Tag Archives: child abuse
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Stand Up Against Child Abuse

18 Jun

Stand Up Against Child Abuse

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https://actionagainstabuse.wordpress.com/ and join here:

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Why I believe There Should Be A Public Inquiry Into Child Protection At Harringey Following The Death Of Baby P.

20 May

Information regarding Peters’ terrible story can be found here. Please do not read if you are sensitive to stories related to child abuse. This one is particularly harrowing.

The frightning truth is, it will happen again in the not too distant future, as it has done over and over again in the past, until we are brave enough to reform our child protection procedures here in the UK.

A public inquiry into Peter’s death would be a good place to start.

What we DO know:

  • Peter was seen by representatives from various authorities, including Social Services, The Police and the NHS, on average twice a week (or 60 times), and visited hospital 3 times in the 8 months leading up to his y death. We know they all failed him repeatedly, and some have paid with their jobs. It is easy, in the face of public outcry, to sack social workers and to hope that appeases people. But the real and lasting change the child protection system is so desperately in need of requires true, introspective analysis and transparent reflection of mistakes made across the board and their root causes, so that the government can the provide the APPROPRIATE training, resources and policies across the country to better protect vulnerable children who are today suffering as Peter suffered.
  • We know that 12 crucial chances to save Victoria Climbie were missed 9 years ago. We were promised ‘Lessons learnt, never again’, after changes were apparently made following Lord Lamings’ Inquiry, and the government introduced the ‘Every Child Matters’ initiative and a new IT system with it.
  • We know that Peters’ death, only a few streets away from where Victoria died, exposed the crisis that modern day social work is facing today. Social workers feel unable to speak their minds; they feel that they are not listened to and that managers overrule decisions sometimes based on a financial deficit. We know that it is not unusual for social workers to be forced to struggle with double the caseload recommendation (10-12). We know that they feel they have to spend too much time filling in forms when they should be spending time with families in order to make sound, fair and rational decisions in a child’s’ best interests. We know that morale is incredibly low, they feel disrespected, pressured, blamed for problems beyond their control, voiceless and powerless to do their jobs effectively. Some working on the front line are inexperienced, and training for new therapies, such as the one being piloted with baby Peters’ family is sometimes brief inadequate, with vulnerable children paying the highest price.
  • We have heard the ‘rule of optimism’ and ‘too parent focused’ theories, the fact that there was a lack of urgency or healthy scepticism from the officials dealing with Peters mother, and that there was conflict between front line senior social workers like Sylvia Henry and social work managers like Clive Preece over the decision to take Peter into care or leave him with his mother. We have heard there was conflict with the social services and the police relating to the same issue and we know that for a brief time, Peter was in the care of a family friend who failed to tell authorities about the boyfriend. Haringey claim to have been unaware of the boyfriends existence and he was never questioned by police in relation to child cruelty charges before Peters death. At the time of Peters 2nd visit to hospital with bruising, despite ongoing investigation, police were not informed of his new injuries and social services did not investigate them, claiming the hospital did not flag up child protection concerns. The hospital maintains it did. Since then, even Great Ormond Street has been accused of trying to cover up its failings in Peters case. The fist Serious Case Review into this case was deemed invalid, due to it not being at all independent and because vital information (ie about the pilot scheme etc) was left out. We know both the police and social investigation into Peters safety were allowed to drift, ultimately paying a part in his death.

The government claims to be fully committed to addressing these problems:

What has happened since?

The second SCR, Lord Lamings Report and the Government Response.

You can read a summary of the final Serious Case Review into Peters death here
You cannot read the full Serious Case Review findings, as these are not public.

You can read Lord Lamings review of child protection services in England here.

You can read the full 58 point government response and ‘action plan’ here

The Final Serious Case Review

In summary, the final Serious Case Review into Peters death, headed by Graham Badman, chairman of Haringey’s local safeguarding children board, found that many opportunities had been missed to save Peter by ALL professionals responsible for his care, including social workers and their managers, doctors, police and other professionals. His death was ‘could and should’ have been prevented. It states that attempts to safeguard the Peter lacked “urgency, thoroughness and were insufficiently challenging” to his ‘mother’. The agencies involved were not fully focused on Peters’ welfare and “adopted a threshold of concern for taking children into care that was too high”. According to the report, and what is also glaringly obvious, is that Peter deserved much more from the services that were supposed to protect him.

Summary of Government response

  • The government have introduced a ‘Chief Advisor on Safety of Children’, who will have a particular responsibility to influence and monitor the co-ordination of central government department policies and approaches toward safeguarding and to assess the extent to which the advice and guidance issued by professional bodies contributes towards effective multi-disciplinary working at the front line.
  • Introduction of Government National Safeguarding Delivery Unit (NSDU) to give strong, co-ordinated national leadership across the system, Support Children’s Trusts Boards, local authorities, health and police, Monitor and challenge progress on the implementation of the recommendations in Lord Laming’s report.
  • Ofsted have designed more rigorous inspection arrangements for safeguarding and will shortly be publishing a new framework for a rolling programme of inspections of safeguarding. Authorities will now have unannounced yearly inspections.
  •  An ‘ethics committee’ will now consider new therapy pilots and the appropriateness of their use in chid protection cases.
  • The government deployed a ‘Social workforce’ headed by Moira Gibb, and have promised social work reform according to the task force recommendations by autumn.
  • In April, Ofsted set up a ‘hotline’ for children’s services workers who are concerned about practise in a pilot scheme. It was not continued after the pilot.
  • The government promise to change the ICS system social workers use to record information.
  • Government pledge 73 million for social work reform. Though it is important to note that since then, serious doubts have been raised about the governments commitment to the cost of proposed and highly needed reforms.
  • Government has announced a Return to Social Work scheme to help former social workers move back more easily into the workforce.
  • Government have promised to improve delays to care proceedings, though have yet to ‘finalize’ how they are to do this.
  • Francis Plowden has been appointed to conduct a review of court fees, and to establish whether court fees act as deterrent when local authorities decide whether or not to commence care proceedings.

Promises, promises.

Questions that STILL remain unanswered:

  • Crucially, Haringey maintain that they had no idea the Boyfriend was living with Peters ‘mother’. But there is a lot of evidence to suggest otherwise. Haringey missed over 7 chance to expose the boyfriend:

a) The VIDEO.
During a piliot video made by senior social work manager Susan Gilmour, Peters mother speaks at great length about her ‘friend’. She uses his name, talks about cooking him a valentines dinner and says he has been making the garden nicer for the children.
b) At the first case conference to discuss injuries to Peter, the boyfriend was mentioned by his first name.
c) Peters real father told Social Workers he believed the mother had a new partner.
d) Peters maternal grandmother claims to have told Social Workers (while her daughter listened in upstairs) that the boyfriend was ‘here (at Peters home) more than her’ and that she ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if he had moved in. Haringey have no record of this.
e) A family support worker met the boyfriend at the family home.
f) While at the parenting classes organised by Social Services before Peters death, his mother talks about being pregnant. Noone thinks to ask who the father of the baby is.
g) Peters mother openly discusses her new relationship on social networking sites.
Statistics from the NSPCC show that a child is up to 33% safer when living with its natural parents, as opposed to stepparents. Without victimisation, this area needs to be investigated more by Social Services and Social Workers made more aware of the potential dangers, as well as what to look for.

Haringey maintain if they had known about the boyfriend they would have acted very differently toward Peter, and blame the mother for her manipulation, which is a factor the government have tried to address. However, what if Social workers are under so much pressure that they subconsciously choose not to see dangers that might cause a lot more paperwork, or do not want to cause more ‘problems’ and be seen as trouble makers among their colleges? The evidence certainly suggests Haringey chose not to see this danger. Why? What can be done to prevent this, not only in Haringey, but across the country?

  • Children on the ‘At-Risk’ register have an electronic file to record their story. If a child dies in suspicious circumstances, it is the ‘locked’ as it becomes evidence in possibly a criminal investigation. Panorama reports that Peters file was accessed TWICE, illegally, after his death. Haringey claim it has been investigated and no data was altered, but the police maintain there has been NO INDEPENDENT FORENSIC INVESTIGATION into who accessed the files and if anything was changed.
  • Perhaps even more worryingly, there is evidence to suggest Social Services withheld information from the police, even after Peters death, and when his mother was being investigated for child cruelty. The police would have been VERY interested to know about the existence of a ‘male friend that helps out’, even if it is only to eliminate him from inquiries and get another witness statement about the ‘mothers’ parental ability. Despite there being a note on Peters electronic file from Susan Gilmour detailing information about the pilot scheme and her interview, this information WAS NOT on the document received by police investigating the charges. They NEVER saw the video and none of this evidence was used as part of the murder trial that the 3 suspects were acquitted for.
  • How did the police allow the child protection investigation to drift so drastically? How could the police drop the investigation into cruelty charges the day before Peter’s death? Why were the police not open to alternative explanations about the person who could have inflicted Peter’s injuries? Maybe communication with Social Services was to blame or maybe information was withheld, these questions remain unanswered. The government report does not adequately address the role of The Police in these issues.
  • A few months prior to Peters’ death, an Ofstead report rated Child Protection at Harringey to be ‘excellent’. When inspectors returned after the conviction of Peters killers’, Harringey failed. The NSPCC statistics show that on average 1 child a week dies from cruelty in the UK, and that child is as likely to come from an area with a good Ofsted report as those with bad ones. Maybe Ofsted inspections do not adequately measure the authority’s ability to cope with the real factors that put a child at risk of serious harm. If Haringey staff were able to manipulate data etc to make themselves look good, what is to stop this from happening in other authorities across the UK? How much confidence can we have in Ofsted ratings?

The government response and Lord Laming’s report both ignore an important issue that has been raised by many workers on the front line against child abuse. This is that the ‘Every Child Matters’ initiative may make identifying at risk children akin to finding a needle in a haystack. This issue needs to be addressed. Most children who die from cruelty and neglegt in the UK are still unknown to Social Services, this is a major problem that we need to be working to solve, not make even more difficult.

  • Wes Turnell from the NSPCC says the statistics that measure deaths from cruelty in the UK have not changed for the past 30 years, and he believes they will not change until we see major reform. The government needs to address why our child protection system seems to be ineffective at reducing child deaths from cruelty and neglect.

What Is a Public Inquiry and What Are They For?

‘A Public inquiry is an official review of events or actions ordered by a government. A public inquiry differs from a Royal Commission in that a public inquiry accepts evidence and conducts its hearings in a more public forum and focuses on a more specific occurrence. Interested members of the public and organisations may not only make (written) evidential submissions, as is the case with most inquiries, but also listen to oral evidence given by other parties.
The conclusions of the inquiry are delivered in the form of a written report, given first to the government, and soon after published to the public. The report will generally make recommendations to improve the quality of government or management of public organisations in the future.’

The Prime Minister orders a Public Inquiry when it is considered to be in the public interest. The Inquiry into Victoria Climbie’s lonely death did not prevent Peters, less than a few streets away and less than 10 years later. The promises of ‘lessons learnt’ then appear to be empty. How are we to believe the exact same promises, from some of the very same people, now? If there are fundamental flaws in our Child Protection System, we cannot shy away from exposing them, we MUST act now to uncover the problems so that we may begin to find solutions.

There is CLEARLY a problem with getting to the truth in Peters story, for example, the hospital claiming they told Haringey about their child protection concerns on Peters second hospital visit, and Haringey denying this. Many discrepancies like this can be found in Peters story. How much information Haringey had about the Boyfriend, and how much they shared with the Police. Why was Peters electronic file illegally accessed twice after his death, by whom, and why? Haringey, the Police, the NHS and the government have all been accused of trying to cover-up their mistakes, and in some cases there is considerable evidence that this is true. If the government wish to restore confidence in their ability to protect children, they must begin with facing the real problems, starting with a Public Inquiry into Peters death.

If the government is serious about protecting children, they must be, (and they must force all agencies involved to be) completely transparent in their admissions about the case and about the problems at whole. It is nearly impossibly to believe that Haringey is one ‘bad apple’ in a relatively well functioning system; actually, many experts in child protection have called the system ‘un-fit for purpose’. The results of a Public Inquiry would provide invaluable information for child protection authorities across the country, and a chance to implement changes so that the chances of ‘another baby P’ are very slim, as opposed to certain as things stand now.

A Public Inquiry into Peters death and child protection at Haringey is in the best interests of the public and is in the best interests of the Social Workers who feel they are reaching crisis point, who feel they are unable to do their jobs properly and effectively because of a defunked system. It is most certainly in the best interests of vulnerable children who are suffering, right now, as Peter did. It is in the best interests of the child that will die probably in incredible pain, maybe starving, feeling unloved, alone and completely unable to defend his or herself, somewhere in the UK this week.

Vulnerable children with no voice who are completely unable to defend themselves need the government to fully commit to transparency and ownership of the problems that hinder child protection, so that we might find solutions.

The government have the opportunity to ensure that Peters death is not in vain. His legacy should offer better protection to children like him surviving in the UK today.

NO LIP SERVICE, NO FALSE PROMISES, NO WHITEWASH.  REAL, LASTING AND EFFECTIVE CHANGES.

Thank you for reading.

Sleep tight little man xxx

Times Like These (Baby Peter)

19 May

He was just a baby boy with blue eyes and blonde hair,

If ever there was proof this life is just not fair:

His was so unhappy and his death so meaningless,

His arms reached out for comfort from a picture in the press.

 

All over this country: in pubs, kitchens and classrooms,

An angry British public asked angry British questions,

Of social workers, teachers, doctors and MP’s;

How could this have happened? How in times like these?

 

When i heard the news that night i cried myself to sleep,

Never knew such precious human life could be so cheap.

No God i know could let a baby live and die like that,

No comfort in this cold cruel world,

No way of going back.

Jeremy Kyle, Love and Obligation

17 May

On TV today, I saw Jeremy Kyle shouting at a woman who had split up with her partner 7 weeks ago, and left their children with him.

She moved to 150 miles away to Birmingham (her hometown) and visited her children in Portsmouth twice a month.

It’s hard for most parents to understand how someone could see so little of their children (including me). On days when my boy goes to his dads, I tend to feel frivolous and carefree for the first few hours, but once the evening comes, I’m already missing him.

She said she had moved back to Birmingham because she suffered with depression and felt very isolated and persecuted (granted, I’m not quoting verbatim!) by her ex’s family. She felt she’s heal better surrounded by her own friends ad family.

She said she had left her children because she believed they were better off with their father, and her visits were so infrequent because she was looking for work and couldn’t afford to come more often.

It was at this point that Jezza really laid into her; ‘What kind of a selfish mother leaves her children…’ etc .

If she genuinely believes the father could offer a more nurturing and stable environment for the children, what she’s doing is actually very brave, and selfless. Maybe it kills her to be away from her kids, but she knows she’ll do them more harm than good.

Would fathers who saw their children once a fortnight suffer the same public berating? No.

I’m not sticking up for people who have kids without thought, dumping them here, there and everywhere so that they can continue to live a carefree lifestyle. Every baby on this planet deserves all the love the world has to offer. If you’re not trying (it’s the trying that counts, nobody’s perfect all the time), then you don’t deserve them.

But hammering a woman who believes, for whatever reason, that her presence would create more instability and harm for her children than her absence, has got to be detrimental to the child.

Love cannot be forced through obligation; that is a recipe for resentment, bitterness, unhappiness and confusion.

How many parents stay, quietly resenting their children, or worse, openly and wilfully neglecting them or harming them, because they didn’t feel that they could speak out and say they’re not coping?

Or parents that drag their children about for the baby years, losing interest rapidly, until the child does go into care, but is by then far to old to realistically expect the happy ending adoption can sometimes bring?

I think it’s ok to admit you can’t cope. It’s better (less damaging) than pretending. It means you can give your child a real chance of not ending up with the train-wreck psyche that is often the result of being raised by someone who doesn’t want you, or can’t be a functional parent.

P.S Yes i know, i know… i shouldn’t be watching it. It’s a very guilty pleasure, i shamefully admit :s

Rearview Mirror – Part 1

13 May

I was born in the south of England in the 1980’s. My dad was 27, born and raised locally, his dad Irish, his mum an local. He has 2 brothers, 2 sisters. Although their family was relatively poor and (I think) my granddad struggled with alcohol abuse at sometime in his life, there was, by all accounts and certainly my own experiences of my nan and granddad, a lot of Love in their family. My mum was born in Ireland under the British flag, because my granddad served in the army there. She comes from a poor, uneducated family with a history of abuse (every kind you can imagine, and to extremes), neglect and alcoholism, and although I have reason to doubt everything she says, I think alot of what she has said about how she was raised is true, mostly because I’ve seen history repeating in her brothers and sisters, and because it goes some way to explaining why she is the way she is.

She was 17 when I was born, I imagine she met my dad, 10 years her senior, and thought he could be the escape she needed from the miserable home life she knew. He was freshly divorced from his first wife (who I don’t really know much about, except that she had mental health and drug abuse problems and was unfaithful to him) and dealing with the heartbreak of little contact with my older (half, technically) brother. From what I understand, dad fought for him in court, but paternal rights are insufficient now, so 30 years ago, I think they were pretty non-existent. So I guess both of my parents were a bit lost in the world when they met, had me, and married. In that order.

My memories pre 13 are pretty sporadic and hazy, to say the least. I dunno if that’s just how I am, a result of the amount of weed I’ve smoked, or that I don’t want to remember, or a combination of those things. It certainly wasn’t all bad, and in many respects, we were very fortunate and there were happy times. One of my earliest memories is dad letting me paint anything I wanted on the outside wall of out house, as he was painting over it. I can remember dad taking us out on a homemade sledge one winter when we had decent snow (big deal down here on the island, a bit of snow). Dad taking us swimming and ice skating, and later, me to Glastonbury festival.

Its funny how when you want to remember stuff, you cant…im trying to think of happy childhood memories that involve mum, I know they exist, but now I cant think of any. The nice memories of mum I can recall right now, seem to be tainted sad. Like, I can remember pretending to be sleeping as she stroked my hair…but oftentimes this was accompanied with an apology for loosing her temper or whatever, in the day. Did she know I was only pretending to be asleep? I didn’t think she did at the time, but with my adult eyes now, I cant imagine being that young and that good of an actress.

She used to spend a shed load of money at Christmas, buying us near enough anything we wanted. She did feel guilty. I know that she did, and does love me, in her own way, as best someone like her can love. I do believe she did try her best, even though she fucked up. I want to make that clear now. She’s only a product of her environment. To be frank, it’s a fucking miracle she did as well as she did, and we have only the medium debilitating psychological disturbances we have! It is a testament to how hard she tried…I often think, I could easily have been born as my cousins, her sisters kids, who had it infinitely worse than we ever did. Then I feel guilty and disgusted with myself for being so ungrateful, whiney, and pathetic. I try to remind myself that its all relative, and my suffering, the way I felt and feel, the negative impact it has and still has on my life, on the (stupid?) people that have had or have the misfortune of trying to love me, and try to remember, reassure myself, that my feelings are valid.

So I don’t really remember that much from childhood. I can remember being very lonely, walking around the playground looking at the leaves and my feet, at about the age of 5? 6? When I think of that time, I get a visualisation of leaves, woodchip and the concrete playground. I always felt sad, different, isolated, even then. I remember having friends, but I think I was always on the edges…I’d get invited to birthday parties (paranoid adult head: cos their parents made them invite me?), but I don’t remember playing at school much. Maybe I did, and just can’t remember?

I can remember being oddly interested in boys at that time, which is weird, cos I know I didn’t know what sex was. Once, me and the boy I fancied thought we had ‘done it’…but he had only laid on me, fully clothed. I ‘loved’ Daniel Attwood all through primary school. Maybe that’s normal? But it seems weird, I never think about it, only thinking about it now as a necessary bi-product of writing this, but for a 7 year old, I had really strong feelings for the poor sod! For a sustained amount of time (years!). Maybe, even then, I was desperate to be loved, a feeling that has never left me. Needless to say, the affection was never mutual, I was never his girlfriend, though lots of other pretty girls were.

I spent a lot of time at this age (as much as I could, infact) staying with my paternal nan and granddad. I felt safe and loved there. They were so kind to me, I feel so lucky to have been able to have that relationship with them, and I wonder what might have become of me if I hadn’t had their loving refuge to escape to. Ive tried to tell my nan (sadly, granddad died when I was 10) through a letter, but I don’t think she will ever really understand what she means to me, how much I love her for all she did for me back then, how much I always will.

I was not happy being at home. Even then, I felt like mum hated me. Nothing I ever did was worth anything, or good enough. Everyday, she would call me names I didn’t really understand until a little later (‘stupid bitch’ etc), half the time I never knew what I did wrong, and she would be screaming at me.

It felt like she only ever spoke to me to tell me to do something, or to tell me I didn’t do something right. I can vividly remember thinking ‘I bet she doesn’t even know what my favourite colour is’ I know that’s trivial, but the point is, she never bothered getting to know me, wasn’t interested in me at all, except for what I could do for her. Mostly, that was cleaning.

She has a severe (undiagnosed) OCD, probably because of her own filthy and neglectful upbringing (im talking literally shit on the walls). Every weekend, both days, my brother and I would have to clean for hours before we were allowed to do anything that might’ve considered usual for kids of our ages, if we were allowed (probably not, probably did something wrong or not good enough or complained too much so would be refused even after the work was done, as punishment). I literally cleaned our kitchen, countless times, with a toothbrush. Every day in the summer holidays, or half terms, we did this. Mondays was housework day: school nights, we’d clean from when we got home, until bedtime, and in the holidays we’d simply clean all day, from when we woke up, to when we collapsed in our beds, tired and miserable, at night. We knew we were missing out. The other kids never had to do anything like it, and so whilst we were cleaning, we could think of all the fun they were having, that we were missing out on (specially my bro, who was a popular kid).

My overriding memory from this time is of literally crying myself to sleep in the dark…’why does nobody love me?’ I feel sorry for that little girl, who doesn’t feel like me now.

There were only a few occasions when she was really physically abusive, that I can remember. I have felt so confused about it, for so, so long, because its really hard to put your finger on, to describe how my mum was cruel and hurt me, when she rarely actually was physical. I felt ( and sometimes still feel – it’s a constant battle) like I was just a whiney, whinging, ungrateful, spoiled brat.

The public face of my mum is very likable. Even to this day, very few people know what she is really like behind closed doors. On the face of it, if you had seen us or met her, you would have no reason to doubt she was anything other than a good wife and parent. She was even a foster parent for many years (that hurt… you’ve got the time for other children, to be patient and kind to other children, what’s so hideously wrong with me?). I can still see her eyes, the angry eyes she’d flash you when you had annoyed her, but other people were there, so she couldn’t deal with you in her usual way. I used to love it when social workers (for the foster kids, not us) were round, and mum would be so nice.

My mums forte is power games, weird manipulation and lies and tricks, but she was physically abusive a few times.

Generally though, mums abuse was cold and cruel and emotional – I honestly believe she probably, for the most part, had no idea she was doing it. Though some things do seem too premeditated, or to sustained, to excuse as impulse or anger. When I was about 9, I can remember her sticking my dirty knickers to the front door, with a sign saying ‘fringewalk’s pissy pants’, to humiliate me. I can’t remember what I had done wrong.

Its hard to explain how things were. Mum and her depression were the domineering factors in all our lives. Everything the family did was mums will, no one else was considered; mums happiness (which never, ever came) was always paramount.

My dad worked shifts and nights a lot back then. For a while, as much as I completely love and respect him, and as painful as it was to have the thought, I did wonder how he could have let it go on. As an adult, I’ve concluded it was a combination of factors; he wasn’t there much, he didn’t want to see it, he was probably just about managing with the responsibility of putting food on the table and, mainly, he was dominated and emotionally bullied by mum too. He is a very lovely, family orientated man, easy to take advantage of. Apart from a few mistakes he made not controlling his temper when my bro was a very difficult adolescent, I cannot fault him. If I had a choice; him and mum or completely different parents, I would choose him and mum all over again, so that I could have him in my life.

In the last couple of years he has *finally* divorced her, and is now recovering from the aftermath of the years of abuse he suffered.

Its taken a long time for me to allow myself to say I had an abusive childhood, for a number of reasons. Maybe in the last year, I’ve come to terms with ‘admitting’ it.

Firstly, so many people have it infinitely worse, it seems selfish and ignorant to moan about what happened to me.

Secondly; loyalty. I love my mum, in spite of her behaviour, I always will. Even more than that, I understand why she was how she was (and still is), and I feel sorry for her, she never really stood a chance, and as I have said, I do believe she tried. She was abused in ways I (thankfully) cant even imagine, she was very young when she had me and married dad, she got diabetes (and very fat) as a result of her pregnancy with me and her dad died just a few months after. She must’ve had severe post-natal depression, but back then it wasn’t really a known thing. It must’ve been incredibly difficult for her. Maybe it’s why she hated me. Her life strikes me as very tragic and sad.

I still wish I could help her, and it is with great sadness that I try to accept that I can’t, and never will be able to. It goes against everything that I try to believe in, but sometimes, it really is just too late. She is still exactly the same, and it is to dangerous to have her in my life. She will only use and hurt me, all the while pretending to be my friend. I’ve had very minimum contact with her over the last couple of years, and the one time i did se her and speak to her properly, it was a series of lies followed by manipulation and problems that followed. So i can’t let my gaurd down.

Thirdly, because of the public face, because it was only me she treated like that (not my bro really, except the cleaning), for all my life, I thought it was me, my fault, something wrong with me. No one else seemed to notice. Was I imagining it? Remembering it wrong? Attention seeking (which I am prone to)? Later, she turned out to treat my sister (who is 15 years younger than me) in the same way, so now i wonder if it’s just the girls?

It has only been these last few years, when everything has unravelled, that everyone has seen her for what she really is. The mask hasn’t just slipped; it’s fallen clean off, at least for those of us close to her. It wasn’t me, wasn’t my fault, and there is nothing wrong with me.

I still don’t feel this is the truth, the lessons she taught are very deeply entrenched in my psyche, so I try to be logical, look at the facts, and remind myself it is the truth.

Not that it matters all that much now. It is a relationship i will never understand despite continued effort, and one that haunts me. But I am grown, responsible for my own choices, my own sucesses and faliures. I need to accept and find worth within myself, i need to not just know, but realise that self-worth is not something to be given to me by anyone else, but something i scuplt for myself .

I know this, but i cannot realise it, it is not true for me, i still seek it else where because i cannot find it inside, i’ve been hardwired from an early age not to. And even that belief  is yet another excuse/self-fufilling prophecy/obstacle to self-esteem. Grrrr. It is very frustrating.

I think i started smoking weed aged about 16. It’s weird, cos I was always one of those ‘say no to drugs’ kids, and I never smoked cigarettes. I was a bright-ish kid, I got a few As in my GCSEs, I was involved in the school community (student rep, ran tuck shop, always involved in music/drama productions) etc.

When I was 16, I was dumped by the first boy I had ever ‘loved’. It was teenage, all encompassing, need-to-be-with-you-all-the-time, deliriously happy kind of love, but when I look back on it know, I am think I did love him, albeit in an immature way. Anyway – I didn’t take the rejection very well. I almost turned into a crazy stalker for a while, i was kind of in limbo, and heartbroken.

When I did finally realise it was definitely over, I kind of fell into a black hole. Its sort of embarrassing now, all melodramatic – but the pain was unbearable, and it affected my whole life. When I think about it now, I try to understand why it effected me so much – plenty of teenagers get their heart broken but they don’t self-destruct like I did. They cry and listen to music in their rooms, then they get over it and move on.

I tried to commit ‘suicide’, taking loads of paracetamol and my parents’ Prozac and hip-replacement medicine. I don’t think it was too serious an attempt, the infamous ‘cry-for-help’ more likely, but it was enough to give me a kind of lock-jaw for a couple days when the muscles in my jaw were almost locked closed and my legs were all tense and shaky, and I threw up a lot. It felt like really horrible flu, and it scared the shit out of me. What if i really fucked myself up?

Maybe quite tellingly, my parents didn’t notice. To be fair, I lived in a mobile home at the bottom of their garden by then, my sister was only about 2, and they both worked, so it’s easy to see how; they were busy. To this day they know nothing about this. They knew that I was a self-harmer after a teacher at school got in touch with them when I was about 11 (I think), but to this day I don’t think they have any idea how isolated and alone and miserable I was at this time and through most of my childhood. Most of my life. Ungratful twat.

After the ‘suicide’ attempt (feels weird seeing that in black and white, even though i know it wasn’t as bad as the words implies), everything was the same. I started drinking vodka a lot, straight from the bottle. I slept with 6 people in a few weeks, some whom I did not know and have not seen since, some of which were supposed to be ‘friends’.

My ex-boyfriend, G, (not the one who had broke my heart, but one who’s heart im sure I broke), who remained my good friend, took care of me, and drove me about for hours on end. I only felt ok when we were driving, I don’t know why. I suppose when we were driving I wasn’t sat around trying to deal with the feeling in my stomach.

I owe a lot to G and the compassion and love he showed me during that time – he was the only person who was there for me, and im very lucky to have had him, even though i didn’t deserve him and ultimately, i think i used him and treated him badly (which i have since profusely apologised for). He was my boyfriend off and on from the age of 14 to 18, it was a serious relationship, but i think i would have had anyone who would take me, i was so desperate for love. I never really considered if i felt it or if it was real. I don’t know why i didn’t fancy him that much, he’s a great guy and he’s very good looking. Maybe it was because he treated me so well.

I asked G to get me some hash during this time, i just wanted to get out of my own head. I had been with him and a few of our friends when they had smoked before, but up until then I had always refused it and made them promise not to go onto harder drugs (which is funny now, given my drug experiences). G was at university at the time and got an eight of hash from his friend there. We had one of those pipe/tube things you can attach to a beer bottle and make a bong from- neither of us smoked baccy or could roll. That first eighth lasted agggggeeesss.I would have a little pipe every now and then, nothing serious. I couldn’t roll a proper joint then, i had to use a rolling machine on the odd occasion i did smoke one. For a while, i was an occasional smoker, until i began probably my most significant (and damaging) relationship with a full time smoker.

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