Work and purpose have always been important to me – meaning I travelled work into war zones aged 27 and beyond – seeing things happen to children and adults that should never ever happen to anyone I came back deciding to adopt a child who needed a home – initially from overseas but as a single adopter with limited funds – changed to offering a child from this country a home.
I had a job I loved and hoped to work part time and be a mum – it was hard but just about manageable at first but as years passed my very lovely but terribly traumatised daughter grew into her trauma- we had some very good understanding (private professionals) but as local childrens’ services became involved for “support” these were not respected and the traditional behavioural management enforced on us and the therapeutic approach discredited.
Life became more and more difficult for my daughter and she had spells of being unable to leave the house which ended up in complete retreat from a terrifying world aged 13, until she was moved into specialist supported living aged 16 1/2. Due to her self harm and many other behaviours resulting from her difficult start in life, I was unable to leave her alone – so was unable to work. In the end I lost my job, my professional registration as I could not work to meet the yearly requirements, some friends and much of my life.
During these years we were both under immense pressure for her to attend her school (a small school for educationally fragile youngsters), professionals came – bringing sticker charts, points systems, consequences – and went leaving blame and stress for us both. The more pressure was put on her the more distressed she became and the more visits from the police were required as she was big and I couldn’t contain her and keep us both safe. Or the dog and cats – the dog had to evacuate to my parents and the cats lived outside.
A spell in the local young persons psychiatric unit did nothing as they didn’t take her out so discharged her saying she was fine and my parenting was inadequate – if she was not in school the next day they would push for her to go into care under order. Of course that was a successful tactic – NOT not as it scared her even more and things got worse. My days started with an awful anxiety – I would wake up in my locked bedroom (for my safety) and tiptoe into hers to check she was still OK, pick up the bloodstained results of the cutting, try to remove as much of the rotting food, dirty plates and smelly clothes as possible before she woke up – she would physically refuse to let me leave the room with anything. I would hear neighbours children going to school and feel an awful grief for us both at all we had lost, fear for the future and utterly imprisoned in my home.
My main social life and support was online – the POTATO group and other adoption support sites – my father teen sat once a week so I could go to a choir and I got the occasional in house respite and my parents slept here overnight so I could go away either to POTATO meetings or hill walking with friends and the wee dog. I was threatened with prosecution for allowing truancy and a hearing was held about this and whether a care order would be granted – luckily we escaped both but things dragged on as before – more professionals, more behaviour charts…….luckily we still had some good support but they were also powerless in the system.
Finally a room became available in a nearby unit for supported living for young people with mental health problems – getting her there was difficult, and the first few months there were many ups and downs -particularly downs.
But it meant I could get my life back – I started working in a homeless hostel – but my confidence had taken a HUGE knock – I found it difficult to speak to colleagues – I was physically unfit and very overweight and had no faith in my ability.
Gradually over the last 3 years I have worked to get my registration back, and now have a permanent job which I love – not the field I had specialised in – in fact the last place on earth I would have imagined ending up in. I have new friends , sing in 2 choirs and am feeling more confident than I ever have in my life – I still have counselling and can collapse at any hint of criticism or aggression – real or perceived. Best of all is my relationship with my daughter – she is not functioning as other people her age do – she never got back into education and she is on full disability benefits – she lives in a local flat with her flatmate but they both need a lot of support- any letters they do not understand get “lost” – benefits get suspended because they are too scared to attend appointments and are suspicious of professionals ( she has had well over 100 over the years and some have been good, some dreadful – and often services pull out without much warning). I spend more time that I would like chasing professionals, helping phone benefits offices etc. than I would like – I fear she will always need a lot of support and worry what will happen when I am no longer around to help sort out “muddles” – she is my daughter and it’s not her fault her early life has handicapped her to this degree. We now have a very good loving relationship – something I never thought would happen when a wee girl moved in terrified, raging, hating and if I touched her or her belongings – she would get a cloth and wipe where I had “contaminated”! She is kind and caring – in her own way – and a lovely person – all this never seemed possible during those dark years.