This story is part of the Peer Power series – a photographic collaboration between professional photographer Jeff Hubbard and Peer Advisors. Earlier this year (2022) they worked together to portray their stories in photographic and written form. Each one is unique but all highlight the true value of harnessing people’s lived experience of adversity to become a force for good.
I came across St Giles when I was researching organisations offering volunteering to help me get back into work. The thing that stood out for me was St Giles worked with a lot of employees with lived experiences which was a fit for me, as I wanted to feel like I was understood in my place of work, not the woman that had a lot of issues in her past.
I worked as a volunteer for Children and Families in 2019. I appreciated the opportunity but unfortunately this did not work out, as the level of input was not for me However, I believe everything happens for a reason, because I was recommended to study the Information Advice and Guidance Course (IAG) at Holloway Road, on the Peer Circles Project. I passed the IAG course, which really boosted my confidence. Since I have progressed from a Trainee into a Caseworker I am grateful for the support from my colleagues and managers for this opportunity.
I have first-hand experience of encountering and managing issues such as sofa surfing, mental health struggles, the criminal justice system, a domestically violent relationship, and being raised in care, so I can relate to clients with the same lived experiences. Mental health for me was the most complex situation I ever had dealt with; this was a very dark time. I was once in denial of my health condition. I gained weight and my self-esteem was at its lowest. I was not aware that during this time I should have been working on maintaining my mental health balance to avoid relapses and becoming unwell.
I knew I wanted out of this situation, but had been told I would have to wait a period of time before my medication would be reduced. I contacted an advocacy service for my views to be heard and it took around three years to implement a medication reduction. I have come such a long way and my mental health is now under control, I realise I must prioritise my wellbeing for the sake of myself and my family.
I feel I am able to relate to the many clients I see and – within boundaries – share my stories as I have been there too. I have learnt personal recovery is a journey which is completely different for everyone. A process through which various factors from medication to diet and structured activities as well as varying support networks are evaluated to form what I consider to be a “care package”. Some may recover quickly and unfortunately for others it may take more time but what is most important is that we are visible and able to maintain a functioning lifestyle. St Giles and Peer Circles help with this journey.