From multiple affairs to false allegations of drug use, this mum is fighting to get her kids and her life back.
Sometimes it's amazing how different things can appear in hindsight...
Your reality at the time compared to your reality now are polar opposites.
And, a person you thought you thought you knew - someone you thought you loved, someone you married, someone you lived with for years, someone who became a father to your children and you shared a life with - turns out to be completely different to what you thought they were.
And basically, a stranger.
Falling in love with a stranger
I met *Michael through mutual friends back in 2007 and although it wasn't exactly love at first sight on my end, he was very charming, persistent, and didn't take no for an answer!
After finally agreeing to go on a date with him, everything moved very quickly from thereon.
He constantly showered me with gifts, the 'L' word was exchanged within weeks, we moved in together within two months, and he popped the big question just six months into our relationship.
And when I think about time running out, I certainly do have a nagging feeling that I should spend more time with the people I really care about, deal with my social media habit, get focused, knuckle down, finally decide what I want to do with what remains of my life and then do it with ruthless efficiency before it is too late.
I was 27, blinded by what I believed was true love at the time, and excitedly said yes as he slipped the sparkling diamond ring onto my finger.
When I called my family and friends to share the happy news, a couple made their doubts about the hastiness of the relationship - and the relationship in general - quite clear.
At the time, it angered me that they couldn't share in my joy and happiness.
But looking back, I wish I'd listened
There were red flags from the start of our relationship, yet I'd pushed them to the side, not wanting to admit to myself that there were any issues or hesitations.
Schedule daily special time. Let your child choose an activity where you hang out together for 10 or 15 minutes with no interruptions. There's no better way for you to show your love.
Trust between us was in question within weeks of our first date.
There were constant late-night calls to his phone which he'd brush off, confusing stories about his past that contradicted themselves from day to day, and his boastful personality and anecdotes involving him always being the best at everything never sat quite right.
It also became clear early on he could never admit when he was wrong - EVER.
To keep the peace, and as an optimist who always has my half glass full rather than empty, I would be the one to always smooth over every issue or argument - even though I knew 99 percent of the time he was the one completely in the wrong.
I guess I just thought he was extremely stubborn, and had a hard time apologising for his mistakes, untoward behaviour and actions.
But over time I began to realise it ran much deeper than that
Although I had major doubts the night before our wedding day, I went through with the ceremony and put on a smile for our guests and the camera.
But deep down I knew I wasn't making the right decision...
By that stage I'd already brushed off so many suspicious incidents of possible infidelity, I was consistently ignoring and tolerating his "stubbornness' and need for superiority and to be always be right, and wasn't feeling like I was married to the love of my life or soul mate. A lot about his personality actually irritated me.
Yet, for whatever reason - probably because I already felt like he had locked me down and there was no turning back - I stayed.
A year later I fell pregnant, and with that came mixed emotions.
I buried my doubts
It was exciting to learn I was a mum-to-be and growing a beautiful little human inside of me, yet I felt like I was creating that new life with the wrong person.
I never told anyone about my doubts - in fact I would actually defend him and his behaviour to family and friends.
At the time I was completely blind to the fact that right from the start he'd learnt three key things about me: I had a big heart, I was an empathist, and he could use those first two things to his advantage to control me.
I always 'felt sorry for him', thinking of all the terrible stories he'd shared from his childhood. I wanted to help him, maybe even try to 'fix' him in a way.
But as time went on and more of his dishonesty and lies were exposed, I started to question everything about him. All his stories, his feelings, his actions - everything.
I had no idea what was real or what was fake
I'd never known any of his passwords - I hadn't asked, he hadn't shared them, and he had in fact always been very secretive about them.
Get your kids vaccinated. Outbreaks of measles and other diseases still occur in our country and throughout the world.
But after our second child was born, as he started working away much more and much longer hours, it became even more than that.
His mobile phone was always stuck to him like glue - he would even take it into the bathroom with him when he'd shower.
I had never been the type to pry but with all the years of doubting his honesty and faithfulness coming to a head, it was becoming very clear he had something big he was hiding.
We were on worst terms than ever that first year of our second child's life, and when the opportunity arose to look through his phone one day, I took it.
There were so many late night calls to random numbers I didn't recognise, with no names attached to them.
So I did what I think many highly suspicious wives in that situation would do - I put my phone number to private and called them.
I felt absolutely sick to the pit of my stomach when I learnt he was having at least three ongoing affairs.
The hurt and betrayal I felt personally was immense, yet the fact he had created these big secret lives over a long period of time - all the lies, manipulations and fake stories - and the fact he could do this to his two little innocent children and tear our family and lives apart - is what hurt the most.
Of course he tried to deny it at first - as he had denied everything for so many years.
But when I presented him with the solid evidence, for once he realised he couldn't lie his way out of this one.
Although he never explained anything and never fully admitted the truth, he knew he had been caught.
And that same day, I walked out the door and ended our marriage.
The next few years were a rollercoaster to say the least.
He had a few short-term relationships and during those he would treat me like his worst enemy, yet when they ended he would turn to me for support, offer to help me financially and even emotionally, but of course the niceness would never last long when he didn't get what he wanted in return.
Everything he did was measured and calculated.
He would put on "nice guy" acts for a while, leading to trying to win me back a few times, then he'd become extremely angry and volatile towards me when I turned him down.
From the start of our separation, we mutually agreed to share custody of our children. No matter how I felt about him and what he had done, I always believed it was in the children's best interests to have both parents in their lives.
There were a couple incidents - involving him lying and manipulating me and the children - that had made me strongly consider filing court orders to gain full custody.
Take charge. Children crave limits, which help them understand and manage an often confusing world. Show your love by setting boundaries so your kids can explore and discover their passions safely.
But as always, he managed to use his persuasiveness and manipulation skills to pull at my heartstrings and not follow through.
That's another thing about hindsight - those pivotal sliding door moments where you wish you could turn back time and bypass the wrong door, and walk through the right one.
As one wrong decision can sometimes dictate and change your entire life
After his most recent relationship broke up and his ex-partner took their baby away and filed a restraining order against him stopping all contact, he became more depressed, erratic, volatile and unpredictable than ever.
Following weeks of him trying to once again reignite something between us without success, we had a big disagreement one day.
Next thing I knew there was a knock on my door - and two policemen were standing on my doorstep and served me with paperwork.
Michael had blindsided me with an Intervention Order, full of false accusations claiming I had been violent towards him, and neglectful towards my children.
To say I was shocked, devastated and in utter disbelief is a huge understatement.
I lost my kids
I knew he was capable of a lot, yet I never believed he would take my two beautiful children away from me whom I'd absolutely adored and loved unconditionally since the day they were born.
The court date for the hearing was set two months later and until then, there was nothing I could do.
I could only see my children only if he permitted it (needless to say he wouldn't), the police couldn't do anything, the courts couldn't do anything, I was helpless.
I couldn't go within 5 metres of my own children without his permission, or I would be in breach of the order.
What Difference Does Quality Time Make?
Most days I wasn't even able to talk to my children over the phone - as he'd ignore my messages requesting to speak with them.
I spent many days and nights in helpless tears, desperately contacted anyone and everyone to see if there was someone who could help me get my children back, and constantly worried about and yearned for my two beautiful little kids - who were in the care of the real offender and danger to them.
Yet to everyone else, he'd made it seem like he was an innocent victim.
Sadly - and ultimately dangerously - there are some major loopholes in our justice system.
Positive, or authoritative, parents value mutual respect and being a good listener.
Firstly, the fact he was granted this order with nothing more than a series of allegations - and with a current restraining order out against him - is extremely disturbing.
Secondly, the fact the hearing is then set for two months later is an agonisingly long wait - especially when there's no real evidence and ultimately, I did nothing wrong.
Even though several meetings with Child Protection, police, lawyers, mediators, etc. had been successful in a sense - as they were satisfied I'd indeed done nothing wrong and they all strongly recommended we resume normal custody - still nothing could be done.
As Michael flat out refused, and therefore I still wasn't able to see my children.
Another thing our justice system needs a major overhaul with is recognising the harm, damage, long-term effects and danger caused by emotional, mental and psychological abuse is a huge issue, it's real - and it needs just as much legal recognition and emphasis placed on it as physical abuse.
Just because my children and I didn't show any signs of physical bruises or scars on us, it appeared to them that we weren't in any danger or weren't victims of abuse.
Yet, we were victims of a manipulative, compulsive lying, selfish, power-hungry and extremely dangerous narcissist - who was hell-bent on gaining control and always being "right" at any cost - even at the expense of his own children's happiness and wellbeing.
Not to mention the ongoing, relentless smear campaign against me - as now he can no longer control me he's trying to control the way everyone else sees me.
For me personally, I am still without my children and in the midst of this tumultuous and emotional legal battle, hoping this real-life nightmare will soon come to an end and the children will soon be back in my arms where they belong.
But for the bigger picture and for everyone else out there who is the victim of narcissism or any other form of emotional, mental or psychological abuse, I desperately hope we'll soon see some big changes within our justice system.
No form of violence or abuse is every acceptable or should be tolerated.
And sometimes, the inner and invisible damage and scars can take much longer to heal than the outer and visible ones.
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence at home, help is available. Contact 1800 RESPECT , White Ribbon or alternatively, click here to see a variety of support services available by state. If you believe you are in immediate danger, please contact police.
Set Smart Limits