Almost four months on a cosy 28-foot boat with the love of your life, dealing with temperamental weather and an ocean as changeable as a teenager’s mood swings is one of those experiences that make you look at life and your place in it.
I don’t know if I’d go as far to say I’m stronger or that it was a transformational experience – during the sail I often compared to my 3,000km (1,864 miles) walk down the length of New Zealand, which really did change me as a person – but the sailing challenge made me sit up.
One of the defining features of my previous relationship which was emotionally abusive was the sense that there was something wrong with me.
There were a lot of things I never seemed to get right – the time in the morning I brought his cup of tea, how I peeled mushrooms, pureeing soup instead of leaving it chunky, not caring about him enough.
And it was always my fault when he got angry about it; a classic abusive trait.
But really, my only fault was that I took it personally. I took his claims that I was to blame for his attitude to mean there was something wrong with me – that it said more about me than it said about him.
When I set out on sailing around Great Britain with my current and amazing partner, fundraising for the UK Charity SafeLives, which works to end domestic abuse, I spoke to the girls at SafeLives and we talked about triggers.
Could there be anything during the adventure that might trigger feelings associated with my previous experience of emotional abuse?
If there was one word to describe the realisation that I had been in an emotionally abusive relationship, that word would be shame.
It would quickly be followed by the word weakness.
How did I not realise I was in an emotionally abusive relationship? How weak was I to get into this sort of relationship and to stay so long? What does that say about me? What will other people think?
For several years, those two words have hung around me like a bad smell.
I no longer want to give them power, which is why I’m talking about it now and why, during our upcoming sail around Great Britain, my current (and amazing) partner Mark and I are fundraising for the UK charity SafeLives, which works to end domestic abuse. You can donate here.