#18 Can’t see the wood for the trees

A phrase often used to describe not being able to see a situation with clarity when you are in the middle of it. Stepping back can provide a clearer perspective.

As you read Helen’s story consider the following.

What impact would Geoffrey’s routines & rituals have on Helen & the children?

What else might be happening that I haven’t described?

Why might Helen struggle to recognise what is happening to her?


Geoffrey & Helen have been together since their 20’s, having met at university.

After graduating, they bought a house together to a new area away from both sets of families. Geoffrey got a job as an accountant & Helen started her career in HR.

Geoffrey was methodical & liked order. Their finances tightly managed, Helen’s salary was automatically paid into their joint account which Geoffrey controlled.

He expected the house to be immaculate. Geoffrey was meticulous when it came to hygiene.

So much so, that when Helen had her period he would insist that she undertook a ritual of bathing twice a day & sleeping in a separate room. They had a code word & Helen was not permitted to mention the ‘P’ word. Geoffrey would insist her underwear & sanitary products were destroyed in an Incinerator in the garden every month.

Helen struggled during these week’s, whilst she enjoyed sleeping alone, she felt dirty & the room was tiny, dismal & the bed uncomfortable.

She could sense Geoffrey’s disgust in her ‘woman’s problems’ & kept her distance. If she became upset, he would call her hysterical & hormonal. 

Over the years he became increasingly controlling. Restricting all her access to money, she would have to ask for what she needed.

A few years on they moved house with separate bathrooms. Helen felt grateful that the spare bedroom was larger & could fit her belongings when she was sent there.

However, with this move came new routines & rituals. With consequences if not followed. 

His rules.

To the outside world, they had a perfect marriage, beautiful home & great careers.

Helen often being told she was ‘lucky’. 

But being with Geoffrey was physically & emotionally exhausting. 

The house was inspected daily, with punishments to any offences that didn’t meet the ever changing house rules. Having friends or family to visit was forbidden & this slowly became their normal.

When they had children & they knew no different.

Helen & the children lived every minute striving for perfection & Geoffrey’s acceptance.

As Helen aged, she withdrew from the world, her career, the few friends she had.

She even distanced herself from the children as they aged & who by their teens showed utter contempt for her.

Their father grooming them into believing their mother was abit ‘mad’.

She became smaller & quieter, gradually fading away. Geoffrey convinced her it was hormonal & with his ‘support’, Helen went to her GP & was prescribed sedatives & antidepressants. The menopause still being a taboo topic. 

Helen believed the problem was her.

She raged inside but remained silent & invisible. 

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