The most difficult thing I’ve ever had to come to terms with was the idea that I’m not a worthless piece of shit that no one would ever love or accept.
For almost a decade I was in an abusive relationship that swung back and forth between who was the aggressor and who was the victim. When it started, I was arrogant and forceful. By the time it ended last year, I was like a beaten dog.
I’m still struggling to describe what she did to me that was so bad, because it wasn’t just simple gaslighting or emotional abuse, it was complex shit.
For all intents and purposes I was banned from discussing anything traumatic that had happened to me, because she’d suffered “real trauma” at my hands and the hands of others.
The first time I tried to talk about being molested as a child, she accused me of lying. If I tried to talk about my depression or suicidal thoughts, I was being manipulative.
When I spent a week touring the fire grounds last year, delivering supplies and donations to the RFS, she thought that was great.
Until I said that seeing all that destruction had left me feeling pretty traumatised, at which point I was lying or trying to garner false sympathy.
Despite her best efforts, I’ll never forget the fact that when I was trying to get a proper diagnosis for why my brain doesn’t work properly, when I hit upon ADHD as the most likely factor she convinced me that I was making excuses and instead it was far more likely that I was a psychopath.
After all, the fact that I cheated on her meant I had zero empathy.
In turn, this meant that it would be another 7 years before I would actually be able to get treatment for my ADHD, and even then it was only after she temporarily replaced me with someone who also had ADHD that she accepted that it was possibly a factor for me.
It feels harsh to be writing this about her because I don’t think she intended to be so abusive, but she would never admit that anything she did was abuse.
On the rare occasions that she would admit fault, it would always come hedged in “you made me do this to you” or “I can’t trust you and so I didn’t have a choice” and so on.
And I’ll admit, as I have many times in the past, I’m not innocent here. In the early years of our relationship, I was violent – more often than not when drunk.
And for the record, I’m not making excuses, I’m establishing a frame for why I don’t like drinking.
Because drinking became another issue, I cut back and eventually stopped drinking with her almost entirely, save for a handful of occasions. I never judged her for drinking but when I replaced alcohol with cannabis, suddenly I was a pathetic stoner.
Except weed kept me passive where alcohol fucked me up, I was trying to maintain some semblance of a relationship with her, but she seemed to hate the fact that it wasn’t on her terms.
But beyond all of this, there was a key element that never really went away. Money.
She blamed me for the fact that she had cosmetic surgery, going so far as to say that I forced her into it by cheating on her with someone who had fake tits.
There were some elements of her debt that were because of me, though. Because of a lifetime of untreated ADHD, I’ve found it difficult to maintain long-term employment, and when I did work it was barely above minimum wage.
Because she is highly educated, she’s pulling in six-figures; this meant there was always a disproportionate amount spent by her. For that reason, I was a parasite.
Even if (and when) I gave her every cent I had, it didn’t matter because it wasn’t enough.
Fast forward to last year, and because the government used the cover of COVID to make superannuation accessible for the unemployed, I pulled $20,000.
I’d spent the past year trying to figure out how I could pull my super to help her pay off the debts that I was convinced were my fault, even setting her up as the sole beneficiary of my fund, so that I could kill myself and she’d get fifty grand.
But, weirdly, Scott Morrison saved my life and the majority of the money I pulled I gave to her, because I was stupid enough to think that her claims of us being a family were true.
This was central to the hold she had over me. The idea that we were a family, and logically it made sense. I’d helped raise her son, she would tell me that I was more of a dad to him than his own father.
We had a cat together, and in the last two years of the relationship she’d got two dogs – which she would refer to as our kids.
And yet, as soon as she had my money, the abuse ramped up. Accusations of me cheating on her came thick and fast one night. I’d been working hard in preparation for the launch of a major campaign for the AUWU, and hadn’t had as much time for her as I normally would have.
But suddenly she was saying that I’d been cheating on her for months, that I was fucking a bunch of teenagers and was worse than her ex. She finished her tirade by telling me to forget she exists and to never contact her again – under threat of destroying my life if I did.
I couldn’t risk this being an empty threat, so I didn’t reply nor did I message her after this, even when she sent a message in the middle of the night asking if I was trying to break into her home.
This is the shit that fucks me up, because I still don’t know if that was real or not. I spent years as her whipping boy, any time something would go wrong it was my fault.
In the weeks before she dumped me, someone changed her Netflix language to Hebrew, and she immediately blamed me even though some half-a-dozen people have her login.
So when she asks if I’m trying to break in, I don’t know how to respond. I was at home, alone. I was also on bail following my arrest at the Prime Minister’s house. And so I fully expected the police to arrive to rescind my bail, because it wouldn’t have been the first time she lied to the police about me.
A week later she messaged again saying she missed me, but knew it was all about control with me and so she didn’t expect a reply. When I told her I didn’t want to play her mind games after she had dumped me, she denied breaking up with me.
Now I’ll admit, I spent months of last year wishing she would just end the relationship, because I was so sick of how she treated me and how she talked to me.
But it was only after she did all of this that I realised all I wanted was for the abuse to stop.
There were layers of our relationship where co-dependence was all that existed. For a few years after I moved to Wollongong, when people would ask why I was dating someone who treated me the way she did, I would describe her as my addiction.
When she found out about this, she lost it at me and told me that I was the love of her life. Maybe that was true, but it rarely felt that way.
The worst part of this: I miss her and I miss the family I thought I had. It’s gotten to a point where seeing dogs or cats on social media upsets me. And forget about seeing a dad playing with his kid at the park, that shit breaks me in half.
After my GP took me off my anti-anxiety meds in November (after realising that my anxiety was a symptom of ADHD, for which I was now being treated) and I quit cannabis, my head has been a lot clearer.
For one thing, I can see how frustrating it must have been for me to be constantly stoned, but even when I wasn’t stoned, my head was still fuzzy because of the dual medications.
But this clarity has also led me to see how broken I am, and how I’m not about to get any better any time soon.
I am truly and deeply not okay. This has been the hardest six months of my life and the only reason I’ve survived it has been the off chance she might reach out.
But I’m at the end of my tether now. I can’t keep pretending that the way she dumped me didn’t completely fuck me up. And when I tried to talk to friends about it, they’ve been incredibly blasé, as if a decade of my life meant nothing.
And the thing is, the manner in which she cut me off, so suddenly and so completely, makes it seem like it meant nothing for her as well.