Helping the nightmares go away

It took me several years to recover from the loss of my first husband when our son Tim* was five years old. Then I met Steve* who both Timmy & I adored and he was great with my son.  We were so in love that within a few months we were married and he moved in.

At first, Steve was over the moon when I became pregnant, but became increasingly grumpy with me becoming tired all the time, and jealous of the time I spent with Tim. When the baby was born, he became more jealous and controlling.  He became paranoid that I was having an affair – as if I had the energy even if I wanted to. 

He became more unreasonable. He would keep me up really late, interrogating me about his suspicions. I was so exhausted, I couldn’t think straight. But I didn’t want to leave him at that point as I desperately wanted our sons to have a father.

His behaviour just kept getting worse. One night he kept me up for hours, then pushed me to the floor and held a knife to my throat, demanding I confess. Timmy woke up, came in  and saw him on me with the knife and started screaming and crying. Steve told Timmy to go back to bed or he would hurt his mum. So he did, but just lay in bed terrified and wide awake. When Steve finally fell asleep hours later, I rang the police – it was probably only minutes until they arrived, but it felt like hours. They arrested Steve and took him away.

It was early morning by then and Susan* arrived from Shine an hour later. She said Steve would probably get out on bail with a condition not to return home or contact me. I was terrified that Steve would come home anyway, so Susan organised for us to go into a Shine refuge straight away. Susan was so nice. She just kept telling me that how Steve had been treating me was not okay and none of it was my fault. She also told me that I was in a lot of danger of being killed by Steve, and that Shine would help us get safe.

When I got to the refuge with the boys, I felt an enormous weight lift off me. I realised how much anxiety and fear I had been carrying around for so long. Shine helped me get a Protection Order and Parenting Order against Steve. Within days, I began sleeping and eating normally again.

But Timmy, who was seven, had become withdrawn and clingy since he saw Steve threaten me with the knife. He would only sleep in bed with me, had lots of nightmares and had dark circles under his eyes all the time. He wouldn’t talk to me about what was bothering him.

Shine put us in touch with their KIDshine team. Jerry and Deirdre came to visit us. While Deirdre spent time giving me some practical suggestions on how I could best help Timmy, Jerry was drawing pictures with Timmy, and slowly bringing him out of his shell. Timmy finally told him,  

“When Steve had the knife and was scaring mum, I didn’t do anything, I just went to my bedroom.
I am scared he will kill my mum and then who will be my mum?”

During his next visits, Jerry continued explaining to Timmy that it wasn’t his fault that Steve hurt his mum, that it was okay to be scared, but it was important for him to talk about his feelings with his mum. Then Deirdre and Jerry helped me and Timmy talk to each other for the first time about what Steve did. It was like an invisible wall had disappeared between me and Timmy that I didn’t even know was there.

Jerry also helped Timmy understand that the best way he could help me was to keep himself and his little brother safe. He helped Timmy think through a safety plan in case Steve came to the house again. Timmy drew a picture of his plan and put it up on his wall to help him remember to take his little brother and a phone into his bedroom, and ring the police on 111. Then he practiced with Jerry what to say when he rang 111.

KIDshine visits made such a difference for Timmy. He finally understood that Steve’s violence wasn’t his fault and he knew what to do if Steve came back. He started sleeping on his own again, the nightmares became less frequent and I could see my former chatterbox returning. I was so grateful.

When I was ready to move back home with my sons, Shine helped me install a personal monitored alarm and put in a solid front door and security lighting.

One evening, Steve came to the house and tried to get us to let him in. When he started banging on the door and swearing at us, Timmy did exactly as planned - grabbed the phone, took his little brother into their bedroom and rang 111. I tried to convince Steve through the door to calm down and leave, but he just got angrier. I was so relieved when I heard the sirens and Steve got in his car and drove away.

I told Timmy how proud I was of him for following his safety plan.         

Sometimes I feel guilty about what Timmy has been through, but I remind myself it wasn’t my fault either and I’m doing the best I can. Shine and KIDshine have made all the difference for me and my boys. How can I ever thank Shine enough for giving me my life back and for helping Timmy to be himself again?

*Names changed and representative images used to protect safety and privacy.

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