Relationships, Domestic Violence, Homelessness: The Woman Who Walked Into Doors
DECEMBER 10, 2020 | DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
We all crave stability. Somewhere to call “home”…but what if “home” is anything but? What happens then?
“The Woman Who Walked Into Doors” is a novel by Roddy Doyle. It tells the story of Paula Spencer and her turbulent marriage to “Charlo” her violent, abusive husband. Charlo was “a catch, a ride” and Paula adored him. He was also an abusive arsehole who liked to push her around. In Paula’s words “He loved me and he beat me, I loved him and I took it…”
And she did, even when “it” put her in the hospital. Through missing teeth, broken bones and dislocated shoulders, she becomes his whipping boy, his punching bag, constantly hoping that this time will be the last, that Charlo will change and that things will go back to “normal” again.
Only this is her new normal now … And he’s just getting started.
At the minute I am not “The Woman Who Walked Into Doors”. Instead I am “The woman who covers her ears when he shouts”, “The woman who closes her eyes” and “The woman who sweeps up the broken things that he’s thrown at the wall when he loses his temper”. This is the woman I am at the minute although most days I don’t feel like a woman at all. I feel like a whipping boy, a scapegoat, a failure, a mess…
And before you ask me no, I didn’t want to be any of these things. I just wanted him to love me.
He did at first, I think … when we were good and new and shiny. He treated me like a princess and I was absolutely smitten. Until a few months down the line he called me a cunt, and laid the foundations for our future relationship.
His language took my breath away. I couldn’t believe that this guy, my guy, my best friend and my wingman could call me such a thing. Except that he did. And then he kept on doing it.
Things got worse.
The name-calling continued, along with slamming of doors, smashing of plates, and nasty, drunken shouting in my face. I was “Miserable”, “Moody”, a “Tramp and a whore”, a “Prostitute”. A nothing.
I talked too much, I was “giving him a headache”. I was selfish, self-centred, all about me. Spoiled, ungrateful, incompetent. I didn’t put the bins out right, fold the washing properly, I made the washing machine leak. I had rubbish taste in music. Any film I liked was terrible. I cooked dinner every evening too early or too late.
The list of my faults and flaws was endless.
And I couldn’t tell my friends because by now I had no friends. They’d all tried to warn me about him when we first started dating. But I was naive and I was blinkered and I thought that they were wrong. So when I had to choose between the two, I did … and I chose him.
And I look back now and all the signs were there, flashing, flashing, flashing, bright red neon at me. Except, I didn’t want to see them. Instead I took out all the bulbs, crossed my fingers a lot, kept my rose-tinted glasses on, and tried not to step on the cracks in the pavement.
And I learned to be quiet, and I learned to try harder. And every day I got smaller and smaller while he just grew and grew. I would sit inside this little box that he’d made for me, and I would wonder how the hell I got here. How I had become her … this un-opinionated, voice-less, sad, lonely woman who spent her days talking to herself and walking on eggshells?
I left him … several times.
Because my self-esteem was on the floor and I needed to be able just to breathe for a while. But there was this ridiculous pull towards him that I couldn’t quite explain, which meant that every time I left him, I gravitated back, no matter how badly he had treated me. In his eyes, this made him right. And so then “I” would be the naughty one and he would be the victim, and round and round and round we’d go.
Over and over and over again.
Until my head was spinning.
Then things would go quiet for a while. Almost kind of normal. I would tell myself that maybe things would be ok … one, because he’d stopped shouting. But two, because I really, really wanted them to be.
But then he’d get angry again, plates started to smash, and I would know in an instant, that I’d made a mistake. That it wasn’t going to be ok. That it was never going to be ok. Because this guy wasn’t changing for anyone. Not now, not in a month, not in six months or a year.
This was him. The “real” version of him, a man who liked to mistreat women. Because he thought that violence made him strong.
I’m sitting in the garden.
It’s a beautiful sunny day outside. The neighbours smile and wave at me. They don’t hear the shouting in the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom upstairs. Or, if they do, I think they must just cover their ears. Like me, like I do.
Tourists walk by.
They see, a happy, smiling woman in a garden filled with plants. She drinks a cup of coffee and she’s writing in her notebook, a happy cat purrs away at her feet. Everything looks peachy. Domestic violence doesn’t live on this street. Except that it does – you just don’t see my scars, or what I’m writing in my notebook.
Fast forward to today and I’m writing in my caravan. Because I left him again and I’m not going back. I’m starting again, with my books and my incense and the little voice in my head telling me I’m worth so much more than a drunk, angry, violent man who bends me out of shape and backs me into corners all the time.
It’s taken me a long, long time to write this piece.
Because I’m writing about domestic violence when this guy didn’t punch or kick me. I’ve never had a black eye, a broken nose, or a cut on my lip. I didn’t show any of the obvious, outward signs of abuse. But I was in that boxing ring with him every day until I left. And my head is still spinning from the fall-out of it all.
I have a trauma bond to this guy. A side effect of it all, which is the pull I feel towards him still, and which basically means that I minimise the damage, feel grateful for scraps, and wish even now, that any time my phone pings, that it’s an apology from him and that this time he means it.
That my “nice”, caring, boyfriend is back.
I really need to work on that.
Because it won’t be and he doesn’t, and I would be back where I started again in seconds. Worse, actually.
So I’d like to leave you with this if I may.
I don’t know a single woman who has ever actually “walked into a door”. But I do know a few who were pushed, slammed or thrown into one by someone who once claimed to “love” them.
And believe me when I tell you that this isn’t love. It’s abuse.
It’s frightening, it’s demeaning and it will bring you to your knees.
So if this story resonates take a good long look at your own front door. And maybe start to picture how your life could be the other side of it, with someone who is actually nice to you for a change.
With grateful thanks to Roddy Doyle for allowing me to use his title/reference the book.
Denise Harrison is a writer, blogger and podcaster bourne out of her own personal experience of homelessness, addiction and poor mental health. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Big Issue, Metro, The Guardian and Happiful Magazine as well several not for profits. She is passionate about raising awareness and tackling stigma around addiction and mental health and recently wrote the film script for an educational film called This Is Depression.
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Not going to funerals...Someone I know died recently. The details are sketchy and from what I can gather, not very pleasant, so I won't elaborate too much right now, but what I will say is that the news absolutely floored me...mainly because someone else I know, (and thought the world of) is currently suspected of causing her death.I got a text.It was late at night and I’d just finished work, when a guy I know from rehab crept into my DM's and told me the news.It knocked for six.And if I'm absolutely honest, I'm still reeling.Because I can't quite get my head around the fact that yet again, someone I know is dead and that a guy who was like a brother to me, someone I looked up to, is thought to be responsible,We met in detox.Two lost souls in a room choc full of other lost souls, and within a matter of days we were friends.Because that's what you do when you are fighting an addiction that really wants to kill you. You form bonds, you support each other, and you cheer each other on...because there is strength in numbers and you know that if you try and deal with things by staying on your own, the bad thoughts will consume you and the chances are that you will break in there.So you get your little army together and you stand and you fight.And you get clean and you leave, and you try to navigate a world where the one thing you relied on more than anything else to help you to cope is off limits to you. And you baby step it, and you baby step it, and you risk assess everything...people, places, getting on a bus even, and you wobble around like a new-born lamb praying that at some point you will get your groove back, and recovery will start to make sense.But then life throws a grenade at you and catches you off guard...and old thought patterns scramble to the front of your mind, literally falling over themselves in their rush to “help" by offering their solution...which means that now you have two choices. Keep pushing forward with sobriety and trust that this will pass...or reach for the bottle, the needle, or whatever, and choose to drag yourself straight back to hell...Push or pull.Push or pull.Push or...I am very, very lucky.I chose to push forward.I pushed and I pushed and I keep fucking pushing, because I've been to hell already once and with every single breath in my body, I do everything in my power to never go back.For some of my friends this wasn't an option, and instead of pushing they pulled it towards them, and they took a swig or they chased or whatever...and now they are dead or they're dying, or they're facing fucking prison time.I'm not going to go to the funeral. Too many emotions in too small a space, with not enough healthy coping mechanisms to go around, means that the stage will be perfectly set for someone else to relapse, and I just can't bear to see another of my friends fall by the wayside, whilst the grim reaper sits there, quietly in the corner, looking like the cat who's got the cream.So instead I'll stay here and I'll sit and I'll write.Pin it all down, in black and white, so that anyone who reads this can see the true human cost that comes with addiction.It can join all the other pieces, here on my blog.Story after story of heartbreak, loss, and the ravenous, bottomless pit of addiction, written by a woman who is truly fucking sick to death of having to wear black and eating cheap sausage rolls .
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