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Your Way: Maxine, Wandsworth Your Way

There was a lot of domestic violence in my home when I was growing up. I had my first breakdown when I was 13 and I left my home at 16. I’d been in and out of hospital, tried to take my own life multiple times and suffered from physical and sexual abuse.

6I’d vowed that my children wouldn’t be brought up in a violent atmosphere but my four kids were taken away from me based on false information from a health professional who was later struck off for providing misleading evidence. My mental health problems were used against me and I tried to take my life again. After that, I would spend most of the time in my bedroom for months and years at a time and Mark my husband would have to do everything.

Then, just over a year ago, my brother came home with a leaflet that he needed help with reading. It was about a peer support training course at Together’s Wandsworth Your Way service, and I decided to attend it. It helped me to understand myself and to realise that I did have problems of my own. The first time I walked into the course, I realised that I wasn’t alone and it made me really happy. I was surprised to see Ross, the Project Manager of Your Way there, as we’d lived in the same building for years and I never knew he’d gone through these problems too!

I also met Anna who works for Your Way. She took me under her wing and when I began receiving support from Your Way, I naturally asked for her to be my support worker. We clicked which really matters to me, and I don’t think I could have done everything I have done without her support. Even though I do voluntary peer support for Your Way, when I have a one-to-one session with Anna, it’s always about me, not about my work supporting others. The support you receive is tailor-made and always based on what you want. I found that very hard to deal with making my own decisions at first but now I’m happy choosing my support.

I had a lot of fun on the peer support course. It was clear from the first week that the training course was a safe place and the group becomes like a family. You could tell people stuff there that you couldn’t say elsewhere. There’s still a core group of us who met at the course and now provide peer support, and we see each other regularly. I realised that helping others was really important to me so I ended up doing a second course of training to get accredited. The courses gave me tools not only to help others, but also to help myself. I live by goal-setting and prioritising.

I provide peer support in different settings depending on the preference of the person I’m supporting. For example, I can do one-to-one sessions or group events (like at Knit and Natter twice a month, where we knit for premature babies at our local hospital). The hardest part of being a peer supporter is having to close off your emotions when someone is going through what you’ve been through. But I can use how I got through the bad times to help others to heal and after I’ve given peer support me and my husband always make sure to do something happy and positive. I think peer support helps, because the people we support see a peer supporter as one of them and peer support is about helping clients to look to the future, not the past.

We’re here to help each other and everyone’s in it together. If I can help even just one person, I’ll have succeeded. I’ve even been able to advise a guy going through something similar to what happened with me and my kids. Helping others helps me and the help I give comes back to me tenfold.