My ex-husband (who inspired the HexMyEx blog in many ways) seemed to go out of his way to make me feel like crap almost from the start. If we went out together, or in a group, he would compare me to other women - 'Look at the tits on that'; 'She's wearing stockings. I can see the straps. She's a bit fit. I reckon she's got the eye for me...' and so forth. Many years later, when he was comparing me to a good friend of mine, in front of her husband, banging on about the size of her chest and asking after 'The Twins', her husband took him to one side and threatened to beat him to a pulp he if continued. He never told me about this (I was at home baby-sitting), but G did. And I was horrified with embarrassment.
Nothing I ever did was right. I worked my backside off, cooking, cleaning, keeping down a demanding career as a freelance journalist and editing for the Omani government. He'd come home from work and criticise me from start to finish.
There was no 'love-making' as such - being in bed with him was just being abused all over again as it was painful, brutal and degrading.
When my charge-out rate started to exceed his, he kicked off his physical campaign of abuse and I was systematically knocked about at night - particularly when he had been out drinking.
It's an odd one, but many women say they would leave instantly if their partners raised a hand to them. I was one of them. But, it creeps in so insidiously, that you don't even realise it is happening straight away. You can pass it off as a fight (because, By Christ, I would always fight back, and hard!), but then realisation does kick in. One particular night, I told him I had received some freelance payments. They were worth about £1000 (US$2000) and I wanted to buy a new settee and chairs. NOT, I hasten to add, a Gucci dress or Prada heels - a bloody settee!
He grabbed me by the throat, banged my head repeatedly against the wall, as if to drum home his words, and snarled at me that the monies would be used for food and that was it.
That was all the realisation I needed.
I ran downstairs into the spare bedroom and lay awake all night, terrified in case he came downstairs to continue what he had started. In the morning, when he got himself ready for work, I locked myself in the bathroom until I heard his car start up. I then got the girls ready for school and nursery and set about finding us a sanctuary.
My first port of call was to look up flights back to the UK - the second to call my mother.
Mother's response: You've brought this on yourself. The way you were boasting to me the other night about getting that magazine commission, it's no bloody wonder that he raised his hand to you. I felt like doing the same.
So, I didn't know where to go - I didn't have a house in the UK, nor did I have friends who would be able to put me and two young girls up for God knows how long.
I won't go into the ins and outs of that night, when he returned from work, but I did ask for us to discuss it on neutral ground, booked us a table at a restaurant and the bastard walked out on me during the main course, not liking what he was hearing, and I walked two miles home in the pitch black (there were few street lamps in Muscat!) to a darkened house.
And so, the old feelings of low self-worth kicked back in and I started to feel sicker and sicker at each meal time. The weight started to fall off me again, I dreaded sex with him and commenced drinking in order to numb the pain. When he came home at night, I had, by then drunk a few low-cal beers - they were only 68 cals/can, but got you fairly pissed, fairly quickly. They were my meals. Forget the Slimfast shakes, Miller Lites were just as good.
I still had to suffer the ignominy of his sexual cravings - which were not especially 'normal' or nice. Certainly, I derived little pleasure and 'faked it' more times than I care to remember! Anything to 'literally' get him off my back...
Around this time, I lost my job with the Omani goverment. There was a Nationalisation Programme which meant that as many expats as possible would be replaced by locals. For some very odd reason, the Ministry of Civil Service decided that a non-degree qualified Omani could write English better than me. My replacement, I discovered, allowed the website and publications department to collapse in months to come.
I didn't really know what to do with myself, but as I had been involved in amateur dramatics since I was 11, I decided to set up a drama group and raise funds for expatriate school our girls attended. In our first production, I acted, directed, set built, costume-designed, raised sponsorship funds, sold tickets and helped with learning lines. It exhausted me. I was getting thinner and thinner and I was struggling to sleep, think straight, see clearly or just simply function.
One night, after little food, apart from many, almighty binges (wherein the ex always used to say, Spending fucking money on food again are you? Just to throw it up, eh?), I walked into our kitchen. The girls were fast asleep and Anal was out on the town with my best friend, 'the other woman' (more of that later).
There's a strange expression I have heard from other people, but I know it to be true - The White Mist. Sounds melodramatic, but it really does exist. Without thinking, or comprehending anything, I took a knife, very slowly, from the kitchen drawer. Slowly, I sharpened it, cleaned off the detritus, and stared at it.
I then sliced it across my left arm, near the shoulder and watched the blood bubble up from the wound. It felt so good, so much relief from one single action. It was a deep cut and the blood started to drip onto the marble flooring. I did it again, again, again until the floor looked like a blood bath. Then I panicked and crawled around the floor on my hands and knees mopping it up in case anyone knew what I had done.
OK. I'm not titillating you. But this is doing for me and I shall try to return to it later. There's only so much you can reveal in one sitting!
More to come...