“I didn’t have a very good home life. I was abused my step dad and It was devastating. My family was all that I had, but it was a toxic environment that I had to get away from. I was 17 and ended up running away. I haven’t had any sort of relationship with my family since.
“I was living on the streets. Eventually I was picked up by the police and they took me to Cotswold House.
“The first few months were really tough – it hit me that I was completely on my own. Things got better – the girls and staff took me under their wing and really looked after me. I fought against everyone – but they provided me with clothes and they made me feel like I had a home.
“Eventually, it got to a stage where I got my own place and I had my first real relationship.
“I was 18 and he seemed like an amazing guy. He seemed like the kind of person who would finally look after me and give me the love I so desperately wanted from my family.
“The first year together was great. I became pregnant so we rushed into getting married. As soon as the wedding was over, his personality completely changed.
“He was controlling. I was ill after the birth of our daughter and he wouldn’t let me go out and see my friends. As soon as he mentioned that I looked ill I would go to bed and hide away. I wouldn’t go out until he said I looked better. It got to the stage where I felt that I couldn’t make a simple decision for myself – I would constantly need his approval. He would also grip my wrist until it hurt.
“My issues with crippling anxiety started. Eventually we split up, but the police couldn’t do anything about his behaviour. Emotional and psychological abuse wasn’t taken seriously as a form of domestic violence at the time. But they understood how petrified I was; every time he tried to come back they would be there to stop him.
“It affected my mental health in a really bad way, to such an extent that social services got involved. I was too mentally unstable to support my children, so they ended up being taken away. I was heartbroken, but in hindsight, it was probably the right thing to do – I was in no fit state to look after them.
“The final decision was made for them to be adopted in 2013. The only contact I have with my children is via a letter I get twice a year.
“Its four years later and I’m still working on my recovery. I have more good than bad days but I haven’t got to the point where I feel completely free of him. Not a day goes by when I don’t worry about what he might do to me.
“Despite everything, I’m better than where I was six months ago. I’ve been doing some work with P3 and it’s really boosted my confidence. I’ve been getting some work experience under my belt and the overall aim is to get better and get myself back into work.
“I will always have anxiety, but knowing that I can do things and not let it control me makes a huge difference.
“I now want to help people like me and show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t used to see a tunnel, only a dark room – I want to give them that little pinprick of light that makes them realise there is a way out. To change even one person’s life would mean the world to me.”