I think I should start at the beginning and tell you a bit about my life before I moved into one of Symbol’s Supported Living services.
I didn’t have the childhood that I would have chosen. I had ‘professionals’ in my life for as long as I can remember. I have spent all my adult life in supported living services, so I think I’m in quite a good position to say whether it’s a good one or not!
I was living in a supported living service for a few years. It was a home, but it never felt like my home. I didn’t feel like my life was going well and for a long time I knew I didn’t want to be there. Because I didn’t want to be there I think my behaviour was at times very difficult for those around me. So when someone from Symbol first came to visit me to talk about the possibility of moving to their supported living service I was really worried that they would be told how “bad” I can be and decide that I can’t move. Why would they want me?
I was wrong. I moved to one of Symbol’s supported living services and I finally had the fresh start I had been wanting for so long.
My story has lots of chapters. There is the chapter where I found it really hard to live in a house with others. I had lived with others for most of my life and I wanted to have my own home with more independence. At times I was very hard to be with, because I really wanted to move out of shared living. I think I was expecting to be kicked out because of my behaviour. I was wrong! Symbol told me that they understood that I wanted to have my own place and that I felt I was ready for this. So what did they offer to do? They took part of the house where I was living and converted it into a flat for me! I couldn’t believe it – my very own flat!
There is the chapter where I started a relationship and wanted to have more freedom and choice to have my partner stay with me. I had only been in my flat for a few months but I realised that I wanted and needed to live more independently. I wanted to have my own home in the community. I did not expect Symbol to understand this and support me to get a tenancy for my very own lovely home in the community, but that is what they did!
The next chapter is not one of my favourites. I didn’t feel like I needed all of the support Symbol tried to give me. I had my home and I had my partner: why did I need support? In this chapter I made some bad decisions and choices. My relationship was not as good as I had thought it was, and living on my own was a lot tougher then I had thought it would be. Everything got a bit much and I didn’t know what to do. I lost my tenancy and my relationship. I didn’t think Symbol would want to support me anymore. I was wrong!
In the next chapter Symbol gave me somewhere to stay and continued to support me while I tried to make sense of everything that had happened. I wanted to move on and improve my life and feel better about myself. I remember being asked what I felt I wanted in order to be able to move on and feel better about myself. I said that I really wanted to have a job, to help people and to earn some money. So Symbol gave me a job! Not only that: I was supported to really think about my future and what I wanted. I was supported to make a decision to move to a different area and into a new lovely home, which is where I am now.
My story in supported living is not a fairy tale with happy ever afters – it is real life. I’m not always the easiest person to support. Sometimes I don’t like myself very much so I think: why on earth would anyone want to work with me and support me? I think that sometimes I push my support away on purpose. Maybe it is to see if my support will still be there when I’m at my worst? I don’t always understand the decisions and choices I make.
What I do know is that since being in Symbol’s supported living services I have felt more understood, accepted and valued then I have at any point in my life. I know I will continue to have tough times and I will sometimes make mistakes and wrong choices. I think the biggest help I have had in Symbol’s supported living services is that I have never felt judged, I have never felt punished and I have always felt cared for and supported.