Declan's story

“I want to start from where I am now and work my way back. It is easier to tell my story by starting with the positive.

I am feeling reasonably positive these days because I’ve come a long way from where I was. I still have work to do but count myself lucky that I don’t have substance misuse issues or anything like that as I can’t imagine trying to navigate through life with that on top of everything else. Penrose has really helped me to start getting back on my feet. They have helped me access help, helped me sort out my benefits, housing issues etc.

This contrasts with a year ago when I was at my lowest point. I wasn’t working and my life had unwound. I had gotten depressed and anxious and didn’t care about anything. I used to be a positive person before but got to a stage where I didn’t want to bother with anything.

My downward spiral started back in 2008 when I lost my job. Afterwards my relationship broke down and I couldn’t find any permanent work after that. I was living in Dunstable at the time and tried to get help, but the benefits office was not very helpful. Considering I had worked and paid into the system, I felt that they didn’t make things easy for me.

It’s scary when you are faced with such a large organisation and are not being listened to, they treat everyone as scroungers even though some of us had been working for a long time and paid our taxes.

I found another job in car sales and other temp jobs, but these didn’t work out, so I just did bits and pieces of work for a while. At one point I lived in my car but when it got cold, I sofa-surfed for a while.

I had a normal childhood, although I didn’t do so well in school. I sometimes wished that my parents had pushed me more. But I realise that perhaps if they had, I wouldn’t have been able to cope.

My turning point came last Christmas when my sister wrote to me to plead with me to go home to Ireland for Christmas with her, which I did. My family knew I had been struggling but didn’t know the extent of my troubles. They interrogated me while I was in Ireland and found out how bad my finances were and that I had been living with little to no money. When I returned to Luton, my sister researched charities in the area, and I got signed up with Penrose in January. I did a CBT course which I didn’t find useful. I didn’t have a formal mental health diagnosis but had low moments. My doctor prescribed me Citalopram to help me with anxiety.

I think pride has played a part in where I found myself. I had gone to another charity in 2017 but didn’t get any help and that knocked me back for a bit. To go from always being in work and then find myself unable to find anything permanent has been difficult. Accepting help was tough as I had to relinquish control to someone else. Something I didn’t find easy.

I think I’ll always be anxious especially dealing with agencies and organisations. Although I do have a better relationship with the Luton benefits agency since I haven’t had to navigate it on my own. Danielle, my Penrose case worker has been extremely helpful, and I have a sick note which means I can access benefits for now. My future is looking more positive and I would like to be self-employed with a small business in the future.

For quite a while I lost direction, but now I can look forward to a better future knowing I am not alone and have people to talk to who will help me. I’m so thankful to Penrose. They have literally been my saviour.