Case Story: Taking back control

I’ve got a meeting tomorrow evening at the housing association because they’ve asked me to be on their panel to talk about how repairs are working. My self confidence and self esteem has been so low when I’m meeting new people; I always think they’re going to judge me. Although I’m still nervous, I’m not cancelling it. Whereas a year ago I wouldn’t have done it. Hands down, that’s down to Maria (advisor).

Over lockdown, I made my garden absolutely beautiful, and I did it on video call with my mum because she was doing the same to her garden. Mum died, those curtains drew, and I didn’t open them again for three years. I didn’t go out there. So it’s not been a very easy decade. It was crap. I was extremely unwell mentally.

Life was just…I was on autopilot. I was just going from one day to the next. It was just ‘I have to get up, I have children. I have to get up. I have clients that need me.’ I’m a micro provider. My client base is all elderly. I do a bespoke service; some people I just clean for; other people, personal care, showers. Taking people to appointments, going out for a coffee…or just making sure that they’re eating.

I have suffered with depression and anxiety for numerous of years; that came from childhood trauma and then trauma since. It just kind of snowballed. I eat too much; I spend too much money. And sod the consequences. I’ve always had issues with my weight from when I was young.  And with my mum’s foot up my arse, I hadstarted back at Slimming World and lost 6 and a half stone. Mum died; it all went back on again, plus more.

I eat to make myself feel better. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder 18 months ago. It’s part of my mental health. The other way I was coping was buying things from catalogues and credit cards. I couldn’t pay it back; I knew I couldn’t pay it back. But I needed the thrill of doing something that’s going to make my day a little bit more worthwhile. Some people depend on alcohol, some people depend on drugs, I depended on shopping.

I was in debt with my housing association. They knocked on my door and said ‘We need to sort this out. ‘Cos otherwise you’re going to lose the house.’

When I was talking to Maria at the beginning, the minute I got home, the door would be locked and the blinds were down. If no-one thinks I’m home, they’re not going to knock on the door. I couldn’t answer the door to anyone. Trying to avoid people. People I’d have to have a conversation with.

I was awake. I’d done my work for the day. I need to come home and be not human. I’m human for my children and that’s it. I don’t need to have any interaction with the outside world, thank you very much! I was an ostrich. Head in the sand. Didn’t open my post. Didn’t want to listen. I had months and months and months of letters I didn’t open. I had 340 bin bags of rubbish in the back garden. That was a concern for the housing association as well.

It’s like a petrol tank. When you’ve got no petrol left, you can’t go anywhere until you’ve filled that petrol tank up. I can’t socialise. I can’t do anything. Don’t answer the door. Don’t open letters. I don’t answer the phone. But Maria’s sensible and leaves voice messages!

And I listened to them after and thought, ok, maybe…maybe we can give this a go. It took a couple of conversations on the phone before I thought, ‘Do you know. you are actually here to help me. You’re not going to screw me over; you’re not going to embarrass me and you’re not going to judge me.’

And that was the biggest thing – not being judged. There was no judgement at all.

Maria saw me as me. She didn’t see me as a pile of debt; she didn’t see me as someone with mental health problems; she didn’t see me as a single mum, living in a housing association house. She saw me as me. And that is really important.

Maria didn’t tell me what to do, but she said ‘This is what needs doing. The step we are doing first is…’ like it was a recipe. It was broken down into small pieces. And by seeing that, that’s what I started with and this is what I’ve ended up with. I wasn’t rushed or forced into doing anything. We looked through all the debts and pieces like that.

It’s a step by step process. Broke down into layman’s terms for me in ways that I could understand…cos me and maths and figures have never been friends. I wasn’t rushed or forced into doing anything. We did a DRO, so this time next year I’m going to be debt free.

All you need is one person to unlock that lock and then everything gets rolling.

Actually, the relief I felt from having Maria help me with sorting the debt out, improved my mental health, which made me think with a clearer head to process every other step.

I went back to Slimming World last September so I’m 3 stone down again. I also got in touch with Talking Therapies. So that helped me with the building blocks.

I’ve now got the coping strategies. Whether it’s from Maria, Talking Therapies, or my partner; as a combination, I’ve got enough to go forward. But I’ve also got the power to ask for help when I need to ask for help. And that is a big thing for me.

I needed to go through what I went through to realise there’s a way out of it. And build up my confidence to know you can get yourself out of a sticky situation. If something else arises, I know I can work it out. It’s not panic stations. It’s not bury my head in the sand, self-harming and hiding in my bedroom all of the time. There are ways to go through it. I can email Maria if I don’t know which way to turn.

It’s the best thing I did answering Maria’s message. She’s helped me in more ways than I think she knows she’s helped me. ‘Cos she hasn’t just helped me with the debt, although that was a massive black cloud; it’s because she saw me as me. Took an holistic view on what I needed. The more you talk about it the more it makes sense.

She was a lifesaver.

Money and Debt Advice Client – BGET Project