Susan found out about DurhamWorks via a leaflet that was delivered through her door, and then a knock at the door from a member of the DurhamWorks team.
At the time she was living at her mums house with her twin brother. She was struggling with extreme anxiety and mental health issues, she had not been outside the house for about 3 years.
She agreed to come to Hillrigg house for a 1:1 appointment and discuss what DurhamWorks had to offer. At that time the programme Train Tracks was about to start and Susan was a perfect candidate. Debbie, one of our progression workers was called into the room to meet Susan and was greeted by a very quiet, pale scared young lady who was shaking and pulling at her fingers with anxiety through the roof.
Debbie explained about Train Tracks and she stated that this is something she would be interested in, but was scared about how to get there.
Debbie agreed to pick her up and all the paper work was then completed.
A week later, susan sent a text “unable to come tummy ache”…classic anxiety symptoms- so Debbie rang her, and she was really frightened. It was decided that we would need to slow down and take the journey with Susan one step at a time.
Debbie and the team picked her up, and if, at any point she wanted to turn around and head home, then that’s what they would do.
Susan started the car journey with her head buried in her phone, and started to tell Debbie about Alliyah, and how she was faced with severe issues. I asked who Alliya was, and Susan informed me “she is one of the characters I have created. She went on to say “ I write in my spare time” and Alliya is just one of the characters".
Susan used her characters as her coping strategies, this was her way of dealing with the trauma going on in her life- she could depersonalise these issues, give them to the characters and then work through the issues this way.
Entering the classroom at Hourden Children centre, Susan coiled inwards and she disappeared inside her coat, under her hood. All that was left were her earphones.
Once seated, Debbie and the team had 7 or 8 young people, all of which had extremely high anxiety issues, no one would speak, and they had 4 hours to fill.
Someone spotted Susan on her phone and she had an image on her phone , it was of Alliya, she was aksed “whats that?”. Susan engaged in conversation- explained it’s a character- told the other young person who and why she used these characters.
This then gave birth to The Marley project. Marley was a ficticious person and was a person who carried the issues that each young person did not want to discuss, but needed advise on. Each week they would discuss issues. Susan started to take the lead role, her skills set grew and so did her confidence.
It was the end of the Train Tracks Programme, but this signalled just the start for Susan, as she went to start Princes Trust. She completed a 12 week program and was awarded most supportive student. She stood on the stage and spoke publicly for 10 minutes to a crowd of 30 people.
She has continued to grow and overcome barriers and she has submitted an application form to work at Barnados in Seaham. She has started to address her mental health issues and completed a course with Talking Changes. She also gets on buses where before she would not and could not leave the house. She is confident, focused and reflects on her journey travelled so far. She uses her own journey as a tool to make a strategy to identify any trigger points for when she need support. When Debbie first met her, she would internalise everything and deny any help was ever needed.
She has learnt a lot about herself and about the world since being on train tracks, and her journey is not over yet;
Susan now accepts challenges, she takes a bite out of life each day. She is an inspiration to so many.