My name is Naomi and I live in a lovely place called Letterston in the heart of Pembrokeshire. I live on my own with my beautiful Golden Retriever called Beti and I am very lucky to have an amazing family and friends all around me.
My everyday life
I work for Pembrokeshire County Council full time in a very busy role assisting in the maintenance of all council properties, residential and commercial. It can be a tough job, but it’s also very rewarding. We are a good, strong team and always manage to pull together in demanding times, whether it be professional challenges or supporting each other through personal circumstances.
In my spare time, I like to be active and busy.
I am currently working on a project close to my heart, which aims to support women in Pembrokeshire who are living with abuse, or who have been in an abusive relationship.
From my own experience, I can safely say that having a ‘support network’ is extremely important, not everyone has this and by coming together within the community, we can share experiences and help each other work through their low points in life.
Symptoms and triggers of decreased mental/physical health
I have always thought of myself as a strong, healthy person. I enjoy keeping fit, walking and running but when I was experiencing domestic abuse, I lost all sense of reality and perspective on life.
I often found myself questioning my own sanity; I became withdrawn from my friends and family and generally depressed. I had lost my mojo in work, I wasn’t able to express myself in my clothes and appearance anymore and I spent a lot of time ‘walking on eggshells’ at home, trying not to upset my partner.
I have always suffered with anxiety and this was exacerbated throughout this relationship.
Living with domestic abuse invoked all sorts of feelings and emotions, which I found overwhelming. There were times early on, before the physical violence started that I questioned myself and whether I was in an abusive relationship or was I just overreacting! Other times, I was so humiliated by certain situations, it prevented me telling anyone and reaching out for help even when I was sure in my heart that this was just not right.
I experienced such conflicting emotions that I didn’t know what to do, or where to turn. I didn’t have any savings and my financial independence had been taken away.
I have since learnt that abusers are isolators and manipulators and domestic abuse can happen to the strongest of people. Victims of domestic abuse are not weak. The perpetrators are groomers who minimise, deny and blame victims – they may also have their own support network of enablers who make light of the abuse and aid them in shifting responsibility, this was very confusing for me and there were times I thought it must be my fault or I was going mad.
Managing my wellbeing
I sought some counselling and tried acupuncture. I started a course of meditation which I found really helped me with my breathing and anxiety. I also made new friends which is always a bonus.
I find that just being around family and friends is comforting in stressful times, my nieces and nephews really pick me up and walking on the beach with my dog is the best remedy when I’m feeling down!
In terms of coming to terms with what I’d been through, I was assigned to the Freedom Programme. This is a domestic violence course, which aims to help you accept and understand what has happened.
The women I have met on this course are inspirational and realising that I am not alone has been a massive support to me.
Having felt embarrassed, ashamed and generally demoralised for so long, it was a relief to talk about my experience and share it with others, hearing others had been through the same really helped us all in the group.
It’s my belief that you can attend all the counselling and courses in the world but if you don’t look after your physical health, you won’t get the maximum benefit. I try to exercise regularly and have a healthy diet but I’ll happily have chips on a Friday with the gang in work J Balance is key!
Domestic abuse is debilitating and draining over time. All sorts of feelings creep in, loneliness, despair, guilt, shame and fear to name a few. It takes a lot of strength and courage to leave an abuser and often it takes a few attempts to leave for good. In the last few months, I have researched domestic abuse in depth, to try to get a better understanding of why and how this happens.
Towards the end of my relationship, I spent time on the telephone to ‘Live Fear Free’ who are an excellent 24-hour support service and can offer you confidential advice at any time. Hafan Cymru also offer a range of support services for people suffering domestic abuse.
Talking is a massively important factor in overcoming the mental struggles we face. Whilst sharing personal, painful experiences can be difficult, it’s not until we open up to each other that we realise we are not alone and there is help out there.
In society, we often feel like we must ‘pull ourselves together’, we don’t like to seem incapable or that we have failed at something…
asking for help is a strength and takes courage, it can have a huge impact on your wellbeing when you open up to others.
I am extremely humbled by the kindness of friends, family and my colleagues when I was at ‘rock bottom’. Leaving an abuser not only physically hurt, but also mentally drained and is possibly the hardest thing I’ve had to do.
The mental abuse hadn’t stopped from leaving the relationship as I was harassed and bullied continuously over the course of 2 months.
However, within days of leaving, I was no longer homeless or worried about not having any furniture etc. – family and friends rallied around and I was suddenly in a beautiful house with people coming in with boxes of things from cutlery to a coffee table!
I was able to start to focus on my mental rehabilitation and recovery and I realised how strong I really was – It’s these moments you really appreciate the kindness of people around you.
Things I feel are essential to sustain a positive level of wellbeing
It’s important for me to have a routine in life, don’t get me wrong, I love a spontaneous holiday but at the end of the day I’m a pretty simple person that quite likes going to work Monday – Friday, spending time with my family and friends and walking my dog on the beach at weekends.
Running has become a big part of my life and I’m even attempting the Cardiff Half Marathon this October! Physical exercise not only helps you look better, it really helps increase those endorphins! Nothing is quite as bad after a good run – especially in the rain!
Unfortunately, poor mental health can prevent us for asking for help but when we do it can strengthen friendships and family bonds or take you to people you would never usually meet in everyday life.
Talking and connecting with the other women in the Freedom Programme has really assisted in my recovery and given me the drive to want to help others.
I still have my moments of anxiety, especially as I am raising awareness. I am conscious at times that sharing my experience may put me at further risk. However, ‘silence hides violence’ and raising awareness of this issue within our communities is very important to help people recognise the signs of domestic abuse, know how and where to get help and encourage social change.
Use Clare’s Law
If anyone has concerns about a partner please talk to the police and utilise ‘Clare’s Law’, a system that can disclose information if a partner has a record of abusive offences. Having this information may help you make decisions and protect yourself.
Follows DAPS (Domestic Abuse Pembrokeshire Support)
Please find DAPS on Facebook if you are in an abusive relationship, or you have left one and are still suffering the effects.
Many thanks to Naomi for taking the time to share her personal experience about physical and mental health with the west Wales community. We hope these stories will provide you with food for thought and inspiration to take positive action for your own wellbeing.