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Re-training after Domestic Abuse and whether I could use my experience to help others?

(34 Posts)
Fightingback16 Tue 26-May-20 12:20:43

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and looking at my life.

Before I met my husband and entered what has been 13 years of domestic abuse which accumulated in mental death and breakdown and PTSD I was a textile designer. I got my masters a few months before meeting him. My Imagination and therefore my career disappeared the longer I was with him. I guess imagination is not needed when in survival mode. It was 8 years before I picked up my pen to draw, that was a couple of months ago. I didn’t feel the same feelings as I used to about drawing. I’m a completely different person now and it felt insignificant.

Instead of getting upset at yet another thing I’ve lost because of him I wanted to use it as something positive. I’m getting a little bored of myself and my personal worries all the time. I’m so much stronger then when I met him. I was a lost little lamb with him. On paper intelligent but emotionally very immature.

I’ve feel so incredibly indebted to people who have helped me. Especially my IDVA, I’m just a complete stranger to her but she helped me. I feel the need to put my experience into some use, something positive. Drawing is not enough for me now. A kind of revenge but not a unhelpful revenge. There are not enough people out there who help others. If I didn’t have the support I had I would not be here.

I have been thinking of the reasons I got into that abusive relationship. My mum was very emotionally unavailable and I believe this created my immaturity. My mums father was abusive so created her emotional emptiness. It stems from when you are little. I want to re-train into something in this field. Maybe social services or something. I feel I have experience that could be useful.

I’m 37 tho and not sure if it too late or not a good idea. Has anyone ever done this? Do you think I could have a positive impact?

OP’s posts: |
Thisisworsethananticpated Tue 26-May-20 12:47:17

In my experience people with true understanding of emotional abuse are rare
I’ve even had therapists that didn’t really get it
I also think this issue is widely underrated in the world

So , there is ample scope !

HattieBlue Tue 26-May-20 12:53:46

I think it would be so useful to have someone who understands and is far enough out of the relationship to look back with open eyes. 37 is still young.

MaeDanvers Tue 26-May-20 15:20:02

Yea it can be useful but you need to be very very healed first or you will suffer secondary trauma which will take a massive toll on you. Read up on wounded healers a bit.

LovingitlikeTHIS Tue 26-May-20 16:38:26

Maybe. Or maybe not. People going into certain fields because of trauma they experienced aren't necessarily the best people to help others.

Fightingback16 Tue 26-May-20 17:03:09

I see what you mean but wouldn’t they be the only people who really understand how they feel and what they need having needed and experienced it themselves.

Obviously after healing themselves. Could helping others not be healing also?

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LovingitlikeTHIS Tue 26-May-20 17:08:03

No. You need to work out your own issues about your romantic relationships and your issues with your parents. Thinking you're the only person (or only people that have experienced it) can understand is a massive red flag to be honest.

Gingerkittykat Tue 26-May-20 17:21:21

I am training to be a therapist right now after being helped a lot. I think the fact part of the reason you want to partially use this experience to help yourself has the potential to be problematic and is something you need to explore further. Look up Jung and the wounded healer.

Having said that you obviously have valuable insights and knowledge which will help other in the same situation. Someone on my course is volunteering with Woman's Aid but I most agencies have a very strict boundary that people who have used their service cannot volunteer for a period of time after they have been supported.

I received excellent support from people who had also experienced the same traumas that I had however they were many years out of the experience and at a place where they were mentally healed enough to do that work.

plantlife Tue 26-May-20 17:33:22

I just wanted to say that you helped me and it was actually really important. I've been let down by some not good professionals and people like you who understood and have good advice are so important after all that. You definitely seemed to completely understand some of my issues and barriers and have the empathy and understanding I needed. I've experienced some really awful horrible DV workers who seem to be in the job only to have a job or also sometimes I think it can affect people with abusive tendencies who enjoy the power over someone vulnerable. I think that applies to survivors as well as people who've not experienced abuse. Just because someone's a survivor doesn't mean they're a nice person. Abuse happens to not nice people too. I think you're one of the nice ones. You sound like it anyway. It meant a lot to me your support on a different thread. It's that sort of understanding and empathy you showed that gives people scared of trusting the courage to keep trying.

Anyway I don't know if it's too early on in your healing on case of being retraumatised but I definitely think you have some of the qualities to do it maybe in the future. Maybe look at being a counsellor or DV worker as well as social work and look into what's best for you.

I think it depends on the person. I find it helps me trying to help others. I find it easier than helping myself but I think that's normal. I used to know a psychologist and they had probably as many problems as me. Not abuse but mental health.

I think the most important thing first is to make sure you're strong enough to deal with possibly triggering experiences. I find I cope with that by helping others but some people may need more healing before they can deal with it. I suppose we'll all different. I find I can quite easily detach from my own problems when it's helping someone else's even very traumatic ones. It's a bit like maybe being an actor. I'm not the abused me, if that makes sense.

Maybe look into courses. You don't have to commit yet. Maybe some charities or social work places take volunteers and you could look into the training or sit in and observe sessions.

Gutterton Tue 26-May-20 17:37:27

Yes I would encourage you to investigate retraining in a caring profession - you would have an awful lot to offer as well as having a new fulfilling career with a sense of purpose.

The vast majority of therapists have had an adverse experience that brought them to their career. It’s about the only career where advancing age is perceived as a benefit.

The caveat is your own emotional growth and protection. You need to be healed enough and distanced enough to not be triggered too much or to project. Of course you will have an emotional reaction to a distressing case - but you need to be emotionally regulated enough to respond appropriately.

I have had an interesting array of challenging life experiences and am also drawn to a change of direction since I have made progress on my healing journey. Some days it terrifies me and some days it motivates me. I am not sure if it is my strength or my weakness. But that is a very important insight. I also know that the training provides good protection, emotional development and support. You are given a full range of tools to protect yourself and we are all always growing and healing.

Start investigating and keep working on yourself.

Gutterton Tue 26-May-20 17:45:34

What a beautiful post plantlife

Gutterton Tue 26-May-20 17:47:53

Fightingback16 you could also incorporate your creative gifts by looking at art therapy.

Fightingback16 Tue 26-May-20 17:57:28

Thank you @plantlife that’s a lovely thing to say. I do get what some of you are saying and I’m not saying I’m going to do it tomorrow or use it to cure myself. I have things I need to work on. Maybe just in the future I could integrate my experiences and use it to benefit others.

OP’s posts: |
Gutterton Tue 26-May-20 18:18:06

Any decent training takes many years (often part time) and the main thrust is personal development - so you are doing both in parallel. Dip your toe in the water - try a short “Introduction to Counselling Skills” course. These are run in many varied formats at many colleges and the skills are useful for every walk of life. I did one last year and the attendees included a Head Teacher, Yoga Instructor, Actor, Business Coach, etc. Go for it.

Fightingback16 Tue 26-May-20 18:35:59

I was thinking about looking into a social worker.

OP’s posts: |
Gutterton Tue 26-May-20 18:57:34

Get stuck into researching options. When you look at applying for these courses there are likely certain criteria that you need before applying which might take you some time eg building up volunteering hours and experience. There are lots of caring type jobs so spread your research wide to see what structure would work for you.

Herewegoagain19891 Wed 27-May-20 07:06:22

OP this is something im considering in the distant future, currently trying to heal myself and also being dragged through court so not the best time.

I suffered sexual abuse as a child, because of this my mum was emotionally unavailable I now understand this is because she blamed herself.. all leading me to enter into an abusive relationship (emotional and sexual) and we now have a very young dd. I want to put all my experience to good use in time.

I definitely think when the time is right for you that you should look at getting into social work, who else has a better understanding of the complex issues then someone who has been through it.

iloverock Wed 27-May-20 07:13:08

As long as you understand that going into social work doesn't mean you will fix and help everyone.

You will get abuse from the people you are wanting to help. They are going to hate you and resent you. You are not their saviours.

You might help one or two the rest will probably tell you to fuck off.

Stuckforthefourthtime Wed 27-May-20 07:20:21

The caveat is your own emotional growth and protection. You need to be healed enough and distanced enough to not be triggered too much or to project. Of course you will have an emotional reaction to a distressing case - but you need to be emotionally regulated enough to respond appropriately.

This. Talking about 'revenge' sounds really worrying to me, you could end up hurting yourself more, or unable to help others the way they need. Once you're truly through this, then absolutely - but the advantage you have will be your empathy from having suffered yourself, not your insights specifically, as everyone's situation will be different.

Fightingback16 Wed 27-May-20 08:24:26

Sorry what I meant by revenge was the best revenge was to move on and build myself a career using my attributes. I don’t want to focus all my energy forever on myself. I have a lot of empathy, that’s what got me into trouble, wanting to fix my husband. But I’m also a lot stronger now. I can feel that when I’m longer down the road and more recovered I’ll need more from life then just being someone who once abused. If I could put my experience and empathy to help others maybe that field could be an option.
But like @Gutterton said there’s a lot of learning and research involved. I may start and absolutely hate it.
I am only talking about looking into it. I’ve got court cases galore to come!!!

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Fightingback16 Wed 27-May-20 08:27:37

Can those who haven’t experienced emotional and mental abuse really understand it? Can you read about how an orange tastes and tell someone else without tasting it yourself? Just wondering not staying a fact. Obviously all cases of abuse are different.

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Fightingback16 Wed 27-May-20 08:28:10


OP’s posts: |
Neepers Wed 27-May-20 10:18:33

I fave a friend who went through DV and now works for her local WA. It was a complete change of career for her and she loves it and is thriving. I’m not sure of the timescales of her transition, but they don’t throw you in at the deep end, lots of training, etc. If it feels like a ‘calling’ for you now, that might be a good thing and a focus for your energies. You probably don’t want to rush into anything though. Wishing you peace and happiness.

Gutterton Wed 27-May-20 11:16:33

Can those who haven’t experienced emotional and mental abuse really understand it?

The most important aspect of a support role is helping and leading the client to understand and make sense of their own unique story.

There are no cookie cutter solutions - but there are a wide range of professional skills and tools to select from and deploy appropriately that can guide the client down their right path.

Have you felt supported and fully understood fightingback?

user1635482648 Wed 27-May-20 11:45:15

I see what you mean but wouldn’t they be the only people who really understand how they feel and what they need having needed and experienced it themselves.

No, because you're only an expert in your own experiences.

What it was like for you will not be what it is like for every service user/client you worked with; what was helpful to you will not be helpful to every person you worked with; your background will not be shared by everyone you work with; the pace of change and healing in your life will not be matched in theirs - and if you were not very conscious of that and careful about it you could do far more harm than good.

Some of the professionals you may have encountered who didn't get your experiences and didn't understand you may have been unable to do so because they went into the job for the same reason as you, and can't relate to or accept experiences conflicting with their own.

How often does it pop up on here where a poster will tell someone who is being abused that it's not really abuse because it's different to what they themselves went through? Or getting angry when an op turns down something the poster found helpful/life changing because it doesn't work for the op.

This is a big issue in the sector. People suffer harm because of it.

Your insights, your perspectives, your experiences are valuable and have the potential to help others - but not if you go into it with the mindset that only you can really understand or without a deep and honest awareness of your own biases and limitations.

Plus the issue of vicarious trauma would be significant for you.

Plus plus you may find the limitations and bureaucracy imposed upon you in some of these professional roles would be demoralising and frustrating.

Have you considered peer support work?

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