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My life has been a storm

December 01 2021
A boat weathers the storm © Michelle Christopher A boat weathers the storm © Michelle Christopher

Art and creativity can provide support and escape after experiencing trauma and homelessness. Trigger Warning: Some of the subjects discussed in this article may be upsetting for readers. 

At the age of 26 I landed in a psychiatric hospital because of trauma I suffered when I was 15 years old. I was very lucky to get help but in order for recovery to work I had to face up to my truth and rewrite my story. For others who have suffered trauma or loss: it doesn’t define you. You can choose to define your own path.

My journey hasn’t been easy, I have been homeless, had no money, I have no family to support me, my mother neglected to help me after I confronted my family about my trauma (rape…).

Trauma can be one of the main reasons for homelessness, because your body cannot actually function properly, you cannot function on a level that you need to, so your own body shuts down, closes off and it becomes a vicious cycle. But being homeless and having trauma does not have to be a life sentence. I firmly believe that we can reshape our own journey, with the opportunities given to us. There is help out there but often you have to go looking for it, you have to want your situation to change. It may not be easy but it is possible.

Communities, projects and people do care about you. It can be quite a rough journey living on the streets, but it doesn’t mean you cannot be creative, come up with ideas, to help yourself know that there are places to go to feel safe. I have learnt through being homeless that sometimes we have to make our own opportunities for ourselves, we have to turn it around and make the streets our home and start from there.

Being a runaway was not easy! I only had two suitcases that my mother gave me when she left me at the start of my journey and now I have a possibility of a future, and I have had the chance to recover from my trauma. That is why I want to let others know that it is entirely possible to get back on your feet because nothing has to be set in stone!

There are lots of opportunities out there waiting to help you and really kind people that you need to lean into and trust. I am still struggling of course, having had part-time jobs here and there but it not working out, going back and forth for the past two years into psychiatric care, sofa surfing, struggling to pay rent, health problems needing medication, but I know my strengths and what I want and I am also creative, determined and I have a dream to make my life better... I don’t give up and I won’t give up. I don't want people to feel sorry for me, because even though I have experienced harrowing trauma and I am an orphan with little to lean on except the gift of my own experience, I believe that going through what I went through has made my life even more beautiful and has made me into a better artist and in some ways a little more selfless. I am proud I have survived the streets, especially being a woman who is small but has a big heart!

I truly want to show people who are struggling with being homeless and having suffered any form of trauma that it is not a label, it doesn't show who you really are. It just means that you maybe have to work on loving yourself a little stronger, and know that the wind always turns around...

My life has definitely been a storm, and my sails have definitely been battered, thrashed, and bruised but I can slowly adjust them and now I want to show people that the seas are not always as troubling as you think, and there is always an anchor to help you.

  • Michelle Christopher is an artist and aspiring art therapist.
    Art therapy and art projects for homeless people can be found in the List of services on our website at: