WELCOME BACK

April 2016: After three years away from this blog I'm back. It was originally started so I could make sense of the madness that ensued after my marriage to a sociopath. Much has changed, grown and been created since then - including reclaiming my full birth name Melanie Pledger.
My voice has become stronger, and so has my mission. I'm here on this earth to share the life-changing magic that developed as a result of my personal journey overcoming abuse, abandonment, manipulation and betrayal. I've learned that many of the rules we've been taught about life are fundamentally wrong. They've been misunderstood by most, misused by some, and deliberately misdirected by the manipulators who live and breathe among us. I've also learned that it's easier and more enjoyable than people think to shift things around...
Now I know there was a reason for it all. So now I'm back to fill in the gaps. To share what I've discovered, and dispel the myths that don't serve us... I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, and discovering new ones.
Thank you for being here.
Mel xxx

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Lovefraud: "So You're Telling Me That My Husband Is A Sociopath?" The Night I Made A Deal With Dr Hannibal Lecter

Hannibal Lecter
So, what happens when you suddenly discover that the person who has been sharing your life is actually a stranger? Worse than that, they turn out to be a person who has deliberately deceived and manipulated you with surgeon-like precision. Wrapping you in a web of deceit – delivered so skillfully and carefully that you’ve welcomed the silken threads as they tighten around you. Freely allowing yourself to be wrapped in the cocoon being made by your soul mate. It’s only once you have morphed in to an emotional mush of confusion and fear that you realize you are trapped. And by then, of course, it’s too late – and your mate is off to the next willing victim.
I know, of course, that so many of you will identify with this experience. After only one week as part of the Lovefraud team, I have been amazed by the responses I have been receiving. I can feel the support that resonates among the community here, and I am delighted to be a part of it. I am not happy, of course, that so many of us are joined together here because we have suffered at the hands of another – but I know that together we can heal… no, I know that we are healing. After all, we’re here aren’t we?
If you’re anything like me, you won’t have come in to contact with the terminology ‘sociopath’ until it happened to you. For my part, I had never even heard the word. It created an earth-shattering jolt in my consciousness when a dear friend of mine shared her opinion that the man I had called my soul mate was in fact a sociopath.
So for my second post I thought I’d share what happened to me when the truth suddenly dawned on me, because that moment marked the beginning of my healing.
It was nearing midnight on Thursday 9th July 2009. It was a typically warm summer’s night that found me in my bed at home in France, distractedly checking through my emails on the iPhone for the umpteenth time. Anything to try and quieten my mind and bring me back to normality. I was mentally and physically exhausted but my tortured mind and aching soul refused to let me sleep.  No matter how much I tried to rationalize the past ten weeks, or how much I attempted to make sense of the situation, I simply couldn’t find any answers. Peace seemed a very distant memory as I continued to search for clues. What had happened? Where had I gone so wrong? What had prompted my beloved husband of 10 years to lie to me for so long? Why did he need to create so many other lives? What had I done to make him stop loving me? How had I missed the signs? What could I have done differently? The questions circled, round and round my head like the mythological embittered Harpies – snatching at my rising fears, cackling at my confusion, their cruel wings fanning the flames of despair that threatened to engulf my soul.
I am a motivational coach and leadership trainer, known for my ability to quickly get to the heart of the issue. I am employed for my skills in reading and understanding people, so how had I been so blind to my husband? We were a team, we worked together, lived together, loved together and had spent nearly every day and night in each other’s company since the day we met – and I loved him totally; heart, body and soul. Only the year before we had celebrated our ten-year anniversary together, and just a few weeks before Christmas we’d spent his 40th birthday together on the beaches of a beautiful Caribbean health spa. Our life together, as I thought, was perfect!
And yet now, here I was, alone with my son in the beautiful French farmhouse we had lovingly restored over the past 6 years, betrayed and deserted by the person I truly believed was my soul mate, left alone to deal with the enormity of the emotional and financial wreckage caused by my husband’s double life. It had all happened so suddenly – the chance email just three months earlier that led me on a trail of discovery to uncover the horrifying truth that I was married to a stranger. Cold, hard, black and white proof that my idyllic life was in fact a total sham – and the equally cold hard fact that my husband had simply vanished out of our lives the second he knew he’d been rumbled, leaving my son and I to deal with the fall-out. Disappeared without a trace just as quickly as he’d arrived in our lives more than ten years earlier.
Around and around the questions turned in my head. The Harpies I had named “Who” “What” “Where” “When” and “How” mocking my stupidity, berating my gullibility, and piercing ever more deeply in to my already broken heart.
And then I saw it. It was an email out of the blue from an old friend Mandy, which naturally pricked my interest. It was a kind and thoughtful message of support, the contents of which seemed harmless – the very same email that had me shaking to the core just a short while later as I explored the following words:
“…Interestingly, you may or may not know that I am doing my masters degree in forensic psychology at the moment, and recently have done loads of work on sociopaths.  Lets put it this way – he shows all the signs – in retrospect of course!  So in fairness, he was highly skilled at fooling everyone.  In fact, not just skilled – it was natural to him.  Therefore, who would have known?  He has no conscience.  And before long, he will find another place for himself, and will never feel any remorse, because he doesn’t know how to…”
Sociopath was a term I had not come across before and so, after a quick scan for more information on the internet, I discovered that a sociopath is also known as a psychopath. My brows furrowed as disbelief and comprehension entered my head at the same time. So I asked the question out loud to see if it made a difference: “You mean to tell me that my husband is actually a PSYCHOPATH?” Chills ran through my body, my mouth went dry, and the Harpies were suddenly very still and very quiet.
Random images of famous psychopaths came flooding in to my head – Norman Bates from Psycho, Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper, America’s Ted Bundy and Heath Ledger as The Joker – the absurdity of the idea prompting nervous laughter to erupt from deep within me. And then silence again as I truly began to consider the enormity of this new information. The room was still. My mind was quiet. My heart started thumping loudly in my chest. Holding the iPhone in my left hand, and hugging myself with my right arm, I read yet another ‘checklist’ for sociopathy and realized with absolute clarity that my ex’s behaviours actually ticked each and every one of the boxes – to a tee. I shuddered, forcing myself to breathe, and blinking wildly, hoping that I had somehow misinterpreted the information.
And that was the precise moment when the archetypal psychopath, Dr Hannibal Lecter made his sudden and unwelcome appearance in my mind – crystal clear and standing just a few feet away from me in the corner of my bedroom. Sucking air through his teeth and smacking his lips, he held me hypnotized with his ice-cold beguiling stare, clearly enjoying my confusion as I quietly considered the overwhelming evidence that my estranged husband, the man I had loved with all my heart and soul, was in fact a text-book psychopath.
“But surely I’d know if I was in the company of someone like that?” I reasoned to myself, the dank smell of Hannibal’s cell now beginning to permeate my senses, his chains rattling my imagination. “I’m an executive business coach! I’ve been working in the field of personal development for over 13 years! I’m wise to the ways of different personalities and what makes people tick!” I tried to rationalise, becoming more aware that my bewilderment was arousing the curiosity of my uninvited guest.
I was hooked. And as I read further, uncovering facts, examples of typical traits, and stories from other victims of a sociopathic relationship, I was gradually coming to the horrifying comprehension that my friend’s prognosis was correct. In equal measures of horror and relief, I also began to understand that I was not alone. That there were literally thousands of women with stories just like mine – many of which I found on this very site. Intelligent, professional, and successful women who had willingly succumbed, fallen in love, followed their dreams and been thwarted by the malevolent charms of the skilled and charismatic sociopath.
As we all now know, these people are predominantly men. Charming, witty and attentive – the life and soul of the party. Men who can sweep you off your feet, make you believe that you are the most precious person in the world. Men who let you dare to dream that all your dreams have come true and convince you that you’ve found your true soul mate. Men who make you feel that anything is possible, and encourage you to live life to the full. Men who slowly and deliberately bleed you dry, suck out your soul and leave you for dead, without even a backwards glance – but by the time you realize this, of course, it’s too late. Much too late.
Suddenly I began to see things from a different angle. Suddenly things started to make sense. Dr Lecter faded safely back in to the darkness of my imagination, as I began to replace his image with strangely comforting feelings of relief. Because it was finally dawning on me that the experience I was living, my own personal living nightmare, was not something I could have foretold. So I was not to blame for what had happened – there was nothing more I could have done. In fact, I’d had a lucky escape.
This marked the beginning of my journey towards understanding what had happened to me. How I’d found myself in such a horrific and unimaginable mess. After three long months, April’s hurricane of discovery that had all but broken me in its relentless force to destroy all that I had believed in, gradually started to loosen its grip in light of this new information.
At the same time I also realized, with frightening clarity, that in order to truly comprehend what had happened, to come to terms with how I had come to find myself in such a horrendous situation, I was going to have to embark on a journey of self-discovery. I would need to find out more about what had happened to other people. Understand the true meaning behind the word sociopath, or psychopath. Recognise the traits within myself that allowed me to be the perfect target – dig deeply in to my own psyche and explore my own choices in life.  Examine how I’d got here, what I’d believed about myself and others and my own deeply held personal values. And, most importantly, to find my strength and finally to heal.
My years of experience in personal development told me it was not going to be an easy journey. Some of the deeply buried feelings and experiences of my past would need to be re-examined. I would need to dredge through parts of my life I thought I’d already dealt with. Old scars I thought I’d healed would need to be re-opened and treated anew. It would be painful. It would mean re-visiting old chapters of my life. Re-living the hurts of the past in order to truly understand what was going on.
And I would also need to venture in to the depths of this murky world that I was just beginning to discover. I would likely need to stand in the shoes of these soulless people I now knew existed for real, and who live and work among us. Because unless I could comprehend the workings of a sociopath, I would neither be able to heal nor protect myself in the future.
I was alerted to the sounds of Dr Lecter once again shuffling around in the back of my mind, his interest clearly intensified by my growing fear at what lay ahead. And I heard a barely perceptible laugh – or was it a cackle – coming from the darkest corners of my imagination. The unpalatable solution hit me like a steam train, and I understood at that moment that he would need to become an ally in my journey; for who better than the archetypal sociopath, Dr Hannibal Lecter himself to help me understand the twisted workings in the mind of a psychopath?
“If I help you, Melanie, it will be “turns” with us too. Quid pro quo. I tell you things, you tell me things. About yourself. Quid pro quo. Yes or no?”
His perfect and calculated logic slithered towards me, the words and the consequences of what I was about to do sending shivers through my body. I would need to let Hannibal Lecter inside my head if ever I was going to become free. It was the only way to regain my sanity and claim my life back. And, surely, this couldn’t be any worse than the real life experiences I had already survived?
So I nodded my silent agreement and the deal was done. I would allow the specter of Hannibal to steer me as I unravel the past and make sense of my pain. A smug sneer crept across Dr Lecter’s face, as he pulled himself upright and acknowledged my consent “Brave Melanie. You will tell me when those lambs stop screaming, won’t you?”
So this was the beginning of my recovery. I started preparing for my own personal voyage of soul-searching, education, self-questioning and personal discoveries right through to the eventual victory I knew was waiting for me. I’d have to return to the innocence I once knew, and in returning there I knew I’d have to face some ugly and painful memories. I’d have to rearrange them to make sense of what had happened, and to ensure that I would never again be taken in by anyone whose sole intention was to hurt me.
Hannibal fixed me with his steely stare, the rest of his face shrouded in shadows as he slowly wound his fingers around the bars in his cell.
“Clearly this new assignment is not your choice” he hissed “rather I suppose it is a part of the bargain but you accepted it Melanie. Your job is ultimately to craft my doom. So I am not sure how well I should wish you but I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun. So let’s start at the beginning – tell me everything you know”
With that his image once again faded away, and I felt that I had just made a deal with the devil. But at the same time, I knew that my journey to freedom had begun.


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Friday, 22 July 2011

Magnets And Mischief

"I've learned so much from my mistakes... I'm thinking of making a few more!"

I'm not normally a great fan of fridge magnets, but I couldn't resist buying the one with those words on it. It sits proudly on my cooker extractor - and brings a wry smile to my face each time I see it. Because right now, I have the wind in my tail (an old expression my mother used to use) and I can feel some mischief brewing. Nothing major, nothing like some of the really ridiculous antics I have been known to get up to - nope, this is a different feeling. And I like it!

This morning, for example, I woke up late after a wonderful evening last night chatting with a new friend who decided to pop round and see me on a whim. I have known him for a while, but we suddenly seem to have found a deeper connection... hmmm... perhaps that's why I'm feeling slightly coquettish today? Anyway, back to this morning. I woke up late as I said and, rather than feeling guilty about it, I decided to enjoy the moment and make the most of the free time I seem to be enjoying at the moment. So I stayed in bed a good while longer, reading emails and checking the news on my iPhone. I then took a leisurely shower, got dressed and came downstairs to make a cup of tea.

Nothing cheeky in that, you may be thinking. Well, you'd be right - but then I haven't explained what has been happening over the past few days. Neither have I explained my thought processes, or my growing determination to stand up taller and fight my corner.

In the past, you see, I have often chosen to behave "like a good girl" when it comes to my own battles. Like so many of us, I had believed that if I was to project enough kindness, respect and love in to a situation, it would heal of it's own accord. I still hold with that opinion - and yet at the same time I've also learned that there are alternative choices available to me. I've learned that sometimes, sometimes, just turning the other cheek isn't always the best solution. And this is why I have the wind in my tail.

Since joining Lovefraud, the hits on this blog have gone through the roof (thank you to everyone who has been reading, and thanks also for the emails... it means a huge amount to me). Among those hits, however, are a concentrated number coming from... him. Now, I can't be certain, but the signs are there and I'm pretty sure that once again I am back on his radar. The last time this happened, I wrote a post that was specifically directed at him. After it was published, the hits stopped - coincidence? I don't think so.

This time, though, my reaction is different. Now I am in a different place and I have learned so much more. I am stronger. I am more confident - not just outwardly, but on the inside as well. After all, haven't I proved that I have made it against the odds and despite his best efforts to thwart me? Right now there are a few lose ends that still need tying up - for obvious reasons I will not go in to details here at the moment, but when everything is done and dusted I will happily share the strategies I've been employing to deal with the impossible.

So as I said, this time my reaction is different. I don't care whether or not he is scouring my blog. I am not rising to the bait in the same way. This time I am biding my time - and this is where the mischief comes in to the story. A short while ago, during another chat with my friend Beatrix, she advised me to realign myself with the female warrior archetypes. This is a subject that has fascinated me over the past couple of years as I'm sure you can imagine.

Probably the most legendary female warriors are the Amazon tribe - this is a description I found online:

Women have long been defenders of their families, and the Amazon tribe of Warrior Women has become legendary because of their ability to engage in fierce battle--even sacrificing part of their female physique to facilitate warfare. Loyalty to the family and tribe is among the Amazon's notable characteristics, along with nurturing their young and transmitting lessons of power and self-defense. In today's society, the Warrior Woman has emerged in its glory once again through women who liberate and protect others, especially women and children who need vocal and financial representation.

Although I don't intend to cut off any part of my body, I am certainly prepared to take on the mantle of an Amazon warrior - to defend my family and go in to battle. Because this time I am ready to change my approach and work with my inner warrior. Today I feel filled with a sense of mischievous confidence. There is no longer any need for me to sharpen weapons or prepare myself against the threat of an onslaught. No, that is all behind me now. But I do feel the invitation to step up and stay alert - and to chose stealth and strategy above passive acceptance.

As I said at the beginning, I have the wind in my tail and a glint in my eye. I do not yet know the process I am going to employ - but I do know that it will come as a surprise for my adversary. I also know it will be final. No-body and no-thing is ever going to threaten me ever again. I am ready - so those who wish me harm had better watch their backs. They may not know where, when or how I'm going to make my move, but they'll certainly know when I've done it. They can run but they cannot hide - because I'm ready, and I'm not afraid anymore.

Hmmm... this could be fun...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Lovefraud: "I Won't Let You Fall" - Five Words And The Hand Of Friendship

First of all I would like to say a big hello to all of you here on Lovefraud. This site has been a huge help to me over the past two years. The two years since I discovered that my marriage to a man I had freely referred to as my soul mate had in actual fact been a decade of manipulation and deception at the hands of a man I now believe to be a sociopath. Reading experiences and stories from other people here on this site, I came to recognize that my situation was far from unique. I was both appalled and also relieved to find that I was not alone. That there are thousands of people (mainly women, like me) who have been duped and betrayed in the cruelest of ways.
I have been working on healing myself since I discovered the truth about my own situation, and I recently contacted Donna to offer my voice to the crusade against these abusers. Like so many of us, I have fought hard to make sense of what had happened, to regain my shattered confidence and ultimately to reclaim my life. It has been a difficult journey – and I am still learning and growing through the experience. Not long after my discovery I started writing a blog. Initially it was just for my own healing, but as time went on I made it public and it has gradually attracted readers from around the world, many of whom have told me that my stories have helped them in their own healing. I am delighted to have the opportunity to share some of my stories and musings here on this site – the very place that played such a major role in my own recovery.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I escaped, and I have come out the other side. Wiser, stronger and more determined than ever to help others do the same. I tell myself (and anyone who cares to listen) that if I can do it, then so can other people! I am an ordinary woman who was thrown in to an extraordinary set of circumstances. I will be sharing some of my blog posts on this site, together with specific accounts just for the Lovefraud audience. Thank you for having me here on this site – I am very excited to be part of the team and I hope that my experiences are useful to others.
For my first post I would like to share a little more about my history – starting with excerpts from a blog I wrote just a couple of months after finding out the truth about my husband. It was the start of my self-exploration as to how I had allowed myself to be duped and then betrayed on so many levels. At that time I did not yet know about sociopaths. Thank you again, and I hope you enjoy it.

I am an English woman who has lived in France since 2003. My home is an old stone farmhouse, nestled in the beautiful countryside next to the River Charente. It was June 2009, just a couple of months since ‘the discovery’ and I was sitting outside working on my laptop when I was visited by one of the village locals who had been kindly looking out for me over recent weeks. A weather-beaten farmer in his late sixties, he speaks no English (fine for me as my French is pretty good) and uses a broad local Charentais dialect. His family has been in the commune for countless generations, and they’ve dedicated their lives to tending the fields, planting and harvesting the crops, and organising the regular communal gatherings. He is well past retirement age and, as with so many of the locals, still works day and night on his beloved land.
Since being left alone with my young son, I had regularly returned home to find a gift on my table just by the kitchen door – a bucketful of freshly cut daffodils, bags of fresh cherries and vegetables picked from neighbouring gardens, and plants for my own garden wrapped in newspaper to keep the roots moist until they can be dug in to the ground.
The locals, of course, knew what had happened, and on this particular day, Berber shuffled up to sit at the table where I was working. He doesn’t speak very much, and often leaves awkward silences between the gruff and clumsy words he uses. It’s clear he struggles to say what he means, and he frequently resorts to grunts, harumphs, and the typical Charantaise shrugging of the shoulders peppered with regular outbursts of “bah, eh oui!” which is a great substitute for many words.
But this particular morning he sat down and asked me how I was getting on. He asked whether I’d found any work and how my son and I were settling in to the changes. I carried on typing and explained that I’d been throwing out new seeds everyday in to the field of employment, and that one day something must surely take root and bring the results I need. I kept the smile on my face, and the strength in my voice that I’d learned to perfect over so many tough times. But he must have noticed something. He stared at me with his deep brown soulful eyes, and wriggled in his seat, pulling himself up taller and clearing his throat. It clearly took a great deal of effort to find the words, but eventually he simply said “Je ne te laisserai pas tomber” which means “I will not let you fall”
I lost my composure at that point, and my mask of courage slipped. Despite myself, I felt my eyes welling up as tears of gratitude started trickling down my cheeks. I had no words. I just became aware of tiny cracks appearing in the brittle shield of strength that had been protecting my heart from pain. Berber said no more, asked me no more questions. He just nodded, got up from his seat, squeezed my shoulder and quietly wished me “bonne journee” or “good day”.
Since then I’ve thought about the power that a hand of friendship can have – and questioned whether, perhaps, on previous occasions I’ve been so concerned about staying strong (typical British ‘stiff upper lip’ and all that) that I’ve overlooked support that could have been available to me all along?
I’ve had to face a number of ‘challenges’ throughout my life (and realised how I’ve come to dislike the glib over-use of that word to describe problems or even traumas – under the ‘keep positive’ mantra of well-meaning but sometimes deluded modern-day motivators) so now is probably a good time to explain a few of them.
For me, it seems, change has been a constant in my life since my earliest memories. Not for me the slow, gentle undulating waves of change to which one can gently acclimatise, but instead a mighty tsunami that arrives without warning and washes away everything in it’s path in just a blink of an eye.
The first was the death of my father when I was just 4 years old.
I absolutely adored and worshipped my ‘Daddy’ in the way, I suppose, that only a daughter can. To me he was my hero, my saviour, and I knew that however much love and adoration I gave him, he returned it ten-fold. My mum was pregnant with my little sister at the time, so dad had taken it upon himself to be the ‘clown’ and ‘entertainer’ to me as mum was understandably less energetic than usual! He would frequently return home from work with special treats for me – small things, sometimes a paper airplane, other times bubble gum that he and I would sneak behind the sofa to eat, pretending to hide from mum because she didn’t approve of any kind of gum (all part of the game, of course!)
He’d often scoop me up above his head, put me on his shoulders, and tell me “Boo” (my nickname) “just look at the world – it’s all there waiting for you!” and I truly believed I could do anything. We were all very excited about my sister’s imminent arrival, and would sit for hours discussing names and what games we were going to share with her. I remember his friendly easy smile, one that spread right across his face and lit up his eyes – a warmth that couldn’t fail to touch anyone else who was around him. I was so very proud of my Daddy.
That fateful day, he’d decided to return to his office in the evening to finish off some work. It was way after I’d gone up to bed, and I remember hearing the door shut behind him, as he shouted out “see you soon!” before the familiar sound of his car engine disappeared off down the lane. I snuggled deeper under my covers and settled down to a comfortable sleep. That was the very last time I’d know that feeling.
He died that evening in his office – a mixture of the prescription drugs he was taking to shake off a cold, together with the glass of wine he’d had at home with my mum had, apparently, left him slightly drowsy. The heater in his office was new and, unbeknown to anyone, was leaking lethal carbon monoxide fumes in to the air. My Daddy’s lifeless body, slumped across his desk with pen still in hand, was discovered by his brother when he arrived for work the next morning.
I wasn’t told about his death until after my sister was born, 10 days later. I can only now begin to imagine the torment my dear mother must have endured through this time – she was only 32 years old, facing life as a widow and about to give birth. All I remember from my point of view was that I was to go and stay with my best friend in the village ‘until after the baby arrives’. And I really don’t remember much else. Until I was home. I’d met my gorgeous new little sister, and then mum sat me gently next to her in her bed to tell me the news.
And from that moment on I knew that life would never be the same. The funeral had been and gone, I had a new sister to ‘look after’ (for that was how I saw my role at that point – because Daddy was no longer there to fulfill it) and a new school to start. We went down to the coast for a few months to stay with Nan and Gand, my mum’s parents, and I remember developing scarletina, eczema, and all manner of other minor ailments for which I was given gallons of potions and mixtures to combat. I remember playing in the park with my Nan, I remember long walks along the seafront, I remember sitting on a huge model elephant on the pier…. but I do not remember crying.
The next tsunami was to hit 12 years later.
Towards the end of 1980, not long before my 16th birthday, I had developed a nasty bout of pneumonia. Weeks and weeks at home meant that I had missed a great deal of schooling for my all-important O Levels the following summer. By the beginning of the New Year I had recovered sufficiently to return to school, and we all trotted along to the doctors to get a certificate proving that I had missed a chunk of last term through illness. It was to be sent in to the examining board in the hope they would view my papers with compassion when the time came.
It was a Monday, 12th January 1981, and after the doctor had signed the certificate, mum asked him if he wouldn’t mind just taking a look at something for her? So she laid down on the couch and the doctor bent over her. He touched her and then looked at my sister and me and asked us to go in to the waiting room. He didn’t need to say anything. There was something in his eyes that turned my blood to ice and I felt the familiar feeling of dread rising up through my body.
My heart was pumping as my little sister and I went through to the waiting room, and I just couldn’t keep the words inside me. I turned to her, and said as gently as I could “Mummy’s got cancer”. I didn’t understand where this “knowing” came from, I just knew with every nerve cell and fiber of my being that it was true.
We both waited anxiously, and watched for the doctor’s door to open. Like my dad, mum also had this most incredible energy about her – people have often said that she lit up a room. And as she came out of the surgery, she was still wearing her biggest smile, and gave a jolly laugh and nod to the doctor as she closed the door behind her. But it was no good. I wasn’t fooled. I knew there was something wrong.
We all got to the car, and strapped ourselves in – I was in the front seat next to mum, who was still wearing her famous “come along gals!” sort of smile I was so familiar with. I waited a few moments until we were out of the car park, then I turned to her and asked gently “Are you going to tell us then?” She faced my questioning stare, her smile not quite as convincing as she countered “Tell you what darling?” And I had to say it. “You’ve got cancer, haven’t you?”
And with that, with those five small words, the truth was out and I knew that life, once again, would never be the same.
The three of us spent that evening at our dining room table, talking, crying, hugging and trying to understand what it all meant. It turned out that she had found a lump in her breast a few months earlier, but had been told by her brother that it was nothing she should be worried about, so she had ignored it (and that’s another story for another time). Now it had spread and the doctor had told her that they had to operate immediately to find out just how bad it was.
She went in to hospital just over a week later, cheerily telling people she was going in for a hysterectomy. Why? Well, she explained that she wanted to keep strong within herself, and that this would help her so that she didn’t have to explain the scary truth to others. So we went along with it, and were forbidden to tell friends or family what was really happening.
I realize now that this was just about the worst thing any of us could have done, as we had to keep up the pretense that everything was ok, while struggling with the inner turmoil and fear of the truth. But my sister and I stayed true to mum’s wishes. We stayed strong, and during the first few days I only told one very close friend what was really happening – and felt wracked with guilt in the process. The truth came out pretty quickly, though, as it became clear just how far the cancer had spread, and mum simply couldn’t hide it anymore.
The illness didn’t last very long. My sister and I visited her no more than 4 times in hospital. By Wednesday 4th February, we were told she was too ill for us to see her – and she died at 21.50 on Friday 6th February less than a month after we had first discovered she was ill.
I didn’t go to her funeral. Mum always said she didn’t want a funeral – too much fuss, too much sadness and such a waste of flowers she used to tell me. So, again, I followed her wishes and opted instead to go to school that morning – utter craziness as I look back on those times, but I honestly thought I was doing the best thing, and that she’d have been proud.
We went to live with our guardians – an old friend of the family, his wife and their young son, and another baby on the way. And we did our best to fit in, to be ‘good girls’ and to help out and stay happy – we were conscious to not become a burden, and although our entire existence had changed, we did a pretty good job at keeping up the fa├žade.
The next tsunami happened on Sunday 9th January 1983.
Just a couple of weeks earlier we’d celebrated my 18th birthday with a huge party at the house. I was in my final year of A Levels and things were pretty good. My sister and I had arrived home late from a weekend visit with our paternal grandparents in Lincolnshire. We had made the five-hour coach ride down from Peterborough to Eastburne, and then took a taxi home just before midnight. We’d been laughing together the entire journey, and giggling at some of the things our grandparent had been saying and doing over the weekend. The house was in darkness when we got home and everyone was already in bed. So we said good night to each other and crept quietly to our bedrooms. Mine was right at the top of the house, and directly above the bedroom of my guardians. I reached behind the door to turn the light on, and went in to my room.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, strewn across the floor and my bed, were my mother’s clothes…! I stared in disbelief as two familiar demons, shock and horror, wrapped their icy arms around me. It could only have been my guardians who would have done this – but I reasoned that there was nothing I could do at that point. So I carefully picked up the clothes, folded them up, and got myself ready for bed. Once again, that well-known feeling of dread was gnawing away at the pit of my stomach. My heart pounded and my head swam with unanswerable questions that seemed to taunt me. I knew for certain that my life was once again about to change forever.
The following morning we got up and went down stairs for breakfast – I don’t remember whether or not I told my sister what had happened, but I do remember than neither of our guardians was at the breakfast table. Their small son toddled in, and we busied ourselves with getting him fed and watered, as was our usual routine. My guardian came down just a minute before we were due to leave, and I asked where his wife, Gilly was. He just brushed me off saying “she’s too tired this morning” and rushed us in to the car. The car stereo was at full blast, and nothing was said. So I steeled myself to ask that same question I had asked my mother when she came out from the doctor’s surgery “Well, are you going to tell us then?”
My inquiry was met with coldness. Not the love and concern that mum had shown when I had asked her the same question. No, this time it was a sneer. “You’re going to stay with your grandmother. You’re to pack your bags tonight and you’re leaving tomorrow morning. You’re not coming back.” And that was that.
I felt a failure. I hadn’t managed to safeguard our new home, or protect my little sister. Once again I pulled myself up to stay strong and ‘grown up’ in a situation where I was still not much more than a child myself.
Many years have passed since then, and there are many more stories to tell – but they are for another time.
For now, suffice it to say that the most recent tsunami hit on 21st April 2009 when I discovered the truth about my husband. And it’s been the most devastating shock I have yet had to deal with – it is also the one that has hit me the hardest. Because this time I was an adult. This time I had chosen my situation. And the betrayal crashed down on every single level of my heart, body and soul. Everything that I’d trusted, everything that I’d loved and put my faith in was suddenly swept away in a heartbeat.
Is it a coincidence that it happened on the very day when I officially outlived my mother – and, therefore both my parents? I don’t know – I’m still working on that one.
I’ve decided that I must have been born with a strong soul to endure such things – but I’m beginning to wonder just what lessons I’m meant to be learning. Lessons that perhaps I’ve just been too darned stubborn or stupid to learn!
This time, I decided that perhaps I’d stop being so strong. Perhaps I’ll stop believing that I have to be super human and carry the weight of responsibility on my own.
This time, perhaps I’ll be able to accept the healing waves of unconditional love and support that surround me – often showing themselves in the most unexpected of ways and from the most unexpected of people. Just like the innocent visit from Berber – a local farmer who knows nothing of my earlier past.
This time, perhaps I WILL let myself fall – and learn to trust that I’ll be caught, supported and carried to safety by the hands of friendship that are reaching out to me every day. Perhaps I’ll be the soft human being that I really am, and perhaps in the process I can also heal the little girl who, somewhere deep inside of me is still waiting for her hero to come home.
Since writing that particular post I have come a long way. Over the coming weeks I will be sharing stories with you about the things I learned along the way, together with some of the methods I used that helped me to survive and ultimately reclaim my life. I hope you will find them useful!


Monday, 18 July 2011

Lovefraud: Introducing A New Lovefraud Author, Mel Carnegie


“There are thousands if not millions of people out there who have been targeted by sociopaths — and I intend to do all I can to help them!”
That’s what Mel (short for Melanie) Carnegie wrote when she first contacted me not long ago. She, like many of us, had unknowingly married a sociopath back in 1998. It’s a classic sociopathic seduction story — they met, he swept her off her feet, they exchanged vows six days later. “I had never felt so loved, so safe, so special,” she wrote. “Of course, I now know it was all a sham.”
Mel and her husband started a business coaching company in the United Kingdom — that’s where she’s from — and attracted many blue chip clients. They prospered, with a beautiful home in the French countryside and investment properties in the UK.
At the beginning of 2009, Mel’s husband astarted spending more time in the UK, saying that he needed time to himself. The early part of that year was tortuous – Mel didn’t understand what was happening and her husband wasn’t able to give any useful or specific answers. Thinking that perhaps he was ill, she asked her company IT people for the password to her husband’s business account. Even though this was a perfectly normal request, she was filled with guilt about mistrusting him.
Her mistrust was well placed. To her horror, Mel uncovered an e-mail trail that indicated not illness, but massive betrayal. She wrote:
I discovered pages of hard cold evidence that showed he had been living a double life behind my back. Plundering our successful business to fund a high-flying lifestyle, running up debts, indulging in countless affairs and interacting on sordid internet sex-sites, I was hit with the hard cold realization that our idyllic life together had been nothing but a sham. We were even about to have our UK property repossessed because the mortgage had not been paid for over six months.
The moment the truth was out, I froze our business account and called in the liquidators to close the company. It was the only thing I could do.  He was in the UK at the time and I have neither seen nor spoken with him since the night I found him out. Abandoned, penniless and with a 13-year old son to support, I was catapulted in to a living nightmare.
As time went on, the extent of the debts came out of the woodwork – all of them in my name – amounting to tens of thousands of pounds. Nothing, of course, was in his name.
Dealing with the finance problems was, of course, monumental. But embarking on a journey of emotional and spiritual healing was even bigger. Like most of us, Mel realized that the betrayal by her husband was not the only wound that needed to be addressed. She wrote about her journey in her blog called, Life’s Little Lettuces.She’ll be telling you more about it here on Lovefraud.
Mel restarted her company, called The Top Banana Bunch, and it’s now a successful UK-based leadership development company, again with blue chip clients. She managed to save her home. Her husband is now her ex—the decree nisi for her divorce was granted last June, and the final divorce is coming soon.
I think Mel Carnegie will be a wonderful voice here on Lovefraud. She is a neuro-linguistic programming practitioner, an advanced Louise Hay trainer and a Firewalk instructor. She has also studied Reiki, hypnosis, transformational breathwork and other self-development tools.
Since Mel discovered the truth about the man she was married to, she has used all of her personal and professional skills to survive, re-build and ultimately break free of the living nightmare. Mel has come through, emerging wiser, stronger and more determined than ever to help others do the same.
Read Mel Carnegie’s first post tomorrow.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

New Beginnings


Yup, I know I said in my last post that I'd finished this blog, but things have changed... and I'm very excited!

Over the two years that I've been writing, I've received countless messages of support that have kept me going along the way. As well as support, though, people have also emailed to thank me for sharing my experiences. It appears that my stories have provided help to others who have had their own challenges - some related to mine, others completely different. It has been those messages that have made me realise that perhaps I have more I can offer. Over recent months, what started as a smouldering curiosity has grown in to a burning determination to help others find their inner strength - after all, if I can do it then so can anyone else.

Having had more time to myself while work has quietened down, I've been thinking about ways to get my message out to a larger audience. A few weeks ago I parted company with my literary agent (while some may say that was foolish, I believe it was the right thing to do since, in the end, we just didn't properly 'get' where each other was coming from) and since then have been searching for alternatives. I've been researching various options that might be available - agents, publishing houses, e-books and self-publishing... and then all of a sudden the perfect opportunity turned up. Right there in front of my face - it had been there all the time (fitting perfectly with my constant mantra "All I need is within me - it's already here") just waiting for the right opportunity to arise.

During the early months after April 2009, I spent many hours going through Lovefraud.com a website dedicated to help those who have been targeted by a sociopath. It provides useful information as well as education on a subject about which surprisingly little is known. As well as that it has a thriving community who share stories and give each other support. For me, I was both appalled and relieved to discover that I was not alone in my experiences - in fact, as Donna Andersen explains on the home page:

"Experts estimate that 1% to 4% of the population are sociopaths, depending upon whom you ask. That means there may be 3 million to 12 million sociopaths in the United States, and 68 million to 272 million sociopaths worldwide" (you can click on the picture top right to buy her book)

So I decided that now would be the right time to make contact with Donna and offer my voice to her crusade. I was surprised and delighted to receive a positive response within a couple of days, and now I am very excited to announce that as from this week I am to join Lovefraud's team of authors! Tomorrow, Monday, Donna will be introducing me to the community, and Tuesday will be my first post.

Because of that, I have decided to re-open this blog and continue adding stories as things progress. I have just been chatting with one of my oldest friends who asked whether it all feels a bit surreal. To which my response was "no, it feels like I'm coming home" Because this is what I was born to do.

Of course, I am yet to see how my stories will be received - but I hope that this forum will help me to get my message out to more people. If some have already benefited from entries on this blog, then perhaps now I can reach many more. I am quite sure that I will not be to everybody's taste - but if I can help just one more person to escape the shackles of pain and destruction, well then it will all have been worthwhile.

Once more I find myself giving thanks to my ex (and others) because their actions have taught me to find myself. To bring forth the inner strength to reclaim my life and enjoy love and happiness - on my terms. As the title says, these are new beginnings - and boy am I ready... Bring it on!