“When I was nine months old I went to live with my Grandparents. I don’t know my mum and my dad wasn’t allowed custody. From the outside we must have looked like any other middle class family. But behind closed doors my childhood would be a confusing mix of emotional abuse and isolation.
“My grandparents raised me under their strict old fashioned values. I was actively discouraged from going to college and was told I should marry my school boyfriend and have children. My Grandad was a very controlling person. There was no money for new clothes for me. I was constantly berated for my weight, I was locked out of the kitchen from 8am-8pm to stop me from eating too much. My Grandad and my Nan slept separately so I had to share a bed with my Nan until I was 14 years old when I was then moved into the attic like Cinderella.
“I was always the different one at school, a bigger size, unsure of my sexuality. People regularly targeted me for pranks. I became withdrawn, I would lock myself away and starve myself. I was diagnosed with depression at 14 after the school referred me to the GP, but when offered counselling my nan refused the help saying she could support me herself...she offered me a cigarette to cope with my stress.
“At 19 I had my first interaction with YG after I started studying art at college and was referred for counselling. After finishing a course of counselling it was during one of the Covid lockdowns that my situation became unbearable. I remember my Grandad removed the shower as a punishment for me continuing my studies against his wishes. I thought, how can I go on living like this? So, I left. I walked out with no plan and nowhere to go. I lived rough for a few days before a friend took me in and I eventually found my way into supported housing. This is where I reconnected with YG and where I started to rediscover myself.
“YG helped me to realise my strengths. I used their Link Chat service through Covid, I worked with their Community Youth Worker at my supported housing and I completed their Prince’s Trust Team programme. YG have helped me build my confidence. I am so much stronger than I ever realised. They helped me identify my skills and strengths and think about what kind of life I wanted for myself. They believed in me and encouraged me. They have helped me move so I am now living independently, they helped me make a plan to get off universal credit, to find a job, not just any job, but a job I love as a Youth Worker and Community Builder in the Forest.
“I used to wake up every day and it was like I only saw the world in grey and now it is bright and beautiful. I always had these thoughts and ideas of what I wanted out of life but it was only with YG by my side, pushing me, driving me forward and supporting me that I have been able to make things happen and change my life.”