I don’t know why I called tonight.  My friend gave me the number and I laughed at her.  That’s not for me, I thought.  People phone helplines when they’re suicidal.  But my husband is out with his friends tonight and I’ve had a glass of wine.  Dutch courage.

When I dial the number I still don’t know what I want to say.  I listen to a message and almost hang up.  I feel like I’m wasting their time.  The phone rings once, twice and on the third ring a woman with a kind voice answers.

“Hello, you’re through to the helpline”.

I’m speechless for a moment.  Again I think about hanging up but something keeps me on the line.  “I don’t know what to say” are my first words.  How daft!  She must think I’m a time waster.

“Just take your time” she says.  I take a deep breath.  I tell her about my husband.  About the way he speaks to me.  Comments about my clothes, my weight, my personal hygiene.  He hates my friends – especially Kathy – she’s the one who gave me this number.  She’s too bossy, apparently – bitter because she doesn’t have a man of her own.

But that’s not abuse.  He’s never hit me – he wouldn’t.  He’s shoved me a few times but that’s normal.   And he loves the kids – he’s a great dad.  Sometimes I think it’s me who’s a bad mum.  I can’t seem to do anything right.  He calls me the most awful names.

The woman on the other end of the line is quiet but I know she’s listening.  It takes me ages to get my words out.  I start crying, she must think I’m ridiculous.  “I’m sorry”, I say, but she says I don’t need to be sorry.  She asks me some questions and I end up telling her everything.  Things I’ve never said out loud before.  It feels like a weight has been lifted.

I thought she would tell me to pull myself together.  My husband makes great money and I don’t need to work – everyone says I’m lucky.  I don’t know why I’m feeling so low, why I cry all the time.  Maybe I’m going mad, like he says.  Sometimes he gets fed up and stops speaking to me – won’t even look at me.  Last time it was 8 days.

She asks me how I spend my time.  Cleaning and looking after the baby, I say.  I don’t really go out unless I’m with him – he constantly phones me to check where I am so it’s too much hassle.  It’s hard to keep in touch with people – he hates it when I text or go on Facebook so I don’t bother anymore.  She asks me if I feel isolated.  I do.

She tells me this sounds like coercive control.  I’ve no idea what that means so she explains it.  It’s like she’s describing my life.

She asks me what I would like to happen next.  I say I don’t know.  She tells me about safety planning but I don’t think I want to leave him.  Not yet.  She asks if I’d like the number for my local Women’s Aid group and I write this down.  She’s made me think about why I’m so unhappy and I’m starting to imagine what my life could be like without him.

I thank her for listening and for believing me.  She has made me feel stronger.  I have a lot to think about.

“Take care”, she says.

At Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline we won’t put pressure on you, or tell you what to do. We know it isn’t always easy to pick up the phone. When you call the helpline, your call will be answered by fully trained call handlers who have lots of experience supporting people affected by domestic abuse and forced marriage.

You don’t need to know what to say, just know that we believe you, and we are here for you.

Call: 0800 027 1234 | Email: helpline@sdafmh.org.uk | Website: www.sdafmh.org.uk

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