Rachael has been through a lot in spite her young age. A hell of a lot. So much that when I read the answers she sent to me from our q&a session my head was spinning from it all. But let’s rewind little bit.
Rachael is a member of The Order Of The Dog group on Facebook and is always trying to be positive with people. She’d commented on one of the blog posts I’d put up and we got to briefly chatting. She shared with me a link to a newspaper article she’d appeared in about the help that the charity Barnados had helped with. Here’s the article here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/scandal-teenagers-leaving-care-nowhere-4845918#ICID=sharebar_facebook. Go take a minute, give it a read, then come back here. We used it as a jumping off point point for our question and answer session and I’ll admit that I wasn’t quite expecting the answers I got back. Like I said she’s been through a lot for someone so young. Without further ado, here’s Rachael’s story.
The article says you found yourself in foster care from the age of twelve. Do you mind telling us what led to that?
Anxiety and depression hit me with a bang at a young age. This was a very difficult time, been in and out of foster care before my teenage years. Family problems, behaviour and also being abused physically, emotionally and sexually. My mental health was not recognised at this stage of my life.
It mentions that you started suffering from anxiety around then. How did it start manifesting itself to you? Was there any support available to you at the time?
I self-harmed by cutting my wrists and taking a numerous of overdoses to end my life. Times were hard. I struggled to cope with society. I started taking drugs and drinking alcohol to try and break the barriers and also hide away any negative thoughts and issues going on at that moment in my life. I didn’t understand the damage I was doing to my body; I thought it was an acceptable coping strategy at that time. On these occasions I had my stomach pumped in hospital to remove the access of medication chemicals. This was a very traumatic experience of my life, I felt alone and I had nowhere to turn at a young age of 13. I ignored help and support from social services as I just thought they were being nosey and interfering not supportive. My behaviour was out of control, I ended up being placed in a Children’s home 17 miles away from my home town. This was far from an easy time of my life. I started taking drugs and I was highly addicted to cannabis. I was unaware of the harm I was doing to my body, my coping strategies were drinking alcohol and taking drugs. Time went on…..
You ended up leaving care around seventeen where you started showing symptoms of depression and started self-harming. How hard was it on you to try and find support at this time? How bad were things for you around this time?
It was time to become independent at the age of 17. Three months before turning an adult at 18, I moved into a flat independently. I was given support to move out but no one knew what I was going through mentally. I tried to commit suicide by ending my life to jump off a bridge. Luckily a stranger was walking past and grabbed my leg otherwise to this day I would be no longer alive. The same day I took another overdose as I was so adamant I wanted to leave and the world would have been a better place without me. I was taken into hospital for further treatment.
I found it very difficult to open up and talk to people about my issues. I hid behind closed doors and refused support. Things were deteriorating and I eventually discussed my issues with a support worker. The support worker was very understanding. The help was only in place for a few months. I felt crushed to pieces. I ended up moving out and closer to family.
I moved closer to my family in a second flat of my own just after my 19th birthday. The move was the right option at the time I couldn’t have made a better decision. After a few months of living in a small village I felt isolated and no one around me. My mental health got worse and I became paranoid, depression and anxiety tore me apart and I self-harmed again. Only this time I started sniffing aerosols and had taken another overdose. I was taken to hospital for a third time to get my stomach pumped.
In the article you credit the charity Barnados for helping you. What did they do to help you break the cycle?
The third time of taking an overdose I was supported by Barnados. The support from them was outstanding. They changed my life and gave me an opportunity to move in with a family with a supported lodgings provider. I made a big decision giving up my flat and furniture this was for the better. It only meant I would have to start all over again in the future … But Barnados were willing to help me. The support was giving continuous through my placement. They were amazing! The months were flying by with happiness; it was just about time to move out as I was approaching 21 years of age. This was a scary time in my life, as I was so happy…
June 2013 was just around the corner. Barnados and my supported lodgings family give me help to move out in too my 3rd flat. The saying “third time lucky” is true…. 🙂
How have you found things since then? Are you using other methods of support? And how are you trying to move on?
Since moving in to my new independent home in 2013, times have been very difficult. I have been going around in circles. I never seemed to be getting any better. Months and years have come and gone. I started looking for employment as it got to a stage where I thought I was stable with mental health. I started volunteering local to home to improve my support networks, skills and experience to move into employment. I found employment; I started an apprenticeship after a wobbly beginning, which last six months due to stress and being paranoid. I then moved into a further two works places which also didn’t work out in the end due to my mental health deteriorating. At this point I thought I was worthless. There was a positive outcome of the situation; I gained a Level 3 Diploma in Customer Service. Despite the difficulties I battled through each day with mental health and I never gave up.
I gave it a week or two and then I signed up for another course. At the time I thought I made the right decision. I went straight into a different career path. My job lasted just under three months and I’m still running around in circles but still smiling.
Finally, have you got any final words for us?
The support from my GP has been outstanding. Living with a mental health illness is not easy. I take my hats off to you.
My advice to you all is; never give up. We are here for a short and good time, not long and unhappy time. I am thinking of all you survivors and I 100% know what you are all going through I have lived with it for years.
KEEP YOUR HEAD UP HIGH AND SMILE. THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER.
Rachael still has bad days as well as good ones but, from speaking to her, she tries hard not to let them overwhelm her when she can and takes everything one step at time. And that is something we should all strive for. Don’t feel like you’re being caged in with a life that doesn’t work. Take a step forward and try to make the change that you need.
I’d like to take a moment to thank Rachael for letting me share her story with you. If you want to contact me drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve set up a closed support group for anyone suffering with mental health issues as well as anyone supporting them. Just search for The Order Of The Dog and request to join. Finally, please feel free to share these blogs with anyone you think might benefit from them. The more we help educate and inform people the better we can help each other.