There’s an old phrase that I grew up hearing when money was tight; we just had to ‘tighten our belts’ and that phrase became like a mantra to me when I left Mr Who. To be able to survive on a disability pension, in a rental home, pay off a car loan and keep up with other bills ( when electricity charges in this state more than doubled in the space of 12 months), called for a lot of belt-tightening.
I didn’t care, I was free, I was fairly safe and I was surviving; something I was told with regularity that I would never be able to do without Mr Who.
There were absolutely no extras in my life back then, I survived on a food budget of $80 per fortnight and included in that budget was cat food and litter. I came to the conclusion that a lot of the things we think are essential are really just not. Life and freedom are essential, weekly magazines and new things, not so much.
When I lived with Mr Who, I paid what he called ‘board’. According to him it paid for my food and ‘cheap rent’. Anytime I pointed out how broke I was and that I thought it was unfair (considering we were living as a couple) that I was paying rent/board, or that me doing all the cooking and cleaning was unfair, his response was the same. He was always calm and unemotional and just responded with “You get cheap rent because of the cleaning and cooking. So if you want to do less of that it’s going to cost you more to live here.” It was like a computer generated response to any complaint I had about the way we were living. He knew I couldn’t give him more money, he was in control of the banking.
So when I left and had to tighten my belt, it just didn’t seem like a bad thing to do. Cheap rent? Rent isn’t cheap if it has conditions attached to it that make the person paying feel worthless and disrespected.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy to make it alone and many nights I had toast for dinner, but I just kept reminding myself of how life was with Mr Who and that it nearly killed me, his version of ‘cheap rent’. I’m still living on an extremely tight budget, and there are still times when I have toast for dinner, but I’m alive, free, and able to choose my own direction, and I’m working hard to achieve my dreams and build a life that I want to live.
At this stage I can’t work for anybody else, PTSD is an invasive problem; but I’m studying, writing and dreaming. I think all of that is pretty good considering just a few short years ago I had given up and felt like I wanted to die.
Things get better over time, I will never forget but I’m working hard to move forward, one little step at a time. I see a counsellor from Relationships Australia every two weeks, and I haven’t actually had Mr Who just show up at my door for just over a year. Things are definitely improving.
Stay safe, take care