I fell in love and married in my home town of Reading, Berkshire in 1974, I thought we were both going to continue to live there but my husband thought otherwise, his plan was to move to Scunthorpe! I did not argue and left with high hopes. I trusted that things would work out fine and got on with the business of being married. Initially I was reliant on my husband for everything- for love, friendship and money. However, as I started to form friendships of my own with the people I met locally, my husband began telling me that I could do nothing right and criticised my every action. This soon began to take its toll on me and had a terrible effect on my self-esteem.
Having been brought up to understand that marriages were often hard work and full of compromises, I carried on, and kept trying to convince myself that his behaviour was acceptable, normal. I did everything I could think of to make things work, but when you are the only one trying to make things better, it is simply not enough. I knew my heart of hearts that the end had arrived and put in for a divorce. It was devastating.
With no other option, it was not long before I’d moved out of my home and into a single-room bedsit where I tried to live the best life that I could. At the time I hoped to build a new life free of my husband’s controlling and damaging behaviours. Sadly this was not to be the case, I could go nowhere without “bumping” into him. I soon discovered that these ‘chance encounters’ were in fact very deliberate and planned. Sometimes he followed me and at other times he would enquire from my friends about my whereabouts. Despite the fact that our divorce had been finalised over 18 months earlier I continued to be harassed by him. At the time I didn’t realise how serious this was, but I know now that such behaviour is a crime called “Stalking”. To be free, to be safe and to be able to start a new life I knew that I needed to run further away from him, but thought that I had nowhere to go.
With what belongings I could carry on my back and in my hands I arrived at the train station just as a train was waiting to set off. I didn’t really have any money to speak of but I had enough for a one-way ticket which would hopefully take me as far away as possible from my ex-husband and my old life. I arrived in Bradford with £10, some change in my pocket and nowhere to stay.
Standing in Bradford Interchange I felt I that I’d finally arrived at the place where I was meant to be. It felt right. Placing my rucksack in a luggage locker I went out to explore. I got as far as the Odeon cinema where for a bit of normality and warmth I decided to buy a ticket to see Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – I loved it. Having planned to spend the night within the Interchange bus and train station I was soon told that it would close at midnight leaving me nowhere to gain shelter for the night. A passer-by informed me there were derelict houses nearby in which I might be able to sleep, but I was too scared to take up the offer. Growing more and more concerned about my situation and my future I rang The Samaritans (the only helpline I knew about) for help. They found a place for me at a hostel in Fairweather Green and I set off with my luggage. As I began the long walk to the hostel a taxi driver stopped and offered me a lift for free. I was heartened by this act of kindness to a stranger and got in. Before long I’d arrived at the hostel and my new life in Bradford began.
The first couple of years of being here were difficult as tired to rediscover myself and rebuild my self-esteem. I was eventually found a decent place to make my home which I didn’t have to run away from. I made friends through being at Bradford’s “Central Library” -honest friends, true friends that I still have today. Soon I’d enrolled on an access course at Northern College, then university where I studied Social Work. In Bradford, my new home, I found a better life, a good career, re-married and raised two sons. I’d found myself again.
I used to have a disturbing and recurrent dream in which I was walking up hills, hills which would get higher and higher – so high that I would end up crawling to try and reach the top. It was only after running away to Bradford that these nightmares ended. I had finally found my home.