I first came to Key four years ago. I was coming to the end of my first year at Runshaw College. My mental health was poor as was my mum’s, we had been clashing and having the most awful arguments. It was Father’s Day and I remember my mum and dad coming back from a drink festival and my dad saying I shouldn’t be so self-centred, that I was lucky to have a dad. I couldn’t cope, my mental health was too overwhelming and I stuffed a few things into a rucksack and left.
The next week the student services advisor at Runshaw took me to Key. Claire helped me to look at my options and discussed the possibility of going into supported housing. I was adamant that I wouldn’t return home. I stayed with a friend on a day to day basis for a few weeks. She had a new baby and things were hectic. I kept thinking I was going to have to sleep on the streets and I had vivid day dreams of sleeping on Preston Station. It was very scary. I was very grateful to Key that I didn’t end up in this position.
Towards the end of the summer I moved into Bay 6 supported housing. The staff there helped me enormously. When I first moved in it was a shock. I can best describe it as like being on a budget holiday that I hadn’t wanted to go on but I couldn’t go home. My whole life felt chaotic. I thought I would fail college. I envisaged killing myself before going back as it would just be too hard. I had lost my family and my friends too. My friends were scared because of my mental health whereas the truth is that I was a danger to myself and not them. I can only describe it as feeling like being an adult orphan.
Key continued to support me alongside Bay 6. This was really important to me as it stopped me feeling like I was taking up all of the staff time in the supported housing. I was aware that other people needed their support but I was very needy. Knowing that I could go into Key’s Drop In was so important. I didn’t I have to have a specific problem to solve but I could go in and see consistent people. They stopped me feeling overwhelmed and to keep a level head. It was a place without judgement. I could vent and work through the frustration. Having workers who knew me helped me to put order into my chaos and to think things through considering my next small steps. They gave me some time to feel normal a place to have a brew and a laugh.
As I started to move on with my life and do well at college and learn how to look after myself and be independent it remained important to me to be able to Drop In to Key. If things had gone wrong or if I had had a bad day staff who knew me reminded me how far I had come. This helped me to regain perspective and to carry on. The staff can see my journey without placing judgments on me like I placed on myself.
I also was supported by Key with family therapy and counselling. This was very challenging but I have learnt to accept challenges as gifts and look for the silver lining extracting the learning in any situation. The therapy helped me to see my mum as a person. I realised that she is not a robot doing the mum role but a person who has their own struggles. Our relationship is much better now. My relationship has also improved with my dad who through the therapy came to a new acceptance and respect of my decision to leave home.
Other things have helped with Key too- being able to have fresh food makes a massive difference when you are having a tough time and the pre-tenancy training broke down how to be a good tenant into something that made sense.
I still like to come into Key and share my achievements. I have been on a big learning journey and staff at Key remind me to keep going and this helps me stay motivated.
I have been involved in lots of things over the last couple of years and am currently working as a Play Worker for Barnardo’s. I feel so lucky I love it. I am also involved in lots of youth participation work around giving young people a voice. I am passionate about this. I have told my story at conferences and this has made me feel liberated and free. It is really powerful to talk about my story free from any sense of shame.
I have completed training in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and this has been massive for me it has taught me so much about communicating effectively as regulating my emotions. In the future I hope to be able to train people in DBT myself. I feel that my life’s experiences have made me who I am.
*A stock image has been used on the article to protect Hanna's identity.