Katie joined Mustard Tree’s life-skills and employability training placement ‘Freedom’ after a period of homelessness caused by multiple factors.
“I was in a major depressive state”
Katie* has bipolar disorder and has had problems with mental health in the past. “I’d been taking medication for 12 years but stopped taking them early last year and became really unwell quite quickly. It sent me into a major depressive state last September and I ended up being sectioned for two months”.
Katie says that the sectioning was necessary for her recovery, but it started a sequence of events which ultimately led to her falling through the cracks and into a deeper depression.
“My relationship broke down and ended while I was in hospital. My partner at the time took responsibility of the kids, but because the house was in his name, I came out of hospital and found myself homeless. Before I had a home, a job in the family business and security – all of that, to nothing.
“My life turned upside down – I lost my sense of security and purpose”.
The hospital put Katie back on medication, but with nowhere to go, was on delayed discharge.
“When I came out of hospital I’d lost everything. Lost my purpose and had everything taken from under my feet. Because I’d been sober since I’d gone into hospital, I found it really tough not going back to old habits. My life was turned upside down”.
Eventually she was found supported temporary accommodation in Levenshulme and placed on a waiting list for Manchester Move.
“It was meant to be a 12-week programme but I ended up there for over six months while I was on the waiting list. Without my home, kids and dog – I started to lose my sense of security, purpose and confidence”.
After a long period at the temporary accommodation, Katie was referred to Mustard Tree for support, and spoke to Freedom Coordinators Fiona and Marvin about the Freedom Project, having read about it online.
“I was frightened of everything at first and too scared to look around – that’s what being isolated for so long does to you. But I knew I needed a focus and something to work towards, so I persisted and agreed to go to the Freedom Project induction.
I was a bit suspicious at the start – everyone was so friendly – it made me think ‘is this real or are people being fake?’. It was after a couple of weeks when I started to relax and realise it was genuine”.
“Helping other people helped with my own recovery”
After being open to trying anything, Katie started in Mustard Tree’s community shop, under the guidance of staff members Heather and Clint.
“They work hard to make you feel welcome – it made me want to work just as hard. They built my confidence back up and I started working on the tills. I think it helped that I’ve had problems in the past, as I could identify with some of the people coming to us for support.
A gentleman who had his tent stolen came to us for help. We gave him fresh clothes and he walked out after getting changed with a big smile on his face. We gave him something back that day – we gave him back his dignity, and I realised that helping other people helped with my own recovery.
“I get all the words wrong – but I like it!”
After becoming more settled, Katie began attending Mustard Tree’s weekly Song Club. With not being used to living with strangers in the temporary accommodation, she was regularly warned about her volume, and found Song Club to be a useful tool to control this.
“I’m a pretty terrible singer but I love karaoke! I get all the words wrong but I enjoy it. I kept being told to use my ‘inside voice’ at the temp accommodation, which I found a bit patronising. I came to Song Club – quiet at first – but realised there was no judgement and I could sing how I liked and as loud as I wanted. I also found that I was a lot quieter when I went back to the accommodation.
People think you have to have talent to take part, but you don’t!”
“Knowing you have to be somewhere gave me the structure I needed”
Katie is delighted to be back at Mustard Tree after struggling during lockdown, having battled against slipping back into bad habits.
“This placed has saved me before and it’s so good to be back after quarantine – I was feeling I was slipping again and began to feel really low. I was living in my PJs and not washing my hair. Now I need to get up, have a shower – knowing I’ve got somewhere to be (with depression, it’s easy to end up on your downstairs bed for the day. If I’m having a bad day or need extra support, my freedom co-ordinator is always there to listen.
Manchester Move has now housed Katie and her children, and she is ready to take the next steps towards her recovery.
“I now want to maintain my mental health and medication, gain as much experience as I can while I’m at Mustard Tree – with the hope of moving into peer mentoring. I’ve decorated the whole house myself and finally feel secure again. I’m going to reevaluate at Christmas, but for now – sit back and enjoy what I’ve got, stop and take stock. Mustard Tree has helped give me my life back. To be completely straight and be able to do and enjoy what I can do – I would never want to go back to the way I was”.