Domestic Violence and Complex PTSD
By Al Milledge
‘I wouldn’t have believed when I first came to the groups, that I can choose to be happy’
I spoke to Skye after meeting her many times when I was facilitating groups. I had no idea that the woman who now speaks so lovingly and optimistically about her kids and the new home she had moved into had so recently, come from such a traumatic background.
Skye has been to 2 Programmes and now attends our mentor groups. When she first came to a group when she was in a refuge after leaving a violent relationship. She was diagnosed with Complex PTSD and given strong medication to lessen the effects she was suffering. She struggled to be around people without suffering flashbacks. She fell deep into depression and felt isolated.
She gave our group a try and had the insight immediately that she wasn’t the only one suffering. That made her feel more included and she decided to come every week. She heard others talk about their struggles.
After a few weeks she felt generally better for the first time since she went into the refuge. For the first time in a long time, she felt she had some control of her thoughts. She saw that she was transferring the past into the present and that it felt ok no to do that. Before that insight she thought she would have to live with the fall out of those violent past events for the rest of her life.
I asked Skye if there was a moment when she really heard something that helped
She said ‘Yes! I asked one of the team members how she had learned to love herself after a story she our team member had told the group about how much she used to beat herself up’. Skye doesn’t remember the exact response but that moment was the first moment that she knew she could live from a loving state of mind again. Her experience gently and gradually got better from then.
Now she can say nice things about herself for the first time in decades. She knows that if she is in a low mood, she can mitigate it or just be with it and it will just pass If left alone. She doesn’t let the bad feeling overpower her like it used to.
I asked if the insights she has had from class have had a significant effect in any way.
She told me about an assault that happened last year that threatened to overpower her, after that she thought that she had lost everything that she had learned. She came back to group and just listened, after a while she noticed that the overwhelming feeling had started to shift and over the next few days and weeks it disappeared. She hadn’t forgotten anything. It helped so much with the ensuing court case knowing what a calm mind feels like. It takes some of the fear out of those very real and difficult interactions.
I asked about how her kids are doing as I’d seen one of them on her lap in a session.
She said they have seen a big change in her, they worried after the assault that she was going to go back to how she used to be when she was diagnosed with depression but they noticed her slow down and start to look after herself more and then reset to the new normal. She is grateful that she can be a guide and support to them even though she has been through so much and they have had to witness a lot of it.
The group also improved her relationship with her estranged dad, when she saw that he doesn’t look at the world the way she does it made sense to her to take more time with him.
She said to me to tell the team ‘What you do really matters’ her favourite groups are where she comes on feeling a bit low and just listens for a bit, listens for her own mental health, and then by the end she feels different, neutral, peaceful. Ready to take on whatever she has to get on with.
I asked ‘do you think others should take A Slice of Happiness support’
She said ‘it’s the best thing that they could ever do’
The last word from Skye.
‘I wouldn’t have believed when I first came to the groups, that I can choose to be happy; everyone has that capability, It’s a simpler way of dealing with anguish than looking around for something to do about it. It is such a different experience for me and I reset again so much quicker than would have before. Thank you’
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