“If I knew back then what I know now about the support available I would have asked for help sooner.”

When I lived at home with my mum and step-dad things were really difficult. I felt sad a lot of the time because my step-dad was so cruel and controlling. He’d pick on me a lot and comment on my weight. It did feel like every time I lifted a bit of food to my mouth to eat he’d make a nasty comment. He found ways to control us all. If we had some time together planned as a family he’d fake illness so we’d have to cancel and stay in or he’d be really hostile towards me and mum until we gave in.

I tried to ignore it by looking after my younger sibling, reading my books, listening to music – just generally shut myself away, but I struggled. I left home and went to live with my real dad but he didn’t really want me there. I came home one day after one of my GCSE exams and he told me he wanted me gone. My dad was always a bit random but to throw me out with nowhere to go felt out of the blue.

Luckily I had a friend who lived locally so I went to stay with her. The school contacted Social Services who called my mum and asked if I could return to her but my step-dad started shouting down the phone that I wasn’t welcome back. My real dad lied and said he never threw me out but then lost his temper when he was caught out so my Social Worker made the decision that I couldn’t return to either house. I try not to think about that time but I felt alone and scared about what was going to happen to me.

I spent seven hours in the Council offices that day until I was told a hostel had been found for me. They told me it was a mixed hostel for young people aged 16-21. I felt really scared but knew I had no other options. It wasn’t the best or the worst experience living there. It was scary because there were addicts living there and it was always so loud but I got by. I was there for around a month and a half or two months I think.

Llamau first came into my life when they called the hostel to find out whether there were any young people living there that could be better suited to live with them. I was put forward. I had a meeting with some people from Llamau and then got told I’d been accepted for my own flat in one of their projects.

I felt a mix of ecstatic excitement and nervousness. I knew I wanted to start my new chapter but it’s easier to think about it than go through with it.

My Social Worker helped me move into my new home. The flat was lovely and a lot bigger than I expected it to be. In the hostel I only had a room but this was a whole place and it was quiet, which was nice.

My Support Worker at the time gave me a tour and a bit of a run through as to how she could support me and what was what. She was lovely and helped me with things like my finances and paperwork. I’ve had a few Support Workers since her because she went on maternity leave but they’ve all been really lovely and kind.

Before moving in with Llamau, I already knew how to cook for myself and wash my clothes but they did help me with other things I struggled with, like making appointments over the phone and with my mental health. I suffer with anxiety so they made a referral to CAMHS for me and would talk to them on my behalf.

Whilst living with Llamau, there were other young people living around me in other flats. We all got along and would do activities together, like game and film nights, cooking and crafts. It was nice to be around people who had similar stories to mine. I didn’t feel so alone and like I was the only person that didn’t make my parents happy.

My relationship with my mum is great now. She left my step-dad and since then we’ve been able to spend more time together. Obviously not so much during lockdown but before then and in between when bubbles have been allowed.

Lisa has been my Support Worker with Llamau for a while now and she’s great. It’s thanks to Lisa that I now have my own home. I told her I couldn’t sign into my account with the Council, which meant I couldn’t bid on properties and she sorted it for me. I was accepted for my new home on my second bid. I felt so happy when I was accepted because I really wanted the house but also really sad because I’ve loved living with Llamau and the other young people, but change is good.

I’m still receiving support from Llamau with my tenancy, which makes me feel better. If I knew back then what I know now about the support available I would have asked for help sooner.

I am nervous about my future but I feel more positive now than I ever have before.