The Road to Recovery

23 Oct 2018

Catherine Stevenson lives a 10-minute walk from the West End Centre in Bradford, she's been coming here since 2008 when her then carer brought her. Today, she volunteers at the Centre but it has been a journey that has taken her from Liverpool to London to then working at some of West Yorkshire's major sporting and cultural events.

Her story starts in Liverpool where she attended University. Whilst at University she secured what seemed like an exciting placement at McDonald's head office in London.

"I only stayed there for around 3 months," explains Catherine. "I didn't feel what I was learning was relevant to my course. The placement was supposed to be at management level but I ended up as a glorified crew member."

Not disheartened by her experience, she moved back up to Bradford on her 21st birthday and secured a role at law firm Hamm and Suddards in the Conveyancing department.

After spending four years working at law firms in Bradford, Catherine's life was turned upside down after she was diagnosed with an illness that left her with brain damage.

She says: "Initially it affected my mobility and my memory. My mobility came back quite quickly with physio and rehab, however, my memory didn't. Until my illness I had a brilliant memory, so to suddenly have to remember to write things down and use dictaphones, it was life-changing."

It was during her recovery that Catherine saw a specialist psychologist. During these sessions, Catherine learnt different coping strategies to adjust to her condition.

"When I was first out of hospital I used to have a timetable that told me where I was supposed to be at that time of the day, and what my plans were so that I didn't have to keep nagging my parents to tell me where I was supposed to be," says Catherine. "You can imagine that if you've got no memory, instead of asking every 2 mins, it's better that I can just check and see."

Armed with these new strategies, Catherine gained the confidence to get back into work and started volunteering at the West End Centre where she helped out with the day-to-day running.

She says: "It's anything from coming in and helping with the cleaning to helping in the computer room, especially if there is somebody that is new and a bit shy who might not want to ask questions."

This volunteering work has paved the way into paid employment. Now Catherine works as a steward at both Bradford City and Bradford Bulls, and this summer saw her work at her first Leeds Festival.

New Skills

Whilst volunteering at the West End Centre, Catherine became aware of Good Things Foundation and TalkTalk's Staying Safe in Your Digital World course. Before her diagnosis Catherine had very good computer skills that allowed her to do her job, however, in the years following, these skills became lacking as technology moved on.

"The online safety course helped to remind me of what I already knew, but also learn new ways of doing things as well," says Catherine.

The course really has taught Catherine the importance of online safety.

She says: "I've learnt not to always use the same password, not to write it down and leave it where somebody can find it as they can get into your information, especially if it was something like a Universal Credit account then they could put comments on your profile that you don't want."