This entry is a re-post of something I put on tumblr last year. With it being Father’s Day weekend, I feel like sharing it here.
As well as helping me to love myself at my size, body positivity has also helped me to accept and love my arms since they were hurt in the dog attack I have referenced quite a few times on Instagram (you know, if you follow me there).
Here we go…..
*warning, at the end of the post there are some photographs of wounds and blood. Be forewarned…*
I don’t ‘blog’ much…not properly anyway. Most of my content here is very much focused on photographs, quotes, or just re-blogging things that come up on my dashboard that I think “hey, that’s cool”. It’s rare that anything prompts me to go into detail about the specifics of my life.
This Sunday (2nd March 2014) was the two year anniversary of an event which, quite frankly, changed my life. I am still trying to work out whether all the changes it led to have been good or bad (in reality, it’s a mixture of both), but regardless, the changes have happened and I have grown as a person as a result. Yep, redundant statement I know….all things that happen in our lives result in us growing as people. I’m just trying to sound philosophical, or something like that.
To mark this anniversary, I simply want to share what happened to me. I have told this story verbally many many times since that day. I haven’t written it out in this format however. In the aftermath of it, I didn’t share what happened to me online anywhere; I didn’t want to ‘publicize’ it, for lack of a better way of explaining. My initial reaction was to carry on as though it didn’t happen. That didn’t serve me too well though.
This is the story of how I got my scars, physically and emotionally.
December 2011. My parents had been struggling with their mortgage for years. They applied band-aids without addressing the problem; that is to say, rather than look at their outgoings and adjusting accordingly, they kept re-mortgaging until they couldn’t anymore, and eventually they simply stopped paying it. So the mortgage company eventually applied to take possession of the house. My parents knew about this 2 months in advance of the actual eviction. My dad’s response was to bury his head in the sand. Me, trying my hardest to be a good and realistic daughter, pleaded with him to plan ahead, to save some money for a deposit for renting a new place when the eviction finally came. My pleads fell on deaf ears.
February 2012. The eviction was looming, and still my parents had made no sort of contingency plan. My father was convinced that as soon as he was made technically ‘homeless’, that our local housing authority would simply re-house him. Once again, I tried to explain to him that it doesn’t work that way; that being evicted for non-payment of mortgage was, in the eyes of the local authority, essentially making yourself intentionally homeless. As such, there was no onus on the council to re-house as a priority…they would be given temporary accommodation but nothing more – they would have to join the queue like everybody else. He didn’t believe me.
The day finally came.
The eviction happened on Monday 20th February. I spent the preceding weekend helping to pack up the house which in itself was a task as Dad didn’t seem to think it was important enough to plan ahead for and start to pack things up beforehand. Then on the Monday, we pulled away from the place that I spend my formative years for the last time. Dad was pretty emotionless about it. My mother and I cried rivers of tears.
We drove to the council office where my parents had an appointment to speak to a housing officer. Like I had predicted, my parents were not allocated a new home. They had to join the waiting list, and they would not be bumped up the queue due to the eviction. All they were offered accommodation wise was a bed in a hostel. Like I told them would happen.
The backup plan was that they would move in with me and my husband while they tried to find somewhere new to live. They finally accepted my offer, and this is how they ended up living with me for 2 weeks.
Me, my husband, my parents, my four cats, their two cats, and their dog. In my little, 2 bedroom flat.
It was a recipe for disaster from the get go.
So, my parent’s dog. His name is Zack, and he is a husky / lurcher cross breed. He is weird sight to behold; the stature of a lurcher, but with fur akin to a huskies, a big fluffy tail, and the brightest blue-gray eyes I’ve ever seen on an animal. Unique is definitely the word. Zack is a loving creature…most of the time. Unfortunately, he has a bit of a mean streak. In Zack’s world, my Dad is top dog. After Dad, this mantle falls to Zack. What this means is that, when Dad is around, Zack is perfectly fine. He responds to orders, loves a stroke and a cuddle, and generally has a good nature. Remove Dad from the picture though, and Zack thinks he is boss. If you do something he doesn’t like, you get snarled at, or worse.
Prior to the eviction, Zack had ‘gone for me’ once before. It wasn’t too bad; he just left my arm bruised and broke through the skin in one place. It scared the living daylights out of me though, and I pleaded with Dad to take action. A big dog with so much energy needs lots of exercise, and I believed getting him neutered would help his temperament immensely. My pleads fell on deaf ears. I’m pretty sure I’ve said something along these lines a couple of times now…do you sense a theme?
So, this dog I was already wary of was now residing in my home. Fun (!). It certainly wasn’t.
On the very first night, my dad left us alone with the dog, and he tried to bite my husband’s arm. Michael escaped with just a tiny scrape thankfully. On the third night, my dad went out again. This time the dog decided to have a go at me. He ripped my T shirt over where it covered my right breast. If it wasn’t for the fact that at the time I wore a silicone enhancer to even out the size of them (my breasts are significantly different to one another size wise), he would have tore into my flesh. I didn’t change my T shirt until my father got home to demonstrate what his dog had almost done to me. I pleaded with him to take action…buy a muzzle, get him neutered, and exercise him more….anything to stop this potentially happening again. This time, he seemed to take note. He allowed me to buy a muzzle, and also let me book an appointment (and pay) for the neutering. I didn’t mind; at this stage we didn’t know how long they would be staying with us and quite frankly, the safety of my family was more paramount to me than the cost.
The following Tuesday (29th February), Zack was neutered.
On the Wednesday, my parents viewed a flat and decided that they would apply to rent it. They were accepted, so the end of our co-habitation was in sight. All they needed was £800.
Which of course, they didn’t have.
I had just renewed my mortgage since my fixed rate deal had run out. I came away with about £2500 in cash, which was nice, obviously. Of course, being the stupid idiot I am, I didn’t keep this fact secret from my parents. So they asked me if they could loan the £800 so they could get moved. I agreed – I wanted my home back! So, my father set the wheels in motion…he arranged with his soon to be landlord to pay the money, and organized with the mortgage company access to the old house so he could retrieve and move all the large furniture items.
The access was arranged for the morning of Friday 2nd March.
That morning, my father left to pick up the van he had hired. We had asked that he make sure he muzzled the dog before he left. Of course he didn’t.
I work from home, so although I was at home that morning, I was actually working (or, meant to be). My mother was in the house with me, her and the dog in the living room, me in the spare room where my workstation was.
Every so often when I work, I get up from my desk to have a walk around, stretch my legs, and usually grab a drink. I did this first the first time about 9am that morning; Zack was already getting tetchy. He decided he didn’t want to let me back into the spare room to work. I started getting anxious and didn’t know what to do so I did the only thing that came to mind, I opened the front door in hopes of distracting him. It worked, and out he bounded. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t have picked a worse time; a local neighbourhood Jack Russell was out on the grass, so Zack started to chase him. I panicked, grabbed a broom, and ran after them. I managed to get Zack off the little dog, which ran away with a yelp but was unharmed, and Zack ran back into the house. Ironically, the run out seemed to stem some of his boundless energy, and he went to lie down. Relief set it, and I went back to work.
About 10am, I heard a noise from through the living room. I got up from my desk to see if anything was wrong. My Mam assured me there wasn’t, she’d just knocked something over. I went to leave to get back to my desk. Once again, the dog had other ideas. He jumped up onto the sofa that I was stood behind and bared his teeth at me, growling deeply. I panicked again, and noticed that on the table next to me there were a couple of chocolates. Now, I know, you shouldn’t give a dog chocolate, but my father did and I was looking for anything I could use a distraction. So I leant over, picked one up, and tossed one at Zack. He ate it in one gulp, and then, before I knew what was happening, his jaw was locked around my left arm, and so the attack started.
He broke skin immediately, and blood started gushing out of my arm. One of the first incisions was about an inch from the visible veins in my wrist. I saw this and I thought I was done for, that this was the end. I can’t really explain what happened next; I just kind of entered some kind of auto pilot. My mother was also in the room, and something I haven’t yet explained; my mother is essentially blind. She can see shapes and colours, but nothing specific. She couldn’t see what was happening, so was panicked, screaming at me to tell her what was happening, am I okay, etc. I knew I had to stop the dog, not just for me and my well being, but also for hers. He let go of my left arm, leapt up at me as if to go for my neck…didn’t quite make it but caught my upper right arm. He got traction on my right arm, making two distinct bites into it, and then went back to my left arm. It felt like he was trying to tear the flesh from my bones. I managed to get him down and a hold of his collar. I maneuvered myself so his head (and teeth!) were facing away from me, and I was stood basically straddling his back. I noticed the muzzle on the floor not far from where I was, so reached over and tried to grab it. I managed to get it over his snout, but the strap that should attach around the back of his head to secure it got stuck in his teeth. Without putting my fingers in and risk losing them, I couldn’t get it out. Shit. So I was stuck, straddling his back, one hand holding his collar, the other the muzzle.
My mother was still panicking as all this was happening. I asked her to calm down. She wanted to ring 999. In hindsight I wish she had, but I wasn’t thinking straight. I was potentially fighting for my life by keeping this dog restrained, all a while watching my arms weep with blood. The bleeding wasn’t excessive, but enough to have my head jump to the worst conclusion.
In my infinite wisdom, I told my mother to try and get a hold of my Dad, so he could come back to the flat and get the dog away from me.
She tried to use the SOS function on her mobile phone (pre-programmed to dial my dad so she didn’t need to worry about having to dial his number). Her battery chose that moment to die. Perfect.
I described to her where my phones were on my work desk, so she shimmied past us so she could go and get them. She found them quickly and brought them back. The problem we now had was, neither of us knew my dad’s number from memory, and I couldn’t look for it in my mobile contacts, not without releasing the dog (it would take both hands). So, I got her to dial my Grandad, and ask him to read it out to us. I continued to straddle the dog while allowing one hand free so I could write the number down on the back of a table placement. I dialed Dad’s number and got Mam to hold the phone to my head so I could speak to him.
I explained to him that the dog had bitten into my arms several times, I couldn’t let him free without fearing him doing me more harm, and that I needed him to come home to rescue me and take me to hospital. At first, he didn’t take me seriously but I pleaded with him and eventually he agreed to return home. He was a half an hour’s drive away, so I had (at least in my mind), no other choice but to stay where I was.
The next thought to cross my mind was blood loss. My brain jumped to the line of reasoning of “if I lose too much blood, I’ll pass out. If I pass out, the dog might go for my mother”. So I got Mam to get me a drink of water, keep my fluids up. In hindsight I doubt it will have done me much good, but hey, that’s where my brain went.
Finally, before my dad arrived, I thought about work. At this point, I had been away from my desk for about an hour, so I got Mam to pass me my phone so I could ring my colleague Hazel. She said she had noticed me go into Away and had considered ringing to find out if everything was alright but decided against it. I explained to her that I was currently straddling a dog that had bit me and I was bleeding and waiting for Dad to come and help me. She couldn’t believe it, told me to get away and leave letting our boss know to her.
I didn’t ring my husband. Despite wanting to speak to him desperately, I couldn’t bring myself to. I didn’t want to worry him, and so so stupidly, there was a part of me that was worried about his reaction. He and my father have never got on, and Michael had been very critical of how dad looked after the dog. However they had seemed, at least to me, to have gotten on okay whilst my parents were staying with me. I didn’t want to ruin that, as ridiculous as that may sound. So I didn’t tell him, not yet. I regret that so much now; he feels such guilt at what happened to me but I kept it from him. That is no one’s fault but mine.
My father eventually arrived. It felt like an eternity. As soon as he walked through the door, it felt like a switch had been flicked. Zack was no longer growling, so I let go of his collar and muzzle. He ran to my dad as if nothing had happened, jumping up at him for love and attention. I let myself slip to the ground, my legs like jelly after being crouched for so long in the same position. Dad came over and sort of ushered me into the kitchen. He seemed a bit panicked, kept insisting the wounds were just scratches and started to try and clean me up with kitchen paper. I told him no, I needed my arms to be checked therefore had to go to A & E. He needed to drive me there. He seemed resistant but agreed. He looked me up and down and told me to change….at this point I was covered in red. I did as he told me; off came the bloody clothes. Although to be honest, it made no difference. The clean clothes were covered in it soon enough as I was still bleeding.
There were little chunks of me in the floor; soft fatty tissue that had escaped my arms. And as I struggled to put my shoes on, I lent one arm against the wall in my hallway, smearing blood across it.
We all got into the car; me, my father, my mother and the dog. I was terrified but kept it locked away. It wasn’t far to the hospital, no more than a 5 minute drive. My father still had to finish moving things between their old and new place and he only had a 4 hour window, so he dropped us off and headed back.
My mother stayed with me as I waited to be seen. Pretty quickly I was having bandages wrapped around me, and a doctor was asking me to move my hands for her…she was worried about nerve damage that would impair use of my fingers. There was no damage, which she seemed relieved about.
I was sent back out to wait again. I made phone calls in the meantime, keeping people up to date. Telling my husband for the first time what had happened to me. He wanted to leave work straight away; I told him no, I was fine, I had my mother and they were just flesh wounds, no major damage. He reluctantly agreed.
More waiting. Another assessment. They wanted to keep me in overnight as the sheer number of incisions gave them concern in case there was any infection. Because it was both arms, any requirement to ‘deep-clean’ the wounds would require putting me under rather than just numbing a particular area. So I rang my dad and told him I was being admitted. He seemed surprised, and said he would be there soon. I rang my husband and he said he would pop back home first, grab me a few things, and then come over and see me.
I was told that if they were going to put me under for surgery, it would be that night so I was put onto a “no drink and no food” status straight away. Which sucked as I hadn’t really ate yet. My arms were then looked at again, and the decision was made to monitor me for signs of infection before committing to any surgical work. I agreed with that, so I was allowed to eat. I had missed the evening meal so a kind nurse brought me a sandwich.
Dad arrived. He swore to me that the dog would be put down, that this wouldn’t happen to anyone else. Eventually, my husband and his nana arrived. Michael was visibly shaken. He told us what he had seen; the blood, and little lumps of flesh. He panicked. He and my Mum clashed, when Michael said there was blood everywhere, she took exception and rather aggressively declared that there wasn’t time to clean! I tried to explain to her that Michael wasn’t trying to pick on us; rather it was shock. I’d told him I was fine, but clearly I wasn’t. No one expects to go home to their living room covered in their wife’s blood, to find little pieces of her scattering the floor.
Eventually, my Dad asked about the £800 I had agreed to loan him. I was happy enough to hand it over as previously agreed, Michael however was not. He wanted assurances that the dog would be dealt with before at money changed hands. I didn’t want to be so strict. No money, no new home for them to move into.
So I agreed. I wanted my home back, and I didn’t want them without a roof over their heads, regardless of what would happen with the dog. Michael took great exception to that and we argued.
I then sent him for a coffee for me and did something really stupid; I tried to get wireless to work on my netbook so I could do the transfer behind his back. He came back while I was still struggling with it. The disappointment in his face burned into me. I still feel so ashamed.
Before he left, Michael took a photograph of me in bed, my arms in slings that elevated them above my head. Necessary for the drip / antibiotics I was on I was told….or something like that. He then proceeded to post it to Facebook, something I was not pleased with. I didn’t want what had happened to me spread around on the Internet. After more arguing, Michael agreed to take it down.
Before my parents left, all arrows pointed towards my dad arranging for the dog to be put down. I doubted slightly but wanted to believe it so badly that I did. He had a violent streak in him. Not his fault; a product of upbringing. But he is dangerous none the less. I love animals, but human life has to come first.
It got late and visiting time came to a close; everyone left.
The doctor came to see me and said they would assess my arms in the morning and decide whether the surgical scrubbing was required or not. I went to a seating area outside of the ward to ring Michael, to plead with him to agree to let me give the money to my father. He was extremely upset with me, understandably so, and here I was wanting to give even more to my father despite being in the hospital because of his dog. Eventually he relented and did the money transfer for me, despite still not being happy about it.
That night I didn’t sleep. Firstly, having my arms elevated was not comfortable. Secondly and perhaps the greater reason for my lack of sleep, every time I closed my eyes I saw teeth and blood. That night was the first of many where in my dreams, I passed out while waiting for dad to arrived, and with me no longer able to restrain him, the dog’s attention turned to my mother instead.
Morning came. I was assessed again and the doctor was happy that there was no sign of infection therefore no surgery needed. Relief settled in; I actually have a fear of being cut into In any way so the thought of being put under and having no control over what someone with implements might do to me was a terrifying on. Michael came to pick me up and take me home. My arms were redressed, the bandages at least an inch thick.
While I was waiting for Michael, I talked to the other ladies in my ward room. Most of them were there for post-operation recovery. A couple had had mastectomies as a result of breast cancer. These women were literally fighting for their lives. I felt a little bit of a fraud being in the same place as them. They were lovely to me though, and couldn’t believe it when I told them what had happened the day before. A resounding chorus of “I hope your dad does the right thing” greeted me from them.
Not long after, Michael arrived and we went home.
That night I spoke to dad. His tune had already changed. He didn’t want to get the dog put down. He talked of rehabilitation, obedience classes, more exercise.
It became clear very quickly that all talk of removing the threat from the picture the day before was all noise just to make sure I handed the money over. As I feared but refused to let myself believe, it didn’t really have any intention. Why would he? Prior to the attack, Zack had already bitten and marked me, my Mother, my sister and my brother. Okay, so none of those instances were quite this bad, but if they hadn’t kicked him into action, why would this time be any different? It wasn’t.
When he started to tell me what he wanted to do, at first I didn’t know how to respond, so I stupidly agreed. I have an inferiority complex of great magnitude when it comes to my dad. It’s like I have an overriding protocol in my head to always try and please him, even when I know it’s wrong to. Like the day before; as much as I might try and tell myself that not dealing 999 was something that I didn’t really think about and just happened, I remember all too well the thoughts that went through my head as time seemed to slow down for me. I knew that if the police arrived, Zack would be no more, and Dad would not speak to me again. So I didn’t do the most sane, logical thing, and probably made this whole ordeal so much worse than it needed to be. Worse, as I will cover, the dog is still around and a threat. Thanks to me.
That is something I have to live with and when I have nothing to distract me and my mind wanders, I sit and wonder if he ever will attack someone again, and if so, will I be able to live with myself. If I had let my mother ring 999 as the dog was attacking me, how different would things be now?
I didn’t sleep again that night. More nightmares. I lay in bed scared and worried and not knowing what to do; insist on a different course of action, or try and keep my dad happy. Sunday came and went. Another restless night. More nightmares.
Monday morning arrived. My Dad was taking Zack to the vets for a post-neutering check up, so we agreed for him to come by afterwards so we could discuss the next course of action. I had decided that morning that I couldn’t live with myself if the dog attacked again, so I was going to insist to Dad that the dog be put down, or at the very least, removed from harm’s way. Michael had found details online of a shelter that took in dangerous dogs so they didn’t have to be destroyed. Zack could go there.
I sat in the sofa a bundle of nerves. I knew at this point that Dad would not like what I had to say to him.
He arrived. The dog was in the car outside; I could see him through my living room window. I turned to my father and said “I’m sorry, but I think you need to have the dog put down or…”
I never got the chance to finish.
Dad flew off the handle, stormed into the spare room where some of his belongings still were and started to move them outside. I followed, desperate to try and get him to see things from my point of view.
“What if he had gone for Mam? She couldn’t have restrained him like I did. What if it was Christopher?”
Christopher is my nephew, my Dad’s grandson, who was two at the time. Mention of him just made Dad worse. He swore that the dog would never dare hurt Christopher, how dare I suggest it!
Then the harsh blow:
“It’s your fault he attacked you. You must have provoked him. You made him wear the muzzle; you made him get his balls chopped off. It’s your fault.”
My husband, Michael, heard every word out of my father’s mouth and couldn’t control himself anymore. He flew off the handle himself, screaming at my Dad that it was not my fault that his animal mauled me. He very quickly rang the police to report a dangerous dog. They had both seen red. Dad stormed off and up to the car, got in it, and sat hugging the dog.
I didn’t know what to do. It felt like my world was crashing to the ground all around me.
The police turned up. I don’t recall exactly what happened at first, but I do remember them asking rather loudly who the dog had hurt. This was the point at which I stepped forward and feebly said “me”. I took off my dressing gown to reveal the bandaging on my arms.
I was taken aside, and asked to explain to them exactly what had happened. So I did. All awhile, Michael was ranting at the other officer. I remember looking around and not being able to see my Dad; he had been taken up and put into the patrol car away from the fracas while the specifics were established. Once I finished explaining what had gone on up to that point, the policewoman asked me, did I want to make a formal complaint against my father?
I asked exactly what would that entail. I was told we would have to go down to the station; I would need to make and sign a statement, as would he. I asked if doing so would result in any action being taken against the dog. I was told no; in this sort of circumstance, the decision as to whether the animal should be destroyed or not sits with the owner. The only time it can be imposed is if the attack took place in a public setting. The living room of my home did not constitute a ‘public place’.
My answer was therefore no, I didn’t want to make a formal complaint against him. What would be the point? It would mean a lot of stress and heartache, for no result. Michael heard me. He saw an even deeper shade of red. All he could see was my father getting off scott free. To say he was not a happy bunny is an extreme understatement.
The police said they would speak to my father, ask him to take pre-cautions with the dog, but that was as much as they could do.
In the meantime, Michael’s anger levels were reaching boiling point. My mother had started asking to be let back into the house so she and Dad could retrieve their belongings. Michaels was insistent that they leave, and instead send my brother James to collect it all. My mother wanted her things there and then, and I was on her side. Not because I wanted her and Dad to hang around; certainly not. I just wanted them and their things gone as soon as possible; that way once the door was closed I would not have to think of him coming back. So my mother and I pleaded with Michael to relent; he wouldn’t.
One of the policemen got in on the act; tried to talk Michael into letting me or my mother through the door. All logic was falling on deaf ears, to the point Michael snapped, picked up my father’s walking cane that had been in our hallway and yelling
“If he wants to get his fucking stuff, he can pick it up off the grass” he yelled, as he thrust the cane into the air and onto the small field in front of our front yard. All the policeman saw was Michael throwing a cane at him, and so he assumed that Michael was attempting to assault him, yelled for back up, and launched himself at my husband.
Michael fought back against them, resisting arrest. It took 4 policemen to restrain him and haul him away. Without shoes on.
I fell into utter despair, not knowing what to do or say.
My neighbour Dawn and my sister Jane, who Michael had texted to ask to come over before he flew off the handle and got himself dragged away, both came to console me; took me into the house, sat me down, tried their best to calm me. I sat on the sofa, knees to my chest, sobbing. I just didn’t know what else to do. It just didn’t seem fair; nothing was happening to my Dad or the dog, they were free just to leave. My husband however had been arrested for assaulting a police officer and had hauled off to the police station.
My parents gathered the rest of their things from my home. My dad came up to me to say goodbye. Strangely, he left me his push bike, told me to do with it whatever I wanted. He said he was sorry it ended this way, kissed my forehead, and left.
Those were the last words he spoke to me.
I composed myself somewhat with Jane’s help. Tried to find out what was happening to Michael. The policemen eventually came back to the house; told me he would be detained overnight and asked for a few personal affects for him; his toothbrush, medication….shoes. They told me that as soon as they got Michael away from the scene, he calmed right down. They were apologetic for what had happened, said they understood his anger and frustration, but they were bound by the law. There was nothing they could do about the dog.
He would go up in front of the judge the next morning. They left after taking my telephone number so they could contact me with any further news.
All I could think of was “What I am going to tell Sara?”…Sara being Michael’s mother.
I made the phone call to her; I had to let her know that her son was currently sat in a police cell. She seemed to take the news as well as I suppose you could. She cursed Michael for not controlling himself. I told her I’d keep her updated.
Lost, confused, upset beyond belief…I didn’t know what to do. Jane decided to take me away from the house, away from where everything had happened, and we ended up at a sushi place in town. Whilst there, my phone rang….they had managed to get Michael up in front of a judge much quicker than anticipated, so he was being released within two hours. Relief.
The charge was also reduced drastically…it went from Assaulting a Police Officer, to Disturbing the Peace. No criminal record, but if he reoffended in the next 6 months he would have to pay a fine and a mark would go down against him. He met us in town, and we went home.
My father and I no longer speak. I have only seen him three times since that day; at my brother’s wedding, at my niece’s christening, and from a distance, parked up in my granddads driveway.
The dog is still very much here. He hasn’t, to the best of my knowledge, bitten anyone else, although he had attacked another dog. My father ended up paying the vet bills of this other dog, Zack had tore open its neck I believe.
Of the £800 I handed over to my parents, I have only received £300 of it back. I do not expect to get the rest.
My arms have healed, but I am left with scarring and damage to some of the underlying tissue. A couple of spots on my left arm still, 2 years on, have little or limited feeling. My arms are extremely sensitive to temperature change and sometimes just hurt for no apparent reason.
Every time I look down, I am reminded that one of the most important men in my life let me down when I most needed him to protect me. That he put his own selfishness above the physical and emotional well being of his family. That he put a dog before his daughter.
In the initial aftermath, my way of dealing with what happened to me was basically to not. Although I actively covered my arms up from peering eyes, in all other ways I essentially pretended that it didn’t happen. I threw myself in my work, into my role as secretary of Newcastle upon Tyne Baha’i group. I didn’t process or deal with any of the trauma I had suffered. Months passed, and it wasn’t until June and with Father’s day approaching that I cracked and broke down completely. I continued with work because I didn’t really have much of a choice, but I regressed inwards in every other way. I asked to be relieved of my secretary work, stopped socializing or really communicating with people. My husband hit despair; the woman he married was disappearing in front of his eyes. He put out an SOS, for lack of a better way of putting it, for my friends to visit and lend me their moral support. It was from this point that I started to see more of Megan, a fellow Baha’i who I had always gotten on well with at social events but didn’t know overly well. We started to hang out and today we actually live together, we’ve become so close. She was and is such as amazing friend who really helped me forget some of the less pleasant things in life by hanging out and being just as crazy I am.
I was also so lucky and thankful to reconnect with someone who I had lost touch with, Jayson. I have known him since I was 17 years old and although he is miles away in Vancouver, Canada, he lent me such unbelievable emotional support at a time that I really needed it. Just two weeks ago I actually returned from visiting him in Vancouver for the first time. It won’t be the last.
I owe them both so much.
And Michael. O husband of mine. He got himself arrested for me. I have never felt his love for me as strongly as I did that day; even when I was crying and pleading with him to let me through the door to get my dad’s things.
Michael stood up to my father when no one else did; in the immediate aftermath of the attack all of my family agreed that Dad was in the wrong, but no one would actually say anything to him. They all stayed silent. Michael didn’t. Some of the ways that he showed how much he cared weren’t exactly the best; he got my parents application of council housing cancelled out of spite for example, but he always did what he did out of love for me.
He feels in so many ways that he failed me.
That it should have been him who was attacked.
That he wasn’t able to support me sufficiently in the aftermath.
I know it hurts him that I needed outside support to help me through the worst of it. What I have always said to him is this though…he was just too close to it all. He suffered just as much as I. He had to return home that evening to blood and flesh covering our home. And then he had to watch as the cause of his precious wife’s suffering just walked away with facing any sort of consequence. I can’t imagine the anger he felt. The anger he still feels. When I talked to him about it, he just got angry. I know he couldn’t help it, but I needed a more objective pair of ears to listen to me. Someone more removed than what Michael was.
It reached a point where I couldn’t sleep, no matter what I did. I would wake up screaming, dreams still plagued with blood and teeth and dying. I went to the doctor, got given tablets which eventually helped. I was referred for counseling, and although I was nervous and scared, I went. And it helped. What started as an exercise in trying to cope with the trauma of the attack, morphed into dealing with what became the biggest fallout from the whole ordeal; my relationship with my father.
I felt, and still feel, betrayed. My therapy sessions moved from the immediate, to analyzing my entire relationship with the man. And in the end, I came to the conclusion that he is just too toxic an influence on my life. After 30 years of living, I finally decided for the first time to actively remove someone. And it hurt, because deep down, I still love the man. He’s my father. I spent the entirety of my youth fighting for his approval, doing everything I could to keep him happy. I was always the one in the family to try and keep everyone on talking terms in the name of family unity, to ‘keep the peace’. And now, for the first time in my life, I was fighting against that urge.
Two years on, I still hate that I am not talking to him. It makes certain things difficult, for example, my relationship with my mother. I can’t see her at her home because he (and the dog) is there. I can’t telephone her for fear of him picking up. My window of opportunity to actually see her is so small it reduces me to tears sometimes.
Last Christmas, I simply didn’t see her. And then, when we eventually spoke, she cried down the phone at me. Said how much she wishes she could just get me and my dad in the same room, minus the dog, and get us to talk. She didn’t out rightly ask, but I know it deep down…that was her way of asking me to let bygones be bygones.
That is something that, sadly for her, I just cannot do.
For me turn around now, 2 years later, and approach my dad about mending the bridges between us….I would be spitting in the face of all the work I have done to get to this point. It would prove that I have no self worth…and I like to think that I do have some; well, at least a little.
But even worse, I would be sending him the message that what happened that day was totally and absolutely fine. That it is okay to keep a dangerous animal. That is it okay to not take responsibility for your actions. That it is okay to blame your daughter for something that is, ultimately, your fault. That the scars that she bears on her arms are absolutely fine. That it’s okay that every time she looks at her arms, she has to fight the urge to break down, give up, and just stop trying.
My father does not know the extent to which he has inflicted suffering upon me, and I doubt he ever will. I am convinced that he still does not see what he did as wrong. So I will never receive an apology from him. He will never do the right thing. Which means, he will never have me in his life again.
I used to beat myself up so bad. I would ask myself time and time again, what did I do wrong? What on earth did I do to deserve him acting the way he did? Was I not a good daughter? Did I not do my utter best for him? In my lowest moments, I am plagued with what ifs. But what ifs solve nothing, so I try my best to ignore them. What happened cannot be changed. I just need to live with it now.
What happened has shaped who I have become. I like to think I am a stronger person now. I’m not sure that those who know and love me would agree, but I do feel more confident, more sure of myself. More inclined to know what I want, state my desires, and work towards them. I wish my wakeup call had not been so drastic or so painful. But it was and once again, I just have to live with the fallout.
I suppose, in a twisted way I should thank him for giving me the opportunity to grow. Maybe that’s how I should try and see my scars, as the price of realising that I am worth something, that I am worth so much more than the approval of a man who doesn’t care enough to put my needs first at a time when I really really needed him to.
One day, I hope I will be able to look down at my arms and not have to fight the upset.
Until that day, I will feel the hurt, but try my damnedest to keep going despite it.
To quote Dory:
“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”
(1) My arms the day after the attack:
(3) and finally, me, in hospital…