After I agreed that we could start dating again, I started spending time with Mike* and he was a completely different person. He was sweet, and caring, and considerate, just like he was at the beginning of our relationship. When I left, Mike had stopped going to work. He said he was too depressed to get himself out of bed, and didn’t even call in, he just didn’t show up. Of course, he was fired for this, so again, my income was the only one. I wasn’t even living with him, but I was paying the bills still.
Tigger and I moved back in a lot sooner than I’d planned, but things were going well, apart from the money issues. My part time job as a barmaid wasn’t enough to pay the bills, it just wasn’t going to happen. Mike spoke to the property owners and made a deal. Our rent debt would accumulate until he got a job and we could pay it off, and in the meantime, we’d do some renovations around the house. I repainted the master bedroom, and he re-tiled and painted the bathroom.
Money was still tight. Even without paying rent, we hardly had enough to scrape by. I would make a pasta casserole and that would last us for lunches and dinners for a few days. We lived off of two-minute-noodles, pasta, toast, pretty much anything that was cheap and would fill you up. Of course, none of this had any nutritional value. Mike was still smoking and drinking, spending the money that I was earning on alcohol and cigarettes when we couldn’t afford to feed ourselves. I always wanted to put my foot down and say no, but I was scared that would bring the old Mike out, and I wanted things to stay the way they were, good.
He went to the doctor and got on Champex to quit smoking. For those who don’t know, Champex is a tablet you take while you continue to smoke that eventually helps you stop. It makes you nauseous and gives you crazy dreams. A lot of people give up because they have dreams of themselves murdering people, or doing other messed up things, and they can’t handle it. Well, it worked for Mike, he cut right down, and one day when he wanted a pack of cigarettes and we had literally had no money (like, actually not even five dollars), that was it. He’d stopped smoking. I was so happy. This was something he’d been promising me for our whole relationship, and he’d finally done it. He was still drinking daily though.
I remember working one day and a table gave me a $20 tip. For those outside of Australia, tipping isn’t customary here, so getting a tip is something special. The people at that table probably thought little of it, but for me at that time, when there was no food in the house, my fuel tank was on empty, and our insurances had been cancelled from not being able to pay, $20 was huge. It took everything I had not to burst into tears in front of them.
One afternoon at work I noticed my heart was racing. It was a slow day, and out of curiosity I checked my heart rate. 130 beats per minute, resting. For those who don’t know, the maximum normal for a woman is 80bpm resting. I figured I was just stressed out. Then the phone rang and my manager picked up. Mike was on the phone, looking for me. I got on the phone and he told me that the real estate agent that was looking after our house had changed and the new one had issued an eviction notice due to rent arrears. He said that he’d told her about the arrangement with the owners, and that the previous agent was aware of the situation. She said that the previous arrangement wasn’t her problem, and that if the arrears weren’t paid within two weeks, we would be taken to court.
$5000. I needed to find $5000 in two weeks. I was overwhelmed by the situation, my chest hurt, I was nearly hyperventilating, it was bad, I hid in the back room for a while to collect myself. I wanted to go home, I couldn’t keep working, but considering the situation, I definitely couldn’t not be working.
We managed to find the money. Mike lied to the bank and said he still had his job and got a $3000 credit card. I got a $2000 loan from cash converters. It was a band aid solution. Now I was paying off my loan, Mike’s credit card, and now rent. I wrote Mike a resume and started applying to jobs for him since he’d done nothing himself to find a job.
One day my sister, Katherine, and I went to donate blood together. When they checked my haemoglobin it was too low to donate. Way too low, so low that they took a sample of my blood and sent it off to be tested. The minimum level to donate is 120g/L, mine was less than half of that. Turns out my iron was low from eating so poorly. The doctor told me to eat some steak. That was funny, I couldn’t afford vegetables, how was I going to buy steak. The doctor told me that if I don’t get my iron levels up, my heart would eventually fail from working so hard, but short of stealing what I needed, I couldn’t do anything.
Mike was hired as a store man at a tile distributor. Him working full time hours helped tremendously. I could get some of the food that I needed, and an iron supplement. The bills were getting paid, but money was still tight. Things were starting to look up, and then Mike started showing some of his old behavior. He would accuse me of cheating when I was at work late. He got back into his habit of picking fights about nothing. He started smoking again.
I started my first professional job as an undergraduate engineer. It was exciting, and I was so happy to be out of hospitality. I was required to go out to site every three weeks for seven days, and then work Monday to Friday in the office for the other two weeks. On site, I was working 11 hours a day, for seven days straight, and all I ever heard from Mike was how I was only going to there to fuck other guys.
I was nearing the end of my university degree and I was getting ready for my thesis presentation one day. It was away from the university, and I needed the only car we had to get there. Mike was planning to come with me and watch it, but he threw a fit minutes before we were due to leave. He said he wasn’t going, I don’t remember what he was upset about. I said fine, and that I’d go on my own, but he wouldn’t give me the keys. I needed to be at this, this was my final project for university, I needed to be there. I was desperate, I was pleading with him to understand the importance of it. He wasn’t getting it, or he didn’t care. My emotions were running high, it felt like everything that I’d been working towards was about to just slip away because of him. I was crying and begging him to let me go, and finally, at the very last minute, he did. I drove to my presentation trying to compose myself. I finished my degree and graduated a few months later.
Mike was made redundant from his job, so my work stints on site were important, we really needed that money, but the abuse I copped every time I went out there was hard to deal with. I learned to smile and be happy when I wasn’t. He would call me and abuse me on the phone while I was around other people and then hang up on me. I would pretend he was still on the phone and say bye so that the people around me didn’t know.
After applying for more jobs for him, he was hired by Cummins as a store man. He was doing well there for a while, things were good financially, he took out a car loan for a brand new Nissan Navara, but his attitude didn’t change. Then one day he didn’t go to work because he was feeling sick. He didn’t go to work the next day either, or the day after that. It became clear that he wasn’t planning on going back to work.
He told me he was depressed and couldn’t get out of bed. I encouraged him to talk to the doctor, and I did everything I could to try and make him happy. I tried to plan fun things for us to do, but he wouldn’t leave the house, I tried to make him nice dinners with flowers and candles, but he wouldn’t get out of bed. His work was getting angry about him not turning up and gave him a warning. He still didn’t go. One day he received some flowers from work. He said they must be because he’d told them that he was depressed. I found out later, when he was fired and I read through their justification letter, that he’d told them his Mom had died.
So there I was again, supporting both of us on my own. Paying all of the bills, including his new car payments, and supporting his alcohol and cigarette addictions. Things started escalating from this point. I was doing everything I could to keep him happy and draw him out of his depression, which was impossible, and he was using his depression as an excuse to abuse me emotionally, and start to hurt me physically.
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*Please note, his name has been changed, although he doesn’t deserve any sort of protection or privacy, and I’m sure that most people reading this already know who he is. It wouldn’t be difficult for those who don’t, to figure it out. Still, I have to do the right thing so this doesn’t come back and bite me in the ass.
If you’re dealing with abuse please reach out. Your local Domestic Violence Hotline can help guide you, and you’re more than welcome to get into contact with me to talk.