Tom’s Lakeside Experience

Lakeside has given me a broader perspective. University might even be an option now. Lakeside has been one of the best experiences of my life, if not the best.

Tom, 18 years old, Morecambe, Lancashire

Tom struggled at school. He found it hard to make friends and became extremely isolated. He would no longer leave the house, let alone manage to finish school or find work. Tom went to Lakeside and discovered a whole new world – a world which he could be part of. Today Tom is a volunteer mentor and is considering University. From a young age Tom had ambition and wanted to do well, but failed exams consistently. He was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum and referred to a specialist school. But Tom found the experience frightening and intimidating.

“On my first day I was in a maths class and this boy picked up a table and threw it across the room. I’d never seen anything like that before and it scared me. I would never have done anything like that”.

Tom left school and struggled to find employment. He became very depressed. “It was tough being at home. I tried to get a job but I couldn’t. I started eating a lot, for comfort I suppose. I got really low and hated the way I looked. I didn’t want to see or speak to anyone. It got so bad, I wouldn’t even walk to the shop at the end of the road”. When Tom’s weight hit 22 stone, he hit rock bottom and felt desperate about his situation. Then Tom attended YMCA and his world started to change.

“I’d wanted to change, but never knew where to start. With YMCA things started to seem possible. One of the YMCA workers really inspired me. He helped me believe that I might have a future after Lakeside and that this was just the beginning.”

“There was a time when I would have walked away from a hard situation, because I couldn’t see any way out – Lakeside changed all that”. Tom found some of the Lakeside activities really challenging .”

“I felt like giving up so many times. One day I just lost it. I threw a tantrum and left the group. I really thought I’d blown it. But one of my new mates sent me a text, saying, ‘We’ll miss you if you go’.“

“I’d never had friends before, let alone friends that might miss me! That text saved me. I didn’t know they cared. I didn’t know anybody cared”.

There was still life after Lakeside to consider, but the team helped Tom to think about his future and make some plans. It’s all part of the process at Lakeside. Tom is now involved in a peer mentoring training course, which has really boosted his confidence. He’ll help others work on career development, gain skills and share his own experiences.

“I can’t believe I’ve been asked to do this. If I hadn’t found Lakeside I’d still be heading down the wrong path. I’d be in the house putting more weight on, getting more depressed”. Tom says he is happy for the first time ever. He’s excited about having a social life and is considering a career in IT.