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A Support Worker told me about free counselling that was available through VCSS. Money was an issue as I hadn’t long moved out of a Women’s shelter. I had lived there for three months with my 10 year old son. I was on a waiting list for heart surgery and had several close calls with death. Not only because of my heart but from my relationship also. We had just moved into a unit through the Department of Housing. The Support Workers at the shelter were great. Without their support there would be no way I could have got out by myself and looked for somewhere to live. I was exhausted mentally, tormented with flashbacks of the violence, the cruel things he would say. I was dying on the inside and just wished it would all go away. The anxiety I carried around was at times overwhelming. The only thing that gave me the will to live was my son. My dear little boy had travelled this horrible journey with me. Little did I know at the time the long term effects this would have on him. Throughout the on and off relationship I had heart surgery, a hysterectomy and a tumour the size of a football removed from my abdomen with little or no support.
I was constantly thinking about “him” (the perpetrator). Where is he now? What is he doing? Is he missing me? Does he care? Does he still love me? In fact I just wanted things to get better with our relationship, I wanted it to work. I honestly just wanted him back, but without the violence. We had been engaged before, this was our second attempt. This was the man I thought I truly loved. I wanted so desperately for him to seek help. I just wished he would stop being so cruel to me, so cold, so cutting and heartless.
What kept me going back? I truly loved him. I didn’t think I would ever be able to find another man that I could be so in love with. I was scared of being alone. I was afraid of myself and my feelings. I chose to keep on smothering my hurt with the determination to just be with him no matter how bad it was. I even recalled begging him, what can I do? I’ll do anything. I hung on to all the good times, the fun we had, the way he used to spoil me at times and the things we had in common. Yet this man had completely destroyed me. I was so emotionally fragile and dependent on him. To most people on the outside, I looked like a strong, intelligent and very capable woman. But I was a mouse at his mercy and disposal. He had completely convinced me that it was ME that needed help, it was ME that was losing the plot and it was MY FAULT he kept hurting me.I knew in my heart that this relationship wasn’t good for me or my son. It was destroying me. I felt like every morning that I woke up I was living a nightmare.
I didn’t know if the person that I was going to see was going to be judgemental or not. I had no idea if they would even understand. I wasn’t completely honest. I didn’t want “him” to sound too bad. I wanted “him” to sound like he was an ok kind of guy and that if I went back, it wouldn’t be that bad. After all, it was MY FAULT right?
As time progressed and I got to know my counsellor, I started to realise that he was completely neutral. Whenever I returned to the relationship, there was never any judgement, just support, understanding and gentle advice. My counsellor encouraged my independence, he encouraged my inner strength, and he congratulated me and celebrated with me any small achievements. He taught me to listen to my inner self, my gut, and to go with what I thought was right. He slowly educated me about what was a healthy and what was an unhealthy relationship.
He educated me further and opened up my eyes to all the magnificent possibilities that are out there for me. He filled my heart with hope and confidence. I would always walk away from every appointment feeling better, clearer and lighter. In fact I really began to enjoy and look forward to my appointments. I really connected with my counsellor. I never felt judged no matter how many bad decisions I made. I really did trust him. I knew that he was always listening carefully and it felt like he remembered every little detail.
My counsellor never forced me to discuss really hurtful things. He would only do this with my permission or if I led him onto the subject. I was treated with the upmost respect and sensitivity at all times. If I did break down and cry, that was fine. There were always plenty of tissues and I could always take my time.Over the years there were many times when I would stop going to counselling. There were sometimes gaps of several months. This didn’t matter, there were no questions asked and I never felt obligated to go all of the time. I just went whenever I needed to for as long as I needed to.
I have been seeing my counsellor on and off for approximately five years now. The changes in me as a person are amazing. I am far more educated about domestic violence now. It has taken a long time but I have realized that I needed to change the negative pattern I had in choosing partners.
I finally gained enough courage to have my ex-partner charged. My counsellor made me realize that his behaviour was NOT acceptable and it was NOT my fault. I was lucky enough to stumble across a Police Officer who had been through D.V. herself and recognised the lies and the narcissist behaviour. He was sent to jail for three months with a 10 month suspended sentence. The day this happened I cried. I cried a lot. Why? Because I finally had made my point very clear to him that THIS BEHAVIOUR IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. It was HIM, NOT ME. I am now lodging a claim through Victim Assist QLD. I deserve to be compensated; I deserve to be recognised as a victim of crime. I am very proud of myself for standing up for what is right. I never thought I could do this in my wildest dreams. My wish now is to inspire others to reach out and stand up. YOU are a beautiful human being who deserves to be loved, respected and cherished.
Learning to be loved the right way and the healthy way took a lot of getting used to. I was so used to being treated poorly. I can now see how the relationship turned me into something that wasn’t me. I had become very hard, cold, immune to any sort of violence, had no fear and would be happy to start a fight with anyone.
I am now a sensitive peaceful person with feelings and an awareness of danger and an awareness of appropriate behaviour in a relationship. Before I don’t think I understood what respect was. I now have a much closer relationship with my family. I had shut them out for years and some of them had stopped talking to me because they thought I was crazy and a fool. I can talk openly now with them about what happened and have close meaningful relationships with them.
It took a few attempts, but now I have finally found someone who treats me like a princess. It took a lot of getting used to at first. It is beautiful to be loved by someone who doesn’t treat you like a sex object or a trophy. It’s beautiful to be loved by someone who just loves me for being me. Someone who I can feel completely comfortable around and know that I am loved no matter how bad I look. It’s so nice to be able to be just me and feel completely content and at peace. There is mutual trust, I can go out with my friends, and I can enjoy a drink with him without fear and anxiety. Recently I broke my leg and had to have bowel surgery. The difference in support was incredible. It was so nice to have the love and support from someone who truly cares about me.
With determination and encouragement from my counsellor, I studied hard through the experience. I am now a Mental Health Support Worker. I have chosen to use this negative experience for a positive cause. I have supported people who have suffered from domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, have attempted suicide, suffer from anxiety and depression, self- harming, have little or no self-confidence and just about every other experience you could think of that a person can go through when in a DV relationship. I talk from the heart and I talk from experience. The people I support love me and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.
Life is good. Trust me; it can be for you too. Just take that first step and reach out for help just as I did and you might be surprised how far it will take you.