Today is 4th October 2020. 17 years ago today I got married for the second time. We were blessed with a warm, crisp and sunny Autumn day and were surrounded by family and friends in the small country house hotel we had exclusive use of for the event.
Little did I know then what experiences that marriage would bring me. I’d been married before to a physically and sexually abusive man who had beat me up for the first time on our wedding night. I was adamant that my second marriage would be for life.
My husband had quite literally swept me off my feet, carrying me in his arms on our first date when I had my leg in plaster and we had to climb some stairs. He was tall, dark and handsome and that gesture won many smiles, comments and claps of approval as he showed all onlookers that he would look after his woman.
Less than 2 years into our marriage and I was feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It would be another 2 years before I left, a shell of the woman I used to be.
At first, I shrugged off his somewhat insensitive comments about my appearance, how he would belittle me in public or treat me with complete disrespect. I thought that I must be mishearing his outdated and misogynistic comments about women being second class citizens and belonging in the kitchen or the bedroom. And when I challenged him about it he would tell me I should be grateful that he didn’t beat me like my first husband had. What’s worse is that I actually agreed with him. Over time I had been indoctrinated to believe that he was right, I was wrong and that I couldn’t cope with day to day life without him guiding me.
When he sold our house without telling me and bought a new house, 30 miles away in the middle of nowhere, far from anyone we knew, I trusted him when he said it was only a temporary measure and if I was that unhappy we could move back. I trusted him when he told me that I was an alcoholic and needed help, standing over me as I called AA in tears, because I drank one glass of wine per night and on the nights I didn’t pour my own, he would pour me a large vodka and tonic, telling me ‘I needed one’. I believe him when he told me that I was incapable of looking after our son because I’d never had children before and didn’t know what to do. I believed him when he dissuaded me from cuddling our son because it would lead to attachment issues. And I believed him when he told me that him taking family photos or videos and leaving me just out of shot was accidental. All the while I was trying to keep a business afloat and a roof over our head because he wasn’t working.
When I left, I left our son with him and I believed that was the right thing to do. I also believed that I would be free of what I now know was psychological abuse or coercive control.
How wrong I was. That was just the start. The 12 years that have followed have been the years that I have had to pay emotionally, financially and metaphorically for having the audacity to leave him. And they have been far, far harder than the years I was married to him. Two lengthy and expensive court battles to prove that I was fit to be the resident carer of my son were the least of it. The staggering attempts at parental alienation to discredit me in front of my son, the social services and anyone else who would listen. The pursuit of my destruction, whatever it takes, to prove that everything he said and believed about me was right.
The two attempts to take my own life because I couldn’t take the abuse any more were long after I’d left him. I’d reached the end of my tether and I’d run out of energy to carry on fighting. Watching his father take metaphorical pieces out of me was damaging my son and I wasn’t prepared to put him through anymore. Thankfully, I didn’t succeed in my attempts but I was far from out of the woods and headed down some dark and dangerous paths before eventually I was fortunate to find a fantastic therapist adept at working with survivors of abuse. I met a partner who had first known me long before I met my second husband and who supported me in working through the abuse I had endured in both marriages and a subsequent financially abusive relationship.
Working through everything I’d endured gave me strength I didn’t know I had, it helped me to re-evaluate my life and redefine my relationships not just with myself but with my partner and my son who now lives with me. It gave me the courage to believe in myself and embark on a six-year psychology and counselling degree with the Open University. It opened new doors of opportunity for me as my self-belief, self-confidence and self-esteem returned. It made me determined that I would do whatever I could to try and ensure no-one else, regardless of gender, ended up an abusive relationship.
That’s a huge undertaking. There will always be those who abuse others. But if sharing my experiences and learning helps just a few more people, who go on to help others by modelling strong, healthy and robust relationships, then it will all have been worth it.
Change is scary, leaving your abuser is scary, the abuse never stops it just changes. It’s how you respond to those changes that matter. I still get ‘abuse’ every day, these days it’s usually sad attempts to discredit and belittle me in front of my son. I spend many days worrying about when ‘pay back’ is going to happen but these days I know I’m strong. I can take on any of the attacks that are coming because now I have a solid foundation built on trust, love and self-respect; all of the values that eluded me in my marriage.
Now I truly am FREE.
To help me share my story and give hope to millions of domestic abuse sufferers and survivors around the world please register to hear me speak at the Introbiz Global Summit alongside greats such as Les Brown, Brian Tracy, Sharon Lechter, Rob Moore, Lisa Johnson.
To learn more about my work please register for my FREE live training, 5 Days to Redefine your Relationships
Or join me in this workshop ‘From Surviving to Thriving’ on 19th November which I’m hosting with Suzanne Smart of Positive Imprint and Rachel Earing of Live 4 Energy.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about International Women’s Day. Whilst I love that it’s a celebration of women and all we have achieved, I also recognise that it’s a time to reflect on what still needs to be done to create true equality.
And it’s this reflection that bothers me. I see so many women who appear to be blinkered to what I believe true equality to be – everyone having the chance to pursue the same opportunities regardless of age, gender, religion, race but at the same time acknowledging that we aren’t all equally capable of the same thing due to limits in our physiology, psychology and genetic make-up. To me, true equality is about celebrating the individual as they are, with all their strengths and weaknesses and enabling them to do whatever it is they wish to do whilst recognising their limitations.
Yes, there is a lot still to do to ensure equal rights and equal pay and I’m all for that but not at the expense of men and that is very much the tip of the iceberg.
I see too many champions of women’s rights creating forums for man-hating and that’s where the problem lies.
I’m a huge advocate in raising awareness of domestic violence and too many of the online communities I have entered are little more than platforms to belittle men. Yes, it is a fact that more women than men are the victims of domestic abuse but this doesn’t mean all men are abusers.
The instances of men being victims of domestic abuse are increasing. Some of the stories I have heard are awful and make me feel ashamed to be a woman.
So celebrating International Women’s Day has a bitter taste for me.
I’m also an advocate of supporting women who are or have been sex workers. Because the sex industry isn’t going away, it is first and foremost, a service industry and the majority of its workers are there through choice.
In my opinion, true equality will be created when we have developed a culture that respects the individual and his or her right to be who or what they please.
Do I have an issue with women who choose to flaunt their naked bodies in order to gain wealth and fame? NO – it’s their choice.
Do I have an issue with women who work in the sex industry because they choose to? NO – it’s their choice.
I do however, have a massive issue with other women who decide that these women need saving because they are being exploited by men. They don’t and they aren’t.
The women that need help are those who are forced into the sex industry as a result of abuse, those who are threatened with all sorts of horrors if they don’t pose for the camera, if they don’t ‘put on that red light, if they don’t put out but ironically, campaigning to help these women in the seedier side of the sex industry isn’t as sexy or headline grabbing as a scantily clad woman only too happy to flaunt her assets for the camera.
It’s those women, forced to do things that no-one should have to do without consent, that need to be helped and celebrated on International Women’s Day. Help them to understand they can change their lives, help them to understand that there is no shame in having gone through what they’ve gone through, help them to understand that it’s not their fault. But also let them celebrate the fact that they’re still here, they’re alive and they can get through this.
It’s time that we as smart, intelligent women of the world who have the means and ability to create change start to make change where it matters rather than trying to create headlines and jump on the bandwagon that the sexualisation of women is a bad thing. The sex industry isn’t going away, it’s nothing more than a service industry with an incredible business model – I know, I’ve worked in it and I’ve researched it extensively.
Change needs to start taking place in our homes and our schools, where we learn to challenge unacceptable language and behaviour and respect that we all have equal status despite our very real physical differences.
Only when we can create equality in the home, which then extends outward into our society will we be able to say we are truly equal. When we as women allow our men to be men, our sons and daughters to follow their own path regardless of whether they like blue or pink, football or dolls, regardless of whether they prefer girls or boys, regardless of their gender or sexuality without worrying about what the neighbours will say, only then will we be truly equal.
And then I’ll feel happy about properly celebrating International Women’s Day, knowing that as a society we can all truly celebrate the fact that we are all equal and have access to the same opportunities should we CHOOSE to take them and that we don’t judge those who make different choices tot hose we would make for ourselves.
Whatever your opinion of International Women’s Day, I applaud it. Without an opinion we would not be able to bring about change.
To all of the incredible women I know, and those I don’t, who are getting on with their lives in spite of or despite appalling adversity, I salute you. And to all the men I know who support those women – thank you.
Happy International Women’s Day
Don’t you just love books? Try as I might I can’t quite get as attached to my kindle as I do to books. I love the convenience of my Kindle for travelling but nothing beats the smell and feel of books, old or new.
World Book Day always excites me. It evokes memories of books long since destined to the great library in the sky, books that sit on my bookshelf unread since the first time but too valuable to pass on, books that have helped me through some tough times, books that have educated me about subjects I’m passionate in, books that create wanderlust, that make my mouth water, that help me escape.
I’ve often said that I can live very easily without a TV but I can’t live without books and that’s true. In fact, I remember moving to London to take a job 20+ years ago and my parents buying me a small portable TV. I knew no-one and they were worried that I’d feel lonely so bought me the TV to keep me company. I switched it on once a week to watch BBC Question Time in bed! These days, I watch so little that I don’t have a subscription service to any of the satellite channels or Netflix and yet again, it gets switched on only a couple of times a week, usually to find a family film to watch sometime over the weekend.
But I can’t live without books. It was heart-breaking when I downsized a number of years ago and had no choice but to reduce the number of boxes of books I was taking with me. The decision over which books should stay and which should be donated to charity took much longer than packing down the entire house!!
We now have two full book-cases in the house but that’s nowhere near enough for me. My dream is to have a house large enough that I can have a study where one wall is completely full of books. A girlfriend of mine has an entire reading room of which I’m inordinately envious but I know that if that was my room no-one would ever see me in any other part of the house and I’d never get any work done.
I get completely immersed in books and it’s the only time I’m totally able to block out everything else around me. I can remember as a teenager being told off by my father on numerous occasions because I hadn’t heard the call in to tea or to get ready to go out because I was curled up somewhere with my nose in a book, in my head I was a million miles away from the sofa or the garden or wherever it was I was reading. I even used to sit and read in a tree outside our house, two of the branches were very old and thick and the exact size for the 13/14 year old me to lay back in and read for hours on end. Nowadays, the fact that those branches were directly over a very busy main road would undoubtedly mean children would be banned from enjoying them! Yes, I had to climb about 15ft up the tree with a book tucked under my arm, held between my teeth or shoved into the back pocket of my jeans in order to sit on the branches.
But I digress, are you a bookworm or do you prefer TV?
I also have a confession to make; if I walk into a house where there’s no bookcase, I get ever so slightly disappointed and sad. I worry about how the occupants have coped without having books as a focal point of their lives. To me a house with books is a home, a house without books is just a cold empty shell.
And now, even my own published books adorn our bookcase. I don’t think I ever expected that to happen.
Do you have a bookcase or do you prefer to keep everything electronic?
On Safer Internet Day I’d like to share a story with you.
Having come out of a psychologically abusive relationship I had taken what I believed to be significant and sensible precautions to protect myself, both online and offline.
There had been a time where all of my social media profiles were hacked and pornographic images with my head super-imposed were uploaded to replace the profile photos I had. That resulted in a police caution for the perpetrator who denied any involvement in the incident. However, the images were removed less than an hour after the police visited his home so both I and the police remain convinced we had the right man. That wasn’t my ex but someone else I had been briefly involved with.
You see, it’s quite common for the survivor of an abusive relationship to end up in another abusive relationship. Their self-confidence, self-belief and self-worth have been ground down so much that they struggle to see any warning signs. Indeed, at the start of a new relationship, an abuser will be on their ‘best behaviour’ anyway so the warning signs are few and far between.
Some years after the incident outlined above, I had moved to a different town, was in a caring, healthy relationship and had started a new job. I felt safe, secure and able to breathe once more. So I received a shock when a letter was sent to my place of work for my attention. I couldn’t understand why or how the letter had been sent to my workplace instead of my home. A quick telephone call to the company who had sent the letter soon cleared that up, ‘we were given your work contact details by your ex-husband’.
I knew I hadn’t given him my work details. He had my home address, he needed that as we have a child together but I purposefully hadn’t passed on my work details because I needed to feel safe there.
I started an investigation because I wouldn’t be able to sleep properly without knowing where the ‘leak’ was. It transpired that my workplace had added my name to the staff list they had on the website without my knowledge or my consent.
My ex had set up a Google alert on my name so that he could track whatever I was doing and as soon as my name had appeared on my employers’ website, he found me.
My name remained on their website as by then it was too late, but my sense of safety and security was gone. Every time the office phone rang I would check the caller ID to ensure it wasn’t his number, every time an email or letter arrived from that company or someone with a similar name I would feel my blood pressure rise and my heart rate increase.
To someone who has never been in an abusive relationship, this would seem like a dramatic over-reaction to an innocent action. But to those of us who know only too well how an abuser can insidiously enter your psyche, this is a gross violation of our safety.
Not everyone wants to tell their employer that they are in or have been in an abusive relationship but employers should gain consent from employees if they wish to use their details on their website or anywhere where their safety could be compromised.
On safer internet day, please be aware of the dangers that aren’t quite so obvious and #staysafe.
Today is one of those days. I hadn’t realised that today is Winne the Pooh day until I was scrolling through social media whilst enjoying a cup of coffee this morning.
I love Winne the Pooh. When my son was new-born (he’s almost 15 now) his nursery was decorated with Winnie the Pooh and he had big 3ft plush toys of Winne, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore to welcome him home from the hospital. They became well loved ‘playmates’ until his dad decided they were dirty and too young for him and needed to be thrown out.
But that’s not the part that saddens me. You see, I didn’t choose Winne the Pooh to be my son’s theme. In fact, I wasn’t involved in choosing any of the accessories or décor for my son or his new nursery. It was all presented to me as a fait accompli and I had to accept it or be told I was ungrateful and mean.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a narcissist (and I hate to use that word as it’s so over-used these days) you will recognise what I’m talking about.
In the weeks leading up to my son’s birth I would regularly be presented with ‘gifts’ – a new pushchair and changing bag that I had no involvement in selecting or even having any input into.
And when I returned home from the hospital with my new-born son after a particularly traumatic birth, I was presented with a fully accessorised nursery adorned with Winne the Pooh decals, lampshades, curtains, mobiles to join plush toys taking up all of the room in the cot. You name it, Winne the Pooh and his friends looked down from in it or on it!
As I’ve said, I have nothing against Winne the Pooh but to have had him foisted upon me, with absolutely no input, at such a significant stage of my transition into motherhood turned me off him for a long time.
If I commented that I would have liked to have had some input into the décor for our son’s nursery I was told I was ungrateful and I hadn’t been involved because it would take the pressure off me. Excuse me? How many mums do you know who don’t want to be involved in the décor of their child’s nursery?
When I mentioned that I was planning on a different style of pushchair than the one I was presented I was told I didn’t know what I was talking about and I should be grateful that he had made the decision for me, particularly as my pregnancy brain was confusing me about what I did and didn’t want!
Winnie the Pooh – such a lovable, effable character but to someone who has been through psychological abuse such an inanimate object can take them straight back to a time of fear and darkness.
Thankfully, I have since had years of counselling, coaching and therapy and can once again enjoy Winnie the Pooh and friends for who and what he is.
Happy Winnie the Pooh Day.
Today it’s National Pharmacists Day and I’d like to say thank you to all of the Pharmacists out there who help us with minor ailments and provide their expertise to everyone who ventures into their local pharmacy, chemist or supermarket with a cough, cold, sniffle, sore throat or worse, to avoid waiting at and clogging up the GP surgery.
Sometimes we all need some help from experts to get better. If you spent the last two weeks making plans of what you’re going to do but have woken up today still wondering how on earth you’re going to execute those plans, you’re not alone.
To change my diet I enrolled in Slimming World, to increase my fitness I joined a running club. Both were full of experts who helped me to make tiny tweaks to what I was already doing to enable me to optimise my success.
In business, I work with mentors who can guide me. When my car needs fixing I take it to the mechanic. I go to the hairdresser to get my hair done and I see a therapist to keep my mental health on track. I have a life coach. And if I’ve got a cough, cold or sore throat my first port of call is my local Pharmacist.
In turn, I help lots of people to deal with things I’ve had experience in. I work with survivors of domestic abuse who want to turn their lives around and create their own Blockbuster Life. But in the main, I work with women over 40 who are reclaiming their life.
There is no shame in asking for help from anyone. To acknowledge you’re not the expert in everything is a strength, as is asking for help and support.
Who can you ask TODAY to help you to execute your plans? If you do nothing else, just identify who they are.
In the early hours of this morning (GMT) the Golden Globes were awarded in the USA.
The Golden Globes recognises excellence in film and television. It’s just one of a number of awards ceremonies throughout the year which recognises the stars from the world of Creative Arts.
It’s easy to look at the nominees and winners and think that they’ve had it easy and everything just falls into their laps. What we often fail to consider is the years of hard work and struggle they’ve gone through before landing their breakthrough role. Most of them will have trained in their craft and will have spent years honing the craft.
Reclaiming YOUR Life, Creating YOUR Blockbuster or Golden Globe Life is exactly the same. First of all we need to decide to change, from there we need to work out what to do and then work at it, every single day.
How often have you heard an ‘overnight success’ saying that it’s taken them 10 years to become an ‘overnight success’?
Whomever the award winners are tonight, they’re all winners in my view. At some stage they all decided to be the star of their own show and create their own Blockbuster Life. It’s possible for you to do the same too. You just need to decide that NOW is the time to reclaim your life and create YOUR Blockbuster life.
We’re all different and whatever YOUR Blockbuster Life looks like is absolutely perfect for you. Now you just need to take action to make it YOUR reality so that one day, you too can be your own Golden Globes winner.
If you think that NOW might be the time to Reclaim YOUR life and start rewriting your script so that you become the Golden Globe winner of your own life, take a look at this webinar.
#goldenglobes #blockbusterlife #winner #newyear #awards #freshstart #work #overnightsuccess
What does Science Fiction mean to you?
Does your life resemble Sci-Fi or do you keep your feet firmly rooted in reality?
Sci-Fi for me is always bittersweet. When I was married I had no choice but to sit through countless re-runs of all the StarWars films and despite them being hugely successful box-office hits with millions of fans around the World, they leave me cold due to the negative associations I have with them.
Prior to that I used to quite enjoy the rickety sets of Star Trek and the wildly unbelievable storylines. I always marvelled at the creativity of the script writers. My firm favourite was a BBC TV series called Blake’s 7 which ran from 1978 to 1981 with some equally dubious sets and storylines. Of course today, Dr Who is the firm favourite although I haven’t religiously watched it since the days of Tom Baker. I know, I’m giving my age away now!
When we’ve made plans to change or reclaim our lives it can sometimes feel like we’re creating a sci-fi drama but unless we make a start, all it will be is a slightly far-fetched script that someone one day might pick up and run with.
What if we picked up that script and took some tiny steps towards making it a reality, no matter how rickety? Is it possible we could turn that script into something that we love?
Unless we start, by taking really tiny steps, we’ll never know.
What have you got to lose?
Pull out those plans today, that sci-fi script and work out what tiny step you could take right now towards making it become a cult series. You might even surprise yourself and destroy the ‘cling-ons’ of self-doubt, lack of confidence and fear in the process.
Now that would really be a Sci-Fi worth watching!