'The doctor had written "This lady will never get better"': How a woman abused for 21 years defied expectations by overcoming severe mental health issues to land her first job aged 39
- Angie was abused from a few weeks old, eventually escaping her abuser at 21
- She has long suffered from PTSD, bipolar, severe depression, anorexia and self-harm due to her past
- The mum-of-five was told at 17 by doctors that she would 'never be fit for work'
- But charity intervention helped Angie build a CV and land her first job aged 39
An Unforgettable Past
Angie suffers from a range of mental health issues due to her abusive past, but is slowly overcoming these
For Angie, a childhood of persistent and relentless abuse was all she ever knew, beginning when she was just a few weeks old and lasting until the age of 21 when she found strength to escape her traumatic background.
As a result, her mental health was so damaged that she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act – or 'written off', as Angie describes it.
But Angie dreamed of achieving more. After becoming a mother to five children, Angie decided that she felt ready for work. However, because of her past, she believed she was unemployable.
"I was taught doctors know best, so I accepted it."
'I’d been told since I was 17 that I would never be fit for work because of my mental health,' she says. 'I was taught doctors know best, so I accepted it.
'I had never worked, and I didn’t know where to start,' she says. 'I didn’t have a CV, there was the stigma of my mental health issues, and I’m covered in scars. I haven’t self-harmed for over 20 years, but the scars are still there. I struggled to see how anyone would get past that.'
A Brave Step Forward
But when visiting her local mental health group, Angie came across a leaflet for Making Space’s ‘Work4You’ service – a facility aiding people with long-term mental health issues to find work, as well as offering individuals one-to-one psychological and practical support.
'At first, I just wanted a CV,' says Angie. 'But when I went for my first appointment with Sam, my employment adviser at the time, I realised that they could give me so much more.
‘For the first time, I was talking to someone who wasn’t talking down to me – we were completely equal. I’d spent my life seeing professionals who were there to assess and judge me, and being labelled with one thing or another, but Sam didn’t do that.’
Although she had no employment history, Work4You adviser Sam helped Angie create a CV advertising her skill set – school qualifications, parenting 5 children, and part-completion of an Open University course – and Angie applied for the job of a mental health peer support worker immediately.
‘I was very nervous about it, but I just wanted to apply so I could go through the process. I was stunned when I got a phone call to say I’d got an interview. I was completely terrified. But within 2 hours, I got a call to say that I had got the job.
'After being told I’d never work, I got my first job at 39. It felt amazing, like I’d been accepted as an equal.’
Angie used Making Space's Staffordshire Work4You service to build her CV and then apply for a job
"I got my first job at 39. It felt amazing, like I’d been accepted as an equal."
Today, Angie is ‘revelling’ in her career as a peer support worker for young people with mental health issues in residential care. A year after defying doctors’ expectations and landing the job, she believes she can now provide others with hope for their own futures.
'I still need support – don’t get me wrong. For the first few months I was constantly looking for reassurance from my employment adviser, and it’s great to know that it’s there for as long as I need it.
'But it really is an honour and privilege for me to be able to step into these 17, 18, 19-year-old lives and be a living example that there is hope. I can tell them I was there at 17 and I truly understand, but look where I am at 40. It’s the greatest pleasure.'
Angie is eternally grateful for the monumental changes that Making Space's Work4You services have helped her make to her life.
'This is my future, and it feels like the beginning. Here I am: I’ve arrived.'