I never put much thought into how I'd die. Most people want to die peacefully, in their sleep. They're adamant they don't want to feel any pain, they just want to slip away. When I faced death, when I looked it in the eyes, I wasn't afraid.
I was relieved.
I can honestly say, that accepting I was in a domestically violent relationship was one of the hardest pills I had to swallow. This relationship was something I'd wanted and waited for since I was sixteen years old. It was my long awaited escape from the unstable environment I grew up in as a child. I was promised safety, security and most importantly, stability. Something I never had, but always longed for. To have someone who loved me, regardless of how damaged I was. I honestly believed I had all of that. This was my first relationship, so I had nothing to compare it to. All I saw growing up was my mother who did everything my father said. I watched as my father would dive into the bottle everyday and transform into a violent monster. My childhood filled with memories of my mother screaming in fear of being hit again. I would tremble in fear as I lay on my bedroom floor, listening to the fights unfold downstairs. Glasses would shatter as they were thrown against the wall. The house would shake as doors were repeatedly slammed shut. I'd walk on egg shells around my father, trying not to anger him. It didn't take much. I'd feel hopeless as I watched my mother do the same. She rarely questioned his authority. This behaviour was normalised. So it isn't surprising that I struggled to accept that my relationship was toxic. Growing up, I knew what my father did was wrong, but I was taught to never question it. It was just the way things were.
As I came to terms with the reality of the relationship I was in, I realised why I couldn't leave. The reason was my mother. All she wanted was for me to be free of the life I was trapped in. To be happy, to be loved, and more importantly to be safe. She didn't know what was really going on. If I managed to escape and return to violence I grew up in I wouldn't be in any more danger than I currently was. The pain that my father would inflict on me wouldn't be any worse than what 'M' did. But the pain my mother would feel if she found out the truth, would hurt more than any physical pain could. The thought of me being safe and happy was what kept her going. I couldn't be the one to destroy that.
As the weeks progressed my injuries healed. My once broken bones slowly became stronger. The bruises faded and the cuts turned into scars. But as my body was rebuilding, my mind was ripping itself to pieces. I'd sit alone, bit by bit I realised the truth of the life I was living.
'M' wasn't being overly protective of me, he was being controlling. He didn't let me out the house without him because he would worry about me, it was to keep an eye on me at all times. To always know where I was and what I was doing. He didn't check my messages because he was paranoid that I'd cheat on him, it was to make sure I wasn't planning my escape. He was checking to see if I had told anyone what was really going on. He didn't take my money from me to make sure the bills were paid and to give me security, it was to make sure I couldn't buy a train ticket to get out of there. He didn't stop me having friends because he was scared they would lead me astray, it was so I couldn't confide in people I trusted about what was really going on in my relationship. He didn't get mad at me, if I was too slow to text back, because he was worried about me. It was because he wanted to know what I was doing, he didn't trust me.
He wasn't violent because I made him that way. It was because he was evil.
Depression hit me harder than it ever had. I'd been depressed for a long time but I seemed to dive in deeper than what I thought was possible. Self harm was how I coped. It's how I coped in an unstable environment from the age of fifteen. 'M' knew about this before we got in a relationship. He was aware that I had deep scarring on my forearms from cutting myself. I hated the scars I had inflicted on myself, I was ashamed of them. So I always hid them. I'd wear long sleeved tops everyday, regardless of the time of year or the temperature. Because I did this, I was able to self harm throughout my relationship without 'M' ever knowing. Not once did it cross his mind to check, this was a blessing but also what caused a series of tragic events to follow.
Since I'd been self harming for so long, I'd forget about the daily fresh cuts on my arms. It was so normal for me that I'd never feel the need to dress my wounds, all I had to do was make sure they were covered with long sleeves. Although I hated the sight of my cuts, I would occasionally leave my arms uncovered if I was at home on my own. I'd try to get air to them, doing my best to make sure they never got infected. 'M' would always tell me what time he would be home from work so I'd never worry about him walking in and seeing them. As the weeks went by his control worsened, it was although it was controlling him too. He would check on me more frequently, texting me while he was at work to see what I was doing and where I was. I can only guess that he was hoping to catch me out, one day he text me to say he had just finished the job he was on and would be home in a few hours. I carried on cleaning the apartment, making sure it was ready for when he arrived back. He never needed an excuse to be violent, but he would always find one. I occasionally checked on the time but I wasn't worried, I knew he would message again soon to update me on where he was and to check on me too. Over the music I had playing I heard a noise which made me stop what I was doing. For a second I held my breathe and my heart raced as I heard keys turning in the front door. He was back early.
I took a deep breathe as I knew what was about to happen. The way the apartment was set out, there was no way I could get to the bedroom and be able to cover my arms before he opened the door. Both of my arms had fresh cuts, it wasn't possible for me to hide them without it being blatantly obvious something was wrong. All I could do was mentally prepare myself for what he was about to discover. The fact he was the reason behind my self harm wouldn't change the outcome, as I was about to find out. I had only just healed from being hospitalised by him, I wasn't sure if my body could take what was about to happen. I was grateful for the adrenaline that was beginning to pump through my veins, it would numb some of the inevitable pain.
As he opened the door I walked into the bathroom directly opposite and closed the door behind me. I hoped if he knew I was in there he would leave me for a moment and then I could make a run for the bedroom to get something to cover my arms.
'Hey, I'm back.'
I tightly shut my eyes in fear when I heard his voice. I tried to stay as calm as possible so he wouldn't know something was wrong. As I went to shout back to him to let him know I was in the bathroom, he had already opened the door. His eyes looked straight at the fresh cuts on my arms. I turned them towards my stomach to try and hide them, not that it made any difference at this point. It was too late. We both looked at each other. There was fear in my eyes and disgust in his.
'What the fuck is that? What have you done?'
I couldn't speak. I was paralysed by fear. I took a step forward as he took a step back.
'M, wait. Let me explain.'
Tears began to flood my eyes, I couldn't stand the way he was looking at me. He stayed silent and walked off into the kitchen. I couldn't hold back the tears any longer. They dripped onto the floor as I looked down in shame. But my crying was interrupted, 'M' was stood back at the bathroom door.
'You want to cut yourself? You want to do that shit? Then let's do it properly.'
I wiped the tears from my eyes as I looked up to where he was standing. My vision was still a little blurry. Before I could question what he meant, I saw the knife in his hand. I stood up straight and took a step back. I looked him in the eyes as I held my breath. I didn't dare make any sudden movements. I wanted to keep an eye on the knife but his eyes would always tell me more than words ever could. His eyes were cold, dark and lifeless. It took only a few seconds for me to realise that it wasn't a question of if I was going to be stabbed, but where, and how badly. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins, my whole body began to shake. I tried to control it the best I could. I remember thinking to myself, is it better for me to act brave or show him how frightened I really am. In my mind, no outcome was a positive one. It was just damage limitation at this point.
'M, please don't.'
It must have only been a few seconds between speaking those words and what happened next. But it was as if I was watching it all happen in slow motion. His grip around the knife tightened as he walked towards me. Every single muscle in my body tensed up. I was backed up against the sink with nowhere to go. I looked into his eyes as I watched the last ember of his humanity die.
He stabbed me.
If you've never been stabbed, the only way to describe it is that it's a lot like being punched really hard. It's painful and it's scary.
He was silent, so was I. I didn't know what he would do next. I grabbed onto my wrist with my right hand and put heavy pressure on it. Trying to slow the bleed the best I could. My hand was slipping off the open wound. There was too much blood. The whole time I was looking at him, I didn't trust him enough to take my eyes off him, not for a moment. I started to feel dizzy and light headed, I was going into shock. He dropped the bloody knife and walked out of the apartment. As soon as the door shut behind him I stumbled over to the laundry basket and rummaged through it, looking for anything to stop the bleed. I went to grab a t-shirt but I became more unstable. My hearing was deafened by a high pitched ringing. My eyes began to go black from the outer corners. Knowing what was happening, I sat on the floor and tried to hold up my left wrist. The ringing in my ears intensified but I could hear my pounding heartbeat through it. I tried to keep my eyes open and stay awake but I couldn't. I passed out.
I don't know how long I was out for. I remember being woken up by the same sound that started all of this. His keys in the door. I tried to sit up as I was slumped over. I looked around the room, my arm and legs were covered in blood. The knife was still on the floor. I glanced down at my wrist, the bleed had finally stopped. I didn't know how long I'd been passed out and bleeding for, but I felt weak. My hands were shaking and my head was pounding. As he walked in the apartment he glanced over at me, then walked away. The man I once knew was truly gone. I hadn't realised the first time he put his hands on me. When would this end? How far would he really go?
What happened next nearly killed me. It's something that I struggle to talk about. The memories haunt me everyday, the nightmares terrorise me every time I close my eyes. He locked me in a room and chained me to a radiator. He pulled two of my teeth out with pliers. He raped me. This went on for four days. Four horrific days*. Nobody knew where I was so I knew there was no help coming. It was just me and him. By day two I'd already accepted I was going to die. I cried, a lot. By day three, I was ready to die. I wasn't afraid anymore. By day four, I wanted to die. I wanted it to end.
When he chose to release me I was weak, but I still managed to use what little strength I had left to pull myself up onto the windowsill. I pushed the window open and felt the breeze on my face. It was beautiful. I paused for a moment to hear the birds singing in the trees before I shuffled back as far as I could, my hands held onto the window frame. As I took a final deep inhale, tears began to fall down my cheeks. I smiled. I wasn't scared, I was happy. I was going to fall, I was finally free. I leaned back and as my grip went from the window frame I was grabbed and pulled in by 'M'. The tears of happiness quickly turned to tears of frustration. After all he had done, why couldn't he just let me die? It's the least he owed me. But he wouldn't allow me to take my own life, that was something he had to be in control of. That was what he did.
'M, one day you're going to go too far and you're going to kill me.'
This is what I once said to him during the four year relationship. I don't know if I actually believed he would, until he responded.
'M' did try to kill me. We were in the hallway, I was just inches from the front door, but I wasn't able to reach it. I was so weak and he was so strong. He put one hand over my mouth and nose and the other around my neck. I panicked, I tried to pull his hands off me, screaming as loudly as I could but my screams were muffled. He repeatedly hit my head off the brick wall behind. I stopped screaming. I tried to take deep inhalations of breath but I couldn't get enough oxygen. The grip he had around my throat, squeezing on my windpipe was too much. As the seconds passed by, every struggle I made became more difficult. It was as though my arms and legs were heavier. My brain wasn't getting enough oxygen. He didn't speak, he didn't say anything to me. He stayed quiet as the life began to drain out of me. My hearing became muffled, I felt light headed and tired, my eyes began to go black from the outer corners one last time.
They say before you die your life flashes before you. Happy memories you had stored away are shown to you. This is what your brain does to calm you down as you die, so you're at peace, so you're not scared. It's true.
As my eyes were closing I saw my beautiful mother cradling me when I was just a baby. I saw my grandparents holding my hand as I woke up from my operation when I was a toddler. I saw my little ten year old eyes light up when my father bought me my first motorbike. I saw my older brothers helping me climb trees with them as I was always too small to do it on my own. I saw us bringing my dog home for the first time when he was just an eight week old puppy. I saw my first kiss with 'M'.
I opened my eyes, he was still choking me but there was no way he was taking my life. He took everything from me, every choice, every decision. I got my determination back, I kicked him in the bollocks. I used every ounce of strength I had to push him off me and to the floor. I desperately gasped for breath. I reached for the handle which was just inches away and opened the door to leave. As I took my first step outside of the apartment he called my name. I stopped and turned round to look back at him on the floor. I probably shouldn't have but I had nothing left to lose.
'No matter where you go, no matter where you run to, I will find you. I'm coming for you.'
I didn't say anything back to him. I didn't feel anything anymore. I turned around and walked out the door, closing it behind me.
I was free.
*I will do a separate blog series on what I found out about him that he had to hide, which was the reason why he chained me to the radiator and tried to kill me.