Stephanie – Homeward Bound

On a sunny Saturday morning, we head over to check out the phenomenal work being done at Remnant Cafe, serving the underserved of Sarasota. The cafe decor is warm and inviting; it makes me feel ready to sit down and enjoy a bite to eat. Remnant Cafe’s fundamental mission is to offer a comfortable respite for those living on the streets by providing freshly cooked nutritious meals, showers, personal hygiene items and access to their well-stocked clothing closet. Director, Tammy Burns, is dedicated to building a respectful relationship with each person she encounters and she does this in a space she’s created free of judgment or stigma. Her compassionate approach is rooted in underlying respect for an individual’s right to self-determination.

Stephanie enjoys visiting Remnant Cafe several times a week. The Cafe has become an integral part of her routine as a homeless woman living on the streets in Sarasota. She’s grateful for the caring support and kindness she enjoys at Remnant Cafe not to mention the delicious food served in a classic sit-down restaurant style.

We sit down, and I ask Stephanie to fill me in on what has been happening in her life since we last spoke. “I’ve been to hell and back. Last week I ended up getting beat, another man on the street told me I’m going to set your arse on fire,” she said. This incident became a turning point for her, and she has decided to return to Ohio where she has a few supportive friends. The streets are no place for a woman; she tells me. She describes becoming angry at the harsh treatment from men on the streets and how her anger triggers her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD). Stephanie adds, “ When I’m angry the PTSD is so bad it reminds me of all the abuse I’ve been through, every drop of it is so real.”

Interestingly anger is a hyperarousal symptom of PTSD and diagnostic criteria for receiving a PTSD diagnosis. “I’ve been through it, and I’ve conquered it, but the memories still push me around,” says Stephanie. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’s, fifth edition flashbacks are included in a list of intrusive symptoms associated with PTSD. Stephanie’s dissociative reaction is well documented in PTSD literature; her harsh experiences on the streets triggered her distressing memories reminding her of trauma, which resulted in intrusive thoughts at the moment.

For Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) survivors such as Stephanie that are living with PTSD, they may experience their anger so intensely that they become ‘out of control.’ Stephanie’s vulnerability to anger is an instinctual response to feeling traumatized and abused and is her body’s fight or flight instinct, which involuntarily triggers adrenaline and noradrenaline to aid in surviving danger. Stephanie recognizes that she will never undo the trauma that she has experienced, but with cognitive work, she will find a healthy way to move forward. Stephanie is interested in counseling to build her self worth and learning effective coping strategies that will improve what she considers the harmful role anger plays in her life.

Stephanie recently qualified for Social Security disability benefits, which are helpful to her at this time in her life. She sounds confident that her move to Ohio will be good for her and dreams of ultimately working with survivors of IPV. Stephanie explains that as a survivor of IPV herself she will be uniquely qualified to respond to the shame and fear people experience as a result of an abusive relationship. Her healing from the trauma of IPV may be a lengthy process, but she is committed to working hard and making a healthy life for herself while helping others.

“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” ~ Maya Angelou.

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