Category Archives: Abuse recovery



It’s a simple question that we often fail to ask.

Or, when we do, we employ it in the wrong way (inwards), which turns something that could bring us enormous benefits in to a soul-searching downward spiral of self-flagellation, of self-reproach.

Instead of asking ‘Why did do that?” or “Why am so whatever?“, why not turn the question outwards?

Why not ask why the other person does x, y, z…why they act the way they do?

When we turn the question outwards – not inwards – it can help us to understand the other person’s point of view, their motivations and their actions.

It can help us to understand the outside world from a different perspective.

Even if we never fully understand why they acted like they did, or why something is like it is, pushing the question outwards allows us to think outside the boundaries we set ourselves (which only leads self-punishment via usually too harsh self-judgements).

This allows us to develop empathy for the other, showing us a pathway to greater understanding, tolerance and compassion.

Turning the question outwards brings us benefits, enriches us; it does not belittle us.

We can also take the exercise one step further (for it is an exercise, a restructuring of our thought patterns through constant exercising of a new muscle, the new way of thinking)…

We can add another element to the “Why”……

“Why not?”

This branching out allows us to imagine all possible scenarios.

When we ask “Why not?”, with conviction, we get to let our imaginations run free.

We get to imagine possibility, to view it as something real and, however fleeting that glimpse of your “Why not” is, that will set processes in motion.

Doing the “Why not?” exercise regularly, you’ll get more confident, more audacious in your thoughts.

You’ll find yourself one day no longer abstractly thinking “Why not?” but thinking “Why on Earth not?” and you’ll reach the place where your dreams become action.

Turn your “Whys” outwards, ladies.

They’ll become “Why nots”…

….and your “Why nots” will take you where you want to be.

Wear your scars like medals


Paolo Coelho says it….(or something like it)….(and so does Leonard Cohen)….

‘Wear your scars like medals’.

I read it, digested it and it keeps coming back to me, one of those lines your subconscious stores in the ‘easily accessible’ file that gets opened regularly, flashing you its contents, urging you to ponder a little more deeply on its significance for you and your life.

“Wear my scars like medals”. OK, I think. OK.

I’m a veteran when it comes to scars, wouldn’t have enough space on my shoulder to fit them all if they were turned in to medals. Ones for bravery. Ones for resilience. For keeping my head when ‘all about me were losing theirs’. For strength. And, also, for most tears cried in vain. And for ability to sustain prolonged longing for a different life…..let’s just say, there’d be a lot of them.

What use scars? What use medals?

I’ve come to realise that domestic violence is everywhere, a silent plague that blights the lives of millions. A curse on many people’s homes and lives and loves.

You see the campaigns, you see the posters and the helplines, you read the stories but, until you’ve been on the receiving end, all of that passes you by….because you’re busy, you’ve got a million other things to do and, anyway, you’re not being beaten, your husband/partner is loving and doesn’t treat you badly….so it doesn’t concern you. You file those images to the back of your mind (definitely not in the file that gets opened regularly).

But – I’ve decided I’m going to argue – even if your door isn’t darkened by it, domestic violence does affect us all. It speaks volumes about the society in which we live if women like myself are terrified of reporting domestic violence, so much so that they don’t report the violence when they should do and, instead, wait to report it until it’s happened an average of 77 times. Each time probably slightly worse than the time before, culminating in a crescendo so frightening, they’re left with no option but to do something if they want to stay alive.

Many women never get a chance to report the violence because they’re killed before they do. Or they report it and are intimidated in to withdrawing their report. Or they’re brave enough to go to trial and don’t receive justice due to ‘a technicality’ or x, y, z reason. [It’s estimated that only 1.5% of domestic violence episodes ever receive the proper justice].

What kind of society do we live in when women – mothers – are treated in this way?

I’ve had close friends tell me they don’t believe me, had friends ask me what I did to provoke it, had friends ask me how I could have stayed, have allowed that to happen to my children….

These are friends. Who know me and who, I thought, loved me.

When people you know have these reactions (when you’ve plucked up the courage to tell them – after months of trying to do it), it’s easy to see why society as a whole holds these views….

Domestic violence is shameful for those experiencing it. [So it’s not talked about]

Domestic violence is also deeply misunderstood. [So when it is talked about, it’s not talked about constructively or usefully].

In our case, for example, we’ve been seen by around 30 professionals over the past two years (nearly two years). I’d say there are two of them who really cared about their work and really gave a monkeys about us and what’s happening to us. The others? You can see it in their eyes: ‘not another’, ‘OMG, she’s been abused?’, ‘yeah, yeah…heard it a million times’….yada yada yada…..

A woman who’s been abused is vulnerable, she’s hurting (inside far, far more than outside), she’s ashamed, she feels dirty, exposed, sick, she’s probably feeling like she doesn’t want to be touched by anyone, probably feeling she’s been stripped down to her core and feels more naked than she’s ever done, more alone than ever.

She needs help. Compassion. Attempts at understanding.

If she’s talking, I guarantee it’s because she’s reached the end of the line. She can’t take it any more. She’s made a bid to get out of a situation that’s dangerous to get out of.

She should be congratulated. Supported.

Treated with tenderness. Be listened to, carefully.

She’s like a little bird who’s just fallen out of her nest. No idea where it is, how to get back, no idea where her next meal’s coming from. No idea what’s up or what’s down, her whole life shaken all about.

She’ll reach a stage, though, when she needs to tell her story. That should be facilitated, because it’s this that’ll start the rebuilding process.

Give her a way to get it all out of her system and she’ll find her own way to recover.

What she doesn’t need is judgements, opinions….believe me, she’ll have gone through every scenario, every possibility, every nuance of the situation in her head, hundreds, possibly thousands of times. She’ll have thought of every possible outcome of every possible move on her part, and she’ll only have moved, only have acted to move out of the situation when a special set of circumstances aligned.

To judge her, to form an opinion of her is to belittle her skill and success at having been able to leave, to report it. She’s navigated potentially lethal waters single-handedly, avoided being killed (many times narrowly).

She doesn’t need your opinions.

She doesn’t need being made to feel small (she feels small enough already, thank you).

She doesn’t need your judgements.

She deserves your respect.

Perhaps, actually, that’s what’s wrong with these domestic abuse campaigns? They portray the women as victims. Yes, in a sense they are victims: of men who’re unable to control themselves.

Ultimately, however, these women who’ve managed to escape domestic violence, they’re more akin to heroes.

Heroes of their own stories. Brave women who’ve decided ‘Enough’s enough’ and who’ve charged right in to the heart of the battle, the heart of their fear, in order to be able to get out, to be able to once again own their lives, their stories.

Joan of Arcs, all of them.

Want to help a victim of domestic violence? Support them as they need it until they’re strong enough to hold their head high again. Until they’ve worked through the shame and they’re at the stage where they can wear their scars as medals. Then let them wear these medals with pride.

It’s not shameful to have escaped domestic violence: it takes a level of bravery few could comprehend let alone understand.

Experiencing domestic violence only becomes shameful if you’re made to feel like you’re a victim (Hello social worker who really can’t be bothered, Mrs ‘looking at me like ‘It’s late on Friday afternoon and I’m meeting friends for a drink in 30 minutes, get a move on, Helen, I have a life, you know”).

People who’ve lived to tell their truths about domestic violence aren’t victims.

They’re survivors.

Survivors with scars.

Scars that speak their stories.

Scars that should be worn like medals.

Anyone who wears a medal isn’t a victim: they’re a hero.

Here’s to the millions of heroes the world over.

Wear your medals with pride: you’re a hero.

Those medals tell stories of levels of bravery and courage, of cruelty and inhumanity, that few could withstand, of lives shattered and rebuilt, of hardships very very few hard-working Westerners have to endure, of women who should be celebrated, helped, patted on the back.

Here’s to the very many brave ones.

The everyday neighbourhood heroes.

Tuesdays (well, Wednesday…) at 10: Grow


Joining in with Karen Beth’s ‘Tuesday at 10’ link-up: this week’s word Grow.

[I will be posting about ‘my own’ topics shortly….just feel the need to write, to write it right out of my system….]


Life is kind. Life is good. Life is wonderful.

Life is also harsh. And hard. And unfair. Troubling, disturbing, frustrating.

It gives you a hand up then kicks you right back down.

Prostrating you, humbling you, teaching you.

These troughs, they’re opportunities for growth, to grow in the areas that need a bit of polishing.

Take the troughs for what they are: gifts.


Opportunities to grow, to stretch yourself, to become more.

Whatever your particular more is.

I was kicked down, I was punched around.

It made me whimper, retreat to a corner, trembling and afraid.

It took me a while to gather the strength to get up again but, when I did, I felt victorious.

Victorious because he can’t kick the life out of me.

I’ve realised it’s impossible and that’s made me feel invincible.

This feeling of invincibility has given me courage which, in turn, has given me fuel for growth.

Growth in those areas that needed shoring up: strength, courage, forward-planning, visionary thinking, creative solution-finding.

The more he tries to destroy me, the more I grow.

Some sort of Hydra, sprouting more and more heads with every whack.

I like that thought.

The thought itself gives me strength.

Beat me and I’ll rise up, stronger than before.

Beat me. I’ll just grow stronger.

More resistant.

Ready to grow and grow and grow.

Ready to sprout back to life, back to joy, back to wonder.

Eyes attuned differently, eyes awake to new, greater, things.

A whole new perspective.

Life is kind. Life is good. Life is wonderful.

Life is also harsh. And hard. And unfair. Troubling, disturbing, frustrating.

Take it all for what it is and run with it all: use it all as fuel to grow.

We only get one life.

Only one Wednesday 11th March 2015.


Miracles: you believe in them, right?


I sat through a Church service yesterday morning, my first one since I was a child: it wasn’t anything like any of the C of E services I remember from school; people were fainting, screaming, speaking in tongues (I won’t be going back to that Church; truth be told, it was all more than a little overwhelming for this hypersensitive).

Anyway, in an attempt to shield my sensitive soul from all that energy flying around the hall, I started to meditate in the middle of the praying. When I came out of the meditation, the pastor was speaking about miracles and how we shouldn’t just ask for/expect one miracle but, rather, we should live in the knowledge that life should be full of miracles.

I’ve still not quite processed that train of thought but, when I got back to the house, I had a message in my Inbox from Paul Jarvis, freelancer extraordinaire, who wrote something in his weekly newsletter that really touched home with me. It touched home because it’s something I’ve been thinking about myself a great deal over the past few weeks.

He posed the question of whether all the advice we find around us is actually useful. Whether it does us any good to be bombarded by self-help books and advice columns and millions upon millions of blog posts, headlines screaming, ‘5 ways to land that perfect job’ or ’10 ways to be more self-confident’.

His conclusion was inconclusive but, essentially, argued that this external advice often becomes some sort of a crutch that people come to hold on to very tightly because they’re scared of breaking out on their own, scared of trusting their own thoughts and instincts.

And that, ultimately, we must always remember that we can only ever trust ourselves and that, as it is our own life we’re making decisions about, however much advice we seek, only we can make the final decisions about where to steer ourselves.

It’s something that’s been dear to my heart because I’ve received, and acted upon, really bad advice the last few years: from lawyers, social workers, psychologists, police….you name the profession, I guarantee I’ve listened to, and acted upon, advice from within it, advice which, at the time I knew didn’t feel right but which I felt powerless to rebel against. My life, our lives, have been shaped by this hastily- and lightly-given advice and our lives are, I have to say, much the worse for it.

So, all of this hearing about living shrouded in miracles and seeking, or not seeking, advice from people foreign to you and your situation…it led me to thinking that perhaps the miracles only come when we follow our own instincts, follow where our heart tells us we should go, using the gifts we’ve been gifted.

In my experience, when I’ve rebelled against what my own instincts are telling me, that’s when the problems start. When I act in accordance with what my heart, my little intuitive voice tells me, life runs smoother, is trouble-free, it becomes akin to a series of small miracles happening, giving me life force, making life worth living to its fullest.

I’m not sure I have any profound conclusions to offer, more a series of observations…and a question for you all….what miracles have you/do you experience and what were the conditions surrounding those miracles? Were you still, had you surrendered to a force greater than yourself, were you relying on, and trusting, your instincts implicitly?

I’d be really interested to know your thoughts….I’m living a period of my life where pretty much only a series of fairly big miracles will get us out of the mess we’re in….and reading a few miracle stories might be just the tonic I need to clear the air for the Universe to set to and do it’s business….!

Five Minute Friday: Gather

Joining in with Five Minute Friday: this week’s word Gather. 



I have a running commentary in my head. One foot in front of the other, Helen, gather all your remaining strength, you can do this, you can do this, you can do this, you can do this. Pull the shattered pieces back in to myself, like magnetised mercury rolling back towards me, that scene in Terminator flashing before my eyes. I feel like that…I can feel I’ve still got my power button flashing, but I’m in pieces, pieces distributed all over the place, all over time, all over the world. Bits of me in England, when I’m younger, sitting amongst the daffodils in the park, in Greece, running along the beach, my feet in the swells, snow-topped mountain in front of me, majestic Nature energising me deep within. Then there are pieces further back in time, with my Gran, her holding my hand, telling me it’ll all be OK, or with my Grandad, making something in his workshop, him showing me the importance of planning and precision and dedication. Or the bits of me I left somewhere along the way whilst leaving England: friends, business, home, family, a whole way of life. A nice, simple, enjoyable life. Or the bit of me I left when I was in Cath Kidston with my brother, just before we travelled back here: tears rolling down my face, full panic attack at the sight of her London scenes, painted so gayly. The thought that they don’t have Cath Kidston shops where we’ve been dragged back to simply too much, in that moment, for me to bear. Thankful for my brother. For his fullness. Or the bit I left when he hit me the first time. Or the next time. Or the next. Bits of me, all over, me so fragmented, so very fragmented, shards from a bomb, really. But what he doesn’t know is that these pieces are, indeed, magnetised. Magnetised by love, bonded by kindness and clarity of purpose. By Divine, maternal, strength. The bits will all find their way back. I find they come when I’m least expecting it. A beautiful memory – all mine (he can’t take that away), a smell that reminds me of home and that strengthens my will to return, my knowledge that we will return. A sudden realisation that I am strong, that I can. That I will. Those little pieces come flooding back, little by little, but even a trickle provides life force. As a friend wrote to me the other day, “No weapon forged against you will prevail”. Rebuilding bit by bit. Shattered pieces shattered again. It’s all still there, I just need to gather: all the pieces and all the necessary strength. Life is beautiful. Too beautiful not to fight for. So kicking and screaming I fight. Because I’m ready to fight now. The last punch launched against me my call to arms. Let the full force of the law decide his fate. He knocked the situation well out of my hands as he tried to knocked his anger out through me.


[A little context for the piece; we have, as a family, experienced domestic abuse….]

When evil forces its way in to your home


I’ve been away for longer than expected.

I’m still not OK but am missing my little online space and my wonderfully creative, and supportive, online community.

So I’m posting today.

I can’t guarantee I’ll be posting regularly but I wanted to post today.

I’ve had a rough few weeks. It’s still all a blur, really, a jumble of nasty, horrible, icky things I don’t want to think about. But that seem to be forcing themselves in to our lives somehow or other (memories that make me drop my teacup mid-slurp; so-vivid dreams that make me feel as if I’ve been in the ring with Mohammed Ali and lasted a good few rounds; things the children say, as they process it all themselves, things that bring in the tears, tears that haven’t been easy to stop).

A pilot. Burnt to death.

12 men, killed in the most gruesome way. In a scene so staged it looked like something out of a film. [I think that’s the hardest part of it all to deal with; it was so staged…an evil act thought out, meditated upon, filmed for goodness sake…..for all the world to see. Heavens above….where are we, where is humankind heading?]

And in the middle of all this, all this stuff I literally can’t deal with hearing about, Friday 13th, we woke up with a start. 0630. He’d forced himself in to our home, ran directly for me and attempted to – well, I don’t know what exactly – kill me? Seriously maim me? – I’m trying not to think too hard on what it was he was aiming to do….

I’m OK. The bruises are subsiding, not so painful any more.

The emotional bruises? Those ones kick me around, still, every day, with absolutely no sign of them relenting.

I have police protection now. So, whilst he hasn’t yet been caught, I do feel safer (there’s a police station less than half a block away).

The stuff in my head won’t go away, however.

Pilot. 12 men dressed in orange. Him, with eyes that bore no resemblance whatsoever to the eyes I’d fallen in love with. A jumble of hate, of evil, of things I don’t want to know about. 

And worse…

My children witnessed it all and my son was pushed aside, violently.

He’s 8.

No child should have to see that.

My 8 year old? He tells me he doesn’t want to live.

How does a Mum respond to that? {Tell me, you fu**ing idiot, I want to shout, to shout after him, to ask him what I tell my 8 year old son when he tells me he doesn’t want to live anymore, to shout so loud, that he hears it wherever he is, that he has to hear it, the coward….and then I get angry, all over again, because I’m not an angry person, I don’t hold grudges, I don’t shout or swear….I get angry all over again, because he makes me feel emotions I don’t want to feel and makes my son feel helpless…..helpless at 8? God, please, literally….help us. Please]…..


We’re healing. It’s difficult (Understatement Of The Year award goes to Helen from I Will Bloom!)….

It’s all got so mixed up in my head…a pilot burned alive, 12 men killed, him entering with the specific aim of trying to hurt us….evil, evil, evil, everywhere I look.

Evil. Pure evil.

Evil forced its way in to our home and made us feel unsafe in the place that should be the safest place of all.



Organised. Premeditated evil.

I’m reading the Bible. Clinging to Ephesians 6: 10-18 (“Put on the full armour of God…when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground….Stand firm….belt of truth….breastplate…feet fitted in readiness……it comes to me, in my vivid dreams, rings in my ears…..fights away the orange, the hand, the eyes I see so vividly, clamouring towards us….).

Am reading anything on overdrive. A book by my side, my constant companion. Trying to keep the black dogs away, waking up at 3am in a sweat, vivid dream still beating in my chest, checking – like a woman obsessed – the locks, the windows, my littles, checking….a frantic rhythm whose beat seems to calm me, calm me, until I’m awake again, an hour later, up, checking it all again, checking we’re safe, that they’re safe, that we haven’t been breached. Mum guilt. Trauma survivor’s lot. Whatever it can be labelled, I’m really getting tired of it and would just like to sleep properly now, please. 

I wasn’t able to stop him entering our home and attacking me.

I wasn’t able to stop evil enter our home, touching my children’s lives.

The world suddenly feels like it’s running off keel for me, like there’s suddenly something so not right about it all.

He seems to have knocked my compass right out of me.

And I dislike him a great deal for that.

For the ultimate cruelty, on top of a million previous other cruelties.

But, you know, when your compass has gone askew, you can sometimes see clearer than before, you’re not so guided by the ties that bound you previously (however much you knew those ties hadn’t been valid for a long, long time).

He has now been reported to the police for the multiple acts of abuse hurled towards the three of us without a second thought as to the short-, medium- and long-term repercussions of those abuses.

My compass knocked all askew allowed me to see more clearly than I had for a long, long time.

He aint gonna change.

He aint gonna get any better. Not without help.

And only he can decide when he’s ready for that help.

In the meantime, I have two children I have to protect.

For that’s a mother’s primal job: to protect her children.

He has engaged in criminal acts against us.

Acts that, under law, should be punished.

I now wash my hands of any remaining ‘poor him’ thoughts that might have lingered before I became compass-less.

The decision has been made.

That’s starting to feel like a new compass with which to navigate out from.

[I apologise if this is hard reading for some….I wrote, just wrote, haven’t even looked back on it but somehow feel I need to publish it…..]

If anyone comes across this who’s in an abusive relationship and is (as I was) hesitating about reporting the abuse to the police… only advice (learnt the hard way, through several years worth of abuse) is think of yourself, of your children, go – however you can – and get help. Report him. Get out. However you can. You, your children, don’t have to live with it and your life, however difficult it will be once you’re out, will be abuse-free. Your children will have an abuse-free childhood. Your children need to have – have a right to have – an abuse-free childhood. 

As a very good friend recently said to me, if you don’t gift your children anything else, that’s the one gift you have to give them: a home life free of abuse.

It takes bravery


It takes bravery to be a single Mum.

Not the “Must get to the top of Everest” sort of bravery but, rather, the “I’m in this alone and everything depends on me, hold back the panic, you will be OK” quiet, consuming, sort of bravery that, by virtue of the situation, has to exist in every single moment of your day-to-day life.

It’s tiring on every level, from the knowledge that everything depends on you to the physical demands to the organisation it takes to manage the logistics of a business, a home and two little children alone. 

I think of myself as a master juggler and, for it all to keep running as smoothly as possible (for I wouldn’t dare to say that everything runs as smoothly as it could), it’s not possible to even consider dropping any of the balls.

So, there I stand, at the centre of two little people’s worlds, at the centre of our home – my clients also depending on me for my reliability, punctuality and quality – juggling, juggling every thing every day.

Trying to fit it all in, my time being allocated, jigsaw piece-like in the best ways possible so that I’m able to attend to all of the essentials according to their priority. Littles first, me and my health second, work third, home organisation a (sorry) fourth, ‘free time’ and relaxation (which includes this blog and other hobbies) round about last.

I joke that I’ve earned project management credentials, with sleeves rolled up, that investment banks would pay big money for.

But it’s not anything out of the ordinary, for me, because it is my ordinary. 

Any Mama would do the same in my position. Because us Mamas are wired to care, to nurture, to protect at whatever cost. It’s all for them, you see, all for my two littles: as long as I can continue juggling, I will, because that means they’re OK, that I’m securing a better life for them, a better future.

And that’s all that matters. 

Tiredness I can wave off, stress I’ve learnt to deal with, panic I’m learning to deal with, but not being able to do this for my children?

That would be unforgivable.

There’s my bottom line: I have to do this, no matter how very very difficult it is, on so many fronts simultaneously. 

So…perhaps I’m brave?

I think all single Mums are. I think we’re given a bad rap, all over the place – media, ‘social’ settings…you name it, there’s always something bad to be said about us (Slacker! Un-Christian! “Couldn’t keep her marriage together”! Social rot! etc etc….).

But, you know,  that’s the least of our worries!

Keeping all those balls in the air at once, so our children have food, still have their home, are clothed properly, are entertained fully and widely, are educated to the best level possible, are happy?

They are things worth concerning ourselves with.

Call single Mums what you will, media, but the fact is, we’re strong beyond imagining and brave beyond telling.

The force of maternal love urges us on, sometimes strongly sometimes quietly….urges us on to do all we need to do to protect, to care for, to nurture.

Any Mama would do the same, it’s just that single Mamas do it alone.

That is real bravery.

[My response to Fab-ruary prompt for Day 12].



I come from a Christian (C of E) background, although we weren’t a particularly religious family. Over recent months, I’ve been taking my first real forays in to organised religion, having always been a very spiritual person but having always been repelled, as a child, by the women I’d meet who’d introduce themselves as Christians and then proceed to show me how very zealously un-Christian they were through their actions.

[Obviously I’m not dissing all Christian women (absolutely not!), but the ones I met during my formative years were amongst some of the unkindest women I’ve ever met. Kind of like they were wearing the ‘Christian’ label as a plaster to cover their openly bad behaviours. The suspicion this disjunct instilled in me lasted nearly 30 years, so strongly was I repelled!]

When I began my process of ‘spiritual awakening’ (which is rather a grand way of saying that I realised I needed something bigger than myself to get me through the mess my soon-to-be-ex-husband had left us in), I was attracted to meditation. Because I was seeking, I realise, solace in peace. Because I needed to find some way of finding peace in the chaos. And peace I did find. Endless waves of peace that started to give me hope, because I did (do) see things beyond me, beyond ego, when I meditate. The best way I can describe it is that I see possibility because I feel barriers being lifted.

As I was meditating regularly, I began to be drawn, like a moth to a flame, to seeking God’s words and, in fact, on one of my darkest days, when dark thoughts had invaded even my eternally sunny mind, my body led me to kneel in prayer, at the foot of my bed.

Desperation led my body to lead me there, to kneel. Something I’d never previously done and never expected myself to do. It was a primordial act, my body leading me to give thanks and then, humbly, to ask. I didn’t bargain, didn’t offer anything up if He helped (I respected Him sufficiently).

I simply asked Him to help me get through it because I still have to help my children (goodness, I can’t read that line back as I’m editing, because the tears claw at my throat). A few minutes in to the experience, I felt a light enter the dead centre of my chest, thwack. A physical sensation so strong I still remember the jolt I felt and still feel that light there, anchoring me to faith (in myself, in life, in Him).

A few days later, still a little confused by the experience, I read somewhere that in prayer we speak to God and in meditation we listen to God. They’re some of the most beautiful words I’ve ever read, because they explained, in a nutshell, a great confusion I’d had: how can I meditate and pray to God? “Isn’t that kind of greedy, Helen?, I’d think. 

I find God – my personal version of God – when I meditate. I speak to God when I pray, or when I sit in silence and give thanks. This ‘belts and braces’ approach (as a very devout friend of mine calls it!) has also helped me to find God in daily life because it’s helped me be more mindful of the beauty – and fragility – of life. Of the value of a moment.

And I’ve come to realise that’s where God lives: in moments, in fragments. In those milliseconds when we feel so connected, so loved, so enwrapped (enraptured, in fact): we hold our breath willing them to last longer but they never do. If we want more of those kind of moments, we have to calm down, so we can learn to dive right in to the moment, to be able to fully appreciate every thing we encounter. Once we do this, we’ll find we’ll have more of those moments and we appreciate them much more deeply. Their frequency and depth are both increased.

If prayer is when we speak to God and meditation is when we listen to God, then if we’re mindful (a side effect of daily meditation), we’ll even come to see God. See the miracles. Marvel at the multiple – myriad – beauties of life. It’ll train our eye (and our hearts) to see joy when it’s right there in front of us. No more chasing. No more discontent. You’ll see it all there, right in front of your nose.

Things are always in the last place you think to look, aren’t they?!

[This post was written in response to Karen Beth’s Tuesday at Ten word for this week (peace). My thoughts are with Karen Beth and her family at this most difficult time]

FMF: Dear

Joining in with Five Minute Friday (on a Saturday – was just too tired last night to write!). This weeks word: Dear


[A letter from my future self to my present self]


6th December 2019

Dear Helen,

You’ve come a long way since those dark days of 2013/2014. You didn’t think you’d come through but you did, you managed. You managed to keep yourself together and keep your home together. And, most importantly, you managed to keep everything as stable as possible for XXX and XXX, so that their childhood wasn’t affected as much as it could have been. You should be proud of yourself for that. Very proud.

You’re a strong woman, with so many gifts. I’m so glad to see that you took all of that strength, and all of those gifts, and brought beauty forth, out of the darkness. You managed to reestablish your businesses, you managed, against all odds, to set up a new business and it’s prospering now. You have a new – untouchable – legacy to leave to XXX and XXX and you have set them up well for their future. That’s an achievement to take pride in.

You made a list, five years ago, of all the things you’d like to do after 40, and you’re working your way through it. The world didn’t get smaller for you. You made it get bigger. That list – and the thought of living those experiences – kept you going during some of your darkest days and now you’re enjoying the fruits of your hope and your belief that you would do these things. Hope – belief – are powerful forces and you should continue to use them in your life. Because you know you want to do so much more with your life. As you’ve shown, when tragedy strikes, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just a new beginning. And, as you know, new beginnings lead to marvellous new adventures and marvellous new paths, to places you never imagined.

You learnt many lessons from your dark days, because you listened to what life was trying to teach you. You learnt, for example, that life offers its most wonderful treasures to those who are brave enough to seek them. By learning these lessons, you not only enhanced your own life but led XXX and XXX to a new perspective on the troubles you all faced. You taught them, by example – through them seeing you be strong, seeing you have faith and hope and belief – that they have to go out and seize life and live it and enjoy every damn moment of it. Because life’s too short not to enjoy every beautiful moment of it. That’s one of the most important gifts you’ve ever given them.

You did good, girl. You fought, you protected, you nurtured. You’ve two fine, outstanding, children now, in XXX and XXX. They still have open hearts, a generous spirit, kindness for one and all. They’re growing in to fine human beings. You’ll be so proud of them. Just as they are of you.

Keep doing good.




Tuesdays at Ten: Fear

Joining in with Karen Beth’s Tuesdays at Ten. This week’s word Fear


I’ve come to know a lot about fear, after having lived a largely fear-less life for about 35.5 years of it. I’m thankful my encounters with fear came to me late in life, as I was relatively stable and balanced and so was, perhaps, more equipped and so more able to deal with it. I was weakened, towards the end, however, from years of abuse: emotional abuse – the most insidious kind – and, later, psychological, financial and physical. The abuse had, I now recognise, weakened me to such a point that I didn’t really have the strength to find me any more and so, without my me, my essence, my internal compass to guide me, it was easy for him to manipulate me, to play with me, puppet-like, whilst he implanted, enacted, his devilish Machiavellian plans. Had I not been thus weakened, I would never have succumbed.

As it was, I did. I became a shadow of my former self, protecting him from any accusations of abuse, because, I thought – through my fog – he loved me, loved us, was simply stressed and, as such, needed my help more than ever. I, the dutiful – devoted – wife played along, a deadly dance, the praying mantis at my side actually ready to eat me whenever he felt it would be necessary. I feel nauseous as I think of all the evils committed against us. I spent months, this last year, trying to find an explanation, trying to understand but, you know, there’s no understanding to be had when you’re dealing with someone who’s mentally ill, who has a psychiatric condition that means he has been shaped to act this way.

Shaped. There’s a word. I remember a friend telling me a while ago how Shakespeare wrote “She unshaped me”…as I read her words, I realised that’s what he used to do to me: unshape me. He’d got me so low, so uncertain, so unsure of myself that I had become unravelled, unshaped, uncertain of even my own mind, my own desires, feelings and my own sense of self-preservation. It’s frightening, looking back, how it happened. I can see how it happened, now, but when I was in the middle of it, I wasn’t able to see. They liken abuse to a frog in a pot of water that’s slowly heated: the water starts off at a manageable temperature but as it’s slowly heated, the frog doesn’t feel the gradual change…by the time the water is getting too hot, there’s no way out….the frog is trapped, unable to move because it’s lethargic, dumbed down by the slowly increasing temperature…

That’s what abuse is like. I can vouch for it. You know its wrong, of course, that he shouts, belittles you, makes fun of you, acts inappropriately at intimate moments, doesn’t let you see friends or speak to your family, but you’re so good, you make excuses, assume he’ll change….the thing is, he won’t, he doesn’t. Instead, it gets worse. But, by then, your confidence is shot to pieces and you’re like the poor frog: you can’t see a way out because he’s worn you down to such a degree that you can’t think straight, you can’t act normally, you can’t behave as you would normally.

Aside from this, there’s the fear. The fear he’s instilled in you. The fear that he’ll seriously harm you (not ‘just’ bruises in places people can’t see) or that he’ll carry out his threats and take the children or enact any number of other threats that he makes against you. When you’re not thinking straight because you can’t think straight these threats feel so real they strike fear in your heart and make you submit constantly to this evil game, because if you can’t leave, there’s only one way through: submission. Submission for survival. Locked in to an evil dance, one side fearful, the other side feared. A fear-based power struggle known through the ages.

It’s said that woman exposed to domestic violence don’t report the violence until an average of 68 incidents have occurred. Why? I can’t speak for everyone, only for myself. And I, myself, say that my case is one that bumps the average up: I experienced probably more than a couple of hundred incidents (that are classed as crimes) before I reported the abuse. Why did I wait so long? I passed through many stages: hoping he’d change (“He’s just stressed, he’s never been like this before”); denial (“It really wasn’t that bad and, anyway, he’s not like this so it must just have been an isolated incident”); self-reproach (“Did do something that provoked that reaction?”); initial fear stages (“OMG, this is happening and its not getting any better….but where do I go? Who do I tell? I don’t want to break up the family”); deeper fear stages (“OK. He’s an abusive man. He’s threatened me physically, many times and now he’s enacting the threats…how do I leave? Where do I go? What about the children?); sheer terror (“He’s likely to kill me – or harm the children – if I leave, so I can’t leave”); blind-terror provokes action (“He did something so bad, I have to get help. It’s the only responsible thing to do for the children)…..

These stages, all of them, really, are lived in a blanket – a fog – of fear. And the confidence/acuity/sense of preservation that was taken from me by the abuse was further eroded by the fear he created. It’s a paralysing fear. A fear that takes away any last shred of common sense and knowledge of what you should do. Because, when you’re that low, that terrified, you don’t – can’t – think straight. Your options are not clear. And when you perhaps only have one chance to get out and to report what’s happening, that chance is analysed, re-analysed and then analysed some more, all possible ways it can go wrong being picked over, all possible problems identified and possible solutions thought through….the whole process of trying to report it is fraught with anxiety-creating worries, with problems…and those problems generate their own fears….so your mind (which is usually strong) feels like a battlefield…with no safe place….your confusion confounds you and you find yourself stuck. Paralysed. Unable to move. Unable to make a decision. Unable to go anywhere. However unbelievable this may sound, your reality in the face of that at that point seems more bearable than the unknown because in the unknown, you can’t count on anything. At least where you are, things have a regular pattern, take regular turns…you know it and you can deal. In contrast, when it’s reported, you don’t know what will happen. You don’t know what reaction he will have, how much support you’ll get (whether you will get support), you just don’t know….

There’s fear all round when you live with abuse. It’s worse than the slowly-boiling frog, actually, it’s a Chinese water torture with boiling water, the fear penetrating your very essence, driving you crazy…the lack of options enducing pure panic, an emotion you can’t deal with, as that would be the start of some sloppy slidey crazy making. For your children, you accept the fear you know (because it’s only the too many unknowns surrounding your children if you report it that stops you reporting it) and you buckle in to withstand the abuse. You know it’s not OK for your children – obviously you know that – but you’ve seen him work his evil magic, his sinister manipulations, and you fear what would happen if you go to a custody battle. He’s capable of charming his way out of anything, however grave (you’ve witnessed that with your own two eyes, many times). And – bottom line – you can’t accept any move that would increase the risk of your children being left alone with him. Because you fear what would happen if they were.

See? Fear. It’s everywhere when you’re an abused Mama. My Gran always used to say, “Better the devil you know”. I lived with that for many years. Out of fear. The darkest years of my life. Stolen from me by the fears he’d instilled in me. I remember a film I watched when I was a teenager – “Strictly Ballroom” – there’s a line in it that stood out at me, at the time, one I remember often nowadays, now I’m almost free of him. The main character says to the girl he’s falling in love with, “A life lived in fear is a life half lived”. It rings around my head, often….I wasn’t living even half a life during all those years of fear. It was, simply, not a life. It was me existing not living. Barely existing.

That’s a sad thing indeed. Sad for anyone but it makes me so, so sad for me, because I have so much to offer but, also, for my children…they shouldn’t have had to see their Mama (their beloved Mama) living in abject fear. We’re working on recovery, all of us together. We’re resilient. We love, we laugh, we see the bright side (only the bright side). We’ll make it. And, slowly, as hope replaces fear, we’re forgetting. Memories, from traumas deep, resurface often, but they’re popping up less often now, for all of us. Time is, as they say, a great healer.

[Rather a heavy post in the midst of all the Christmas posts, but I feel, in my heart, it’s the right thing for me to be doing, baring my soul here, telling my story of abuse…because abuse happens everywhere to too many many women….perhaps more of us telling our stories about abuse – and the un-shaping – and fear – it causes – will break taboos and make it easier – somehow – for women to feel they can reach out for help. Because it’s not OK, in any way, shape or form, for women to live their lives in fear. It’s not OK that women have to live their lives in fear because systems are still not in place that enable women to feel that they have a clear and safe path out, a pathway that would protect them, and their children, from the moment they leave until the moment their abuser is charged].

[Image from here]