'A Lesson in Life' by Monica R
I was once told that life will teach whatever you need to learn, and it is up to you whether you pay attention. Nothing could be truer in my case. It took me a lifetime of lessons to start fresh and dig deep. As an artist I often transcend this world with my thoughts. It wasn't until this world turned in to a nightmare that I realised I had to be in the here and now to change things for the better.
I grew up in what I considered to be a loving home. I told myself that my mother did her best despite my father passing away when I was very young. As an artist I felt like an old soul in a new world, and did not relish being in the centre of attention. I was introverted and shy, and despite having crushes did not have much interaction with the opposite sex.
After school I joined the Defence Force, I finally got to experience relationships. I started developing a behavioural pattern where I didn’t value myself enough. I put others first and as a result was treated poorly. I even experienced sexual assault, which I blamed myself for.
As a generous soul and someone who feels like they should give, it took me a long time to recognise when I was taken for granted and when to stop giving.
After taking time to recover from a devastating break-up with a partner I had built a life with, I began dating again. My ex had taken everything I had built for the two of us. This was a shocking loss and a hard pill to swallow. It is at this moment when Erik came on to the scene.
His love came out of nowhere and swept me aside like a tidal wave. I had just started dating online, after recovering from that devastating last relationship. Still wounded from the previous experience, it felt nice when someone took an interest with me. I remember going on a date with him for the first time and being so excited. Erik seemed to be completely enamoured with every aspect of me and I couldn't believe someone felt like this about me. I had finally found someone who treated me like I deserved. He spoiled me with lovely weekends away in expensive hotels, and the entire romance felt like a fairy tale. During our time away he spoke of his awful ex wife, and how much he adored his children. He spoke of all the amazing accolades he had achieved, and I was excited to be with someone who was creative and entrepreneurial.
It was a whirlwind and within 2 weeks we were engaged. 6 months later we were married. It was after our wedding that the mask dropped and the nightmare began.
Looking back, there were plenty of red flags which I had chosen to ignore. Why would someone who didn't really know me love bomb me like this? Why was he so eager to get engaged and married? There was a lot I chose not to explore further. I was vulnerable from my previous break-up, and also had developed a pattern of mistreatment with my partners. I also felt like there was tremendous social pressure pushing me towards getting married. I was nearly 40 and hadn’t been married and had no children. As a woman you are often made to feel like a failure for this. There were so many elements which led me to ignore the danger signs, and once I was in the relationship I felt too invested to question many issues. If he ever acted unkindly I made excuses and thought to myself that he’s stressed or having a difficult time with his ex-wife.
My life was changed drastically when I was diagnosed with an immune disorder. This was one of the scariest and most vulnerable experiences of my life and obviously I expected support from my husband during this scary time. Instead I was met with abuse.
When Eric first started with he psychological abuse it was so bewildering to me that I couldn’t even make sense of it. Why would someone who had sworn to love me behave this way? What had changed? He had declared his undying adoration so quickly, had he now changed his mind? I hoped that ignoring the comments would make him stop but he just kept going. It was hard to ignore him say things like: “No one likes you”, “God you are so disgusting, you’re too fat”, “Stop eating”.
At the same time he seemed to want to be involved in all elements of my life. He would call me every 5 minutes at work. He would ask what I was doing under the pretence of just wanting to say ‘hello’ and question my answers. It was a confusing mix of positive and negative attention I couldn’t seem to make sense of.
My GP suggested that I rest and nap wherever possible to help my body fight the immune disorder. He would consistently wake me up, telling me I can’t lie around all day. While I was handling all elements of the household and trying to recover from sickness, he drank excessively and kept passing out on the couch.
Then Covid-19 hit and the abuse escalated to physical violence. I felt more stuck than ever, scared for my life. I had been fooled in to believing he was a go-getter, only to now support an unemployed abusive day-drinker who used me as his personal punching bag. Despite being the main breadwinner, I still struggled to free myself from the abuse.
I first had to realize that what I was experiencing was really not normal, that I wasn’t a terrible person. Eric would berate me every chance he had and it was hard not to believe him when that's all I heard all day. After a particularly dark moment, I finally had enough. I went to the police and made a statement. It was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But it was worth it.
After giving my statement I decided to educate myself about what happened to me. I found it incredibly empowering to learn that I had fallen prey to an abuser with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It was not my behaviour that brought this on but that Eric was not wired like a ‘normal’ person, making him a dangerous partner to someone as empathetic as I was.
Learning this about Eric led me on a quest to find out more.
I confided in my Mother and told her about the abuse I had suffered. Instead of responding compassionately, she threw the abuse back at me. I started to notice narcissistic personality traits in her too. This was probably the single greatest realisation in my life as it helped me understand that I had learnt to equate this type of behaviour with love.
What we learn in childhood is what we perceive as love. And I had been taught that letting others take precedence over me is how you show love. Given the relationships I have had, and the relationship that I have with my family, everything started to make sense. I had been taught that love had to be earned, and was not given freely. I had been taught to be amenable and expect conditions attached to love. I was so starved of love that with every partner, I craved more and more, and I blamed myself when things didn’t work out. This had created an environment where I easily fell prey to an abusive predator.
I am now fully committed to my healing journey. It has taken me a long time to demand to be valued but now that I have arrived at these realisations, there’s no turning back. I am slowly building my life back up again and trying to do so from a place of self-love, self-care and patience. I am taking one step at a time each day.
I wanted to share my story with others to help and give back, and to send a message of courage. Don’t accept anything less! Trust your gut. Love feels like love. If you're wondering or second-guessing, it probably isn't love. You are worthy of love. Even if it just means starting with yourself and loving yourself. You’ll find that there is no greater gift in life.