When I was 17, I went to live in St Margaret’s long stay hospital. This was a place where people with learning disabilities were taken to live; it was a hospital not a home. Before this, I lived in a children’s home for 7 years. St Margaret’s was not a nice place, looking back to how I lived then is upsetting. No one there seemed to be happy; everyone used to moan or cry about the place. I remember everywhere being locked so you could not get out. I knew a few people who tried to escape but they were never successful.

I used to stay in a shared dormitory with other women. I remember the dormitory always being cold, with lines of single beds and curtains on the windows. We were always told what we were going to do. I used to get so angry because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do!

I didn’t end up leaving the hospital until I was 23 and then I was moved to another hospital, called an assessment and treatment centre for a couple of years as I was told there was nowhere else for me to go. After that I moved to a building in the community that was run by the hospital. This was called an NHS Campus. I lived there until I was 29. So 19 years of my life was spent living in institutions!

I have completely turned my life around. I live in my own home, supported by staff I choose. I am a more chilled and relaxed person and I live my life to the full. I make my own choices.

Since being 40 I have done things in my life that I have never done before; simple things that some people may take for granted. I went clubbing for the first time last year. It was so much fun, I went shopping for a new outfit, dolled myself up and hit a club.

My health has improved and I take less medication now. I am even going to the dentist, which is something I would have never done before. I even take control of the little things like having my own cat, I would have never been allowed a pet in the places I used to live.

I’ve become much more independent in recent years. Recently my outside light by my front door broke. This made it dangerous at night because I have steps into my home. I took it upon myself to phone the council and get them to come and fix it. I did this with no support from my staff, which I feel really good about. I also phoned the chiropodist to do my feet on my own without support. This is something people would have thought that I would never have done and I would have just asked the staff to do it for me. But I keep proving people wrong, which makes me smile!

You can read more about my life in my book by clicking on the image above.