"A few years ago I was in an abusive relationship and I needed to find a refuge" Jasmin's* Story *Names changed to protect identities A few years ago I was in an abusive relationship and I needed to find a refuge. I was in a crisis and Hestia welcomed me. I was physically and mentally unwell, feeling afraid and wasn’t sure what to expect. Leaving and changing everything in my life was a frightening and odd experience but I knew it was the right thing to do. One of the first workers I met told me instantly that I would be OK, and we ended up having a really great relationship. We still keep in touch and I made some lifelong friends. That has been like a light at the end of the tunnel. Life since the refuge has had lots of ups and downs. Getting my own flat has been huge. But life has also been difficult; at the end of last year my mum died and I had a really difficult operation. What happened to me in my abusive relationship was extreme and I’m still on the road to recovery from PTSD. I have a long history of trying to access the correct mental health services. Eventually, last year, I got a proper diagnosis and have been doing psychotherapy three times a week. But I knew I needed something else too, something social, but when I asked for it I didn’t really have the right terminology. They couldn’t help me and I remember leaving that appointment in tears because I was so frustrated. As I was leaving I spotted a poster for Hestia’s befriending service. I took it into my own hands. If I couldn’t be a befriendee, I would become a befriender. So that’s exactly what I did. The experience has been incredible and benefited me just as much on this side of the exchange. I’m a befriending volunteer to a lovely lady; we’re the same age and have a lot in common. Our time together is about her but it helps me to support someone too. We’re both interested in the alternative, spiritual and holistic approaches to recovery. We’ve done chanting classes and yoga together and both get that feeling of connection. The nature of my PTSD means I have horrible crashes, so yoga and breathing work really helps. It’s a natural way to release all my pent-up emotions. When I had a big operation on my broken jaw last year, it was so painful, and the breath work was the only thing that took the pain away. In the future I’d love to teach yoga again. I did my training 10 years ago while living in India and I’ve done it all over the world since. I’ve lived in nine countries and want to bring these experiences to my yoga teaching. Despite my travels and life in London, one day I’d love to move to a more rural place. I have a clear image of living in nature and teaching yoga – maybe even having a dog! Having a dream is so important and I believe it will happen when I am full recovered. I think it’s important to accept that we all have different experiences of life with our physical and mental health. We all have our own path. There isn’t a quick fix. Life is a long hard road and sometimes it’s exhausting, but it’s about the journey not the destination, and I have a sense that everything I’ve experienced is part of my journey. Which book has impacted me the most? Lost Connections by Johann Hari is about mental health. It’s so well written and researched. We all suffer with challenges at some point and we live in a culture that says there’s something wrong with your brain. Johann has gone all over the world to prove that there are nine things that cause mental health problems and they’re all social. I think anyone in my circumstances, coming from a refuge, completely isolated, on my own and not working, would have mental health problems. Hari says that for good mental health you need shared meaningful connections, meaningful employment and meaningful values. Thankfully Hestia understands this concept. Which film has impacted me the most? I’m a massive film person and my favourite is Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è Bella) directed by Roberto Benigni. It’s a classic and if you’re not impacted by it then you haven’t got a heart! It’s a story about amazing triumph and even though it’s a bit slow, it’s the most touching film I’ve ever seen. Which song has impacted me the most? I’m really into devotion music because it’s so relaxing and uplifting. Ave Maria sung by Ashana has a spiritual vibe to it and feels so healing. Meet Hestia's 50 Voices Cosimo's Story: "I started working in mental health in 2004. I haven't looked back since." John's Story: "I know I was inches away from being on a completely different path." Sara's* Story: "We arrived at the refuge with just our holiday clothes"