Glowsticks and Brexit: the things you don’t expect to feature in a recovery story

Lisa’s 21. She’s bright, articulate and funny. And she loves an inspirational quote. Since the age of 17, she’s been living in homeless and temporary accommodation. She recently moved into her own place and since July, she’s been working with her Penumbra Recovery Worker, Sharon, through our supported living service.  Lisa’s mental health and wellbeing is gradually improving as she learns to process past trauma, she now has somewhere she can call home, and she’s building and maintaining social connections through her new job and volunteer work.

This is Lisa’s story.

Since the age of 17 I’ve been in homeless accommodation. That’s not to say I want people to feel sorry for me. My first homeless accommodation was ok but the rules were very strict, so I stayed there for two weeks until I moved to a scatter flat. I was in the scatter flat for two months then I moved to my next place where I stayed for a year and half and that wasn’t the best; it was a year and a half of hell. I moved to a different homeless accommodation, which was really good and I was there for about 20 months. And then I got my current house, but I was a bit panicky about moving into my new place so that was when I was referred on to Penumbra. I didn’t want to work with an organisation and I refused initially, but I went away and slept on it and thought actually, it sounds like a good idea. That’s when I was introduced to Sharon, my recovery worker, and from then I’ve been a lot happier.

don’t acknowledge what anyone has to say to you, you’re living rent free in their head

My worker takes time with me. If I don’t feel like doing any paperwork and I just want to have a conversation to get a few things off my chest, then that’s fine. It’s just patience. With me, I’d rather speak than do paperwork so for the first few days I was working with Sharon, we were just talking about my life and how I was feeling, and my plans for the day. She really took time to find out more about me, so I’m grateful for that. It really means a lot that Sharon wanted to get to know me.

For me, the mental health problems I have are because of horrible things that have happened to me in the past and other services have always forced me to talk about those experiences when I wasn’t ready. They didn’t get to know me as a person.

So when I was signposted on to Penumbra I was worried that I’d be forced to talk about things when I wasn’t ready, but when I realised what Penumbra does and how they work, I had a really good feeling about it. And now here I am after starting with Sharon in July. I’m happy.

Since July it’s been amazing. I’ll be gutted when I’m finished with Sharon next year, but if I could speak to my past self right now I would tell myself that everything is going to be ok. My mental health problems are still there, but I’m getting better because Sharon’s helping me through it.

If someone was thinking about contacting Penumbra for support, I’d say go for it. Best decision you’ll make. Best choice I’ve made. If nobody’s ever listened to you or you’ve been made to feel that your opinions are invalid, then go for it. You can talk about anything with your worker, even Brexit.

keep smiling because you never know who’s in love with it

Looking to the future, my new job is a temporary contract and I’ve only been there a few days, but I’m hoping that if I do a good job my contract will be extended. I’d like to work my way up and get a decent role.  I’ve always wanted to get into retail so that fact that I’ve got this job has made me so happy, but if you were talking to me last year I wouldn’t have believed it. I’m not sitting in the house all day, I’m doing something for myself and I’m making friends already. In the future I want to continue working and settle down. My biggest hope is to enjoy life. You never know what’s around the corner, so you’ve got to live life while you have it. I always say that people are like glow sticks. You have to break us to make us glow.

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your story with us.

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