Most of the time I’m positive about my life and the way I grew up. I know to a lot of people who were raised by loving parents my childhood probably seems pretty horrific, and some of it was I guess, but I have this knack of putting the dark stuff to the back of my mind, the bad stuff is there but masked by the good times, and against the odds I have hundreds of thousands of brilliant memories…
I made the best friends during my 15 years in care and none who understand me better than those who I shared the good times with. There’s an unsaid agreement that you don’t ask what your care brothers and sisters are ‘in’ for but at the same time there’s an understanding between you. No-one’s in care because they had fluffy homelives, it doesn’t work like that does it? I thought everyone’s parents were like mine until I was 7 or 8 and I realised that people don’t like to hear about your experiences if they’re not pink and fluffy so I invented a life before care in true Tracy Beaker style and would relay these stories to all my friends outside of the care system! lol
But the teenage years were the hardest, this is when you really realise that your experiences are so totally different to other people’s and guilt about events in your life sets in. You may try to tell a friend at school by easing into it really slowly, giving a tiny snippet of information and then their shock is so obvious you laugh it off as a joke and retract the initial statement you made and get on with it, knowing that you will never be ‘on the same level’ as your friends.
This is when your care siblings become closer than any of your childhood friends, they ‘get you’, they’ve had similar experiences so you’re tolerant of each other’s mood swings and anger outbursts. When you leave care and lose touch it’s the loneliest feeling in the world.
When I left care I was more alone than I’d ever been before and first got the keys to a crappy bedsit at 16/17, well shared house really. I got moved into 2 or 3 bedsits until I settled in the last one. I was the only female and in the room to one side was 3 heroin addicts straight out of Brixton jail and on the other side a 40 year old pimp who scared the shit out of me so badly that when he tried to kill one of the other guys in the house with a hammer and hid the hammer in my room I said nothing and silently agreed to share his bed for the night so when the police turned up I would be his alibi… I once saw him chase his missus with a meat cleaver then beat her to a pulp so I wasn’t going to get on the wrong side of him. downstairs was a fucked up ex copper and a 65yr old knicker stealing alcoholic so life as a care leaver wasn’t the best but you make the best of a bad situation and get on with it with the help of drugs and boys and alcohol and petty crime until you’re 18 and social services helps get the ultimate prize… your own council flat.
Anyhow, because of the joys of social networking and facebook, I’ve been reunited with a few of my care brothers and sisters and though it’s made me happy, of course it has, the people that I grew up with, fought with, cried with and laughed with were back on the scene… but it has brought with it a new heartache.. the realisation that life could have been different as it has been for so many of my siblings.
To find out that for some suicide was the best option has broken my heart and I’m left thinking ‘why wasn’t I there for you earlier’. For others prostitution was their way to get through life, for a fair few hard drugs, for others alcohol, for many crime and jail and some of these haven’t made it as far as the rest of us… but the ones who my heart aches the most over are the ones who tried so hard to break the cycle and failed… not through any real fault of their own, but because of shitty circumstances the children they love so much have been taken from them and placed in the same system that fucked us all up and made us the way we are.
These are the ones I want to help the most but I feel useless and ‘being there’ for them just isn’t enough to make a difference in their circumstances and it’s an excruciating pain that the friends you once considered your brother or sister are going through that.
There is no happy ending to this post for now, I can only hope that being positive and being here when they need me is enough to get them through the next day, and the day after…