I don’t have children but soon after I left Mr Who, I became a volunteer for the Salvation Army in their welfare section, packing food parcels. I didn’t actually go there to become a volunteer, I went for help with a food parcel; it was about a month after I had left Mr Who and I had absolutely no food in the refrigerator or cupboard and no money to go to the shop.
While I was talking to the assessor about how they could help me, it became clear they were under staffed. Barbara (the Salvo I had been speaking to at the market) happened to be on that morning and suggested that I become a volunteer. So instead of taking my food parcel and heading home, they packed it into the fridge and I started volunteering in their welfare section. Because of my PTSD I requested a job behind the scenes which is how I became the parcel packer. I really enjoyed it and for 3 mornings a week it took me out of my house, away from my own problems and I felt useful.
Nobody treated me like a charity case or used the ‘poor you’ look and tone that I had come to hear from so many people I knew; I was helping others and it was making me feel better about myself. Some of the things I was constantly told by Mr Who were that nobody would ever want me, nobody would put up with my shit, I wouldn’t survive without him, I would be running back to him in a week; when I was a volunteer at the Salvos I started to realise how wrong he was.
There are many charity organisations around that can help. I never found the Salvos to be rude or judgmental of the clients that came in for help and I never heard them pushing religion in any way. They were totally respectful and understanding of the modern world and the predicament of single income families trying to survive. The St Vincent De Paul Society will also help with food parcels or food vouchers but they are also able to refer people to the Foodbank in your local area.
The first six months of freedom taught me some invaluable lessons about myself and the inner strength I didn’t realise I had, but it also taught me that not everyone was receptive to the truth. I’ve never been interested in badmouthing Mr Who, but I also stopped covering up for him. It’s cost me a few ‘friends’ but I’m fine with that. I spent ten years of my life pretending he was something he wasn’t and hoping he would change; now I’m spending my time rebuilding myself and my future and trying to help others find the strength to find the light at the end of the tunnel .
The biggest thing I learned in the first six months was luxuries like going to the hair-dresser, or women’s magazines, or new clothes, were things I could do without if I had to. So many things I once thought I could never live without soon fell off the shopping lists and I really didn’t care. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I cried buckets, daily. Yes, I felt absolutely alone. Until I started telling people what I had been through, and why I was fighting so hard to make it, and I started helping others which took some of my own attention off myself.
I am making my way, slowly, day by day. It’s hard work but that’s ok.