Zoe’s Story: Learning To Be Kind To Myself
I grew up in a home where I experienced a lot of abuse and neglect. As I got older drugs helped me to cope with everything. At 25 I ended up in rehab and I really got my life together. I thought I was doing well until my brother died and everything changed. I started using heavily and I got into the first of many domestic violence relationships with a man I will call Toby.
I changed so much in this relationship, it was as though a part of me died. I stopped doing anything that was important to me. I isolated myself from my friends and all my support. Toby convinced me that everyone in my life was untrustworthy. I came to believe that he was all I had in the world. I gave him so much power.
If we did crime, I’d always take the bigger risk. He controlled all my money but every bill or financial responsibility was in my name. I remember having to wake up early one morning and sneaking out to go and buy $15 hair product to try and have some dignity, just to avoid his rage at me spending money on myself. Single, I was better at managing my money. I could buy drugs and cigarettes and I wouldn’t leave myself desperately starving. Toby and I would be picking up cigarette butts off the ground and eating at food vans.
Toby would hit me and sometimes apologise, shocked at what he had done. Soon after he would deny that it had even happened and call me crazy. One day he smashed my phone out of my hand, breaking it, just because I was on the phone to a friend who didn’t like him. The verbal and psychological abuse, criticism and having to walk on eggshells was happening daily. He didn’t hit me as often because he could just threaten to hit me, and it would have the same effect.
Toby’s life story and his childhood was tragic, but not more so than mine. I felt more sadness for him and his story than I did about my own. I’d feel sorry for him and excuse his behavior because of what he’d been through, forgetting to have any compassion for myself.
During my relationship with Toby, I had tried to get help. I saw a couple of psychologists; both just focused on my drug use and ignored the abuse I was experiencing. One of them, an older man, was really inappropriate, asking me questions about sex and sex work when I hadn’t brought it up. I didn’t know or believe in my worth enough to know that I had a choice about who I went to for support and therapy. There are hundreds of therapists and several ways to get help. It’s empowering to know that I can pick and choose.
When I finally left Toby I had to quickly move from the methadone clinic we both went to every day. I was scared about asking the staff at the clinic for help because I thought they wouldn’t believe me. It turned out they were eager to help. They had seen enough in our time at the clinic each day to know that I needed to leave Toby.
After leaving him I had a few shorter but still abusive relationships. Not long after the last relationship I had a very severe drug-induced psychosis, which lead me to get help.
I found attending support groups for trauma, for relapse prevention and a women’s domestic violence art therapy group helped me a lot. I needed to be around people who wouldn’t judge me and who felt the same as I did. I finally felt as though I wasn’t alone. It was through talking to them that I found a good therapist. I started to look at my past and how it has impacted me.
This has not been an easy journey for me but I am learning to be my own best friend. I now know what it is like to have real friends, joy, and laughter and to feel safe. I try to remember to have compassion for myself through everything. It’s one of the most helpful things I have learned and it’s sometimes one of the hardest to remember.