Through this post, I am sharing my story in the hopes of educating others. Not only in recognizing abuse, but to also shed light on the help and resources available for victims of abuse.
My name is Kai. I am a 41-year-old mother of three beautiful sons. All of my life I have fallen victim to one form of abuse or another. Until quite literally, it took my world falling apart and finding myself and my three boys homeless for almost a year to actually recognize what was happening to me.
Even before I was born, I was at a massive disadvantage.
My father was a paedophile who before my birth had already interfered with my elder half siblings.
My mother had been abused as a child before she was handed into an arranged marriage at such an early age, that she didn’t even know what it meant to be a wife, a mother or a woman.
She had endured nine years of severe abuse from her much older Italian husband until she eventually escaped that situation only to fall into the clutches of my father who destroyed her world on a whole new level. As you can imagine, her harsh experiences had a significant impact on her, spilling over into forming her own psyche – making her very controlling and overbearing, and setting the bar for what my sisters and I were to deem as “Normal” in a relationship setting.
My saving grace was that I got to live with my grandparents for the first four years of my life, due to my mother having a break down. My grandparents were loving, stable, and kind, and they adored me – which became a memory that I clung to and gave me hope for the oncoming days of my life. There was a time when I had known love without control or abuse. Not only did I know that that kind of love existed, but at one stage in my life it was given freely and without condition.
Within this post, it is my intention to not only demonstrate the signs that you should be looking for when dealing with a narcissist and abuser, but to also bring light on the fact that abuse is not only limited to partners. It can be delivered at the hands of parents and siblings, co-workers, bosses or friends, and sometimes, sadly even children.
You can break the cycle.
- It is important to recognize that a lifetime of being subjugated to abuse, does not mean you have to continue to live that way – yes, abusers have a way a sniffing out the vulnerable. And that is all it is – vulnerability due to subjugation. There is nothing wrong with you.
- There is nothing about you which makes you deserving of this treatment.
- It is NOT your Fault!
- It is a matter of readjusting your thinking patterns to view yourself and your circumstances in a new light – retraining your mind to not only recognize the early signs of abuse, but also, to act early on.
- Self-empowerment and education are key to rejecting an abusive life and not tolerating this kind of treatment from anyone, or in any form.
Let me just clarify that not all abusers demonstrate abusive behavior from a point of hatred or even wanting to hurt others. They tend to do so as a result of their experiences and conditions – learning these toxic practices through the trauma they have endured throughout their own lives.
It is not uncommon for an abuser to use these trigger points to manipulate situations and the people around them. It is a tool to get what they want. The fact is, most of us have been through hard times during our lives and learn to work through our pain without transferring those demons onto others.
I find that there is such a selfishness around holding onto hurt and using that pain as an excuse to justify our behavior. Yet, those that abuse others will often use their past as a tool that conveniently blinds them to the truth of their actions. Many times, they do not actually recognize what they are doing, and they will deftly alter the reality of a situation to support their delusions. This is when the familiar phrases of an abuser will occur:
“I’ve done nothing wrong”, which generally follows with an accusation, “you caused it”, “it’s all your fault” or my personal favorite, “you made me do it”.
My mother was the first to use this kind of manipulation on me and it wasn’t until the “big breakdown” of 2011 that I even began to recognize this. She would manipulate myself and my siblings by claiming that she would not be a part of our lives if we didn’t bend to her will. Which was shortly followed with her expressing her regret of having ever having children at all. She had negated us with her words with constant reminders of her disappointment in us, and she blamed us for everything. To her, we were at the core of her every problem; her every hardship; her every pain endured throughout her lifetime.
Can you guess how hearing those words from a mother impacts a child?
Guilty. Responsible. Worthlessness.
To the point that we felt so utterly responsible for the “horrible” state of her life that we would do anything she asked to keep her happy – and all at the expense of our own happiness. Including leaving relationships and the people in our lives that we loved to appease her, or ditching important obligations and plans to cater to her needs and wants.
Years later, homeless and living with a friend in Katoomba, I received counselling. These sessions were like a pinnacle of light for me, shining clarity over the cycle of abuse and helping me to understand toxic behavior.
I learned about how people like this have the ability to make you feel responsible for their survival. When in reality, they are extremely resourceful and will manipulate others into doing their bidding – until you discover the power of the word “NO”.
I was 32 years old before I used this for the first time.
My mother had turned myself and my three children out on the street when we had needed her the most – I had managed to escape an abusive relationship and we had nowhere to go. We’d been staying with a girlfriend temporarily, but had eventually overstayed our welcome – three young boys with a depressed mother doesn’t make for great house-guests. My mother was our last and only option, yet she turned us away to live on the street.
Her refusal to help me and my children cut to the bone; her words were like ice in my ears and a chisel through my heart.
What was I going to do? I was depressed and penniless with three boys and a car packed full of the only possessions we had left in this world.
How could I subject my boys to a life in a refuge after all we had just been through? After all I had done to get us out of an unhealthy environment at my mothers’ behest, I now had to shame myself further by asking for the help of strangers. I mean, who would want to help me if my own family wouldn’t?
It was failure that encompassed every part of my being – how much more of a failure could I be as a woman and a mother to further subject my children to these situations?
So, I hopped in my car and looked for some place suitable to park and sleep for the night. I drove through my childhood town with the underlying urge to get as far away from where my ex-partner was as possible, finding myself in the parking lot of my high school.
Security turned up and moved us along, but not before asking if we were living in the car and if we needed help. Of course, my pride wouldn’t allow me to admit to our perilous circumstances and I denied such a horrible assumption before moving on. For three days we wandered – cold, hungry, hopeless and not knowing where or how to ask for help.
I had hit my lowest point; I had become a single mother with no home and no relationship, and had spent the majority of my life having every small failure pointed out in grand fashion. I didn’t know there was any kindness in this world outside of that warm embrace and kind smile shown to a small child by her grandparents.
It was during this time that my mother called me – not to check to see if we were okay or to offer help, but to ask for me to research pay grades for my eldest sister. My loud and resounding “NO” resulted in my first ever panic attack, as well as the cold silence that followed from my mother lasting for a solid 18 months. You see, for the first time ever, I had dared not yield to her desires.
This “NO” felt as though it was the final blow to my already crumbling existence. What would I do without her help? How would I survive without my mother to tell me what to do next? And how on earth was I meant to make these decisions on my own? Clearly, I wasn’t any good at it – just looking at my current situation proved that point.
But there something else – that same singular “NO” started a snow ball reaction, and all from that one profound moment when I had chosen to put myself first instead of succumbing to my mother’s demands. Resisting her wishes changed me and the course of my future.
Left with no one to tell me what to do meant I had to find that inner-strength and make the hard decisions myself – for me and for my children. I dug deep and found a resilience I had not known existed; I got the help we needed in order to get us back on our feet and start again; I battled suicidal urges; feelings of worthlessness and my value as a mother… a woman … a human being.
It wasn’t easy. Each day I had to make the CHOICE to continue. And each day, I rang the life-line helpline to talk to people who kept me from slipping over the edge that loomed so dangerously close.
Those months were some of the scariest and challenging moments of my life, and it took every ounce of my inner-strength to get through – I found love, guidance and assurance in three very brave young men that stood by my side through the entire ordeal. They were my only reason for every step I took in the right direction, and they became my sole focus in striving to become a better person. My boys’ constant presence in my life drove me forward to eventually find a beacon of light at the end of the darkest of tunnels.
It was through the wonderful support of the refuge that we got the help we so desperately needed:
- We were given a roof over our heads.
- They provided us counselling.
- They educated me on the cycle of abuse.
- I learnt to trust and believe in myself again.
- We were surrounded by supporting love.
- We received financial help.
I cannot express gratitude enough for those days, for without having been homeless I would have quite easily slipped back into God knows how many more years of abuse. It took a lot of hard work and self-love to convince myself that I was worthy of love; of happiness. But I got there in the end, and so did my beautiful boys. And it was that one small word that had been the catalyst in flipping my world upside-down until it was righted again.
Nowadays, there are no more “red flags” in my life – there are only deal breakers, and with every beat of my heart I know without a doubt that:
- I am worthy of being loved the way I love others.
- I am worthy of happiness.
- I am worthy of being treated with kindness.
- I am worthy of acknowledgement.
- I am worthy of respect.
- I am worthy of honesty.
- I am worthy of safety.
- I am worthy of having a voice and expressing myself.
- I am worthy of a drama-free life.
- And asking for help does not make me weak.
I have learnt that no one has the right to:
- Devalue me.
- Make me question my sanity.
- Put me down.
- To project their behavior on me.
- To be wary of those that feel the need to assure you they are good, genuine or kind.
- To stand my ground against those who fabricate to win an argument.
- That I will not be blamed for things that are not my fault.
- That those who can’t take the time to listen, do not deserve to hear my voice.
- That being mean “as a joke” is still being mean, despite the laughter.
- That I will not tolerate threats or ultimatums.
- That I will not be manipulated by using my friends, family, pets, lifestyle, or choices – I will not have someone triangulate a situation.
- That I will not allow someone to put words in my mouth.
- That if someone chooses to target my reputation as a means to control me that that is purely an opinion and those in my life that count should know better.
- That no one has the right to break or damage my belongings.
- All of the above are a form of ABUSE; above and beyond actual physical violence.
For the first time in my life, I am in a positive, loving and supportive relationship with a woman whom I am head over heels in love with. Who is deserving of my time, my love and every moment of my attention. Although the road to get here was broken and a lot of time was spent on paving the way, I realize that there are good people out there.
You are one of them.
I will continue to always show kindness and compassion to others, but I am now selective of who is worthy of the love I have to give. I hope my story has touched those who need it the most. Thank you for reading!
Helpful recourses in Australia:
1800 Respect Line 1800 737 732
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
About Kai Calvi…
Kai is a mother of three sons. Holds Diplomas of Business as well as Interior Design and Decorating. Runs her own small design business whilst managing a Dental Surgery in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Kai is an advocate of Mental Health awareness, Domestic Violence and Women’s rights, as well as being actively involved in the LGBTQI community.
~ Giving Voice to Real People.