One girl’s experience with a broken family, social services and PTSD – and how she got through it

On paper, I am just a statistic. I am one of many looked after young people in the UK and across the world.

Just because you didn’t get the best start doesn’t mean you can’t go on to achieve things like everybody else!

It’s very easy to study those around us and make assumptions on what their life must be like.

I would be a hypocrite if I said I’d never done it, because we all have at some point. It’s what we do as human beings – we judge others based on what we see from the naked eye. Sometimes it’s not even what we do that we are judged on but the actions of others in our circle.

I’m not going to go in to the ins and outs of my family history or what I ate for lunch today (chicken salad in case it got you thinking…). But feeling like you’re never good enough is something that all of us have or will experience.

To cut a long story short, my parents should not have had children and especially not together. My dad had been an alcoholic for ten years previous and my mother, well all I can say is she didn’t have much of a maternal instinct. It was made even more complicated by the fact I was the youngest of 5 children my mother had and that ‘sibling bond’ never happened for me.

As expected my parents didn’t stay together long and I spent my childhood moving between both of them.

My mother ended up moving to England when I was around 4 (with all 5 of us..) and when I was 7 my dad got given custody and I returned to Scotland to live with him. A few years past and all was good, and then a few years later my granddad died and sent my dad into a downward spiral of drinking.

I would wake myself up in the morning for school, get my own breakfast, wash myself, walk to school, walk home from school, make my own dinner and then put myself to bed. It didn’t take long for the school to notice and for Social Services to get involved. So when I was around 12 I was lucky enough to be placed in Kinship Care with my auntie and uncle.

It was difficult growing up and being kept apart from my siblings, as they all grew up together. Because of this I never felt the ‘sibling bond’ that you’re supposed to. My mum was battling a drug addiction which meant she didn’t contact me when she was scheduled to. I was always promised birthday cards that never arrived and would often sit by the phone waiting for it to ring when she was scheduled to call but it always ended in no phone call and me crying in my uncle’s arms.

When I was 13 I started secondary school and it became evident very quickly that my dynamic at home was different to everyone else.

I was convinced in my mind that everyone I walked past was whispering and making snide remarks about the girl whose parents didn’t care about her. Even the simple letters we would get handed addressed to ‘parent/carer’, or the countless lessons I had to miss to go and see my family support / social worker. Even the times when I would invite the new friends I’d made home and after the “wow I love your mum and dad’s house” having to explain the whole situation and then becoming paranoid that they wouldn’t want to be my friend anymore.

The older I became the harder it got to ignore. All the important events in my life, they were supposed to be there cheering me on… but they weren’t.  Like that time when I was sent to detention for taking my own sick note for P.E (apparently only 15 year olds dot their i’s with love hearts..). I went home wanting to be lectured by my parents. Who even does that!?

Fast forward to now, 8 years older and (sometimes) wiser. I was just recently diagnosed with having ‘PTSD’. Post-traumatic stress disorder, in which it stands for, is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.

Like most things these days, I got home and decided to do some research online in regards to PTSD. I had the conception that PTSD was something that victims of rape were diagnosed with or somebody who had perhaps witnessed a murder but not somebody who just had a few family problems. I didn’t get flashbacks and I didn’t get night terrors, it seemed a bit far fetched.

It struck me then that all of those years of blocking out my emotions were actually a form of PTSD.

I now choose not to disclose my personal life to people easily purely because of the fear of judgement. So writing this is a big step for me.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “oh, it must’ve been so hard for you”. Yeah, it was. But that doesn’t mean I’m any less able to achieve things in life because of it. Everybody chooses their own path in life and it would be very easy to sit here today and blame all of the mistakes I make on things that my parents did.

I am the world’s worst person for self pity so telling others not to seems a bit hypocritical. However I do know that regardless of what your circumstances are, it’s important to remember your self worth.

It’s not all about who has the flashiest things in life, or who looks prettier, or in my case who has a normal family unit.

If you have the strength in yourself to push forward you’re capable of anything!

As told to

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