “he was punching” is a common phrase but I was in love and love is blind.  

My advice to anyone who recognises any of the behaviours above is to get out, promptly.  The night he ended the relationship haunts me because I honestly thought if he went into the kitchen he would be back to stab me.  I feel lucky to be here.

The recovery from this has been slow, it’s been very difficult and I’m very much a changed person.  The second photo in this photo I took a few days after I returned to my parents because I was convinced I had physically changed in appearance, he had broken my spirit completely.  I’m wary now that people are not who they appear to be.  I also struggle more in social situations and even meeting new customers I am often very nervous, I know in my heart I’m a shadow of the person I used to be.

I will repeat what my friends have told me time and time again:

He was a one off.

I will admit that my guilt for future victims weigh heavy on my heart, it plagues me that I am leaving this person to repeat this again and again and I am powerless to warn anyone.  I know that he is with a woman at the moment and the fact that I am 100% certain she, like me, knows nothing of his past and that she will also end up being trampled by him.  This whole situation will perpetuate time and time again and just like his ex wife did with me, I have to move on knowing that he will take what he wants and destroy over and over again.  You might wonder why I care, I don’t know her after all.  You’re right but I know the damage he has caused me and stranger or not, I would do anything to not know others will suffer the same fate. 

I know very well that he’s painted me as a monster in his local area because I simply wasn’t there to set the record straight or defend myself.  It was also to ensure that everyone took his side and didn’t speak to me to find out the truth of what he did.  The worse part is many of the stories he told are complete fabrications.  Whilst I will never see most of these people again, having my name tarnished like to cover his tracks has really hurt me.

I mightn’t have been the best girlfriend, I nagged when the toilet seat was up, when I had just tidied the hallway but the shoes were scattered everywhere, I probably didn’t cook the most excitingly complicated menu every night but the one thing I did do was to stay loyal and stood by someone when I thought they were having a breakdown even though it cost me my own mental health in the end.  The flashbacks are most days.  Too many things remind me of the cruelty he put on me.  I was a toy to him and when my bank account was empty I was no longer of use.  Sometimes I can sleep okay and others I will wake up with a jolt and have to do something to distract myself from my thoughts.  

In July I requested to go back on the list for more counselling and I am still waiting for that.

I wrote my truth because I felt that my voice has been drowned by this man for over a year to hide what he did.  I wrote this for every other person who has suffered similarly but didn’t have the platform I have to share it.  I wrote it to remind others still suffering that they are not alone.  I would never, ever want someone to stay with me in a relationship who didn’t want to be, I’m better than that.  All I expected was to be treated as a human, respectful, with dignity and care and to highlight that mental abuse, narcissism and sociopaths are right amongst us.  Remember, murders don’t look like murders either.  

Today I grieve for the lost of the second baby.  I feel like I grieve alone as it was made clear I was the only one that wanted it despite me not creating it alone.  As it left my body I whispered “I’m sorry” as I knew I could have left it’s father and gotten us both to safety but instead, jaded by love I stayed at the detriment of it’s life.  October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness months and a local group has added a ribbon for my two babies to the bandstand in the local park to remember them.

Always be kind as you have absolutely no idea what’s going on behind closed doors or the invisible struggles that they’re having.