Mama Life Magazine

To be honest…It wasn’t the title of being a domestic abuse victim I was dreading it was more the “single mum” title.

A title that brings shame, embarrassment and stigma. A title that’s given to us…because we chose to end our relationship. When people hear the words single mum, you can see in their eyes, the pity at not being able to keep your family together. It was breaking up the family that made me stay in my unhealthy relationship for way too long. When children are involved it adds an extra layer of pressure. Not only will your choices impact you, but also your children. What I didn’t realise was that by staying in an abusive relationship was already having an impact.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t suffering beatings every day…it was more psychological abuse. This, for anyone that has gone through it, is usually the worst bit. Bruises fade but the emotional abuse stays with you for much longer. The spiteful words, the put-downs, and the verbal abuse are all signs that things are not going to get better. If you are currently with someone who behaves like this and says they will change…don’t hold your breath.

So let’s go back to 2008, I had just met my partner and after suffering from mental health issues I wasn’t really in the right place to be starting a relationship. I was self-medicating and numbing the pain with drink and drugs. The relationship was unhealthy from the start. Not long afterward I fell pregnant with my first son. He saved me. My crazy 4 day weekends and binges were over, well, for me at least. Not long after finding out I was pregnant, the abuse started. Looking back, this was when I should have left. If someone can hurt you when you’re carrying their child, there isn’t much else they won’t do. But I didn’t…and the abuse continued.

Sometimes it was just a push or a shove, other times he would put his hands around my throat. One of the incidents that sticks in my mind was when he dragged me along the street by my hair in front of his friend (who did nothing). Again, I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I was allowing myself to be treated like this. I remember neighbours asking me if I was okay days after — in hushed voices — as I passed on the way to school. Of course, I whispered back I was fine and carried on existing.

I thought that having another baby would fix the situation and so we started trying. In the space of 2 years, I had multiple miscarriages and finally an ectopic pregnancy that cost me my ovary and almost my life. After this, my mental health was at its worst. I had been suffering from a very dark depression towards the end of my pregnancy and shortly after giving birth I requested to be sectioned. I truly believed that my children would be better off without me. What I didn’t realise was that a lot of my mental health issues were being made worse by the situation at home.

I was ridiculed daily for taking my medication. I was told that I was a shit mum that couldn’t cope, that everyone else manages with a new baby — why couldn’t I? When I did try and fight my corner, he would leave taking all of the money we had, which left me vulnerable and powerless and afraid to argue back.

This is something that a lot of women can’t see at the time. I know I didn’t, it’s control. Whether it’s threatening you with something, actual violence or taking away things that would enable your escape.

I think one of the worst instances was when he hid my glasses, knowing that I would struggle to drive without them. Looking back now, I’m shocked by everything that I put up with but I know that I wasn’t to blame. It didn’t matter what I said or did, I didn’t deserve to be treated in this way.

So, what made me leave? It was nothing major. No big row or fight. Just a calm realisation that I wanted a different life. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell you to leave or offer help, you will only leave when you are ready and this time is different for everyone.

Most domestic violence victims suffer over 10 attacks before trying to leave and even then it doesn’t always last. I spent months weaning myself off my medication. I knew that I was making a clear-headed decision. I knew that I wasn’t crazy like he had repeatedly told me I was. I was seeing clearer than I had in years. Now was my time.

And so I made him leave for good. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes. Seeing my sons sob for weeks after made my heart break but I knew that what I was doing was for the greater good.

Fast forward 5 years and I’m now co-founder of Mums in Business Association alongside my gorgeous sister Leona. In the last 2 years, we have helped hundreds of thousands of women grow their business, helped to create 102 Amazon best-selling authors and have launched child-friendly networking events in over 200 locations around the world.

I’ve shared my story of struggle and success in our #1 Amazon best-selling autobiography MIBA Laid Bare. It is quite ironic to think that it’s thanks to what he put me through that I’m now flying as high as I am and I can’t lie…the view is pretty good up here!

Being able to support other women is an incredible feeling. Not only do we help educate and empower but by sharing my story I know that I’m inspiring other women to take that step to become the person they want to become.

In October I had the pleasure of being invited to give a keynote speech alongside Karren Brady and Michelle Mone…little old me. As I stood on the stage sharing my story of how I went from the food bank to Forbes and a business with a 250k turnover in its first year I wanted to burst with pride. No longer was I a victim of DV, a single mum or a statistic. I was finally me…the me who had been waiting to emerge for so long. The strangest thing is I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything I went through was for a reason. It made me into the strong and fierce woman I am today. I went through the struggles so that I could share my story and inspire others and that’s what I plan to do.

After all of the emotion it took to write this article, I wanted to finish on a high note…I’ve now found a beautiful human who treats me like a princess and we are getting married early next year.

Create your own happy ending. If I can, you can!

Estelle Keeber

Mama Life Magazine
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