3 min read

Only As Sick as Our Secrets

Only As Sick as Our Secrets

When you live in an abusive household, you learn to dance.    You learn to dance around the things they say and the things they do not say but that you can feel.    The things they don't want you to do and all the things they accuse you of doing.

You learn to bend this way and that depending on which way their mood is blowing, and when you have bent over you as far you possibly can, you snap, and a part of you gives up and gives in.

I now realise that there is a great sense of achievement for them when you reach this point.  Whilst you will no longer entirely inhibit the land of the living, they will be celebrating the control they now have over you.

They call this state disassociation.    The numbing and shut down of your nervous system.  I am sure when this happens, your soul leaves your body and instead inhabits a space outside of you where it is safer.  I felt like I was living somewhere outside of myself, watching events unfold.

Flo was ten months old when my soul completely snapped.    I had known in my gut that Nick's feelings towards her were unnatural since she was born.    Instead of being a besotted Dad, he barely paid her any attention.    He would complain at any noise she made or become enraged if he thought I was always giving her attention that should have been his.

My parenting, by this point, revolved around placating.    Placating Flo to soothe him, to keep a sense of calm in our tenuous household, but it was rarely enough to keep the peace.

On more than one occasion, Nick told Flo that she had to stop breastfeeding because "Mummy's tits belonged to him".   It made me feel sick to my stomach.  Everyone had tried to reassure me that some dads just don't cope well with the baby phase, but I knew to my core this was not normal, and I was scared.

I didn't trust my opinion anymore, so I convinced myself that everyone else was right; I was over-sensitive, he wasn't coping with the baby phase, and it would improve.    It was much easier to believe this than to face up to the reality of what I felt.

So the day she fell asleep snuggled up against him on the sofa was a cause for small celebration and relief.    They looked like any Father, Daughter duo at that moment.    Him snoring away with his arm protectively over her stomach.    It warmed my heart and gave me hope that we could be a healthy, happy family unit.

I hadn't taken a solo shower since Flo was born, and the thought of one alone felt like such a luxury, but in the pit of my stomach, I felt uneasy.    I can only put it down to Mother's intuition, but I felt on edge showering that day.  I told myself, as I had many times before, that I was being overprotective.    Nick constantly told me my bond with Flo was unnatural, I was too worried about her and that I was most likely suffering extreme postpartum depression.    I told myself it would be fine, but my gut knew.

When I got into the shower, I left the door to the front room and bathroom open so I could hear them, and  I was in and out in less than five minutes.    They were both sleeping soundly when I checked on them, and  I sighed with relief.    I scolded myself for being so silly; maybe I did have Postpartum Depression after all; perhaps I needed to see a doctor.

It wasn't until a few weeks later that the nap came up again between us.    Nick had been in a terrible mood all day and wanted to get out of the house; it was common for him to be restless, so dutifully, we all piled into the car and headed off in no particular direction in the driving rain.

The car journey was tense.    Nick was looking for a reason to blow up, so I ran through all the reasons I could think of to appease him.  Boosting his fragile ego was usually a wise place to start, so I told him how great his new haircut looked and how well he had done at work that week.    How proud we were of him and how grateful to have him.

This particular day he wasn't so easily charmed.  Thankfully Flo was exhausted, and she had fallen asleep as soon as we got into the car.  But I could feel the friction in the air, and sullenness was an ominous sign.  My anxiety was steadily building to the point of panic.

Trying to fill the static silence, I searched for ways to keep the conversation going.    Clutching at straws, I reached for the nap.    I told Nick how nice seeing him curled up on the sofa with Flo had been.   He remained quiet;  his hands on the steering wheel had turned white, and his jaw was set tight.

I instantly knew I had misstepped badly and shrank back in my seat; now, I was terrified.    Turning to me with a cold hard glint in his eye and an evil smirk, he said, "Yeah, I did get a hard-on, though".  Then he cackled.

At that moment, I broke.