I think it was more like 15 years ago. I was 21. I was in trouble. I was trapped in a violent, bullying relationship. I didn’t know how to escape. I was living in London miles away from my family with a man who should not have been as controlling and bullying as he was. I didnt tell anyone what was happening, I was ashamed.
I worked in Central London for a small IT company. The guys there were great. Very techy nerds but great. They didn’t know everything that was going on but they knew I was unhappy.
One day I cried all day at my desk. The guys avoided me. None of them came into the office, none of them knew how to handle a young girl crying with frustration at the way her life was turning out. I felt so alone. The next morning 3 of them were sitting in my office waiting for me. They had met up at the pub the night before to work out what to do about me.
All 3 of them drove me to my flat and helped me pack a small bag. We knew my boyfriend would be at work, he was a policeman, and that it was safe to go to the flat. They then drove me back to work and kept me busy all day. None of them would tell me what was going to happen next. At 5pm they drove me to West London. To the home of an ex member of staff who I knew fairly well. He and his wife welcomed me into their home. Their children played and entertained me. Their spare bedroom became my haven for a couple of days.
What should have felt embarrassing or overwhelming just felt normal. They looked after me, I knew it wasn’t long term but it was what I needed at the time. To feel loved and looked after and like people cared about me. After 2 days of commuting into work I began to wonder what was going to happen next.
I needn’t have wondered. The guys had a plan.
One of them was away in Frankfurt for 3 months and on the Friday night I found myself being taken to his flat. I found a note from him on his table saying make yourself at home, eat whatever you can find and use the spare wardrobe. Be nice to the neighbours, this is your home.
I cried. I stayed a while. I think that we all knew that I wouldn’t stay for ever. For some reason I wasn’t ready. I managed about 4 or 5 weeks until the urge to return was too much for me. I thought the guys would be cross but of course they weren’t. They were truly looking out for me, they wanted me to be happy.
That time on my own gave me strength. It made me realise that I could do anything. I wasn’t ready to leave Mark at the time but when it all kicked off again a few months alter I was ready. It was easier. I left and never looked back. During the months that I was back with him it was OK at work. The guys were fine with me, they asked how I was, they took me out drinking with them. Nothing had changed. I knew that they would support me whether I was with Mark or not.
BUT when I left him for good, boy were they happy. I truly don’t think I could have done it without them giving me the space to leave him in the first place. Knowing that I had a framework of support, and love, and trust behind me gave me strength. It made me feel secure and lucky. It gave me the knowledge that I would be OK, that I could do what I felt I had to with nobody thinking badly of me. It made me who I am today.
Right now? I don’t have that framework. I don’t have that support. I am dealing with these feelings on my own. No-one is going to help me. That is scary. But I still have to do what is right for me, and with 4 kids to consider – I damn well need to get it right first time. No pressure then.