When I was 19, I met who I thought was my soul mate. From the day we met, we were inseparable and when his visa ran out, we decided to get married after only 5 months together. There was no fancy proposal like I had always imagined, but I didn't want to lose him so I agreed. There were problems before we actually got married, but I was actually embarrassed to end it as I knew people were sceptical about us getting married so quickly and so young.
We got married 2 months later and the wedding day was lovely. However, he very quickly got me into a lot of debt - I thought that as we were married, wanted to buy a house together etc, that it didn't matter whose name the debt was in.
I was still at university when we got married, and it was very difficult to keep on top of the debt and keep up with my studies at the same time. During the summer before my last year, I had planned to make a good start on my dissertation. Instead, I spent almost the whole summer working 2 jobs (I only had 4 days off). Most of my friends didn't work at all during their final year, but I had to work 4 days a week. We were arguing all the time and I was stressed and miserable.
Just before the last couple of weeks of uni, my husband hit me for the first time. We were having yet another argument, but this time, he slapped me across the face twice (so hard that it made my head turn from one side to the other) and the he grabbed my head and started shaking it. I still remember the feeling to this day where I could feel my brain shaking in my head. Just as I thought I was about to die, he threw my head away and walked off. As he threw my head, it connected with the door frame before I fell to the floor. My forehead was cut open and blood was everywhere.
I had to have stitches in my head and my husband was repeatedly telling me that he loved me and would never do it again. I somehow found myself telling the staff at A&E that I had tripped and fallen into the door frame.
Over the next few days, I had to find creative ways of doing my hair so that no one would see my stitches. I couldn't hide them at work as I had to have my hair up, so like I had told the doctors, I told people that I had tripped.
I never thought that I would stay with someone that would hit me, but I realised that what I earned each month was no way enough to cover all the debt as they were in my name. I didn't trust that he would give me money so I ended up staying with him.
The relationship didn't get any better but I got a full time job after I had finished uni, and as it still wasn't enough to cover all our bills, I carried on working part time at the weekends as well.
He then hit me again about six months later. Again, we were arguing and he punched me in the chin. Again, I had to go to the hospital with a suspected dislocated jaw. Thankfully, it had only gone into spasm and it wasn't dislocated. This time I told people that I was on the tube and got hit by someone accidentally when the train jolted.
That was the last time he hit me, but I still stayed with him. I somehow still believed that he would change, and that things would work out. We still argued all the time, but he did eventually get a full time job and then started running a bar.
After he started running the bar, he was there all the time. We barely saw each other, but still had no money. I would spend my spare time at home alone as I couldn't afford to do anything. I still had good friends, and support from my family, but no one knew the extent of how miserable I was. By this point, everything had gone on for so long that it felt normal, and I didn't remember what being really happy was like.
We then spent about 6 months seeing each other for about 2 hours a week. I ended up making an appointment with a relationship counsellor but we never made the appointment. The night of the first appointment, I received a phone call from the police telling me that my husband had been arrested and they needed to search our flat.
I rushed home and found out that he had been arrested on suspicion of murder - his friend had been found shot dead and my husband had been the last person known to have seen him.
A week later, I decided that enough was enough and I made the decision to leave him. We had paid off some of our loans, but I still had £13k of his debt on my credit cards. I decided that I didn't care and moved out.
It took 4 years for the case to get to court, and he was finally convicted of the murder and is now in prison with a life sentence. During the 4 years, I found out from the police that he had been cheating on me when we were still together, he had a massive gambling debt behind my back, and had borrowed £250k from this man to pay for his gambling. When he couldn't pay it back, he shot and stabbed him.
I had to give evidence against him in court, and I made sure to never look directly at him as I had not seen him since the day I left, and didn't want to see him ever again.
My decision to leave is still the best decision I have ever made. Yes, it was scary - it had been so long that I was terrified, but I knew I would be fine as I had been pretty much living on my own towards the end of the relationship anyway.
I decided that I would make a totally fresh start and not let my experience affect the way I would live my life. I started living my life with such happiness and enthusiasm that people could not believe what I had gone through. I realised very quickly that I was in charge of what happened to me in the future, and I was not going to let anything ruin my life!
Within 18 months of our breaking up, I had paid off all my debts, even my student debt. Since then, I managed to save money and have invested in property.
The only thing that I have not had since the break up is a meaningful relationship - I have been scared of trusting someone too much and the casual relationships have stayed casual.
However, I now live by the rule of never regretting anything - whatever happens in your life can be negative or positive - you have the choice! So what happened is truly in the past, and I am using that to drive me forward. I have started writing a book about my experiences and I hope that I can inspire people to change their lives for the better.