Listening intently to an older lady opening up about her mental health struggles, Louise digs deep, using her own difficult experiences to offer support. Louise, now 49, has been volunteering for her local branch of Mind for just over a year. ‘The charity was there for me when I needed them most. It’s important to me to give back because no one should have to face a mental health problem alone,’ she says.
But Louise’s journey to happiness has been a tough one. ‘I think when I met John* about 20 years ago, he saw me as fun and easy-going. There were no warning signs about his true character. Things moved quickly, and within several weeks we were living together,’ she says.
Only, after a few months, John’s behaviour began to change. It started with the small things. As well as becoming generally more moody, he began to show an unhealthy interest in everything Louise was doing.
‘I was often asked where I was going and who I was seeing, and he’d be fine one minute, slamming doors the next,’ says Louise. ‘Friends often called round to see me, but he told them I wasn’t there.’
However, John’s shouting progressed to pushing Louise around. She often had to take time off work because of the bruises and ended up losing her job, which was important to her independence.
There was a hidden damage too; the way that John chipped away at her confidence to the point where Louise could no longer recognise herself.
‘I was punched in the face and was used to having his hands around my neck, but on top of that, he constantly put me down, and made me feel unlovable and worthless. I completely lost my identity,’ she says.
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