LIFE IN LOCKDOWN FOR A 21 YEAR OLD CARE LEAVER.
As a child who grew up in foster care; I must say life was so unpredictable, I never knew what was around that corner, or what to expect & everything was done in order to cover their back. My life became their secret.
But being so young and naive, I always imagined the grass to be greener on the other side. Now don’t ask me what I’m referring to when I say “the other side”, because I don’t know. I just wanted to escape everything I was going through at that time. I’ve BEEN running & STILL running. I grew up in a system that never listened & I was so scared to face society, because I knew at some point I wouldn’t be classed as their priority & this pandemic has proven that to be true. You see, Life taught me the biggest battle you’ll ever have to fight is the one against yourself. I’ve BEEN fighting & I’m STILL fighting. Alone? Trust me, There’s not a thing you could tell me, I know too well what it feels like to be alone. To be in a room, let alone a world full of people & still feel alone. I’m really starting to hate the thought of life, I never got to enjoy it. And you’d think a local authority who’ve made some of the most detrimental decisions, those that have shaped your whole life, would have more to offer you than a phone call every now and then that lasts a few seconds. But truth be told, it’s been just me and my demons for a minute now & I’m still stuck with that childhood trauma. I’ve been trying to find my way out of no way for a while. And that’s just it, that’s the story of my life, as long as it looks good on paper, another thing ticked on the “to do” list. Humanity has never been a part of the care package & you’ll meet some of the most emotionless/heartless individuals ever. I can’t even call them people, more like robots. Most lack empathy, whilst others carry a soul so dark. Foster care has never been about that young person who was either taken into care or who’s family walked away. You’re to blame, you’re what’s keeping them in that office after 5, you’re what’s making them travel across the country, you’re what’s keeping them from going home to their young child at night, you’re their stresses & you’re their problem, you’re the reason their not paid enough, you’re that extra caseload & you’re the reason the family dynamic is no longer the same. It’s you! It’s all you! I was just a few facts and figures, I was something that paid the bills at the end of the month & every carer made sure to remind me of that. Foster care for me felt like a punishment, something that was meant to last only 10 minutes on the naughty step, but in actual fact became a wound that’s never healed. And being a care leaver feels like I’m doing a life sentence for a crime I didn’t commit; It feels like I was thrown into the deep end of life, with no swimming lessons, no life vest & I just want to get out of that pool now. I hope this pain doesn’t last long, I’ve always had this feeling that I won’t last long. But at some point I feel like I deserve kids, so I can pass on. The pain of my past numbed me, so I don’t cry no more. The care system killed me mentally, so I can’t die no more. Life broke my wings, so I can’t fly no more. Deep down I was made to feel as though I was never enough for myself. My actions said “educate me, love on me, be there for me & never leave me”, but their words belittled me, manipulated me & misled me. Still till this day…I’m paying for it. From one door to another, is how I’ve spent the last 16+ years of my life, So I don’t know a thing about stability. I went from foster family to foster family/residential and back again, with so many questions as to why this was all happening to me, it felt as if God hand picked me. So I’m not too good with people, you see I can let you go in a heart beat, because I was let go in a heart beat, by the same women who let my heart beat. Growing up I was that child who’d never take a sick day off school, who’d rush in the mornings, but take the longest route back ‘home’. “Marvels Lane Primary School” that’s the only thing I’d look forward to. My safe place. So shout out to Ms Macnamara & Mr Dove, Lord knows I’m so thankful for you, you brought a different kind of joy into my life, something I’m yet to find again. I said all of that to say this; Because of the challenges faced in the care system & the childhood trauma prior, children in foster care are more at risk of mental health issues than children in the general public. Whether that be; PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, Panic Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress. And With being so young & having the responsibility to take care of yourself; not only mentally but also physically, emotionally & financially, it’s a lot in general but I know it’s harder now more than ever before. So this one… this one’s for my fellow care leavers; I’m so proud of you! I know you feel like you’ve been in quarantine dam near your whole life, being alone isn’t new to you, we’ve been here before. That’s not the hard part, it’s everything that comes with it; It’s the amount of time we’ve had to really sit down and square up with our demons, but at the same time, it’s the fight against time as you don’t know how much you’ve got left of it, because the only promise life has ever made us is death. It’s that battle in ones mind as you watch those same demons multiply, it’s the years worth of unanswered questions that we’ve been left with, it’s the blame game with you being your only opponent. So try and take the fear out of your heart & place faith there. Remember your purpose is so much bigger than yourself. This isn’t a “you” thing now, it’s a “we” thing, we’re in this together. I just want to remind you that you didn’t come this far to only come this far and if you ever need someone to talk to, one who won’t judge you, someone who’s able to see beyond what meets the eye, a shoulder to cry on or just a extra set of ears, I’m always here or if that’s out of your comfort zone …turn to God. He’s been my best friend my whole life. Take care & Be good to yourself Shanelle, Fellow Care Leaver