I wonder how many of you said that after reading the court reporting of the Justin Lee Collins trial? My bet is that the majority of you said exactly that. How can the funny man (although I imagine some of you would dispute this), the man who had made many programs on TV that had so many of us entertained, the likeable chappy, how can he do this? No surely not. He just doesn't look the type.
When I saw the JLC trend on twitter, I was not at all prepared for what I was about to read when I opened the link to the Independents' court report on the trial. I had no idea that I was about to read an (alleged) pattern of abuse that echoed what I myself have been through. As I read further and the details became more graphic I became almost frozen, just my eyes moving from left to right taking in what the report was saying. Shocking acts of violence, both physically AND mentally. That lethal combination of abuse perpetrated in order to gain entire power and control over the victim. The deletion of any life I had before I met him. The isolation. The constant put downs, the name calling and the forms of degradation I have no wish to go into right now. It wasn't like that at first, no no he was Mr Charm Personified at first. See that's how they draw you in, you think they are the best thing since sliced bread and you're so very flattered he has picked you to be with. A man of status, a strong man, an intelligent man who was liked, respected, charming to all. Extravagant dates, expensive presents, you are just his one and all. No man could ever love you like he would. He proposed to me a month after meeting having asked my dad for my hand in marriage and we started living together a month after that. Everything was rosy beyond my wildest dreams and I was so very happy. So I had no hesitation whatsoever when he suggested that we move out of London, my home town, and live in a picturesque little house in a picturesque little village in the middle of nowhere.
And that's when everything changed.
Now when you're in a confirmed relationship with somebody and that somebody is still held in that same belief as being top dollar, an amazing catch then you absolutely believe what they say. You're caught up in this whirlwind of a romance with this man who so loves you and so wants you and how fucking fabulous is that. So if he doesn't like me wearing this then it must be because it doesn't look good on me he has only my best interests at heart. When he laughed at what I may have said "oh you're so cute when you're being thick" well it was because after all he was far more intelligent than me. Berating myself for being thick c'mon Sal don't show yourself up, perhaps I should read the The Financial Times like he did he kept saying I ought to so I could educate myself. And then he would laugh at how I would obviously not be able to understand it "shall I buy you a dictionary to go with it? hahahaha".
Now I should explain here that by the time we had moved away from London we had formed our own business. My role was as bookeeper for both our business and that of other clients. And I was busy, I worked damn hard. He insisted I come along to his meetings as a tax advisor where I didn't really have a clue as to what the hell was being said or what was going on. He would often highlight this fact during the meetings of his and have a little laugh at it. Anyway what I'm trying to explain is that because I worked with him and lived with him I never had any contact with anyone except people he knew and they were essentially business people. I hadn't kept contact with anyone from London as he had explained to me that they were only my friends "as they wanted to get in my knickers". All my mates back then were male as I was a definite pub girl drinking pints with the rest of the lads. But he told me they were no good for me, why do you think they were your friends Sal? Did you think they really liked you? laughing. Men only want to be friends with girls if they want to sleep with them god don't you know even that?
So when you are literally on your own with this man whom everyone held in such high esteem and you're hearing these comments on a daily basis in whatever form they come in, then they do soak through you, you absolutely believe you are inferior, you listen to what they say and you believe what they say. And after a while it becomes your normality. So when further behaviours are perpetrated that you once may never have put up with before not in a million years, when they happen you just accept it. Your normality is already abnormal and so increasingly abusive behaviours are accepted where once they would not. And that's precisely what happened to me.
After I had read the report, I tweeted the link, something I rarely ever do, as I knew I had read events similar in pattern and nature to what happened to me. Once I had done this, I sat back and that's when it started. I had felt that familiar sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I was reading it and a growing numbness as I realised how similar the pattern of (alleged) abuse was to mine. Bursts of what happened to me flashed in my mind, I could hear his laugh that sickening laugh, coldness becoming heat and that sick feeling rose rapidly into my chest bursting along with my now racing thudding heart, my eardrums pounding shaking now oh my god. I realised I was triggered without really knowing until now and I remember tweeting that, bloody hell I can feel my body it's triggered no I gotta stop this I gotta go get girls from school in a minute. Shaking and now crying and I don't want to cry because I don't want girls to see so gotta stop now. Breathe Sal you're alright. Fix up breathe for fuck sake. Concentrating on stopping my mind, banishing my memories forget that fucking story RIGHT NOW. Shaking my head now get rid of it. Get coat where's my coat, put it on and out the door and on way to school all the while breathing and banishing I gotta go get girls.
By the time I reached the school I had managed to avert what could easily have become a full on panic attack. I had a thudding headache and my body felt like a dead weight but I had made it to school and that's what counts.
It has taken me the best part of 5 hours to write this blog. I have had to take many breaks at various points as the bodily responses to what I was writing is still very much felt by me and can be very difficult to control. Any memories of him are felt in my body despite trying to shut it out from my mind. It's a mixture of a cold heat, tightening of every muscle in my body, that pressure on the chest making my shoulders round, searing burning pain in back of my left shoulder, my head starts thudding, my heart racing and BOOM I'm fired up and it's all gotta come out, the energy overflowing. Breathing becomes much faster and if I don't control it I cannot breathe properly, fighting for breath, head getting dizzy. And that's when you're in a panic attack, body on auto and you have to remember the techniques you've been given in times like this, grab a brown paper bag if needed just slow that breathing down and realise it's a panic attack and that you'll be ok just calm down. And then, when it's over and you've regulated yourself, the exhaustion sets in the headache is in full force and you have no choice but to try and recover as best you can.
I feel exhausted having written this. I also feel quite proud I managed to write it, something I haven't felt for a very long time indeed. Perhaps my idea of blogging as part of self-therapy is a good one after all.