I met and married my husband quite quickly. I knew he’d had manic depression in the past and that he’d previously had a breakdown, but I loved him and wanted to make a life with him. We’ve been together 12 years and I guess what makes my story a little different is that we are still married now and I’m hopeful we’ll continue to be, but we’ll see as time moves on.

About five or six years ago, I started to recognise behaviours in my husband that I knew were not right. I always struggled to find the strength to fight him on them though because of a medical condition I have that has been extremely debilitating.

When we’d have an argument, my husband would always threaten to divorce me. The thought of having a broken family was too much for me to think about. Both my husband and I came from broken homes, so neither of us wanted that, but he’d use the threat anyway. He’d always be quite nasty and spiteful when we fought, which would upset me so much. He’d just tell me I was being sensitive, which wasn’t the case. Even if it were, his behaviour was still out-of-line.

Everything was always my fault. He punched walls several times, which he blamed me for each time. It got to the point where I would question whether it was my fault which, thanks to my time in refuge, I now realise it wasn’t.  

I hit rock bottom after we had a bad argument in front of our daughter. It frightened and upset Lily* so much. During the argument he threw a spoon at me. I know some might say ‘It was only a spoon’, but there was intent behind it. I feared that him throwing the spoon could be the beginning of something much worse.

I researched some charities that could help me and Llamau was one of the first to come up. I spoke to a few people that told me Llamau was a fantastic charity. I called and spoke with a lovely lady called Angharad. She was so kind and really helped me understand my options. She told me there was a space in a refuge if I wanted it. That day I packed up as much stuff as possible and took Lily with me to the refuge. I didn’t tell him where we were going, I just left.

I remember being greeted by the most welcoming of women. They were all stupendous and made me feel safe straight away. Even though at that point I really didn’t know what I needed, they made sure I knew they were there for me and Lily. One of the Support Workers, Rachel, came straight down to Lily’s level and spoke so softly to her. I found that so comforting and Lily came away and said to me ‘I like her a lot Mum.’

Before moving into refuge, I had quite a negative view of what it would be like, especially for a child, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. We were given our own self-contained apartment and Lily had bunkbeds, which she loved. She also had incredible support from her own Support Worker whilst we lived there. Lily still refers to our time in refuge as a holiday.

Over the course of the 10 days I spent there, I always felt like I had the support and care of the Support Workers. They never made me feel like they were only doing their job. They helped me realise that I’m an asset in my husband’s life and didn’t deserve to be treated that way. They helped me understand my own self-worth and just generally allowed me the space and time to work out my next steps. I knew I’d come a long way when one of the women in refuge asked me if I was a victim as well and I responded with, ‘No, I’m a survivor.’

I decided to come home, but my husband and I are living separately right now. Whilst in refuge I found the strength to ask him to leave and take time to work on his own issues. He’s now undergoing counselling as well as assessments to determine whether his behaviours are linked to other conditions, like Asperger’s. A part of me will always love him, but I just can’t be with him the way he is. I have the strength and fire in my stomach now to make sure things don’t go back to the way they were and I can’t thank Llamau enough for that.

Lily is doing well and still sees her dad regularly, which is what we all wanted. On the days when she struggles, I try to remind her of something important that refuge taught me – which is that the sun will come out from behind the clouds again soon.