Things have been getting really bad over the last year or two.
My mum tries to hide it from me, but I’m not stupid - I can see that she’s scared. I notice when she says she’ll get food later, even though I know there’s nothing in the kitchen, and how scared she looks every time the power cuts out.
Being my mum isn’t always easy, and she’s been amazing – when dad was going through a lot of stuff, when I came out, and for years and years when my mental health’s been really bad and I can’t get out of bed or go to school. I get why she wants to protect me, but I wish she’d trust me enough to talk about it, instead of blowing up at me for forgetting to turn the lights off or for missing school.
School’s always been really difficult. People knew about stuff going on with my dad and they were laughing about it and throwing it in my face, saying really horrible stuff. I couldn’t even focus when I did go to class cause I couldn’t think straight with everyone looking at me and whispering stuff.
It got so bad that I was having panic attacks even thinking about school, so I found any excuse to not go – if I couldn’t play sick, I'd just turn around and go home once mum went to work. And after I’d not been for a few months I started thinking "I can’t go back now.” I was already way behind and I couldn't see how I could ever catch up.
Honestly, I just sort of gave up. The worst part was watching Mum get more and more stressed and tired and overwhelmed, and knowing it was because she was worrying about me and trying to keep both of us going. She was working so hard to look after me, and all I was doing was sitting around being miserable.
You’d think that knowing that would make me be nicer to her, but every time she talked to me it just made me so angry at myself that I got angry at everything else. So I’d start shouting and she’d start shouting and we’d both end up melting down and it just kept getting worse.
I wanted to go stay with my dad, to take the weight off Mum a bit. But I couldn’t because he didn’t have anywhere stable to live himself. I got really mad and I threw a lot of stuff back in his face. I feel awful about that, cause he’s been working really hard to get his life back on track and be there for me, but I was just spinning out and I didn’t know what to do.
I needed to get out. I had a bag packed – I didn’t know where I’d go, but at least I wouldn’t be here, making everything worse.
I don’t know what would have happened to me if Dad hadn’t put us in touch with Cyrenians. They said we could come in and do family mediation with them.
At first I thought I was going to hate it – I didn’t want to be asked all these questions about how I was feeling or try to explain myself. The first time Clare from Cyrenians came round, I was ready to tell her all the reasons it wasn’t going to fix anything.
But it wasn’t like that at all. She didn’t tell me what to do, or make me feel stupid. She listened to me, and to Mum and Dad, and she really helped.
She did all sorts of stuff. She got me and mum set up with free internet, and she made sure we could afford the electric. She put us onto the Community Pantries where we could get cheap food, and she was talking to Mum about all sorts of stuff to help with the bills.
I could see it was really helping Mum. She didn’t look so tired, and she wasn’t blowing up all the time. She started talking more in mediation too – about how worried she was, and how she didn’t know how to talk to me any more. It wasn’t easy, because I didn’t want to worry her more, but eventually I started telling her about how bad things had been at school, and how I never knew how to do things right and I didn’t know how I was going to have any kind of future...
Clare said these were really common experiences, and helped us figure out how to talk to each other. She also said it sounded like I might be autistic, and gave us some really helpful ways to get through meltdowns and to communicate how I feel.
She asked what I liked doing, and at first I couldn’t think of anything, but one day she asked if I’d like to try going to a studio Cyrenians run called Creative Natives, which is somewhere where people like me can go during the day and just hang out and do arty things.
I was kind of scared to go at first. It’s one thing talking to Clare but I didn’t think I was ready to be in a big group of people my age but it was amazing! Everyone there was just as much “the weird kid” as I was, and everyone had been through stuff. It was the first time I’d ever been able to talk about things like my dad’s addiction and our money worries and instead of being treated like a freak, people knew what I meant.
I ended up really liking the art bit too! I got really into painting and making wee comics, and I started to feel like this could really be something for me, so I talked to Cyrenians about how I could do something with it. They talked to my school about getting support so I can get into art college, and I’m really excited – it’s the first time I’ve felt like there’s a future I want to aim for.
Me and Mum have patched things up a lot – we’re talking more about what’s happening, and that means we can actually support each other. Plus we're not in each other’s space all day every day. Dad’s managed to get a place now, so I can stay over with him sometimes, and we’re doing all this fun stuff on weekends that Cyrenians organise, like fishing and hiking.
Looking back, I can’t believe how bad things were. I was this close to ending up on the streets, or worse, and I really didn’t feel like I could do anything. Cyrenians helped turn things around. They didn't just listen – they went out of their way to find out what was wrong and help us sort it out. With their support, I’ve got my mum and dad on my side, everyone at Creative Natives has my back, and I know I’m not alone – I’ve got a really good future ahead of me, and they’re helping me get there.
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