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Date published: October 10, 2023

How Shared Lives gave me much needed calm and stability – World mental health day 2023

This World mental health day 2023, Matt, who is supported by Shared Lives carer Lisa, shares his story of how Shared Lives has made a great difference to his mental wellbeing and lifestyle. Matt and his carer are supported by PSS.

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From the outset, I can say that Shared Lives has made what I confidently believe will be a positive life changing impression on my life. Even though it was some of the most emotionally draining and highly challenging experiences of my lifetime that led me here, I do feel very fortunate for the outcome that awaited me thanks to coming to know of this scheme. On what has been an up and down rollercoaster ride of a journey, Shared Lives has succeeded in putting the breaks on that rollercoaster in order to give me some much needed calm and stability.

To fully encapsulate what Shared Lives has meant to my mental well-being, I must first go back and share some of the experiences within my life that led me here.

Typing this as a 38 year old male, social anxiety has been with me since my teenage years. Despite some victories over it, which have seen me enjoy pockets of what I would deem to be a socially involved life, the victories never saw me win the ultimate battle. Social anxiety is still something I fight with, every single day.

At my very worst point, I did not leave the home for over 3 years while living with my Mother. It was only having to go into auto pilot out of the instinct of needing to seek help for my Mom when she became dangerously ill that saw me leave the home. This was a massive step that I believe I only managed to take due to the severity of the situation and the pressing urgency to get help for a loved family member. Prior to this, I was hiding away, anytime anyone knocked the door to the house. I could not face people. I really did become a ghost.

With Mom hospitalised, and both her and my futures uncertain, I had some of the most challenging days of my life. The thought of giving up completely crossed my mind during this time, but it was overrided by the desire to try and make some positives out of a negative situation.

Thankfully, through the stars aligning perfectly, and via the combination of new friends, reconnected friends, professional support from a social inclusion worker, as well as support from a local charity which I now volunteer for, I managed to find the strength to battle against what had become my way of living, break out of the comfort zone, and start reengaging with society. It began with short walks, then going into a shop with someone, then eventually shopping myself, using public transport myself etc. These small victories all began to mount up and see me do a 180 on my lifestyle. In time, Mom made a recovery and was able to return home, which fuelled my new found drive even more so.

Unfortunately, my progress was recently at risk of being hindered and forced into a regression, due to influences and factors within my living environment beyond my control. These issues and their complicated dynamics, combined with a new sense of truth about myself and others around me after shattering the bubble I’d been living in for so long, they led to a highly toxic and potentially damaging situation that I needed to escape.

That “escape” was staying in hotels and Air BNBs, living a day by day lifestyle that I couldn’t long term afford, not financially, physically, or emotionally. It was only the desire not to let those who had believed in me over the prior 12 months, as well as my new found self belief, that kept me going on and walking a path with no guaranteed positive end in sight. I just knew one thing, I could not go backwards!

I was close to breaking point on all levels when Shared Lives offered me the opportunity to stay with the family I’m now with. My words cannot begin to do justice to the kindness and understanding I’ve been shown by this family, nor can they do justice to the profound positive influence this warm environment has had on me in my 3 weeks of staying here!

Thanks to this opportunity, I have a safe place to halt the forementioned rollercoaster, take a much needed breather, review events of my past, many of which I see in a new light after being around healthy family dynamics and experiences, as well as take stock on who I am now, and who I want to be going forward into a future I now have new found hope for embracing. This home is a much needed ground of stability which I can build that future from.

I’m so thankful, because I know others out there need what I currently have, and I don’t take this opportunity that I’ve been gifted for granted. Despite my progress in the last 12 months, I still often feel like I’m balancing on a tight rope in the battle with my issues. Shared Lives has widened the rope I stand upon, as well as provided me a safety net in case I fall. It is my sincere hope that my story can find the eyes and touch the hearts of those able to spread the word of Shared Lives and help the scheme to grow, so more positive stories like mine can be lived and shared!

Lisa, who is Matt's Shared Lives carer said,

“Matt had been referred in by a mental health social worker as he was in a difficult situation at home and has mild depression. He fitted in well immediately, gets on with everyone and feels that he has the time and space to now make decisions about his future. ”