First happy Christmas at 31
Lynda* had her first happy Christmas, after she and her daughter secured their first ever real home through the Tasmanian Salvation Army Supported Housing team.
It is hard to believe that Lynda, a positive, hardworking mum, had her first ever happy Christmas just last year. It was full of joy, Lynda says, because she and her daughter finally had a secure home (through the Tasmanian Salvation Army Supported Housing – SASH – team).
And while Lynda had never experienced primary homelessness and been forced to sleep on the street, she had stayed in many unstable and violent situations over many years.
Lynda explains she was born into “a really chaotic, chaotic life”.
“That wasn’t my choice,” she says. Before she started high school, Lynda’s mother, who struggled with addiction, deserted her, and soon after, was murdered.
Lynda says: “I lived with my grandmother for my teenage years and she was amazing. But what wasn’t amazing was the pain I still felt. I was pretending to be OK for everyone else around me, because my nan was grieving really badly – her child had been murdered – and she was doing her best to raise me.
“I couldn’t show her how much I was hurting, because I didn’t want to hurt her anymore.”
Despite her grandmother’s love, Lynda says the pain of her upbringing, loss and rejection would not go away.
“By the age of 21 (I was) self-medicating pretty badly,” she says. “Binge drinking, drugs. I then started on prescription medication for the anxiety and paranoia … When the doctors wouldn’t give them to me anymore, I turned to ice.”
She describes herself as a “high-functioning addict”, who always managed administrative jobs.
Two years ago, she hit rock bottom after she was badly assaulted in a family and domestic violence related incident.
“I rang SASH and I met Don and the team,” she says. “They took a chance and they helped me out (and keep helping) every day! Don is my case manager and he is just the absolute best person I have ever met in my life. All of them – every single one of those people saved my life!
“No one has any idea how grateful I am. They help young women like me actually change their lives. I’ve changed my life because of them. They saved my life. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them.”
Lynda first arrived at SASH with a fractured cheekbone, swollen face, and only the clothes on her back.
“I was in and out of psychiatric wards, I was having panic attacks because I’d been assaulted,” she says.
With support from the SASH team, Lynda has not only found a stable home, but has also fought an epic battle to break the cycle of family addiction, pain and domestic violence she was born into – not only for her sake, but for the sake of her daughter.
And while life still has many challenges, Lynda is now in a healthy relationship and off all drugs including prescription medication.
She says: “Today I have a really, really, really great new career, which I absolutely adore. I work every day to be better – not just for me, but because one day, I strive to be able to help people like the Salvos helped me.”
The Salvos are here for you and to help you this Christmas. Find out more about our social and community programs, Christmas lunches and financial support.
Lynda is also working to gain new qualifications to help others in the future.
She says: “There are people out there that think they can’t (break the cycle) because they are not strong enough, or don’t have the help, or they’re in bad situations because they’ve got no one else, but I want people to know there is help out there – you just need to learn how to ask for it.”
For Lynda and her daughter, life is more positive all the time.
“Christmas is my favourite time of year now,” she says. “Having a home and support around me has changed everything.
“For the first time ever I had my own home last Christmas. It wasn’t someone else’s (home) that I just ran to because I had nowhere else. It was mine (and my daughter’s). We had a tree and decorated the whole lounge room.
“It was the first time I have had my own safe house to have Christmas in since I was born – apart from a few years with my grandmother – but I never (quite) felt that was my home.
“I have a bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder and everything has to be perfect. So everything was absolutely perfect,” Lynda laughs. We had decorations and a beautiful meal with my partners’ family. It was absolutely lovely.”
Times are tough, but you can give kindness, joy and generosity this Christmas – find out how to volunteer.