Saturday, 23 May 2015

Life On the Bread Line

To this very day I don’t know which is worse having absolutely nothing or having only just enough. I’m not talking about items or extravagances. I’m talking about money. We all need money and we should not be ashamed of admitting that we all need enough. Enough is relative to our values, ethics and morals and of course our lifestyle. When I fled my abusive husband and marriage fifteen years ago I left with absolutely nothing. Well, that’s not strictly true, I took my car, a few clothes for immediate needs and thankfully on the advice of my lawyer passports and legal documents but basically, other than a car full of clothes, I had fled from my abusive husband with nothing.

Thirty years of a job, career and hard work counted for nothing. I had been isolated from family, friends and given up my career to follow my high flying husband around the world and bring up our child. I had no money of my own, no bank account, no job and my car was even registered in his name. The day I fled in November 2000 I owned nothing other than a few poxy clothes.
Where strength comes from when your at rock bottom I do not know but in a fog, dogged by cPTSD, acute IBS and depression and managing threatening texts, harassment, stalking together with psychological, emotional and verbal abuse I tried to keep myself together and find somewhere to stay. There were two of us, my ten year old daughter, and I to take care of and I had to try to keep a sense of normality and stability for her. That was the toughest thing to do; having nothing didn’t compare to endeavouring to take care of my child and keep things normal. What was normal.

The abuse and threats, to find and kill me, continued for years via texts while the two of us lived in a hotel for a week and then moved into a close friend’s one bedroomed house. The friend was living in France and mailed me a key. Our wardrobe was the boot of my car. We lived on bread, baked beans, cheese, cereal, soup and cups of tea; anything that cost just a few pence and we shopped just day to day with the few pennies I had or could rustle up. I had to beg and borrow but I never stole.
Its hard to remember detail and I can’t remember how I rustled up the deposit for a rental agreement but somehow I obviously did and three months later we moved into the tiniest two up two down unfurnished cottage with absolutely nothing other than the car boot full of essentials. No duvet, pillows, sheets or towels. No cutlery, plates, glasses or food. No washing machine. No chairs, sofa, table or beds…nothing and I mean absolutely nothing. I can’t remember for how long we slept huddled together on the bedroom floor until I could afford a bed. Our coffee table was a packing box covered in a cloth and we sat on the floor. Over the next few years we had to start over and gradually accumulate essential possessions to make a home. What we did always have was each other.

Three years later after my world had been turned upside down, and the ex-husband gave us nothing from our beautiful five bedroomed home that I was forced to flee to save myself and my daughter, my divorce settlement came through and I bought us a house. Worst thing I ever did. I used most of my divorce settlement as a deposit but what I hadn’t considered was if you can’t pay your mortgage the bank will repossess your house. The bank sold our home and I got not one penny of any equity.
As a fulltime working single parent I couldn’t earn enough money to pay for everything and have a balance to carry over to the next month. The mortgage and bills took all my money, I couldn’t put food on the table and I couldn’t pay for gas and electric. I had gas and electric meters fitted but no one told me this was more expensive that a monthly bill. I was broke. Totally and utterly broke. All my salary went on the mortgage and trying to keep a roof above our head. No benefits for me; apparently no one could help. I asked continually for help from all the authorities but was told I did not qualify from everyone I encountered. Apparently I earned just enough.

Winter arrived and we had no heating or light and sat every evening for over a year in the dark in our coats, hats, scarves and gloves under duvets and blankets. It was the scariest time of my life. I earned enough to not qualify for any help or support but I didn’t earn enough to look after my daughter properly and put food on the table. No one listened, no one cared. I was actually stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. I worked fulltime to live like this. I was like the walking dead. Looking back I don't know how I functioned or survived.
In 2007 I was declared bankrupt and the bank repossessed my home, my daughter went to university and I went to Dubai to start all over again. This was the second time I had had to do this. I had nothing. I lost everything again. I left with two suitcases and commenced as a teacher in an international school to try to begin a new life and start over yet again. I was determined to come back and start afresh, which I did.

I don’t know which is worse to have nothing or just enough.
To be on the bread line is so stressful and the trauma this causes is un-comprehendible. At least with nothing you qualify for help. But to have only just enough is so painful I cannot put it into words. The worry of how you will eat and feed your children is the very worst feeling I have ever felt in my life. None of my abuse can equate to that. Loosing everything and not being able to do right by my daughter was worse than anything my ex-husband did or could have done to me. Scrounging a fiver here and a tenner there to feed your child is the most undignified feeling in the world.

With the vast austerity today there are many families feeling and living like this, so please...have compassion for those living on the bread line and having only just enough cause I believe this is worse than having nothing at all.


  1. You write so well. I work with families who have nothing, who have fled violence and who struggle to feed their children. It is an outrage that children go hungry and all too often women carry the shame of living on the breadline.

  2. Thank you, Jenny for your comment and the compliment. You are right it certainly is an outrage in this day and age that women still struggle to feed their children (and themselves) in many households. We have no idea what goes on "behind closed doors." Fleeing violent relationships is so devastating, traumatic and scary. Like you I work with families and children suffering everyday and my heart goes out to them. My trauma has made me the person I am today and given me the knowledge to do what I do with God's blessings. Thank you again for taking the time xx