Life, self love, Uncategorized

Finding Becky

The ages of 12, 13 and 14 were all about finding things for me. Finding out more about my mother, finding a boyfriend, finding the Church and finding alcohol. It was all going on.

Finding out about my Mother

I don’t remember how this came about (or where my mother was), but I remember my two older sisters and me finding, and reading, all of my Mams medical notes, letters and diaries. I am a bit of a ‘goody two shoes’ so I imagine that we were allowed to read this but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

I won’t go in to what I read as that is not my story to tell. I will tell you that it gave me a tonne of insight into why she was the way she was. I learned a lot and most of it was not what I should have been learning.

In my later teen years, I wanted to take all of what I had read and turn it in to a book. I am so grateful that my family didn’t let me. I wanted to use everything I knew in the most spiteful way.

Finding a boyfriend

To start this bit, I should explain that I was spending a lot more time with Rachel through these years. Roxanne and I were still close but we were developing different friendship groups due to our sometimes opposite interests.

Rachel and I were getting a taste for more alternative music – Rancid, NOFX, Green Day and The White Stripes were heavily featured in our play lists.

Our alternative tastes also stretched to boys. Rachel found a drummer to spend time with and it was logical for me to get closer to his guitarist best friend.

It wasn’t long before we were ‘girlfriend’ and ‘boyfriend’. It’s funny to look back at as we were an odd match but he was a very sweet lad. He was the first to say he loved me. I am sure I, eventually, said it back but it wasn’t something that was seriously on my radar. I was happy for the friendship, support and distraction he offered when my mother wasn’t well but any more than that was a bit of a push.

Finding the Church

As Rachel and I spent more and more time together, I spent more and more time at Church.

Rachel’s family was the foundation of the Church that we attended, a small local Church, which meant that to spend time together I would choose to tag along to the services.

I was always open about my faith (or lack of) but this didn’t bother the community at the Church. I am certain that they could see right through how I felt and knew that I needed the comfort of a place to go where I felt completely at ease. I absolutely fell in love with the ‘Church family’ and I know that they loved me too.

Nobody pushed me to become a Christian, it was understood that I wasn’t there to mock religion or bring any bad feelings. I had faith in something, I just couldn’t name it. I am grateful that I had that experience.

I loved the drives to and from the Church as we would pick up and drop off people from all around the town. Obviously we would be first in and last out of the minibus so Rachel and I would sit at the back, sharing the headphones of a Walkman and gossiping. That was my happy place at this time, I would have been happy to sit in that back seat permanently and never go anywhere else. I had no idea that I was completely avoiding going to my own home, even when I spent quite a few nights a week sleeping at Rachel’s.

Finding alcohol

Again, I don’t know when this started, sorry for my terrible memory! But at some point in these years, my mother and I started to drink together.

It must have been after I was 13 actually, as that is when I remember first trying vodka. I think my mother must have been off her meds at the time as I asked her if we could by a bottle of vodka for a family party and she let me!

I convinced myself that the right thing for me to do with this vodka was drink it all, by myself, naturally. I ended up spending the night in the kitchen, swigging vodka from the bottle!

I clearly got myself in to a state and ended up convincing myself I was dying. My mother and my older sisters boyfriends little brother- who was in the year above- helped me into bed with a bucket next to me. All this time, I was crying that I didn’t want to die! How mortifying!

After that, I seem to have gotten a taste for drinking as my mother and I started going to Cardiff for shopping, food and cocktails on a Tuesday. I took these days off school and felt so grown up for it. We would have dinner in Lloyds bar along will cocktails after (sometimes during) shopping. It was so much fun and I even got served at the bar a few times.

We were always careful not to miss the last train home as my older sister (second) used to call us and tell us off for being drunk when I had school the next day.

At the train station we would call up to the prison to offer cigarettes and rope that we never had, never-mind threw to them. I thought it was the best fun in the world. My boyfriend was worried and used to ask if I was an alcoholic. I wasn’t, it was just fun for me to have my mother as my best friend. I still remember those days with laughter and fondness. I don’t regret missing school for it. It was worth it to feel so close to my mother.

Those years feel like the real end of my childhood as I was turning a corner into being what I thought was more independent and more grown up. I think there are a lot of things that can be looked back on and picked apart with reason and more emotional awareness but I wouldn’t change them.

They built the woman I am today and I enjoyed them thoroughly.

My mother and I on a day out in Cardiff
Life, self love

Navigating High School

The last summer holiday before going to high school was so much fun. It was spent building dens in the woods (if anyone wants a fern fence, call me!), having slumber parties and playing rounders.

Roxanne and I continued to be inseparable and were looking forward to being in the same form in year 7. We had already made a couple of new friends on inset day so were very excited to be reunited with them.

I think my mother was well for most of it, I remember some epic barbecue parties with our neighbours, a failed camping trip and some fantastic day trips to Barry Island. There were a few nights where she wasn’t her best, again sleeping the day away and getting upset at night but I don’t recall them being too frequent. There was a holiday that was one of the best until we found out that social services were trying to pay someone we knew to foster us. This came as a shock to us all and it really shook my mother as she had a few bad weeks after that. I feel for her when I think of that, she knew she was doing her best but it must not have felt like that was enough. It was for me.

Starting high school was fantastic. I still remember buying all my new stationary, bag, shoes, coat and uniform. I know that shouldn’t be fun, but I loved it. No social workers ‘helping’, the whole day with my mother and sisters, plus (usually) a Wimpy for dinner. It was awesome.

My first day of High School was a blur of posing for photos with friends (mostly Roxanne) and trying to remember our way around the school. Meeting all of the teachers and new classmates was the most daunting part, I came across as outgoing and confident but was shy and full of self-doubt on the inside. I remember watching the other kids and betting they had easy lives.

Not very nice to admit but that is how it was and it didn’t stop me making new friends quickly.

Year 7 was great fun; I loved my new subjects (especially French), decorating my books (with Usher posters…) and my new friends. I had new houses to visit and new places to hang out. Having friends over for tea was interesting; I remember my little sister ‘escaping’ from her grounding, my friends and I spotted her dangling out of  her bedroom window. She used to swing across to the shed roof and climb down. She was/is nuts! Such a dare-devil!

I don’t remember anything more specific about my mother at the time. We had food on the table, a clean home and clothes and I think, for the most part, she was well.

Apart from a few episodes, the next year passed in the pretty much the same way.

After that; well, we partied. More on that next time.

Sorry about the poor quality again… 90’s cameras, that’s all I can say…

Labels for people- do we need them?

Today’s blog is slightly different but still relevant, bear with me…

On Tuesday I got a text from my best friend asking if I wanted to go and see Sophie Willan on Thursday (last night) because she is a comedian with a show that is based on a foundation that is not unlike my blog. My initial thought was “who?”, which was quickly followed by “why not?”

So, last night, off we went to the Northern Stage to see Sophie do her stuff. Her show was based on taking her own labels and ‘rebranding’ them. It was incredible, this woman- who’s life began in a similar way to mine- took her labels and challenged them. It was raw, it was deep and it was genuinely hilarious!

It was also massively thought provoking for me and got me thinking of my own labels (and my friends and families) and whether I am okay with them. This is what I thought.

Take “fostered child” for example. The label itself is not inaccurate, I was a fostered child. The subtext that goes with the label is what gets at me, there is a stigma that we are all meant to be a certain way. We have a couple of personality options (ranging from “drug addict/ alcoholic” to “successful against the odds” to choose from and that’s it. Our stories are inspirational or a warning and that’s pretty much it.

That is NOT OKAY!

Another, about my Mother this time. “Schizophrenic”. This is super important for doctors/ professionals and again, is not inaccurate. But what are the personality choices? There are multiple! (Pardon the pun). None of them are particularly good though, they range from “dangerous” to “incapable of making any decisions” to “the type you don’t want to get stuck talking to”.

This is NOT OKAY!

Labels are put on real people, you know. People who have so much depth and so much more to offer than their category might suggest.

My personal thought is let’s leave the labels to medical terms and food packages where they have a place and a purpose.

Choose to see the relentless positivity in the Fostered Child or the kind heart and hilarious quirks in the Schizophrenic.

Don’t let someone’s label be a reason to judge them.

If I’ve learned one thing about people, it’s that they always surprise you.

Life, self love, Uncategorized

After care

Knowing I didn’t have to go back to foster care was the best thing ever. And I mean EVER!!

Adjusting to life after care at home with my mother didn’t take long at all. Things got really great, really fast.

I had a year or two before going to high school so was really excited to be ‘one of the normal kids’.

My two best friends were still firmly by my side – honestly, like glue. We went to every after school club going (because I now could). Gymnastics, ribbon dancing, Scrabble, line dancing. You name it, we were there! And before you ask, yes I can still get a really high score in Scrabble (dare I say a winning score?) while nailing a ‘kick ball change’.

While all this excitement was happening in my life my mother was slipping again. She back to  spending her days in bed. Jumping in for cuddles was amazing but I knew she should be up. We were older this time though and more prepared. My sisters and I got ourselves up and ready on these days. We also had two fiercely strong female neighbours to help us. Mam was ill again but no way were we going anywhere!

I coped by either spending time in bed/ avoiding the world or spending time with my friends.

Roxanne and I became completely inseparable fast. I practically lived in her house. Her mother, Kim, must have known my mother was ill but she didn’t once let on. She treated me as one of her own so much that I had my own seat at her family table and I still call her girls my  sisters – as far as I am concerned, they are.

I even got given pocket-money from Roxannes’s dad. Who, by the way still vets my boyfriends and is not afraid to call me up on my more inappropriate outfit choices, haha! In all seriousness, if I wasn’t accepted as part of the family I would have spent my days wishing I could be.

I will be eternally grateful for Roxanne and her family. As you will find out, they have saved me more times than they will even know.

That couple of years passed in a bit of a blur but it wouldn’t be long until I was in high school and then I would remember a whole lot more.

Life, Uncategorized

My last foster home

The first thing I’d like to say is- I feel I cut the last blog about my childhood off pretty suddenly. I didn’t mean to, it’s just the gaps in my memory.

After the second long-term care, I believe we went back to my mothers for a while. I have a lot of happy memories with my family (I doted on my sisters and my cousins especially) even if my cousins did practice wrestling moves on me! I remember family holidays to Newquay West Wales, Bradley Bear and day trips to Aberystwyth anyone?!

Life was really happy for the most part.

I was also watching my mother sleep her days away and developing a major fear of the cutlery drawer being opened at night. If the cutlery drawer was opened, it generally meant my mother was self harming. Sometimes I went downstairs and listened to her talk and cry. Others, I held my blanket over my head and tried to block out the sounds. I still have a fear of that sound at night.

Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I found my mother to be a bad mother. I didn’t. I genuinely loved every moment I spent with her. Her cuddles were second to none, as were her senses of love and humour.

The self harm must have gotten too frequent or too severe though as my sisters and I ended up in a new foster home. I don’t actually know how this happened.

The new home, my last foster home, was a farm. The husband wasn’t about much as he was very active in his farm work. The wife was around all the time though. I don’t know if she was actually awful or if I thought this because I’d been so happy at home. She was definitely not the cleanest though, I hated eating her dinners. My sister once found an earwig in her swede (ewww). Luckily there were plenty of dogs and a goat that we could feed our unwanted Cheerios to!

It wasn’t bad being on the farm really, we had a lot of space to play and so many animals to play with. I got to collect eggs from the chickens regularly and was allowed to help shear a sheep. I am clearly still buzzing about that…

Our mother even visited us there once, we spent the day playing in the fields with the Labrador’s. I found out a few years later that this was not a planned visit. She just rocked up. What a rebel!

We also saw our Dad and his girlfriend frequently for the first few months or so. She was younger than him so four step daughters were not something she took to easily. I believe she tried her best none the less. She had a good go at taming my unruly curls, taught us some Welsh and painted with us.

Things must have been too difficult for her as not long after she moved out and left my Dad with nothing. She even took all of the cutlery and crockery. He must have struggled with this a lot as our visits began to dwindle, then one day we waited for what felt like hours and he just never showed. He didn’t show up again until a few years later.

I felt completely rejected and abandoned for a very long time afterwards. In recent years, my Dad and I have spoken at length about this and he regrets his choice everyday so I will never lord it over him. I think he was extremely brave to come back to us and am grateful for his place in my life.

While he was gone I was asked a lot of questions by peers about why my Dad was not around. I used to tell people that my Dad was Will Smith and couldn’t see me often due to filming in Hollywood. I don’t know whats worse, the fact I said that or the fact that a few kids believed me for quite a long time. Cringe!

During all this time in care, my Mother had been fighting tooth and nail for us to come home to her permanently. I don’t remember how the battle was won or even when really. But, I will never forget the day that we were sat down in my Mothers living room and  told that we didn’t have to go back to the farm. It was like a dream. Still is…

Life was about to change dramatically for us. We were no longer fostered children and would never be again.

Sorry for the bad quality photo, I don’t have many here in Newcastle