“Many times throughout our lives we have felt invisible. Sometimes we have hidden or cut ourselves off to keep safe. Sometimes we have been ignored and overlooked. Not only is Love4Life our place to shout out, be seen and heard – and be loved. It is a place where we find power. I am so proud to be the Trustee of such an incredible organisation.”
Love4Life is a friendship and dating network for people with learning disabilities and autism. It is a celebration of everything that is possible. Hollie is 34 and has been a Love4Life member since it was launched by her parents in 2007 as Stars in the Sky.
“I was trying to work out who I really was, I am high functioning. I am autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic, and have dissociative seizures, where I have ‘absences’ that can last a few seconds to a minute. If you imagine a brain as a lightbulb, mine flickers. I walked into the road when I was having a seizure once and nearly got hit by a car. It is very frustrating for me.
“In my younger years I didn’t make good choices, when I started college, being autistic, I struggled. I was very different from my peers and experienced bullying and physical abuse. It was so noticeable that I was seen as different, my opinions were laughed at or seen as weird.
“Love4Life is my support network, lots of people don’t have one, but I do and I am forever grateful for it. I have got a group of friends that I met through Love4Life, and we see each other outside of Love4Life, we go to each others houses – I enjoy being with genuine friends.
“If I socialise outside of Love4Life, I need to make sure there is a safe way of me getting there and back or I can’t go. I need to make sure that the people I go out with are actual friends and not using me. I have been exploited over the years. I had a relationship where I was used as entertainment, I was a court jester, he used me in every way. There are places I don’t go to now as I will see people who have exploited me in the past and I need to keep myself safe. I have experienced a lot of trauma from that exploitation, but I am very spiritual person, it doesn’t ruin me, and it doesn’t control me. I have associated with horrible, nasty people, and on top of that I have been coping with my grief and feeling bereft after the death of my fiancé Alex in 2021.
As a Trustee of Love4Life, I am proud of how it has changed dramatically over the years, it is getting bigger and I hope it will keep doing that, I want to see more networks, so we can reach more people.
“It is amazing how it’s changed. My mum is very proud that I am now a Trustee of the organisation she set up all those years ago for me. My parents were running it at the beginning, and now all these years later, Love4Life is still like a family to me, I belong there. I couldn’t not have it in my life. At Love4Life I can be myself, I don’t have to put on a brave face, I can be as honest as I want. It reminds me that there are good people in this world. Love4Life makes the trauma of everything I experienced before become more and more insignificant. It means I’ve got a reason to go out.
I continue to get my mental and emotional support from my friends at Love4Life, I am at one with these people, and I love watching my friends and think how confident they have become since I have known them. I am so grateful.
The existence of Love4Life relies entirely on our supporters’ generosity. Thank you to everyone who has funded or donated. It is easy to make a donation to Love4Life.