International Women’s Day: Domestic Abuse Survivor Thriving After Escaping Relationship, Job, And Debts
Today, March 8, marks International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.
While you might immediately think of politicians or activists, it’s important to celebrate victories that women and girls experience everyday, like leaving abusive relationships and climbing up the career ladder.
Looking at her life now, it’s difficult to imagine what Nat, an SEO consultant from Brighton, has overcome.
She has a wonderful, supportive group of friends, a lucrative career with no debts and a happy home to herself on the south coast. But, sadly, it hasn’t always been this way.
From a young age, Nat learned from experience that relationships don’t always go the way they’re planned, when she found herself living in a women’s refuge along with her mother and sister due to issues between her parents.
‘When I was older, I guess I found it kind of difficult to make relationships and things because of my upbringing and how unstable it was. You kind of see different things as love or relationships, and although you know things aren’t going to be a fairy tale, you still don’t quite understand what you deserve,’ she told UNILAD.
And, like most people who experienced growing up in sometimes hostile environments, these experiences went on to impact her future relationships. Nat suffered mental abuse, particularly surrounding financial issues, with a long-term partner.
Nat was working as an IT and business studies teacher in a high school at the time, and was living in a home she owned with her partner at the time. While they had shared several happy years together as a couple, the relationship later turned toxic and abusive.
Living with the stress of the relationship, coupled with bouts of illness caused by fibromyalgia, Nat knew she couldn’t carry on living the way she had been, and something needed to change.
‘I had gotten to breaking point. I had the health problems, I had the work problems and I had the relationship problems, and I was just like, look: I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do any of it,’ she recalled.
‘So, instead of taking the route some people take, as in suicide, I thought I would try and change my life instead, because I think there was something in my brain which just said it’s not it’s not the right thing to do.’
At the time, Nat had been signed off work due extreme pain and fatigue, both of which are common symptoms of fibromyalgia – an illness the NHS notes can be triggered by a stressful or emotional event, such as the breakdown of a relationship or a traumatic experience.
During her time off, Nat spoke to a friend who was working in SEO (search engine optimisation), a profession that wasn’t very well known at the time. It was then that Nat realised this would be the perfect career transition for her, given her experience teaching IT and business, and her marketing degree.
‘It was so suited to my skills set that I was like: okay, this basically needs to happen now. So, I wrote to probably around 50 different companies,’ Nat recalled.
She landed an interview for an internship on a Thursday, and the very next day she made the courageous decision to leave her relationship, before starting her new job the following Monday.
However, while Nat was able to escape the toxic environment, being the person who earned more in the relationship meant she was lumbered with a lot of the debt they accrued as a result of their split. It wasn’t until she was out of the situation that Nat realised the severity of how low she had been feeling.
‘Looking back at the photos of me that Christmas was just something; I looked like a completely different person, and I looked so ill because obviously I know now that I was ill and I was struggling, but I didn’t quite know how much at the time,’ she said.
It took several months for Nat to find the inner strength to pack up her stuff and leave the abusive situation; a decision thousands of people grapple with every single day.
‘My biggest piece of advice to anyone considering leaving a toxic situation, whether it’s a relationship, a job or even a housing situation, is don’t be afraid to ask for help, because there are people who will help you,’ she said.
‘It might be friends, family, or a number of different associations. When I was a child and we lived in a women’s refuge, the charity Refuge helped us a lot.’
In terms of practicalities, Nat recommends putting away a small sum of cash, if at all possible, so survivors have money for a taxi to a safe space when leaving a toxic environment.
‘If you’re able to put a little bit of money aside, it doesn’t have to be much, even if it’s £10 for a taxi, that’s better than nothing,’ she said. ‘You know, being able to get into a taxi and grab a sandwich when you’re feeling so bad, it can change your mood straightaway.’
Nat also advised: ‘One of the biggest things to remember is that you’re stronger than you think. A lot of people get overwhelmed in these situations, but there’s so much strength in a person who decides to make such a drastic change to their life.’
Eight years on from leaving her toxic relationship, Nat is thriving in her career, working as a freelance SEO consultant, which means she gets to be her own boss, as well as having paid off all her debts.
All those years ago, it often seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, but Nat is living proof that there is a life for people after abusive relationships.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this story, you can contact Refuge’s 24-hour domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk for more information on how to get help.
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