I’ve debated long and hard whether or not to write this blog but I feel like now is the time to get some things off my chest.
You will probably know my brand Dushi Designs, for the bright sunny, smiley, uplifting island-inspired posts on Instagram, right?
During the last two years I have done my absolute best to keep those island vibes coming to brighten up your day and give your mood a boost but the reality behind the scenes is that I was really struggling.
It was getting increasingly harder to keep the positive vibes flowing because I wasn’t really feeling all that positive myself.
Life as I knew it had come crashing down around me and I was not prepared for the new battle I was about to face.
Two years ago when the world went in to lockdown my partner of almost 13 years ended our relationship.
He broke my heart in to a million pieces and even though I was hurting, deep down I knew it was for the best.
What I am about to say next is not easy, and don’t for one minute think that I have not considered the consequences… because I have, many many many times!
But I am now finally at a point in my life that I am not afraid anymore.
Even though my heart has been broken, my spirit has not.
I am still a warrior girl with a head full of dreams, I just forgot that for a while, but now I remember.
That girl is back!
So, here goes…
It was a typical boy meets girl, falls in love and runs away to a paradise island kind of love story. Well actually, that’s not really 'typical' is it?! Ha! But basically, we were young and in love and the world was our oyster. I truly thought I had met my Prince Charming and I was living in a fairytale.
Life was soooooo good!
We travelled the world, and made so many amazing memories together. It was idyllic. It was as if all the best romance novels had been combined in to one epic love story. I was swept up in this new adventure and I could not have been happier.
Fast forward a few years and things changed…
Not drastically at first, but slowly over time. So slow in fact that I didn’t even really notice that things were actually changing.
It was small things to begin with, no big red flags flying from the rooftops that we are all meant to look out for. Just small things that when I think about them now they still don’t really seem like a big deal, but as I have since learned, it’s those tiny little actions that lead to huge consequences.
After a few years together my ex started to work away a lot. He was always in another country and on the road, living out of a suitcase and going from motel to motel. I just accepted that this was his career and just part of that way of life but I began to notice that this “way of life” involved drinking and drugs on a regular basis and I didn’t like that at all.
You have to be a really strong-willed person not to succumb to the ways of that kind of work environment and unfortunately my ex was not strong willed enough.
His “social drinking” after work rapidly spiralled in to him becoming an alcoholic, and that then led to him being abusive… to me… almost every day.
And when I say “abusive” I don’t use that word lightly. Even though he never physically harmed me, he would instead be violent to others and destructive in our home and the mental and emotional torture he put me through, almost on a daily basis for nearly a decade, was unbearable.
Now at this point you might be thinking:
Why did I stay?
Why did I put up with this abuse for nearly a decade?
Why didn’t I leave sooner?
Trust me, I would have asked those exact same questions if this was someone else telling me this story. The truth is, there are so many answers, so many, most of which I am still kind of figuring out even to this day.
We hear things nowadays about coercive control, gas-lighting and narcissistic behaviour… But those are labels I had never even heard of until after we broke up and I found the courage to confide in my closest friends to tell them what I had endured for the majority of the relationship. When I explained some of the things he used to say and do to me, they was like, “That’s domestic abuse!” And I would respond and say, “No it’s not, he never hit me”.
I have had to educate myself a lot over the last two years to try to understand what actually happened to me, and learn how to come out the other side.
Maybe my heart is a little bruised and battered and maybe it will never fully heal, but my soul and spirit are doing better than ever despite all of this trauma!
When he ended our relationship he literally left me with nothing. Absolutely nothing. He was in control of our finances, my friendships, basically everything I would need to survive without him. He made sure over the years to isolate me to the point where I was completely dependent on him. And solely him.
He would often tell me that I would never be able to cope on my own, that I would never meet a man who would treat me “as good” as he does etc.
After a while I kind of believed him.
So I gave up.
I stopped trying to get him help. Stopped caring. Stopped begging him to go to rehab. Stopped looking out for my own well-being.
I just told myself that this is the life I had signed up for whether I liked it or not.
I had to support him and be there for him through thick and thin.
That’s what couples do right?!…
I had a choice, I know that now. But back then I didn’t know it.
It’s so easy for people on the outside looking in to say “leave him”, “get out”, “just go” but when you are living that nightmare, walking on eggshells every single day, you don’t see that there are other options.
I would consider myself to be a very strong woman.
I am the LAST person in the world you would imagine this kind of horror happening to. My friends were so shocked when I told them. They could not believe that ME; a social butterfly, oozing with confidence could turn in to a wallflower with zero self-esteem and had given up on the bright future I once dreamed of!
It really can happen to anyone.
I’m just as shocked as everyone else.
Even now writing this down, I know I am skimming over things and not fully sharing the real abuse and horror stories I went through but it still kind of feels like I am talking about someone else. I still can’t quite believe what I actually went through and the fact that I am still here to tell the story.
My mama is amazed I haven’t had a nervous breakdown with all the abuse I endured for all those years, and I know that sounds so dramatic, but it’s true. Maybe it will hit me at some point down the line?… Maybe I did have a bit of a meltdown but just kept it hidden and didn’t realise it at the time? Who knows?…
Once the relationship ended, I thought that would be it, it's over, we split our assets amicably and we both move on with our lives separately. But that did not happen.
The verbal and emotional abuse continued, the threats came, the intimidation, the stalking, the police reports, trying to sabotage my business... Eventually leading up to the point where I am currently in a long drawn out, very unnecessary and expensive legal battle. Who knew breaking up would be this difficult? I certainly didn't!
It's been so mentally exhausting for me, there was a number of times in the past two years that I just wanted to quit but I just keep telling myself that I will not be broken. I will not put my life on hold any more. My life will go on and I will get through this.
So the point to me telling you all this is because even though I’ve been dragged through it, hit rock bottom, been left without a penny to my name and had to start my life from scratch again… I’m still standing. I am not broken. And I feel the happiest I have felt in a really long time.
Whenever I get in a stressful situation my coping mechanism kicks in. I go in to survival mode and that’s exactly what I did.
It’s taken me two years to get to a place where I can say I am truly happy with myself and I love my life.
In fact, I am pretty obsessed with how amazing my life is right now!
The break up was the hardest thing I have ever been through but it’s also been the best thing that could have happened to me.
To survive financially I threw myself in to doing freelance work, saying yes to anyone and everything just to be able to pay the bills and keep a roof over my head and to feed my dogs.
This has led to opening all kinds of doors for me and allowed me to focus on doing what I love and what I am really good at and that’s building brands, creating content and enabling business owners to become more established and helping them grow.
This is something I am passionate about and thankfully the pandemic meant a lot more people wanted to move their businesses online and therefore I had a lot of people approach me to work with them. This was a saving grace! It was like I had a little angel on my shoulder watching over me. A life line had been thrown my way and I grabbed it with both hands!
During the relationship I gave up my career, and unknowingly my independence, to follow my ex around the world for his job. This meant I was completely dependent on him for everything.
That’s actually one of the reasons I started Dushi Designs 7 years ago.
I wanted to do something for ME.
Something I was good at.
Something I was excited about.
Something to be proud of.
Despite what people think, starting an online store selling Aruba t-shirts has not made me a millionaire (yet!) 😂
Most of the money I have made over the last 7 years has gone back in to the business and been spent on saving dogs.
I don’t live in a big posh mansion at Malmok like many of you think! Ha!
I live quite a simple life in a basic run down house that I have been renovating for years. I actually lived here for a really long time without running water and electricity. My living conditions would not even qualify as “camping” let alone “glamping”.
But things are different now. I got my independence back. I got my confidence back. And slowly and steadily I am becoming myself again.
Being on my own I now have the freedom to do what I want and I don’t need to ask anyones permission. I cannot even describe just how liberating and empowering that feels!
~ I have taught myself to use power tools to renovate my home; think jack hammer, work boots, ear defenders and a bikini! He! He! Yep, that’s me!
~ I have learned to love myself again.
~ I have discovered that I am just fine on my own.
~ I have learned new skills.
~ I have reconnected with old friends and made some incredible new ones.
~ I have been working hard and playing even harder, finally getting to enjoy the island life I love so dearly.
~ And I even went on a vacation! An actual holiday! It was my first vacay in over 8 years and I cannot tell you just how much I so desperately needed that break. I will share more about this soon because tomorrow you will have the chance to enter an epic GIVEAWAY to WIN the vacation I just had… So stay tuned for that!!!!
All of these things I would NEVER have been able to do if I was still in that abusive, controlling and manipulative relationship.
I have always been the kind of person who does not ask for help. I like to do things on my own but this healing process or journey of self discovery or whatever you want to call it would not have been possible if it wasn’t for three things:
My friends - surprisingly when you are going through a crisis you really do find out who your true friends are. What surprised me the most though is how my Dushi customers that have become real life friends, came to Aruba and visited me when I was at my absolute worst yet somehow managed to lift me up, give me advice, and make me feel like a worthy person once again. We laughed and cried, swapped travel stories and I got to be their unofficial tour guide and show them all around my beautiful island. This was like therapy for me. The people I have met because of Dushi Designs are amazing human beings! They each all played a part in saving me and helping me to rediscover myself and find happiness again. They cheered me up when I was at my lowest and then carried on to hype me up and celebrate my wins with me as I began to start thriving again. They have made such an impact on my life these last two years and for that I will be eternally grateful.
My dogs - y’all know how much these island doggos mean to me and it’s for good reason. Phoenix came along just before the break up and even though I may have saved her life, she in fact also saved mine. My dogs gave me a purpose, a reason to get out of bed every day. Even on the days when I didn’t want to face the world and wanted to sob under the duvet, they were there, always there to offer me comfort, provide a much needed distraction and give me all the unconditional love I needed.
My island Aruba - yep, that’s right, my little rock in the Caribbean Sea has been the best therapist I could ever wish for. Aruba has literally been MY ROCK! I am so madly deeply in love with this island I get to call home. Aruba has boosted my mood so many times that I think if I lived in a different country I probably would not of got through this trauma in the same way that I have. Seeing the blue sky each morning, hearing birds chirping in my garden as they perch high on top of a cactus, floating in the salty sea as the warmth of the sunlight beams down on my face, sitting in the sand soaking in every beautiful sunset… These are the moments that make me feel alive! The moments that you can not put a price on because they truly are priceless. I am forever indebted to what Aruba has given me, it’s so hard to put in to words, it’s a feeling like no other. If you have been to One Happy Island then you will know exactly what I mean. Aruba has been pivotal in helping this island girl rise from the ashes and that is why I will always be her biggest cheerleader!
So why am I telling you all this now?
Because it’s been weighing heavy on my shoulders and heart for the last two years, and I wasn’t able to talk openly about it before. I felt embarrassed and ashamed and would ask myself, “How could an intelligent and street smart girl like me “allow” this happen?”
But today I feel different. I am not afraid anymore. I’ve claimed back my power (writing that sounds so cheesy but it’s true).
This is my truth, what happened to me, how it effected me and what I have done to move forward, mend my heart and build my life back up from scratch to be even better than it was before.
I have no intention in publicly naming and shaming my ex, there is zero benefit of me doing that, and quite frankly I just don’t want to. His version of events will be entirely different to mine of course, but I expect nothing less from an irrational narcissistic addict. I have just come to accept that now.
It is sad the way things turned out between us, we really could have had it all. Young and in love with the world at our feet. But things happen, people change, and that’s ok.
Most of the people who will read this do not know myself or him in real life so it will not impact him in his private life, I don’t wish him any malice or harm, despite all the horrendous things he has done to me and put me through over the years. I don’t even hate him. Nor do I want revenge. To be honest I just want peace. For both him and me. I just want to live my life and be happy, healthy, successful and travel the world and I hope he seeks the professional help he really needs so he doesn’t destroy his own life further or anyone else’s in the future.
For those of you that really do know who I am and who I am referring to, you already know the whole story and have seen his behaviour and the damage he has caused so you know what I am saying is truthful because you have have witnessed the abuse and the aftermath with your own eyes.
This is by no means a “moral of the story” kind of life lesson or “survival guide” for anyone else in a similar situation, nor is it meant to be some kind of gossip for “island fm”. It's not an invitation to my "pity party" either, that party is well and truly over and to be honest it was pretty crappy anyway! 😝
This is just me being authentic and finally being at peace so I can live my best life, the life I have dreamed of and the life I am working hard to achieve.
I have missed out on so much trying to "fix" someone else, now I am enjoying "fixing" myself, and damn does it feel good. I have been doing a lot of catching up and have been busy living my life, on my terms, these last few months... I just got sidetracked and that's why I ghosted for a while.
Now I am back and ready for the next adventure... Who's with me?!...
If you made it this far, thank you. I appreciate you sticking it out, I know this was a long one, and completely off topic from what you are used to from Dushi Designs.
I promise, the island vibes you know and love will be resuming shortly!
Lots of love,
Your island girl,