This is my first ever attempt at publicly sharing our story after weeks of navigating my way around the technology. A new thing for me being a luddite country bumpkin with only a phone and no broadband connection. Fingers crossed I get it out without deleting by accident…..
Since I adopted Big Bear 13 years ago, we have had to deal with feeling excluded and isolated throughout much of our journey. Our confidence has been shattered and the toxic shame has made us shy about our voices. Upon finding the online adoptive community I now believe we can give hope and solidarity through our story, and gain strength through the bravery of others sharing their common experiences.
I adopted as a single woman and was completely unprepared for what was to unfold despite attending “preparation” groups for over a year.
When Big Bear arrived all scraggy and wild and beautiful, it was very quickly obvious to me that I could not go it alone. My five year old was amazing, and funny, and loveable, and enraged, and frightened and violent… and stuck to me like prickly glue.
Having lost my job, unable to return due to the constant care needed, I wrote to social services two weeks into the placement politely asking for support. I specifically asked for information and advice on dealing with her fear and subsequent anger, as well as help with the failing school and time out for me that wouldn’t in turn stress her further. I was a recently qualified social worker, specialising in outsider groups and not unknowing around the psychology of deprivation. I was so very sorry for her and always thought her reactions were valid. Misplaced and uprooted she was a whirling dervish dancing to the stress hormone tune only she could hear in her busy little head. Watching the pain manifest itself outwardly has images etched on my mind that I will never forget.
What followed in response to our requests and eventual begging for help was literally years of misunderstanding, harmful interventions and eventual exclusion from everyday life for my daughter and I. Her violence escalated in its power as she grew up physically and in time she became more frightened of herself than anything. We hit rock bottom when she asked her social worker “can you put me down cos I’m really frightened I’m going to accidentally kill mummy”.
The response to this was not therapy or medication, nor a break for me but the suggestion that my clever, brave, honest girl should perhaps be put in an out of county secure unit. We carried on regardless.
We were matched perfectly though. Both of us laugh in the face of crisis and fight ferociously against the odds. We know that we are right and that our guts have the answers.
The title picture for this blog was taken when we presented to A and E to gain psychiatric support in an emergency (the only LA suggested crisis intervention plan!). We had been in a secure room for seven hours with no windows, food or drink. I was “allowed” to get play dough and music magazines which are calming distraction tools for Big Bear. As yet another doctor who knew nothing about trauma related behaviour eventually arrived and asked me irrelevant questions, my daughter stuck a sticker on her forehead that she had just found in the magazine.
I THINK WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY
Behind the doctors back she was doing that thing with her finger twisting against her head suggesting that they, not us, were the “mad” ones. That sums up her magnificent sense of humour and spirit which has carried us through.
The following day, after being turned away from hospital, and ignored by the Duty Social Work team, my vulnerable, innocent, sixteen year old girl, in the throes of a mental health crisis, was seriously harmed by unknowingly putting herself at risk with a predatory man. My heart was broken.
To mend ourselves, we have worked together to create a charity that harnesses the belief in hope, resilience, kindness, truth, listening, individuality and creative solutions. One which does not rely on LA assessments or commissions!
In taking part in this and showing herself, my daughter has found strength and courage to help others, and this in turn has widened her belief that she is worth something beyond our family. The self confidence to fight the inner voices that tell her she is stupid, wrong, or a loony to be thrown away or put down by euthanasia. She hopes to mentor other children and plans to write her own blog.
Finally we may come out of the Isolation Cave… Out into the sunlight… Hand in hand… Big Bear and Mum Bear bruised and battered but still laughing and certainly not beaten.