Father’s Day as a Care Leaver, and Why It Sucks

So, every year, the shops and the internet burst out into the world proclaiming that it’s time to celebrate all the fathers out there in the world, with cards, gifts and special days out to celebrate all things paternal.

As someone who didn’t have a father growing up, or indeed, any proper parental influence for that matter, it’s a day that I always dread.

Every time I see a Facebook status, Instagram image or tweet from a friend gushing about the amazing relationship they have with their father, it feels like a kick in the teeth. I spend all my time in the shops or town with my eyes firmly trained to the pavement so I won’t be bombarded with front window displays celebrating all things Father’s Day.

You could argue that people who have lost their fathers, or are estranged from their fathers won’t have it easy tomorrow either. And I won’t deny that at all.

But as someone who didn’t choose to not have my father in my life, it really sucks.

Every day I’m reminded of what I could of had growing up. When I see families in town shopping, or having a lovely day out in the play park. Seeing the wonderful relationship Matt has with both of his parents, who love and support him no matter what. Even friends bitching about how annoying their parents can be sometimes when they might not get their own way, or misunderstand something they feel is important.

Sure, I had my foster mother. I adore her so much, she was the one who was fundamental in getting me to where I am today, and I’m always going to be so grateful to her.

But it’ll never really be the same.

I last saw my biological father when I was nine years old. My half brother was still a tiny baby at the time, and my father came to visit me whilst I was visiting Cadbury World with a fostering group. My sister had come with me.  I remember that he was very tall, had bright blue eyes and wore a leather jacket and rode a motorcycle. I was allowed to sit on his shoulders for ages, and pretend I was a giant. He promised that I could stay with him and his then wife for a few weeks in the summer.

But I never saw him again.

And I guess every year, when Father’s Day comes around, that’s what I remember. That wound gets reopened, and it still stings.

I often wonder if he thinks about me, wonders what I’m up to, who I’ve grown up to be. Does he look for me online? It’s not like I hide my existence from the world.

So, as someone who was abandoned, forgotten and ignored, for no reason other than for his own convenience, as a little girl with nowhere else to turn, I pretend Father’s Day doesn’t exist. I’ve never acknowledged it as an adult, and will continue to do so until I have children of my own, and for them to have a father to share it with.

Tomorrow I’m meeting Matt for ice cream, which will be lovely, so I guess I can forget the sadness of the day for me.

But it doesn’t mean that I still won’t be hurting.

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Ouch…

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I haven’t written for a while, so I thought I’d write a quick post explaining where I’ve been…

9th September, in the afternoon, I was going to visit my friends at their house for a girly pamper session. Instead of going to the crossing, I decided to take the risk and run across the road, and as the cars had stopped, I assumed it would be safe. I didn’t think that there would be cars driving the other direction. I didn’t hear or see the car properly until it was too late, when a silver car hit me at 20mph, and sent me spinning into the road. I was rushed to A&E, where it was revealed that I’d smashed my tibia and fibula, and needed to be operated on. I was in hospital for five days, as I was operated on in the afternoon after the accident. I have a metal rod holding the bones together, and I’ll be on crutches for 6-8 weeks whilst it heals.

Because of my injury, social services decided it would be safer for me to go and stay with my foster mum in Hampshire for a little bit, so I can get used to my crutches and they can sort out some proper domestic support for me to come back to on Monday. It’s been nice to spend time with the children, and seeing people down here, but at least I’ll be back in time for Fresher’s Week, although I won’t be able to lug stuff around as I’m meant to as an Angel, I should still be able to help out!

And I’m getting the chance to start reading through some of my reading list for university, as I’ve ordered some to be delivered to my foster mum’s. I’ll miss my little foster brother constantly making tea for me as I’m working, and the bustle of family life, but it will also be nice to return to a reasonably normal academic life.

So, what a start to my academic year! Hopefully the rest of the year will be considerably less manic!

Foster Care and Me – My Story

I’ve briefly mentioned my care background in past posts, but I never actually sat down and told my story. It’s got some Trigger Warnings, of emotional abuse, child abuse and childhood trauma. It also is a story of determination, grit and hope. It’s about time I told my story, so here goes…

When I was four years old, my mother couldn’t cope with my autism anymore. She was young, had just gone through a divorce, her parents passed away, and she had two daughters, one perfectly normal, healthy happy one, and one that wasn’t talking, and would throw constant temper tantrums and stick to her like superglue. She met a new man (who is now my stepfather), and he nearly left because of my outbursts. My mother was in despair, and decided that the best place for me to be was to be put into care, and adopted out.

Which was what happened.

I flitted from placement to placement for a year, after they realised that I simply wasn’t adoptable, due to the fact that I wasn’t a pretty child, and my autism outbursts grew more and more violent as my life became more unstable. So my care plan was changed, I would be in long term foster care until either my mother could take me back, or I turned eighteen.

After they managed to find me a placement, one that was able to handle my behaviour, things at first looked up. My early childhood in foster care felt alright, as far as I was aware, I’d always been in that family, calling the carers ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, and assuming the other children around me were my biological siblings. My older sister would occasionally come to stay over, and I saw her as this exotic, almost super-human being that I looked up to with awe. We’d also write letters, and I treasured each and every one. Until one day, when I was seven, the foster ‘mother’ sat me down, and dropped the bombshell on me.

“You have an actual mummy on the Isle of Wight, who lives with your sister. She put you into foster care because she couldn’t cope with you, because you’re autistic, which means that you’re not like the other children, and won’t have the same opportunities as them.”

My world came crashing right down, around my ears. I had no idea I was ‘disabled’ or ‘different’ to the other children until this point. And it scared me.

Time went by, and I turned thirteen.

This was when things started to get worse for me.

I was forbidden from taking part in family outings, because I ‘always ruined everything’. I’d be blamed for ruining the other children’s birthdays, because the children actively would pick on me until I lost my temper, and I’d get into trouble as a result. I became a servant in my ‘home’, having a massive list of chores I had to do, long before I was allowed to eat, or head off to school.

Then there was the searches. I’d have to carry up breakfast in bed to the foster ‘mother’ every morning, before I’d have my school bag emptied, and me being patted all over, her hand going up my top to make sure nothing was tucked in my bra, before her telling me what was expected of me for the day, before I was allowed to race down the road to catch the bus for school.

I’d often catch the bus just in time, and I’d get told off by the driver for being late. If only he knew…

So I took to comfort eating, because I’d be given just a sandwich and a piece of fruit for lunch, so I’d be hungry, both physically and emotionally. I’d forgotten what it felt like to have a kind word said to me by an adult, or a cuddle/affection of any kind. Quite often, I’d shoplift sweets and chocolate on the way to school to satisfy my cravings. And when I was caught, which was often, I’d be severely punished and humiliated.

I wasn’t allowed any privacy, anything I wrote had to be read by the foster ‘mother’ first, my diaries, my stories, my poetry, letters to my sister. So I was terrified to pick up my pen to write, unless I on purposely left it in my drawer at school. Often diary entries would be read in front of the other children, with bits being read out loud, bits they knew would embarrass me. I was terrified of having secrets, and bottled everything up.

I was even accused of having sex with a guy I’d walk home from the school bus with when I was fourteen, as we were close friends, and would often hug before I got in the house. It was at a GP appointment, when the doctor asked ‘is she sexually active?’ to the foster mother, who always had to be present. She replied ‘I don’t know, there’s this boy she walks home with, and I do believe she’s slept with him, but she refuses to say anything about it…’ my cheeks burned, I was fourteen years old.

But that year saved me. I missed the school bus one day, because the foster ‘mother’ wouldn’t let me leave until she’d finished her sermon for the day, so instead of allowing my foster ‘father’ take me in the van, (I always thought he was a bit of a creep), I decided to walk all the way to school, a good three or four miles, by myself in the pouring rain. The school panicked, and called my social worker, who called the carers, demanding they go searching for me. They refused, saying it was my own fault, my problem. Also, I could accuse the foster father of molesting me if he went out in search for me alone (genuine words, according to my social worker). In the end, a taxi driver who picked up a girl across the busstop that I’d get on to go to school saw me, took pity and picked me up, and took me in for free. The school reported that I’d been found safe, but needed a dry change of clothes (I was soaked), and the carers refused.

A week later, I was removed from their care. I was placed in emergency respite with the foster mother who would become my permanent  placement until I left foster care. It was wonderful! She bought me new clothes to replace the shabby, threadbare things I used to wear, took me to get my hair cut in a nice style, fed me up, taught me it was ok to argue back sometimes, and instilled in me a love of life again. With her, I had a brief childhood, went on holidays and days out, became a member of a family. I owe her everything, and am still in regular contact with her now. She helped save me from my relationship with my ex, and was very active in helping me get to university. Even now I still call her for advice and guidance, and pop over for a cup of tea and a natter when I need to.

I left care aged 18. I never really wanted to leave, but I knew I had no choice. No one not in care leaves home to stake out alone aged 18, more like 24/5 these days. Luckily they are changing the age to 21 now, but that still isn’t as great.

But what do I know, eh?

 

It’s all OK!

I’m slowly recovering from all the crap that life has been throwing at me.

I say this, because I’m sat in a Starbucks in Bath, tucking into a bagel and planning my study plan for the next month or so (on Tuesday I have exactly a month to get all my assignments in so I don’t fail first year… Such Fun).

Eating has proven to be very difficult for me, as during the time I was dealing with the aftermath of breaking up with my ex, and trying to get my academic life back on track, I started to get really anti-eating. I still hate the idea that I have to put food into my mouth, chew and swallow, but I’m slowly reconciling to the idea that I do have to eat in order to survive. At my worst, I was steadily losing weight, and weighed in at 9 stone (I’m 5’10”, to give you an idea), when I’d started university at 11 stone. After a while, I had to go to the doctor, who told me I had depression, as well as ‘an eating disorder not otherwise specified’ because I don’t purge, have any body dismorphia, but exhibit starving and binging (I try to have 5 starve days to every 3 food days), and gave me medication for it, which I’ve now been taking for a couple of months. I also start CBT next month, so I’ll see how it goes.

I was on my online dating account a little while ago, when a pink icon flashed on my screen. Turns out a guy I’d quite enjoyed talking to the fortnight before, before he didn’t reply for a while, finally got back to me. He asked me on a date! Now, I’d just gotten back from another date that wasn’t so grand, (I’ll write a post about my dating endeavours later), so I was a bit cautious, but then thought ‘capri diem, I guess..’, so agreed. We met for pancakes, he brought flowers, I brought a quaking shy girl with rainbow hair (wait, that’s me!). The pancakes were amazing, the conversation was smooth, and he was alright about my eating issues, and all my disabilities! Huzzah! We’ve been seeing each other every week since, and he stayed over for a night on Friday, before coming with me to Bristol Pride yesterday, and he said he was happy that I’m openly queer! Another Huzzah! He texts me daily to make sure I’m up and about, eating and drinking, and not smoking too much (yes, I picked up smoking, a terrible habit, but I find the ADD subsides when I do). I think I’ve fallen on my feet with this kooky, geeky filmmaker!

On top of this, my friends have been amazing, especially B and L. They are two of the bestest friends I could ever ask for, they come over to make sure I eat something, and encourage my crazy ideas and pursuits (I run a mixology blog with B now, liquorishgirls.wordpress.uk if you wanna check it out!). They were there when my ex sent abusive Facebook messages to me, and helped me deal with that, they assisted with collecting my belongings, and held me whilst I cried.    Obviously my other friends have been pretty darn wonderful to, even if it’s to listen to me whinge, or grumble, share a cigarette and a cocktail with me, and generally make my life so much more enriched and joyful for it.

The university have been lovely as well, I still see my mentor and study tutor from DSA, and will continue to do so until my assignments are complete for the year. I also see my support worker from Student Support as well, and she’s been a rock to me in recent times. Yes, I get chided for drinking and smoking, and attempting my English Literature essay whilst under the influence, but I still adore them all the same.

My foster mother was also pretty awesome when everything blew up, texting me to make sure I was OK, and also assisting me with my ex. She will always be a person I’ll love like I would a mother, and the one I’ll go to if I need an opinion on something, or if I just need a tea and a natter when I’m in Hampshire. Her character radar will always wow me, so quite often I run potential partners by her to see what she recons, and I’ll always respect her opinion and often follow the amazing advice she gives. It’s thanks to her that I’m the determined, stubborn woman I am today, and I hope I’ll make her proud one day.

Without all these people, I don’t know how I would of survived or coped with the past few months. I’m thankful for all of them, and will love them all forever. When you become mentally ill, for whatever reason, you do find out who actually care about you. And that’s freaking awesome!

This coming week is going to be crazy! Today I need to start an assignment, begin getting ideas for a screenplay that could become a film that I work on with my guy (we’ve decided to team up with some filmmakers in Bath that he is good friends with to make a film!), do more in the way of laundry, travel to Leister and back for a job with the Care Leaver’s Association (more about that in a post next week, so stay tuned), go to Bristol for the ADHD Clinic (I’ll update you all on how that goes!) and generally be a good writer/mixologist/student.

Until then!