*Name has been changed

"I wouldn’t wish my experiences on anyone, but I’m proud of how I’ve dealt with them."

When I was a baby my mum died of cancer. I don’t remember a lot from that time because I was so young but I know her death really broke my dad. He was never the same after she died. He turned to alcohol to cope, which made life at home really hard for me and my brothers.

For years, I was a carer for my dad. He was disabled as well as a heavy drinker so I felt a lot of pressure on me to be more responsible than I probably should have been at that age. Dad could also be quite violent at times, so my environment growing up really wasn’t a good one. Not your ideal childhood to look back on but I can’t change that. I often used to feel sad and would struggle because I felt angry but didn’t know why.

Just as I was starting my first year of high school, my dad died.

When he died it was a shock. I kept thinking to myself ‘how am I supposed to deal with this?’ I’d lost my mum and now my dad was gone too. I felt pain but I also felt quite numb. I loved my dad, but he’d put us through so much that it was hard to grieve the way you normally would.

Now Dad was gone, I needed somewhere else to live. I went to live with relatives, but it was difficult because there were so many of us in the same house and, financially, my relatives struggled to look after us all. I didn’t have any of my school friends around me for support because I’d moved so far away, so I felt a bit lost I suppose.

I did move again and went to live with two other relatives. For a while things were really good with them. They showed me love and helped me develop, which I now know that’s what you need in order to grow as a person. But I missed my brother so much, so I ended up moving again and living with him in his house. Everything settled down for a bit but then things became quite toxic. Not necessarily between me and my brother, but the people he had coming in and out of the house. He ended up being evicted which meant we both had to leave his house. So I moved again.

I stayed with a friend from school for a while. Her parents were really nice to me and tried to make me feel at home and safe, but obviously it wasn’t ideal. I’m not completely sure how Social Services ended up getting involved but I think it was because my friend's mum called the school to report my absence one day and the school started asking questions about my circumstances.

I know a lot of people have bad things to say about Social Services but, personally, I’ve had a good experience with them. As soon as they found out about my circumstances they stepped in to support me. I do think they should have been involved in my life years before they were, but I also think my brothers and I did a really good job at hiding what was going on at home. There were signs my old school could have picked up on, like the fact I always struggled in class and never seemed to learn anything, but I think because my appearance was always clean and tidy it never registered with them. I did try to speak to my head of year but she didn’t have the time to talk most days. It’s easy to assume the kids that are dressed well and look ‘cared for’ don’t need attention, but clearly that’s not the case.

Anyway, my Social Worker is lovely. She’s inspired me to study towards becoming a Social Worker myself one day, to help other young people like me. She was the person who brought me to Llamau. Which is where I still live today.  

I moved into Llamau’s supported accommodation over a year ago and I really like it here. At first the move felt quite daunting but, as I’ve moved so many times before, I’ve settled in quickly. It’s the first place that’s felt like a home to me.

Having such nice people around you really makes a difference. When I come home from college and the Support Workers here ask me how my day was and show a genuine interest in what I’ve done and learnt, it makes such a difference - especially if you’re having a dark day. It’s like coming home and having the heating on, but it’s not on, it’s just how warm they are and this place is.

Living here with people like Paula and Shona has helped me develop the belief that I can do what I want with my life. I’ve always been very independent but being here has helped me to become more resilient and I’d say quite strong in general. Looking back at my past, I had a terrible time, but I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. I wouldn’t wish my experiences on anyone but I’m proud of how I’ve dealt with them and know nothing can stop me and my positivity now. Well maybe Covid – no, not even Covid!