I was kicked out of home the last time when I was 16.

The family had stopped coping and over a couple of years the whole family imploded. By the time I was 18, every person, including the cat, lived in a different residence.

Mum had some significant mental health issues that went untreated, and they appeared to me to be reinforced by the church. Things like delusional thinking was seen as God communicating with her rather than mental health. I am in detox from religion now!

It wasn’t a very nice experience at the time. I was a very vocal, opinionated child, who has become a fairly vocal, opinionated adult. However, the reality was I was a good student who went to church. I occasionally smoked cigarettes, I didn’t swear. I just challenged my parents on what they were saying and doing. I didn’t do anything to deserve finding myself out of home. I was told that the reason they did it was because I was a bad influence on my brother and sister. The reality was I was just a teenager. So I was really angry for a very long period of time.

It was a tough time, but as a family now we love each other and try to understand each other.

Being out of home was an adventure, and I did some amazing things. I dropped out of school because I was homeless and for a brief period I was squatting. I found myself in a youth homelessness support environment; at drop-in centers, refuges and other programs. I got to do a memory course, I jumped out of a plane, and I went to go see Phantom of the Opera. I had my art encouraged. I experimented with drugs very cautiously. However it wasn’t all roses, I also found it to be a very predatory environment for a young naive girl. I had no fucking idea, and there was a lot of guys who were very predatory and so it was also a tough time. It’s a bit of a fucking shock when you come from the church and you land into that.

I went on to do tertiary entrance course called SKATE which was Street Kids Access to Tertiary Education. I had a wonderful man who was a youth worker really encourage me. I went and stayed in supported accommodation for that period and that began my journey to having an alternative future.

I applied to university to do a Bachelor of Visual arts and then chickened out. I eventually went back and applied a second time for Psych and Sociology because of my lived experience thing. That became a crossroads for me that has been unresolved in a lot of ways throughout my life, there has always been this regret that I chose lived experience over art. I always found that art comes second to the rest of the demands in my life. Art needs you to be able to have time to sit with yourself and I don’t get a lot of that.

When you work really hard to leave homelessness behind you, you learn strategies to make sure you don’t slip backwards. This stood me in good stead with my use of drugs through my 20s and 30s as I was able to maintain the financial status quo. I always made sure money was available for things that are necessary (food, rent, bills)…but it wasn’t there for chasing dreams…

Two years ago I ended up in a psych ward after a suicide attempt and drug psychosis. I was chained up in emergency for three days on a bed. When I came out I made a decision that I needed to stop using drugs.

Since then I’ve used only a few times, that means that a vast majority of my time is spent doing other things I enjoy, amazing what a bit of money and time makes possible… It’s been a fantasy forever to learn how to ride a bike; but when you get kicked out of home and then money is tight and then you have a drug habit, there is no money to buy a bike. There just isn’t. I have the money now to chase my dreams… so I just went and bought a motorbike and I am going to learn to ride.

I moved out of the city about six and a half years ago. I decided to move because I wanted more animals, and I wanted a garden, and I wanted vegetables; what I’ve actually got is a weed patch growing out of control… but I’ve got six animals. Five of them are mine. I’ve got two guinea pigs, two cats, and my dog. Jane, who is my partner, has moved in; she’s also got a dog. There’s two dogs, two cats and two guinea pigs. Plus all the wildlife.

Most of my animals are getting old now… Mau, he’s 20, he’s my cat, and he’s been with me through everything, degrees, career, drugs and stopping …. he’s been around longer than anybody.

He is my longest relationship yeah…he’s been through some pretty big changes!

I am who I am and I’m not embarrassed about who I am, what I’ve done, where I’ve been. I don’t regret my life, it’s made me who I am and I like me.