Art is my passion. I love creating abstract designs, where I just let my imagination run wild, but painting isn’t a thing that I do all of the time. I can go for long stretches without even picking up a brush. When I was travelling in New Zealand I exhibited my work, and at the same time I met my future wife, a beautiful Israeli girl.

We moved to Israel together where we lived for nearly a decade, and we had two great kids, but ultimately things didn’t work out. It was a really hard decision for me to come back to the UK. I stayed with my family for a while, but because I had been away so long I was not classed as a UK citizen and I had no access to help from the state. I felt adrift, with nowhere to turn for help, and I ended up in hospital for a time.

While I was there I was assigned a mental health worker, and they told me about Emmaus. I have done a bit of everything since I arrived. I love cooking and gardening, I’ve also gone out when we do car boot or jumble sales. My favourite job is probably upcycling, though, working with wood.

I’ve also started painting again. I found a set of paints in the shop, and thanks to a volunteer who comes in to give us lessons, I’m learning new techniques. I can never picture what I am going to create before it’s on the paper, but I am really enjoying new ways to express myself. I’m grateful to Emmaus for giving me a place to be myself when I was struggling to redefine my life. I’m in touch with my kids every day, and now I enjoy a beautiful relationship with my ex.

I also recently moved from Coventry to Bristol. As soon as I got here, I knew that I would fit right in, and this city has allowed me to acknowledge a side of myself that I have kept hidden for a long time. I feel very relaxed here, and able to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. I think living in a more mixed community with women helps me, as I have always felt that I had a woman’s mind in a man’s body. I am expressing my woman’s side freely now and really feel that life is beautiful. The consideration and respect shown to me here have been amazing.