My time with Fulfilling Lives – A personal reflection from a client

‘I can honestly say that having this significant chunk of time with a service and a worker that has been consistent has in fact saved my life.’

So here I am attempting to write my experiences over the last three-four years with Fulfilling Lives and I’m feeling completely lost in a swarm of emotions, some good, some bad and some very ugly indeed… I just don’t know where to start! It is the thought of not knowing where to start though, that is in fact spurring me on to put pen to paper to mark the start of the end of my journey, end of FL but just the start for me!!

It’s a chilly start to the day in my one-bedroom council flat in my Little Village with my now one-year-old dog, but I am grateful for this every morning. One thing I like to do is stir in positive thoughts/ daily intentions into my first coffee alongside saying aloud a few things I am grateful for, as to be able to be doing this is a far cry from being where I have been in even just the years whilst working with Fulfilling Lives. Homeless (churches/streets/temp accommodation/sofa surfing and waking up in a dark & dirty paraphernalia trashed bush next to – God only knows who after yet another drink and drug-fuelled night!!) Hence the gratitude for where I am and what I am still maintaining – as this never came naturally. In fact, it was around this time two years ago that I’d be waking up from an induced coma after attempting to take my own life and thinking my first thought ‘I couldn’t even do that properly!!’

So, I have had two FL workers since being referred to them, my first being for around a year and the remainder with the other. I think it’s more like four years than three, but I can honestly say that having this significant chunk of time with a service and a consistent worker has in fact saved my life.

I live on my own today and out of any co-dependent unhealthy relationship, with my one year-old dog, in a council flat with a secure tenancy in a new town to when I started and it’s clean tidy and full of little hobbies, crafts books and interests and it’s here that I enjoy my own company illicit drug-free. It is just a stone’s throw away from the local woods and rec, it’s here I find daily walks, sketching, reading, writing also meeting other dog walkers and dogs for a general muddy chit chat to pass the time! To many people, this might seem boring and very slow-paced but for me it’s just perfect for now.

I’ve spent most my life in chaos and had a social worker, keyworker, counsellor or probation worker in my life and the time of referral was no different. I was on a burn out with no brakes and no thought of slowing down! I’d been in children’s home/secure units, psychiatric hospital, detox and prison – I was also a heroin, crack and methadone user for twenty yrs or more, intentionally homeless and in an emotionally/physically tiring DV relationship. I didn’t have much to wake up and look forward to. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention I also gained something else to help me plunge into more social despair, my partner and I at the time had been served an anti-social behaviour order and had our mug shots plastered all over the news and national/local papers. So I continued to be just that and lived up to the title! Street drinking in the centre of town – Did I mention I was also an alcoholic!!

Anyways, by now you should be feeling relieved as I do with what seemed before to be a boring existence in my local woods with my pup is the beginning of a new existence for me… none of which I could have done without FL and the continued encouragement and never wavering support from my worker! With his help I attended my appointments, I was able to put everything out there from all failing angles of my life into JUST ONE MEETING and ONE PROFESSIONAL but a joint focus on getting things sorted, be it health, housing, relationships, benefits, access to detox and even a women’s refuge when I found myself needing that later too. Nothing ever seemed unobtainable or not achievable and when I wanted to give up trying or just accept things to be just as is.. nothings gonna change attitude, my worker would ask me to break it into a small goal or hold myself accountable for attending a certain apt, give things a go or just see how it pans out!!

Over time my other keyworkers from different areas of my life got to know that I had a Fulfilling Lives worker and from what I noticed they liaised together or would wait for an update email from my FL worker instead of me repeating my story day in and day out.. telling each worker the same thing which then left me time to focus on improving my life and working on getting out of my lifelong rut rather than focusing on staying in it! This was also helpful when having the option for my worker to have consent to talk to everyone on my behalf even down to my utilities, I guess slowly unburdening me with the smaller tasks to have the patience and strength to take on the big stuff!!

It hasn’t mattered where I’ve been physically or emotionally along my journey – the quality of my outreach sessions remained so high. We’d pick up weekly where we left off last week and there was always a continued feeling of progress no matter how many knockbacks and setbacks we’d be faced with. I know this was the case because of where I’m at now too.

My time with FL is coming to an end, which will leave a massive big FL shaped hole in my life but I feel ready and it’s the first exit of a service that I feel I could’ve even planned at the right time. For this reason, I haven’t wanted to go into too much detail or into specifics but I would like to bullet point things I’ve overcome or achieved with FL’s help. Finally, is there anything that I wish was done differently? I’ve thought about it hard and in all honesty, it’s a no!!

Thank you Fulfilling Lives and especially to my amazing 2 workers!!

Achievements with FL support:

  • Council flat – secure tenancy
  • Moved to a new town (3 times)
  • 5 week detox for alcohol/methadone
  • Illicit drug free
  • No longer alcohol dependent
  • Independent living- bills, cleaning, shopping
  • Weekly script
  • Improved self worth, awareness and love.
  • Hepatitis C free (completed 8 week treatment)
  • Responsibly owning a pet for a year- pet insurance, jabs, food and health
  • 1st adult passport
  • 1st adult holiday
  • Relationship with son no longer supervised contact through social services
  • In recovery for over a year from self harm (lifelong battle)
  • No offending behaviour
  • Healed a longstanding leg ulcer through engaging regularly with appointments.

Behind Closed Doors

Kate is a Playwright,  and Project Consultant Assistant with Fulfilling Lives. In this piece she writes about her experience of domestic abuse and what services have been being doing to combat it during the current pandemic

No one knows what goes on in people’s lives behind closed doors, but what is known is that there has been a sharp increase of domestic violence during the Coronavirus outbreak, with us all having to live our lives in lock-down. For some, trying to live in an abusive relationship can be traumatising, fearful and shameful. What I mean by shameful is that it can be something that people do not want to talk about in case they are not believed, or they are frowned upon. They might have been made to believe it is their fault, and even be frightened to think that what they might share could get back to the person who is abusing them.

I say this as someone who has lived most of my life in violent, controlling, coercive relationships and it’s not just as easy as getting up and leaving or talking to someone about it. The amount of times I wanted to talk to someone, especially after I had taken a beating. That hand around my throat, strangling me. That knife held to my throat, in front of my children. That trainer that is just about to stamp on my head. Oh and how can I forget the line “I didn’t mean it, it won’t happen again, I promise, I love you”. Unfortunately, time and time again, I believed that line and believed it was love. What I should have believed in more is the saying, that actions speak louder than words. This is exactly what has been happening in many communities during Covid-19.

Government and Services Response to DV

The government and services have been acting. There have been some fantastic campaigns raising awareness of domestic abuse, here are some examples:

  • Numerous organisations have created information posters and leaflets with key guidance for ‘non-specialist services”.
  • Pharmacy schemes with the launch of the “safe space” initiative where Boots, Superdrug, and Morrisons have allowed their consulting rooms to be a safe space for women experiencing domestic abuse. Go to the healthcare counter and ask to use their consultancy room. The pharmacist will you show you to the safe space and once inside you will have access to all specialist domestic abuse information and be able to make the call safely.
  • There is printed information of the national domestic abuse line on pharmacy bags and at the bottom of Tesco’s shopping receipts.
  • UK says no more has the #listeningFromHome campaign. Encouraging members, friends, colleagues, and neighbours to be aware of and to report signs of domestic abuse whilst in lockdown. If you are concerned you can help by following these guidelines:Check in with victim but be mindful communication channels maybe monitored or call the police.
  • If you are feeling unsafe the best thing to do might be to call 999 and get support from the police. You can do this silently if you are worried about your partner knowing. When dialling 999 from a mobile listen to the prompts from the operator, then cough or tap. The operator will then prompt you to press 55 this will transfer your call to the police, pressing this only works from a mobile and does not allow police to track your location.  
  • “At home shouldn’t mean at risk” logo has been added on the specialist domestic abuse services and if you are experiencing domestic abuse you don’t need to stay at home. Police response and support services remain open for help and support visit  #YouAreNotAlone campaign.
  • The sanctuary scheme provides an alternative to relocation away from family and friends with vital support networks and key services through installation of enhanced security measures in your home. It’s voluntary, free and available to both homeowners and tenants who meet certain requirements. The scheme is funded by members of the Hastings and Rother Domestic Violence forum which has reps from CGL, Sussex Police, HomeWorks, and Optivo. If you would like to request sanctuary in your home call the CGL Domestic Abuse Portal service on 01424 716629 or housing options team on 01424 451100.  
  • East Sussex refuges are still accepting referrals. You can self-refer or enter through Hastings, Eastbourne, Lewes and Wealden and Rother councils or alternatively through East Sussex Police or the Portal. Also, through health services and social care website
  • Fulfilling Lives also played an essential role in trying to influence the content in the Domestic Abuse Bill for women with Multiple and Complex needs.

I really hope that this great work and national/local campaigns that has taken place during the coronavirus pandemic, has encouraged women experiencing domestic abuse to open their doors and walk free from the abuse that can happen behind closed doors. I know if these nation-wide campaigns were taking place when I was living this traumatic life then I would have felt safer to step forward, speak up and flee the violence, a lot sooner than I did.  So, let’s try to keep these conversations going within our communities not only to encourage, support and make people feel safe, but to also reduce the stigma that can occur around domestic abuse. Long may these campaigns against domestic violence continue after the coronavirus pandemic eventually ends.

Useful Contact Numbers

  • Emergency accommodation outside of Hastings Borough Councils working hours 01424 451999
  • Portal’s helpline 0300 323 9985 or 01323 417598 for Eastbourne, Lewes and Wealden or 01424 716629 for Hastings, Rother and Rye or alternatively online at
  • Women’s aid email or
  • Rise helpline 01273 622822 or general enquires 0300 323 9985 or
  • National Domestic Abuse helpline 0808 2000 247 or
  • Penny appeal Domestic Abuse support helpline 0808 802 3333 or http://www.pennyapp
  • Rights of offer free advice in family, immigration, and criminal law 020 7251 6577
  • Men’s advice line 0808 801 0327
  • National LGBT+ 0800 999 5428
  • Karma Nirvana 0800 5999 247 Honour based abuse and forced marriage
  • Shelter give advice if your homeless and fleeing Domestic Abuse

  • Hastings and Rother Samaritans 0330 094 5717 or call 116 123 free from any phone

Fulfilling Lives – Good practice for DA clients

We would like to share with you this Fulfilling Lives South East Partnership Good Practice document on the subject of supporting women with complex needs who are experiencing, or at risk of, domestic abuse during Covid-19 restrictions.

During May and June 2020, people with lived experience of multiple and complex needs interviewed local client-facing staff and researched organisations’ responses to Covid-19 before bringing together the information presented in this document.

We hope you and your colleagues find this a useful tool in your work and if you have any feedback or suggestions about the document please do contact us.

Good Practice Document:

If you have lived experience of multiple and complex needs and are interested in working or volunteering with us, please contact Nelida at

Volunteering with Care and Gratitude through Lockdown

In this post one of our volunteers describes the highs and lows of volunteering and returning to the world of work under lock-down. Exploring mental health, recovery, immigration, self-care and gratitude.

“Well, here we go again!”

I was quite excited about working with the Fulfilling Lives project – it was a space where I felt I could find a support group with a broader purpose along with working on myself and feeling like a contributing member of society again. I began volunteering with the project in Brighton in early March 2020, a few days before the COVID-19 crisis escalated, resulting in a full-blown pandemic and worldwide enforced lockdowns of varying degrees.

My first thought on hearing this news was …“well here we go again!” My last job, which was nothing short of a dream, came to an end as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January. I quit my studies in psychology for it. The job lasted three months and was the first job I had had after three difficult years of recovery from mental illness, constant financial precarity, immigration issues, a string of job rejections and feeling like a loser for still having my parents support me in my late twenties/early thirties, since I had no recourse to public funds.

Artwork by Rosi Tooth / @rosi.illustration

“Move on and move up”

I desperately wanted to move on and move up in life. I wanted to rebuild my life again and grow some solid roots in a place that has been home for the last six years. I finally had the energy and the motivation, but my confidence felt akin to a flimsy fabric in tatters and my mental health a thin sheet of ice ready to crack open under undue stress and pressure.

Back in March, as the prospects of an indefinite lockdown became all too real, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that our weekly Action Group meetings for the Fulfilling Lives volunteers were to continue despite the restrictions. Our meetings were to be held online on Microsoft Teams. From past experience, it’s quite challenging to have productive online meetings or sustain these interactions because face-to-face interactions are indeed difficult to replace. So, I didn’t have high hopes, I trusted my typical self to lose interest if this carried on.

Amazingly, it has been more than three months now and I have only missed one meeting so far. The support and engagement opportunities from the staff at Fulfilling Lives has been absolutely phenomenal. It has been refreshing to have Teams as an online communication platform because you know that you can write a quick note or have a phone call straight away. It reduced the time that it takes to formulate a well-worded email and get a response. It has also increased the fluidity of these interactions, which helps you feel like you’re working and being productive; having those channels of instant feedback can help you feel validated.

But what really made it work? In my opinion, the focus on the structure of the meetings and good timekeeping was noteworthy. The project consultants facilitating these weekly meetings for volunteers would religiously send out an agenda before the meeting, stick to it and send us the minutes of the meeting after it ended, even if all of that effort was just for one person in attendance. If everything else in your life feels like it’s in disarray the last thing you would expect is a weekly meeting to join the party.

Artwork by Rosi Tooth / @rosi.illustration

Building Confidence

I was relieved that life had slowed down for everyone. I was tired of constantly playing catch-up and feeling like I’m falling behind. I’ve always grossly underestimated how long it takes me to get from point A to point B – this has probably been one of my biggest downfalls. I think the fact that the only travel I made to participate in the weekly meetings was from my bedroom to my living room played a huge role in helping me build my confidence again. The option to partake in meetings yet not be seen can be comforting for someone having a bad day for whatever reason. Now that this area of work has caught my interest and solidified my confidence, maybe as next steps, I can work on addressing my travel anxiety now that the lockdown has been finally lifted.

Similarly, I have also been able to participate in other staff-level Theme meetings, which are open to volunteers and brought together frontline workers, team leads and project consultants in one room around a specific topic like ‘Domestic Abuse’ or ‘Health Inequalities’ or ‘Treatment Pathways’ and more. This deepened my interest in the project but in normal circumstances, these spaces would’ve felt out of bounds or too much of an effort, given that participating in these meetings required travelling between the offices based in Brighton, Eastbourne, and Hastings. I’m not implying that face-to-face meetings should be replaced but not having to travel has made a world of a difference to this process of building confidence and finding value in volunteering. So perhaps, this could’ve been one big experiment to explore more hybrid ways of working or maybe it’s a testament to living beings’ innate ability to survive and adapt in any given situation.

Artwork by Rosi Tooth / @rosi.illustration

Self Care

Outside of my life as a volunteer, I’ve been doing several things to keep well, since I couldn’t afford ongoing psychological support. I read the books on recovery-focused self-help books for mind and body that I had collected over the years – brilliant authors like Gabor Maté, Johann Hari, Carl Rogers, Carl Jung, Peter Levine among others. I’m also eternally grateful for how many professionals and organisations have generously offered their time and knowledge at no cost or by donation/self-selective fee. As a result, I attended several conferences, events, workshops and festivals online. I took a Level 2 certification course on supporting people with mental health needs at the Greater Brighton MET College and self-improvement courses on Personal Boundaries and Self Expression. I meditated for an hour every day with a lovely online support group called Stay Aligned that was led by two local mindfulness meditation teachers. I played music online every week with a recovery orchestra, the New Note Orchestra. I took clowning and theatre lessons and free dancing lessons that were sponsored by the Brighton & Hove City Council among many other activities.

I intentionally kept myself busier in confinement than I am otherwise. The fear of relapse in such a situation is what drove me to fill my time and clear my inner space. While I might come across as someone who is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, I’m hyper-aware that it may take very little to throw me off track. Also, repeated setbacks in life have really tested my resilience to cope. But since the lockdown, I figured that if I don’t stare down at the abyss that forever awaits me, then one day I will, almost magically, find a fully-grown pair of wings that will help me fly again.

Artwork by Rosi Tooth / @rosi.illustration

Living With Gratitude

I began writing in my journal every time I felt overwhelmed – these were my own thoughts and some letters I will never send, but also poems, literary excerpts or quotes that I had come across, which felt like unlikely guides or signs from above and beyond. And, there is one simple ritual I follow every night – I ask myself what I have learnt and what am I grateful for today, which I would really recommend as a daily practice to anyone. Finally, I will leave you with a thought-provoking question that my mindfulness meditation teacher often pulls out during our sessions: When times are grim, are happy people more grateful or are grateful people happier?

Thank you for reading.

Artwork by Rosi Tooth, please check her amazing work out over at

If you have lived experience of multiple and complex needs and are interested in working or volunteering with us, please contact Nelida at