My story started on a late evening when there was a knock at the door and a gang of policemen came to arrest my partner. Two years later the final day of court came, and he phoned at lunch time to say he had spoken to the lawyer and he was definitely coming home that day. 2pm the phone goes – it’s a prison officer from Perth Prison to say my partner was there and had been given a 4-year jail sentence. Wow! Did my world just crumble? I thought I was hearing things. I broke down, my legs gave way as I fell onto the floor. The person who I had spent the last six years with I wasn’t going to see again for four. How could this happen? Did they not know he had four kids at home and a partner with health issues? Does nobody care what are we going to do?
That is when my life changed. The man from the prison gave me a number to call for help, advice, and what to do next; the organisation was Families Outside. I spoke to them on the phone, and they arranged for someone to come and see me. I thought I can’t do this myself: how can I look after four kids, a dog, run a house, cope with my disabilities, and generally keep sane? I thought my life had ended: how could I go on? Where do I start? Everything was so different, I wanted my life to end, as that’s what it felt like inside. I couldn’t eat or sleep – just normal day to day stuff was getting a bit tough.
I went to my GP a short time after my partner was sentenced, and the support from the doctor was great. She told me the way I was feeling was understandable for a person in my situation, with the amount of stress and lifestyle changes. Things would be a little hard but would definitely be better in time. Things were still raw. What will I tell the kids? What will people think? Will people be talking about the family? People would stare and whisper when we would walk past – just what we needed when we were feeling vulnerable.
After a few tough months, things settled down. Our family got slowly back on track. I stuck to routine to make things as normal as I could. Living alone for the first time I felt so alone, worthless. That’s when I realised it’s okay to struggle a bit – anybody would. I felt so low I didn’t think I had the strength to go on. The kids were lost. They were so upset.
Families Outside helped me get into groups and referred me for other support. After a few months working together, I can finally say life’s looking up. It’s almost been a year now since my partner has been in prison, and things have changed so much, and all for the best. The kids have had a lot of support from the school after the Family Support Coordinator from Families Outside helped me to explain to them what was going on, and the Family Support Coordinator supported my son at school. They’re happy again, I’m happy again. Our lives are so close to what they were like before. At one stage I didn’t think I would be able to come out of it at the other end. Now I’m feeling normal again and look forward to when the day of release comes and we can get on with our life and be a family again.