Waking Up in a Women’s Refuge
I open my eyes, and instead of seeing the trees outside my bedroom window, I’m faced with the grey steel of the upper bunk bed.
My 3 year old son has crept into bed with me, after falling out of his own bed during the night. I guess I’m not the only one having a hard time getting used to sleeping in a bunk bed. We lie there together, myself, my son and my 5 month old baby bump. It ‘s a tight squeeze.
I glance around the huge room we’ve been given in the women’s refuge. I take in the ugly curtains, the bright pink tasteless bedding, and the inadequate wardrobe space. I don’t even want to unpack. There’s not even anywhere to hang my towel and I’m definitely not leaving it in the shared bathroom I’ve been allocated. Speaking of which, I’m now sharing a bathroom with strangers for the first time since my university days, the only difference being that I now have a 3 year old sitting on the floor waiting for me to finish, playing with his cars whilst I urge him to be quiet so that we don’t wake up and annoy the women sleeping in the rooms next door.
I so desperately do not want to be here.
I tell myself it won’t be for long, but anything longer than two nights feels like an eternity to me right now. I want to crawl into bed and pretend none of this is happening and just wallow in self-pity. But the beds are uncomfortable, far from cozy, and really not the ideal location for a good self-pity session. So instead, we head downstairs to have breakfast.
The kitchen is shared with other women and their children, and whilst they’re nice and polite and welcoming, I just want to be in my own home with my own privacy.
As much as it’s comforting to know that other women are in the same situation and I can clearly see that they’re receiving beneficial help and moving forward in life, I struggle with the different personalities, the smell of cigarette smoke and the arguments between them after they’ve had one too many beers after dark. I wonder to myself as I lie in the darkness trying to sleep at night, how did my life end up like this?
I escape at the weekends to my parent’s home, in order to return to some kind of reality and family life. But I’m never completely at ease, as I spend most of my time listening to the negative thoughts in my head telling me that I’m a burden to my family, that I’m a failure and that everyone is now talking about me and judging me. I feel guilty for putting such a burden on my elderly and very sick parents. But I’m so desperate to not have to face the reality of the refuge that I continue to escape there every weekend.
But Monday always comes around quickly and I soon return to the refuge and back to the stark reminder of what my life has come to.
I pray and hope to be housed soon, so that I can finally start afresh with my children. This is the main reason I’m there. It’s the one chance I have of being given my own security, my own home, away from my ex.
My baby bump is getting bigger and bigger and I pray at night that I won’t go into labour in the refuge by myself. Who would drive me to the hospital if I was contracting too much to drive myself? Who would look after my son if I was in a bad way? Why was I even having to contemplate these kinds of scenarios – this shouldn’t be happening to me! And so the self-pity and depression would take over even more.
Thankfully, alhamdulillah, the promise of being housed came through and I moved to my parent’s home as I awaited the birth of my second child and the keys to my new property. I’ll be honest, I hated the property I was allocated. I felt that after all that struggle, I would have been allocated something more ‘inspiring’ for want of a better word. And the area the house was in left a lot to be desired. But beggars can’t be choosers, so I took what I was offered and tried my best to make it a home for myself and my children.
The peace of being in a new home by myself, free of the troubles from my marriage, was short-lived. After a month of being in the property, the neighbours from hell moved in next door. For over a year I was subjected to music pumping through my walls, domestic arguments that sounded like people were throwing each other down the stairs, drug use and drug dealing – and the icing on the cake – their faeces left in my garden whenever I dared complain to them.
Eventually though they were evicted and in their place came the nicest neighbours I could have asked for. And life in this new property has been pretty calm and content since then.
So why am I telling you all this?
Sometimes, when we ponder the decision of whether or not to leave our marriage and take that scary path into the unknown, there can almost be this subconscious expectation that once we’ve made that decision, everything should be easy, effortless and just work to our advantage, and if it’s not, we can question whether we should then take that decision or not. It’s as though if something is going to be really hard then we should just not bother. If it’s going to be easy, then we’ll leave, but if its going to be a struggle and a tough journey, then we’ll just give up and stay, even if what we truly and desperately want deep down inside, is to leave.
My journey was not easy, in the slightest. I faced emotional, physical and financial challenges all along the way. I expected things to just work out effortlessly and be easy, now that I’d made that huge life changing decision to leave my marriage. So why were things still difficult? Didn’t I deserve a break?
What I can see now is that this is the nature of life. We will all face challenges every day, even more so when we’re dealing with the important things in life such as relationships and marriage. Basing our decisions on whether something will be easy on us or not isn’t necessarily the best way to look at things, because we’re missing one extremely important point – that the journey is a means to an end.
I went into the women’s refuge as a means to an end. I knew it would provide me with the security and space from my marriage that I needed and also help me to start afresh with my children in our new life together. And once I’d started that new life, I realised that every single step I’d taken was worth it and that I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The journey can seem overwhelming and hard when we’re looking at it as just a journey. But sometimes we forget to remind ourselves of the destination we’re travelling to – and this is what we need to keep in mind, because this is what makes all of those hard and painful steps we may need to take worth it. When I look back now I see all the parts of the puzzle fitting together, just as Allah planned.
Take whatever steps you need to take, trust in the journey and ultimately trust in Allah that it will all work out, even if you can’t quite see it at the time.
If you’d like help in getting clearer on your own journey and working through some of the struggles and challenges that are holding you back from having a more peaceful and happier life, then access my free online relationship webinar here.