Like a frog in a pressure kettle, when we live with domestic abuse we often don’t realise the limits of our endurance. This was what it took for me to hit boiling point, and jump out.
Yesterday, everything seemed to remind me of the good times with my ex – before he dropped his Prince Charming mask. Swamped with grief and needing to remove the rose-tinted spectacles, I got out my trusty old Memory List. Scanning the pages, I was shocked (as I often am) to recall what I endured before making the decision to leave.
Some of my Memory List entries:
- Having to wait on him hand and foot, care for a colicky baby, and have sex with him on demand as he smoked pot for days straight.
- Being strip searched for ‘evidence’ of infidelity while heavily pregnant.
- Getting hit in the face for failing to remember which lie he told that friend.
- Having thousands of pounds taken from me – money which I inherited from my wonderful grandparents, and which they certainly didn’t intend would fund his drug and gambling habit.
- Trying to explain my partner’s paranoia to the police, whilst in hospital recovering after having our baby.
- Hearing that he would knock out 32 of my teeth if I didn’t stop challenging him.
- Carrying him emotionally and financially for years.
- Listening to him scream as he self-harmed as part of a hoovering campaign.
- Experiencing the worst night of my life. I still can’t talk about this.
However, none of these things directly triggered my decision to leave.
Why didn’t I just leave?
When we tell our stories, all of us who have experienced domestic abuse will have heard the question, “Why didn’t you just leave?” It’s tough to answer. How can we articulate to someone who hasn’t stood in our shoes, why we appear to tolerate the intolerable?
Like the proverbial frog in boiling water, the abuse slowly ratchets up – we feel the hurt, but we adapt to handle more and more. We often don’t realise our upper limit for pain until we’ve already hopped out of the pan.
My boiling point
Near the end, I realised that things weren’t going to change. I told myself the next mega-meltdown would be the last that I’d bear. But when I did finally leave (for the final time), there had been no abuse for two days.
Our child cried for his attention and he lay in bed with the covers over his head. Something inside me hit boiling point. The realisation that I’d been trying to stamp down on – that I didn’t want my child to grow up witnessing abuse – shot to the surface. I waited until he went off to work, and baby and I made our exit.
If not for my child, I’d still be wondering how much hotter the water would get before I wound up broiled alive.
What’s your boiling point? Did you escape after a cataclysmic incident, or something much more mundane?
ALSO SEE: Making a Memory List and other tips for making a permanent escape from domestic abuse, in Staying out of an abusive relationship: an essential To Do list.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14