Today marked the last time I spoke with Naomi at Next Chapter, it also marks the end of one chapter of my life and the start of a more hopeful, brighter and peaceful new chapter. I called Domestic Violence helpline reluctantly following an incident which led me to leave my home and take my children with me. What was to unfold thereafter was the start of my journey to leave this relationship and never turn back.

My relationship with my now ex partner was intoxicating at the start and throughout. In the beginning he said and did everything I wanted, he was everything I had dreamed of in a man, I was completely obsessed with him! There were some red flags at the start but I chose to ignore them convinced he was the one for me! I got pregnant a year into our relationship and he moved in a month before our child was born to live we me and my other children. Looking back, there were things that made me feel uncomfortable but I went along with it convinced (by him) that what he was saying was right.

When he moved in, our relationships was very turbulant but I put it down to the stress of an ex husband, paying a mortgage, new baby and him taking on two children not his own. He worked very hard and had had a very hard and distressing upbringing. I put his outbursts and anger down to that, I excused every comment, every time he shouted, every time he gave me the silent treatment, every time he ignored my cries, every time he made me feel I was a terrible human being.

We had a relationship that consisted of pure ecstasy, love and commitment one moment to utter dispair, sadness, lonliness, shame, grief, hopelessness the next. There was no in between. I was later to discover that this was part of trauma bonding, I was addicted to the highs. I persevered for 6 years, persistently convinving myself it would get better, he was a good man and it would get better when the debt was paid or when my children were a bit older or when he got a new job...each time, no change. In fact, it got worse and the last 6 months of my relationship with him became unbearable.

He started to act very strange and his patience was almost zero, he worked more and more and emotionally became disconnected with me. I did try to speak with him about this but he told me I was insecure, controlling, delusional etc. He still would tell me I was beautiful from time to time, he would show his vulnerability every now and then but these became fewer and fewer. I became increasingly suspicious that something was not right and every time I confronted he would scream at me telling me I was fu*ked in the head, I need help, and why should he pay for my ex-husbands mistakes.

Eventually an incident happened in front of my children where he became physical with me. Yet, I forgave him convinced this was out of character and an isolated incident. After the incident he was wonderful, things started to feel ok, he was attentive and kind, complimentary and available to me but this only lasted a short time. The atmosphere changed, I was worried it was going back to how it was, the arguments set back in, the shouting, him calling me names and making me feel like I was going mad.

One morning he snapped, made accusations, screamed at me, called me various names and something in me just said, that's it. Ive had enough. So that evening, while he was at work, I packed my things and packed my children up. This infuriated him. He became unrecogniseable, a person I had not known at all. He made various threats. He became increasingly erratic in his behaviour and blamed me for how bad his mental health was. Scared to return to the home, worried about my rights to my home and our child, my mum convinced me to ring a domestic violence helpline who subsequently referred me to Next Chapter.

Shortly after, I recieved a call from Naomi. I explained to her what had happend in the past 6 months, and she told me I had been a victim of abuse. Hearing these words made me feel so sad, I felt sick and when I got off the phone, I sat in silence. I did not believe I had been a victim, maybe in that isolated incident yes but not throughout my entire relationship. It felt hard to bear and I continued to excuse his behaviour to Naomi and in my mind, convincing myself that it was just circumstantial and he's a good man.

Naomi made sure that I was safe and advised I stay with my parents for the timebeing. In spite of the advice given to me, I went home. He was crying and was helpless, I felt sorry for him and felt completely to blame for this. He had booked to go away for a few days so I felt it would be ok to be in his company for one night. Another big row ensued but we talked everything through and I felt some hope. While he was away I discoved something that was to uncover a catalogue of lies and deceipt for the past 6 months. I packed his bags and told him never to come back. He took his bags and he left. He moved to another county. I was absolutely distraught.

I needed the support from Naomi now more than ever, I felt abandoned and alone. There was no emotion, remorse or guilt from him, he discarded me and had no desire whatsoever to make it right. I was in a very dark place so I started to seek help with a counsellor. Naomi explained to me about the cycle of abuse and trauma bonding, still in denial about actually being abused, I researched this on the internet, I read and read and it became apparent to me that what Naomi was saying to me was what was actually happening to me. This was difficult to accept at first. I tried to convince myself many times that there was no cycle, or part of the cycle was missed but with Naomi's support, her kindness and gentleness she started to open my eyes.

Her advice to me was to start to look after myself, give myself some kindness and compassion, some self love. She told me about red flags, how to set boundaries, how to listen to my intuition if I wasn't comfortable and how to recognise when the abuse will take place. She even warned me about what his next move may be and unsurpsingly for her, is exactly what happend! Its been 4 months since the day I packed his bags and asked him to leave and they have been the most difficult yet revealing 4 months of my life.

I listened to Naomi, started to look after myself and educate myself on what had happened and why. I listened to an amazing audio book called Whole Again about finding peace after being in a narcisistic relationship. I've faced many many obstacles, I've denied, I've cried, I've felt shame, blame, I've felt guilt for allowing this to take place and putting my children through it, but I've also felt liberated, I've felt hope for the first time in forever but most of all, I've felt free.

Having the knowledge that what I experienced was in actual fact domestic emotional and physical abuse, that what happened was not my fault, that I can heal from this. This is what I learnt from Naomi. She has been a profound support to me, to this journey, to my knowledge and to my healing. She used the phase knowledge is power and it is so true. Now I am aware of the cycle, and the trauma bonding, I am aware that he still gaslights me but with this awareness comes freedom.

I am free because I know this is about him, his demons, his past, his wounds and it has nothing to do with me.

I am free because I know I am strong, I know I have come so far, I know my children are safe and I know I am safe, I am free because I can accept what has happened to me and I can feel safe in the knowledge that my story wont define me or my future.

I have no doubt that if I had not have spoken to Naomi and been exposed to what was really happening, I may have gone back, I most definitely wouldnt have taken those steps to take care of myself and educate myself and I 100% wouldn't be here writing this.

Naomi, if youre reading this, thank you. Thank you for that last push of encouragement before I went away on my own, for always being so kind and gentle, for supporting me, for guiding me, for explaining things to be me but most of all, thank you for opening my eyes.

For anyone considering getting some help, even if you think your situation isnt that bad (like I did), even if if you're scared or don't want to face up to what is really happening. Have courage, it will be hard and I'm still on this journey but I can see light and you will too :) xx