Saying Goodbye to the Shadow
Updated: May 5, 2021
| This is the 572nd story of Our Life Logs® |
“Oh, I’ve met him! He seems like a really nice, down-to-earth bloke,” was people’s general opinion about my dad when they first met him—a laughable statement.
Despite the façade my dad wore the majority of the time, I’d also seen what was behind the mask. My Grandad used to call him “Jekyll and Hyde.” It was the shortest, yet most accurate definition to explain his personality. In a nutshell, he’s your typical narcissist and coercive controller.
Despite only just turning 18 years old myself, I’ve experienced enough emotional pain to realize that life’s too short to let others control and take your power. Let me explain.
“Just try it! You might like it.”
I was born on January 28, 2003, in Birmingham, UK. At a young age, I moved to Wolverhampton, my mum convinced me to go to a performing arts class. Eight years later, I was still with the same theatre company and pursuing further performing ventures at school. Needless to say, I liked it.
Growing up as a kid in the performing arts industry, I’d already found my passion and life’s purpose at a young age. My dad was always my biggest fan. He’d come to every show and wait for me at the end at the stage door with a huge bouquet of flowers. Despite his flaws and judgments, I’ve always been grateful he supported my dream of being a performer, instead of following a more “academic” route. Many of my childhood memories consist of wonderful times my dad, stepmum, and I spent together. In those little moments we shared, my heart smiled. I remember wrapping presents and decorating the tree with Christmas music playing and the smell of the candles burning, sitting down on a Friday night with a takeaway fish and chips, and consulting the who’s-turn-is-it-to-pick-the-movie calendar while snuggling up on the sofa.
My dad was the most loving, supportive, warm and generous person I knew… but it was almost as if a parallel universe lurked underneath this perfect scene. A dimension that brought anger and anguish through the unshakable shadow of domestic abuse…
He never used to be religious until he met my stepmum, in fact, he completely opposed it. But suddenly the Church became his life. I used to enjoy going on a Sunday, meeting friends and learning, singing the songs—even in the church band occasionally. Nonetheless, at the age of about 14, I felt more pressured to be involved and began losing control of my basic rights. The right to have a boyfriend, to buy a plain black practical T-shirt for dance with “OMG” embroidered on the front (with my own money, from a charity shop…), to have certain beliefs, values, or even express myself. Before high school, I was too young to understand what all of this was.
Throughout my life, there’d be periods where the normality was disrupted by the sight of police cars and/or ambulances outside our front door, letters, phone calls, emails chains with solicitors, court orders, and court hearings.
As I got older, I realized something wasn’t right… and this wasn’t normal.
On December 28, 2017, my dad, my stepmum, and I traveled to my Aunt and Uncle’s house (his sister and her husband) for a Christmas get-together. Just before he picked me up from my mum’s house, my mum, her boyfriend at the time, and I were discussing how I felt about my relationship with religion and the Church.
A few moments after, I was hit with the realization that I’d lost my freedom. The shock my mum expressed at how controlling this lifestyle appeared. Finally, the manipulation I knew I’d been repressing came forth and look me in the eyes.
• • •
At my Aunt and Uncle’s, the evening was absolutely lovely; we opened presents, had a great laugh, ate a lovely buffet, and listened to Christmas music. Late evening, we headed to the pub across the road to meet some of their friends and embrace the Christmassy atmosphere.
My mum and I had talked for a while about our suspicions that my dad was drinking too much, but I didn’t think much of it… until that night. Silently, I began to grow wary of the many glasses of wine that had been drunk by my dad. One conversation led to my dad unnecessarily mentioning my past struggle with self-harm. Despite asking for this shaming conversation to be abandoned, he persisted.
Evidently upset, we left the pub to head back to my Aunt’s house, where my dad proceeded to physically obstruct my entry to the front door, firstly by standing in my way, then up against a barrier from which I couldn’t move around. In my defense, my uncle stepped in, attempting to entice him off me, shockingly getting punched in the face by my father. Shouting, threats, and fear arose as he demanded I came back home with them.
I’ve never feared for my life before until the sickening moment he demanded to drive us home. In relief, we eventually settled on a taxi and traveled home, for what seemed like forever, in total silence, as tears soaked the sleeve of my black fluffy coat…
The weeks that followed were engulfed with depression and anxiety—the result of the uncertainty of whether I could walk home to my mum’s without him harassing me. One particular day at school, I remember just crying uncontrollably throughout a physics exam, for a reason I can’t even fathom. I’d lost my spark. I’d lost myself. and I didn’t know how to come back.
The night of December 28, 2017, continued to haunt me. At school, all of my friends had expressed their concern and mentioned that I’d not been myself for a long time. I wasn’t the confident, bubbly, happy girl they all knew and loved. I was a faded version of her.
Through counseling at school, I was able to gain some closure. It helped me release a lot of things and understand what domestic abuse is and how it can manipulate the mindset and thoughts of its victims.
As the reality sunk in of what was actually happening, a switch flipped in my mind and I finally felt ready to open up to my mum about how I felt about the previous Christmas, his effect on me, and how I now understood that it wasn’t my fault.
Through our conversation, it all came flooding in—everything I could remember from my childhood. It wasn’t just simple arguments or disagreements, it was straight-up, black-and-white domestic abuse. Seeing my relationship with my father for what it was, was the catalyst for me to start taking back my life.
Motivated by the thought of how free I’d feel if I could learn how to let go of my past, in January 2019, I embarked on a new health and wellness journey with an incredible business team and amazing community. I fell into the world of personal development, discovering motivational legends such as Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Gabby Bernstein, and my own personal mentor. Over time, I learned how to rewire my brain in terms of my mindset, overcome setbacks, build resilience, break free of anxiety, and stand in my own power. I’d even begun hosting calls with my team, coaching other people in fitness, nutrition, personal development, and starting my Instagram page—just sharing everything I was learning. For the first time in my life, people were coming to me, thanking me for inspiring and motivating them through sharing my story.
By learning to work on me, I’d unlocked something in me that powered me through many areas of my life. An audition I’d been rejected from the year before that broke me to pieces, rejected me again that year, and, to my surprise, I walked out proud of my performance with a fire underneath me to work towards the next one. I dared to stand up to a high school bully who’d tormented me for years. I had the confidence to finally leave a toxic friendship group, knowing it was ok to be strong by myself than needing to feel complete with toxic people.
So, up until August 2019, I’d had a year of peace and resilience.
• • •
Around this time, my mum and I realized my dad owed me some money from some savings he’d put away for me. Despite having to go through solicitors to avoid direct contact, he obeyed orders and swiftly disappeared back into his own life. I felt so relieved at how calmly he sorted it all, without the need to force contact or kick off about something minute. Maybe he changed.
Mid-August, quite innocently, my friend and I were having a sleepover to celebrate her birthday. My mum had gone out locally with some friends, so we were home alone. We had a catch up, ate some nice food, watched a few films, and reminisced on our school years and the things we did together.
During one movie, I could hear someone faintly talking, yet it didn’t appear to be coming from the laptop. It took me a moment to process who that familiar, patronizing voice belonged to and for the dread to wash over me like a rough wave. Fumbling around in sheer panic, I called my mum who instantly started to run home with her friends as backup.
Peering cautiously through the study curtains, his drunken-self stood cross-armed halfway down the driveway as he shouted, “I know you’re in there, Lily, why don’t you come outside for a little chat?”
My father finally gave up before my mum could return home and strode off down the road. Out of desperation to return to peace, my mum and I decided not to involve the solicitors as it risked sparking a battle that could be easily avoided if we perceived the event as simply a bump in the road.
Like clockwork, things went back to normal. We heard absolutely nothing for months and I could finally focus on what was important to me—starting college and my performing arts career.
Just as we thought he was no longer a fragment in our lives, COVID-19 throttled the world, my Nan passed away, and, as if on cue, the threatening voicemails began again… all in the space of a few days. The first voicemail was suspiciously calm, it was simply my dad asking if it was ok to approach me at the funeral. This was followed by, as expected, another voicemail, but this time not as calm. Not only was my ear ripped off through the phone, but the blame was once again lobbed my way, topped with a drink-fueled death wish.
As his fatal words sunk in, I felt like all the blood was suctioned out of my body, I turned white and my mum just stared at me in horror.
A couple of minutes later, after composing myself, I found myself blurting out, “bring it on.” In some bizarre way, I felt somewhat excited because I realized that I was going to come out the other side a better, stronger person.
As suspected, the next couple of months were unbearably long and mentally painful. Having to watch my Nan’s funeral on a live stream, due to my dad’s pure selfishness and overwhelmingly large ego, was heartbreaking. Alongside this, I was trying to juggle online college and canceled shows on top of dealing with the absurdity that was the solicitor’s letters from him. Yet throughout, I was able to keep myself calm. Due to accidentally falling into my personal development journey, I’d been able to reprogram myself to respond, rather than react, and I was able to focus on everything I was grateful for despite the battle in the background.
In that dark time, I gained a new mission: to help anybody who’s experiencing abuse to be able to get through it and take control of their own life.
As I write this story in March of 2021,I feel as if my entire being has totally transformed. Even though he made the suspicious move directly behind our house, we haven’t heard a peep since that previous summer and for the first time in my life, I don’t feel afraid. I feel in control. I feel as if I’ve stepped into my power to take ownership of my life and break free of the abuse that once followed me around like a dark shadow. The anger, pain, fear, and villainous memories. Seeing it all with love and cultivating it with the purpose of enlightening people to the truth of what could be.
This is the story of Lily-Jane Ellis-Powell
Lily-Jane, 18, is a musical theatre performer, online health and wellness coach,and writer. She’s endured years of emotionally manipulative domestic abuse from the man who used to be her rock and biggest supporter – her dad. Even though she never has certainty or warning about when he could next disrupt her peace, Lily continues to live a life of hope, faith, trust, and belief that everything will be okay in the end, as long as she continues to remain a student of personal development and work towards the career of her dreams as a performer.
This story first touched our hearts on March 10, 2020
Writer: Lily-Jane Ellis-Powell | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker
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