Cathy is a proud Cobh woman. She is a talented public speaker and has an extensive knowledge of and love for pop music, in particular 1980’s music. A little known fact about Cathy is that she once ran a pirate radio station with her brothers from a shed in their garden! Cathy has experienced a lot of hard times in her life and has lived in the world of ‘services’ since 4 years of age. She attended specialist schools and rehabilitative training programmes, eventually culminating in residential care. Cathy is acutely aware of the different trajectory her life has taken in comparison to others but is slowly and surely working towards finding her place in the world.
My name is Cathy Doyle. I grew up in Cobh, County Cork. During my life, there have been good times and bad times.
I was bullied a lot because I had a disability. Kids used to call me names and set their dogs on me. But I knew deep down that I was as good as anyone else, but not better.
‘Your home is your castle’
When I was in my early twenties I came to live in residential services in Cope Foundation. I lived in my last residence for 12 years. I wasn’t really happy there because I didn’t like living with 11 other women. A good thing that came out of this was that the staff there supported me to get involved with New Horizons (an individualised support service in Cope Foundation). I was linked up with my support coordinator and I pleaded with her to get a place of my own. When a single apartment became available I went for the interview and I had to wait three weeks for an answer. Pot luck, I got a lovely apartment and I was thrilled to bits!
I am living in the apartment 3 years on the 2nd of November. I am really, deep down happy that I am living there. The reasons are: I have my own washing machine and can do my washing whenever I like; I have a fridge and a dish washer but I prefer to wash my dishes myself; I have a lovely cooker and a telly. The apartment was done up really lovely when I got it and I went up to Dublin to Ikea for the day and bought some new things to make it my own. I always say ‘Your home is your castle’!
“I get to make my own decisions and choose how I want to live my life”
I still find many things difficult but I have support when I need it. It is really important who supports me. I like quiet people who are calm and patient and not too ‘buzzy’. My support workers are helping me to become more confident and independent. Being independent means that I get to make my own decisions and choose how I want to live my life and I get support to do the things I want to do.
Since moving, I have joined a local knitting group where I have made some friends. We have lunch out for special occasions like Valentine’s Day and for Christmas and it is great because one of my friends will collect me and drop me home in their car. I also joined a local active women’s group but some of the women there were not so welcoming or understanding and I felt they didn’t want me so I stopped going. I know I have a disability but I feel that I can’t fit in with people who have disabilities and sometimes I can’t fit in with people that don’t have disabilities. This can make me very sad and lonely.
My mam has passed away recently and my dad is in a nursing home. My support worker supports me to visit him. The nurses there let me know when he needs anything and I enjoy buying them for him. I have two brothers who I am very close to. We meet up when we can and sometimes they visit me in my apartment.
One very good thing that has happened is that I have completed a night class in public speaking at Ashton Adult Education Centre and from that I joined my local Toast Masters group. I gave my first ‘ice breaker’ speech after only a few weeks and got excellent feedback. I was so proud.
“Being paid as a visiting lecturer made me feel really valued”
Last year I gave a talk to the Intellectual Disability Nursing students at UCC and got paid as a visiting lecturer which made me feel really valued and I am looking forward to returning again this year. I have also volunteered to give talks to staff and advocacy groups because I enjoy it so much.
I recently completed work experience with SHEP (a community based training and development organisation) and will hopefully be helping them in the future with some presentations.
“I’m looking forward to the future”
What I really want is to have a part time office job but all of that takes time and I know that it will happen when the time is right. I am really happy for that. I know I have a lovely home and I am not ashamed to say that I still get my ups and my downs but I am not ill all the time and I have lots of happy times too. I mainly get sad about things in my past and I wish they had been different. I would like to have been a nurse or a doctor. I am learning now that I cannot change the past and it is better to live each day as it comes and make it as happy as can be. I have also learnt that it is best to take small steps. I know that my future holds good things for me and I am looking forward to that.