David aiming high again after hitting rock bottom
At his lowest ebb, David Hughes would lock himself away from the outside world for days at a time and numb the pain with alcohol.
The 35-year-old is borderline bipolar and suffers with a combination of stress, depression and anxiety. But, far from always being this way, David lived what many would consider a ‘normal’ way of life for the first decade of his adult life – enjoying a number of jobs as well as a healthy social life and the occasional European holiday.
Around three years ago a catalogue of unforeseeable events plunged David, of Dawley, in Telford, close to the depths of despair. First he suffered a bereavement in the family followed by losing his job and then undergoing a painful hernia operation.
“It was such a horrible time in my life and everything sort of came and hit me at once – like a train. I had always worked since the age of 14 and had marketing and customer service roles at places like Telford & Wrekin Council, Madeley Parish Council and Wrekin Housing Trust. So when I lost my last job that also hit me very hard,” David explained.
“Sometimes I just had to drink and I wouldn’t want to step out of the house for days at a time. I could appear quite happy on the outside but it was what was happening on the inside which was really affecting me.”
He was made homeless on three separate occasions and spent most of his time ‘sofa surfing’ at friends’ houses before eventually being moved into temporary accommodation. David stayed in temporary accommodation for around 18 months and it was during this time that he first received support from Thrive – the partnership support service in Telford & Wrekin – and started to battle his inner demons as well as prepare himself for independent living.
In March, David moved into a one-bedroom flat on Roberts Drive and was initially supported by Bromford’s Starting Well service as he began to budget and live independently once again. Motivated by a desire to overcome his mental health condition and get his life back on track, David transformed the inside and outside of his flat in little over 12 weeks as well as joining a weekly walking group to give him something to look forward to.
Nine months later and housing manager Serena Baker has now offered him a five-year fixed tenancy after recognising the big strides forward he has made since moving in.
David financed a redecoration of the inside of the flat including painting the walls and buying photographs, display plaques and furniture largely from car-boot sales and charity shops. He then transformed the outside area into a neatly kept communal garden – which meant painting all the fence panels, laying 25 bags of green and brown slate to create an attractive border and adding the finishing touches with decorative pots and trees.
He said: “When I moved in nobody really used the communal garden. I borrowed some tools off the landscaping team to trim all the hedges before I started work on the lawn. It’s really helped keep my mind away from the other things in life which were getting me down.
“Getting this flat has offered me such an amazing incentive to turn my life around. I can see my goals and the future now whereas before I couldn’t.
“My neighbours are really pleased with the new communal garden area and if it’s helping their wellbeing too then that makes it totally worthwhile. You couldn’t really give me a million pounds because all these comments mean so much more to me.”
Serena said: “David is quite simply an inspiration to others who might find themselves in a similar situation. He has spent an awful lot of time, money and effort on his property and the fixed tenancy will really give him that stability and confidence he needs to keep moving in the right direction.
“We’ve never really had community spirit here in this group of four flats before. Thanks to David’s hard work and belief, it’s also having a positive impact on the other residents around him and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
David receives support and guidance from his two support workers but is gradually gaining in confidence. He hopes to return to work eventually and one of his ambitions remains to get back to the stage where he can once again enjoy holidays abroad.
“I think I’ll start off somewhere local like Spain,” he jovially quips. “But I would like to do a long-haul flight eventually as I’ve never done one before. I haven’t decided where to yet.”
As the saying goes, the world really is his oyster…