As a result of Louise Lane being the victim of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her veteran ex-partner, she developed complex PTSD. Although she’s still dealing with distressing symptoms every day, Louise has since found the strength and support – especially from The Ripple Pond - to rebuild her life. Determined to turn her terrible experiences into a positive, she plans to become a psychotherapist to help other women going through and recovering from abuse.
Louise was working as a case worker for a veteran’s charity when she met her former partner. Their relationship blossomed, however, throughout their first year together he hid his dependency on alcohol.
Looking back, Louise recognises the red flags, but used to being a caring case worker, she genuinely believed she could rescue him.
She explains: “I think the thing that made me stay with him was the guilt of leaving. He needed me. And that's why I stayed with him so long, you know. But it became controlling, jealous and abusive, very abusive. Violent, aggressive. The mental torture was worse than anything. Name calling – horrible names – and making me feel bad about myself.”
It’s possible that Louise was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome where a person bonds with their abuser and finds it almost impossible to walk away. This was despite the abuse being so damaging that she attempted to take her own life.
The crisis peaked during the 2018 festive season leaving Louise fearing for her life. Choosing to spend Christmas Day with her son, her ex continued to bombard her with abusive phone calls.
On Boxing Day Louise’s partner went to A&E with intense stomach pains. Once there, he was admitted to a psychiatric unit to detox. During his three-week hospital stay Louise visited him daily, only to face probing questions about where she’d been and who she’d seen.
Even when a doctor recommended that Louise stay away as she was “mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted” she continued her visits, hoping the pause in drinking had changed her partner’s behaviour.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. As soon as he returned home he bought a 12-pack of lager.
Louise knew it was time to leave.
Living With PTSD
Since leaving her relationship 18 months ago, Louise has been diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), causing her to suffer on a daily basis.
Describing her symptoms as “horrendous”, Louise frequently experiences nightmares and flashbacks.
She says: “I've experienced two different kinds of flashbacks. You get the one moment that flashes in front of you, right? But then, there’s what my therapist calls a physical flashback. Someone once used words that my ex used, and it triggered me – I went into this physical flashback. It lasted of five days. It took my speech. I was shaking. I dissociated from reality – I wasn’t here. That was the most horrible experience I've ever had in my life.”
Louise feels nauseous at the sound of a ring being pulled off a can, and she can’t bring herself to walk along drinks aisles in supermarkets.
Furthermore, she struggles to feel love. But she’s learning to cope and is in a new relationship.
Finding Help and Support
After leaving her partner, Louise struggled to find the kind of support she needed as an abuse victim.
However, the help she did find came from a local organisation, which is providing therapy. She’s also involved with The Ripple Pond, which supports families of veterans and people in the Armed Forces.
Louise explains: “It’s a bit like a military Women's Aid, if you know what I mean…Everyone there has gone through similar or the same thing. You know, we're all there for the same reason; we've all gone through hard times with partners.”
She attends groups in secret locations and is now a buddy of another abuse survivor. Louise is glad she’s able to offer someone else the advice and support that she once needed.
Praising The Ripple Pond for its understanding attitude, Louise comments: “I don't think I'd be here if it wasn’t for them. I think I would’ve given up. Because I had no one. I was so lonely. I was so on my own.”
Stopping The Ripple Effect
A barrier for women finding the help they need, believes Louise, is that as an abuse victim, women feel very alone. When looking for support for herself, she noticed that although there are resources for veterans, there is nothing specifically for their partners.
After going through the horror of abuse, Louise wants to see more support made available to partners of veterans via the NHS and MOD. This, she says, can help stop the ripple effect and prevent veterans’ trauma destroying relationships, breaking up families and causing other damage.
Louise’s Learning Curve
Remarkably, despite enduring such abuse Louise now sees her experiences as a positive. She plans to use her knowledge to help others in her new career as a psychotherapist, for which she’s currently training.
Louise comments: “I don't think any experience is a bad experience if it brings something good out of it. I think of it as a learning curve, a learning experience. And so I look to the positive; how can I turn this thing into something good?”
Her advice for partners going through abuse is to contact The Ripple Pond just to start the process – they don’t need to leave but talking to someone who’ll understand their situation makes a big difference.
Mind Kind is a week-long series of interviews, videos, case studies, and practical tips and information on mental health and forces families, across BFBS platforms.