Whoever said a change is as good as a holiday is a prat. Well maybe not a prat, but someone who lives a totally different life than me. Maybe if your life is steady, your routines are predictable, and the unexpected is completely unexpected, then change is good. But change is all too familiar to me. It’s the bully that lurks in the bushes and jumps me, anytime, anywhere. And so I constantly live in fear. In fear of a new foster carer, a new group home, a new school or being banged up. In fear of a change of circumstance or mood that ends in black eyes and broken hearts. In fear of a new power structure on the estate where I don’t know where I fit and getting it wrong could end up with me paying the ultimate price. If I have learned one thing it is this- change hurts. It unsettles me to my core and it can be dangerous.
You want our lives to run like clockwork. A tight schedule dictated by funding, limits of patience, supply and demand imbalances. The timing cogs appear as a specified number of sessions or as deadlines. The ‘we’ll be working together for the next ten weeks’ and the ‘you have to sort yourself out by the end of the month or we’ll have to look at moving you on’. New school, new foster care placement, new treatment, basically moved on to somewhere new or back to somewhere old or dumped nowhere if we don’t have a new attitude, a new behaviour. We have to be fixed or at least less broken by the time the clock strikes midnight.
They put me in a group, but I would not talk, They put me in a group, I was there but I wasn’t, They put me in a group expecting sharing, enlightenment, support, They put me in a group and instead I battened down the hatches. They put me in a group and I said what they wanted to hear, They put me in a group, my mouth moved but my thoughts did not, They put me in a group until the buttons got pressed and I kicked off, They put me in a group and nothing changed.
Trigger Warning ! The content of what follows may be a trigger for those who have experienced sexual abuse or grooming. I just wanted to be noticed and he saw me. I wanted to feel like someone actually cared, and he made me feel special. I wanted to feel worthy of gifts for once, and he showered me. I wanted to show everyone else that I was somebody. And before I knew it I was somebody, somebody to be abused. At first I was the one, the only one. I seemed like the centre of his world. He’d pick me up, he told me I was beautiful, he showed interest, what I thought was care. And instead of going around dragging my life baggage, of being ignored, of abuse, of care homes, of being picked up and dropped time and time again, by relatives, by professionals, I started to float on air. The baggage weighed nothing because I was somebody. Instead of assuming the colour of my environment, I stood out. And because I was seen, somebody lifted my bags, somebody helped me on my way. Little did I know that while my back was turned the plans for further …
I’ll hide. I’ll hide with all my might from having to face this thing, to admit this thing. And I’ll hide it from you with all I’ve got, under as many layers of antisocial behaviour that I can muster. In fact I’ll do it so well that most people miss it. Hell, I can bury it so well that even I miss it. So all people see is the binge drinker, the user, the offender, the antisocial scum, the lout, the gobby one, the violent one, the one who doesn’t give a crap, the one who seems to be devoid of care, of feeling, lacking in common decency, common humanity. What people find hard to see, what I don’t want to see, don’t want to have to acknowledge and process, is the pain that courses through my veins. The emotional pain that consumes me. Of life disappointed, of fundamental human needs unmet, of experiences that have skewed my view of the world, of others, of me. A pain that drives me, controls me, brings out the worst and not the best in me.
It’s all your fault. All your f’in fault. You can’t just leave me alone, leave me to do my thing can you? You have to meddle, stick your nose in where it’s not wanted. And I hate you for it. I absolutely bloody hate you for it. Everyone’s at it. You’re at it, teachers are at it, social workers, doctors, nurses, therapists, care home workers, you’re all in it together making my life a flippin’ living hell. If you’d just leave me, my family, my mates alone I’d be just fine. Thinking you know better about me and my life than I do, f’in cheek. I hate you, you hate me. Well this is going to work well isn’t it?
Another bare room. Another caseworker. Another foster carer. Another care home. Another secure unit. Another hostel. Just another, another, another. Cos I am just A.N. Other. Nothing special, nothing worth caring about, nothing worth taking much notice of, except when you want to get me to do something, or stop doing something. Either way it’s about what you want and not much to do with me. I don’t really figure in the equation. I’m just A.N. Other. Apparently suited to being shoved around from pillar to post. So as I live my name and move on to another something, I add my own ‘another’. Another hurt to add to my chest of disappointment, of heartbreak. Of feeling that I only get what I deserve. Of feeling like a nobody and that nobody cares. And as my chest gets fuller, my heart, my hope gets emptier and emptier.
The infographic and video below provide background to the post, ‘A.N.Other: Care Kid Needing Hope’. The infographic reveals the outcomes for young people in care and the video says more than I ever could of how you, as one worker can transform their lives, give them hope and beat those statistics.
Go away. Just leave me alone. No, I don’t want to be here. You’re going to make me think about myself, interrogate myself, question my decisions, my ‘consequential thinking’ or lack of it. My actions are going to be scrutinised and you’re going to tell me how I could have done it better. Just go away, go away… ‘Why the opposition?’, you ask, ‘What’s the problem? I’m just trying to help you make better decisions for yourself. You’ll find it makes life easier for you, less complicated, less chaotic.’ No, I’m having none of it. You’re just having a go, picking at me, making me feel more crap than I do already. No thanks, no f’in thanks. You see, when you ask me to think about what I do and about my decisions, my actions, that’s not what you’re really asking. Well at least as far as I see it. You’re not asking me to reassess what I’ve done, you’re asking me to reassess who I am. You’re not questioning my choices, you’re questioning the very essence of me. If my decisions are bad, then I am bad. And I don’t want to look at that reflection in the mirror.
I’m a label, a sticker, a scrawl on a file A person lost in the paper mile That runs from birth to right here now You know me but you don’t and I’ll tell you how My name spells trouble, it’s written ahead In the assessments, the reports, the letters you’ve read You know my circumstance, my life, my woe But any deeper you just won’t go