My name is Andrew, I’m 29 years old, and I have been at Emmaus Colchester for one month. I spent a month sofa surfing following a relationship break-down and suddenly waking up paralysed from the waist down.
It’s not easy when you think you’ve got life sussed but find out you were wrong. I was living in Ipswich with my girlfriend and our now 6 year-old daughter; I had a family, somewhere to live, and a job. When that life was suddenly taken away from me, I had to start again.
I had been with my girlfriend for six years when we split up in 2015 after she met someone else. It was a difficult break-up, and a really hard time for me. I ended up leaving our flat in Ipswich and my daughter, who I haven’t seen in over a year now. I moved to Colchester, having lived here most of my life, and luckily had my family behind me who helped me move into a flat-share.
I settled back into life in Colchester fairly quickly, and spent my time working in a restaurant. I began court proceedings to see my daughter, and got back in contact with a lot old friends in the area.
My life was getting back on track until everything changed overnight. In July 2016, I woke up paralysed from the waist down. I later learned that I have a condition called Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord which stopped me from walking.
Within the space of one night I had gone from being able to walk, run, and do everything for myself to completely losing my independence. I began to isolate myself, and developed a lot of social anxiety. I used to be a really outgoing guy, and could speak to anybody. I felt stuck in a downward spiral and I ended up really depressed.
The neuro-rehabilitation and physiotherapy wasn’t working, and I was in a wheelchair most of the time. I was told that there was only a 33% chance of being able to walk again, and I began to feel really fed up with how my life was. My mind went to a lot of dark places, and I wasn’t myself.
I decided to battle through it and take that 33% chance. It took me three months to teach myself how to walk again. I still only have 50% feeling in my legs – which I guess is good when people stand on my toes. Even though too much time has passed for me to make a fully recovery, I can walk and that’s all that matters.
My bad luck hadn’t finished, and I was evicted from my flat-share in January 2018 when my tenancy agreement came to an end. I began to sofa-surfing at friend’s houses, but I couldn’t stay anywhere permanently. It was difficult to find somewhere to stay every night and I was desperate for somewhere to settle.
The council couldn’t really help me, but did refer me to Emmaus Colchester. Within a week of handing in my application form I was invited to an interview, and moved in. My daughter is the main reason I came here; when I became homeless, I didn’t want to just sit back and think my life was done – I wanted to keep fighting and make an effort. I didn’t want to accept life, and the thought of my daughter kept me strong through being sick and becoming homeless. I honestly don’t think I’d be here if it wasn’t for her.
It was a massive change coming to Emmaus Colchester and living with over 30 other companions. At first I struggled because of the isolation I had experienced before, but I’ve made a lot of good friends here and hope to make the most of my time in here.
I work in the kitchen here at Emmaus, as I’ve done catering before. I also work in the transport office answering the phone and it’s getting easier to speak to lots of different people every day. I hope to branch out soon to work in other areas of Emmaus – it’s good that you can get work experience and learn skills in the community and shops.
Emmaus is all about making the most of your time here, what they can offer and what I can offer them – it’s a two-way street. I’ve put my name down for a Customer Service NVQ and a refresher Business Admin NVQ. I want to be better prepared for when I eventually leave and secure a career.
I’ll also be taking part in the 5K Colour Run in June to help raise money for Emmaus Colchester with some of the other companions, staff and volunteers. It’s all about challenging myself - I learned to walk again, and now I want to learn to run again. When I was younger I could have covered 5k in 20 minutes, but even if I walk the whole way I’ll still be able to say that I tried.
My training is going well, and I started going to the gym again when I arrived at Emmaus. I did fall off the treadmill the other week – but luckily no one noticed.
Looking forward, I’m going to take each day as it comes. I hope to sort out an arrangement to see my daughter, I can’t wait to see her. I’m in a good place at the minute, and I want to do what I can at Emmaus Colchester before I go out into the big wide world.