Writing Wrongs

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There’s been nothing that I have wanted to do more than write for as long as I can remember.

There’s been nothing that I have had less faith in myself to accomplish than write for as long as I can remember.

However, the desire has thankfully overcome the doubt for a moment here and there.

Being gifted at something (or at least that’s what I have been lead to believe about my ability to put words one after another) hasn’t necessarily evoked the positive feedback one would have hoped for or expected.

Rather than be praised for this talent as a young child, it was dismissed. As I got older, I became more and more aware that my familial role models were not ‘ideal’ for a would be writer, nor interested, especially as English for my Mother was a second language. To give her credit, her spoken and written English far exceeds that of many people born and bred in this fair country and her choice of reading matter far exceeds my own. Or did, prior to the dementia robbing her of that joy. It’s hard to read when after you have devoured a sentence or two you can no longer remember their content.

At my second primary school based in Central London, I was one of vey few children in my class who was actually fluent in English, which put the brakes on my learning for a while.

By the age of thirteen, I was determined to be a journalist.

Writing what in particular, I didn’t know but record reviews seemed to be a good place to start, so I used to wander into the Record Mirror offices on my way to school and join in their Friday morning meetings.

Gossip for the daily nationals also appealed but my career there was thwarted somewhat, when after being invited to an incredible celebrity-filled party in New York at the age of 13, if I could get myself there, I didn’t manage to achieve my aims.

I thought perhaps if I offered the Daily Mirror exclusive stories from the party they in turn could pay for my flight and accommodation, so turned up at their offices and asked to speak with John Blake whose name was in big letters above the column.

John and his colleagues (Gill Pringle and Linda Duff) very kindly listened to everything I had to say and John even went as far as speaking with the Editor about sending me on my first ever trans-Atlantic trip – but sadly it was not meant to be. I was too young, they said, but I learned that it’s always worth asking.

By the age of fourteen, my best friend and I were running around like would-be Hedda Hoppers to all of the best clubs and events around London seven nights a week (still managing to study, too) and having a ball as regular gossip columnists for Gay News.

We were on all of ‘the’ guest lists or had VIP memberships to every happening venue and knew everybody that there was to know. The 80s were an incredible time to grow up but for us it was beyond anything we had ever dreamed of. Our first official night out brought us to The Mud Club at Foubert’s, just off Carnaby Street. We were wearing our cobbled together Westwood rip-off outfits that we had made earlier that day from remnants and staples but in the dark who could tell?

Over the following year or so our fortnightly column became a ‘must read’ for all of London’s glitterati, most especially because they were now our friends. We had turned many of these friends into regular characters whose larger than life exploits just had to be followed week after week like a soap opera.

Too soon for comfort my ‘O’ levels started to loom over me and I had to make the decision to concentrate on my studies, so said goodbye to the column. It was an incredibly diffiult decision but had to be done.

I was fortunate to have a good memory and so was able to retain most information from lessons and regurgitate it on to an exam paper which garnered me 8 good grades.  I even achieved a B for my English exam, having snuck out of it early (with my headmistress’s permission) to go and interview the singer and actor ‘Divine’ at Zandra Rhodes home in Notting Hill.

Every day was an adventure and my dream of becoming a journalist seemed to be on its way to reality. I was given other work, providing gossip items for the dailies, even spending time sitting alongside a young Piers Morgan at The Sun, both of us working for Rick Sky. I also worked with Mizz Magazine.

However, I started to have a crisis of confidence. My best friend was a great writer and had limitless support from her parents. She had also not taken me saying goodbye to the column very well and it created a distance between us. As her abilities grew, mine seemed to diminish. I felt uncomfortable trying to compete and so stepped back as she took great strides forward.

Writing was still my solace and I indulged in it all the time. Rather than writing for others I started writing for myself and as an antidote to the abuse (sexual, emotional and physical) that I was still on the receiving end of at home, I thought putting my own story down in words would be therapeutic.

My manuscript started to grow very rapidly. There was a great deal to say and before long I had an inch high stack of paper that contained details of the first 18 years of my life. I had written all the events in chronological order but in the third person. My story was written as a story, which gave me the distance I needed in order to relive it, as I found the right words to convey it to print.

I put that inch of manuscript away in a drawer and left it there for safe-keeping.

Over the course of the following few months, I left home to escape the horrors during a brief conversation in my best friend’s mothers car. She had come to collect me and upon seeing the expression on my face as I closed the front door behind me, suggested that I go back inside, pack a bag or two and officially move in with them.

I moved in but my manuscript didn’t.

Within 48 hours my grandfather suffered a massive stroke which would lead to his death. My Mother refused to call me and so we didn’t get to say our goodbyes, even though he was asking to see me.

By the time I knew what was going on, he was dead. He was the love of my grandmother’s life and so I trepidatiously returned home on a visit to see her.

My grandmother, although devastated, seemed more interested in why I had left home.

“Does ‘he’ come into your room at night?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

Following this public revelation, there was a giant furore and the relationship between my Mother and I was now completely strained. Obviously.

Some weeks later, I returned to the house, firstly making sure that ‘he’ was nowhere to be seen (a pattern that would become fixed for almost the following three decades), to retrieve a few more of my personal things. Including my manuscript.

It wasn’t unusual that things would go missing and not be in the last place I left them. ‘He’ had a habit of trying to drive me insane by moving things and then replacing them weeks later, so initially I was extremely irritated that the manuscript was nowhere to be seen and extremely concerned that perhaps during it’s temporary relocation it had been read.

Every single word in it was truthful but as a child who had been brought up to ignore reality or to steadfastly deny it, I was still afraid of speaking my truth.

What I should have been more afraid of was that it had gotten into the wrong hands.

I asked my Mother if she had seen some of my ‘writing.’ Rather than the denial I was expecting, she said that she had. She also added that she had taken it and given it to a solicitor to use as evidence against me if I ever took the ‘stepmonster’ to court.

I was dumbfounded.

My breath was more than taken away. I felt like someone had kicked me in the gut and had completely winded me to the point of blacking out. There are no words to describe a betrayal of this magnitude; that your own Mother deems you to be Public Enemy No. 1. My Mother had not only chosen to take a side; the side of her paedophile husband but she was also gathering evidence against me. Her child. Her only child. The victim.

Stephen Fry only this week apparently said that survivors of childhood sexual abuse’s ‘self pity gets none of his sympathy,’ clearly not understanding that anything can trigger PTSD. We sufferers do not get to choose what will trigger flashbacks and trauma. If only we did because we could then avoid those things or change them.

Writing for me became a trigger, or at least writing my story and to a great extent, the telling of it. If childhood sexual abuse ever came up in conversation, or indeed, my own experience with the few people who knew about it, I would gloss over the details and feelings as though they had happened to someone else. I still do to a great extent. It’s easier to remove oneself and to experience it in the third person.

When you look around you at all the people you know think about what dreams they may have given up, not because they were not good enough but because the cost far exceeded their emotional budget.

Writing wrongs is far harder than you might think.

*For all the posts in this series, please click here:

https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/

 

 

 

 

Running The Gauntlet of the Blue Peter Garden

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When you have had an unconventional childhood it stands to reason that your thinking in general will also be unconventional. When you have lived in desperate fear during practically every waking moment of your early life, things that are fear-inducing to others do not evoke fear within you. The positive of what has been extremely negative begins to free you up from the constraints that hold others back.

I blame the New Romantics for everything that I am about to confess. I was an impressionable 11 year old when seated crosslegged on the floor in front of the television. It was a Sunday and in between all of those never-ending pseudo religious shows came on a show that made me sit up and take notice.

It was called ’20th Century Box’ and this particular episode that captured my attention featured a local boyband made good. They were called Spandau Ballet and there in the middle of this group of gorgeous young men was one that took my breath away.

Tony Hadley was my first crush.

Not only did I love the way he looked but I also really loved the way the band sounded and made it my mission to be their number one fan. I started buying all of their records and cut clippings from all of the many magazines that featured them. The radio was tuned to the stations that were playing their music and before long I would drift off to sleep listening to Gary Crowley who it appeared was friends with the band and regularly revealed useful information about them.

One night just as I was in between wakefulness and slumber, I thought I must be dreaming when I heard Gary Crowley announce that Capital Radio was going to be organising a Junior Best Disco In Town at the Camden Palace and none other than the Spandau boys would be performing there!

I was beside myself barely able to sleep for weeks until I could get tickets to this mind-blowing event but before then I had to somehow convince my Mother to let me go. If I had just told her that I would be visiting my best friend for the afternoon it would have been a doddle but because I told the truth and because the Camden Palace was a nightclub, it became quite complicated, even though the event was taking place during the day.

With a little creative reasoning and the assurance that my best friend’s seventeen year old brother and his friend would take care of us my Mother eventually gave her consent. It was to be the first moment of the rest of my life.

The long awaited day came and my friend and I were beside ourselves. Our chaperones arrived on motorcycles and took us to the Palace. Not sure that Mum knew about that! What seemed like thousands of teenage girls were milling around the entrance of the Palace and queuing to get in. Back then, as it was our first ever experience of something like this, we took our place patiently in line as the excitement built and politely waited to gain entrance.

The inside of the nightclub was not what I had expected. I thought it would be very Saturday Night Fever disco-esque but instead of sparkly lights everywhere it was cavernous and dark and filled with screaming girls.

We made our way to as close to the stage as we could but being good girls who had waited our turn we were many rows back behind all of the older girls who were now all leaning against the stage with their arms crossed waiting for something to happen. And happen it did!

The compere announced that the action was about to start and that very soon Spandau Ballet would be coming out on stage. I didn’t know what to do but was filled with adrenalin and an urgency that I couldn’t let this opportunity pass without somehow making contact with Tony Hadley. To what end I have no idea – I hadn’t thought that far – and it certainly wasn’t sexual (bearing in mind my age and life experience). It was just an overwhelming feeling that somehow I had to stand out from the crowd…and what a huge crowd it was.

Unbelievably the crowd got even bigger as the band started to make their way out on to the stage. Everyone surged forward and not only was I now unable to see anything at all, I  felt even further away from the action. At either side of the stage were short staircases up to another level of the club. Levels that seemed to get a clearer view of the stage albeit from the edges. I grabbed my friend and dragged her up those stairs. It was a good move – we could not only see the stage better but now we could see everything about us, including the girls at the front of the stage who were ‘fainting,’ being lifted up and carried backstage.

Oh my goodness – if ever there was a moment when I knew what needed to be done it was this one. My friend and I made our way through the crowd putting our previous politeness to one side and after much effort managed to get to the front of the stage in the vacated spaces left by those expiring girls; our new role models.

As soon as I was able to, I caught the eye of a giant baldheaded bouncer and proceeded to ‘faint’ directly in front of him. As with all the girls before, his strong arms reached out and lifted me out of the crowd. He picked me up gently and carried me backstage, placing me at the feet of Duran Duran and a person whose gender to me at that time was indistinguishable: Boy George.

I was backstage and where I felt I belonged, surrounded by every well known act of the early 80s (Haircut 100, Steve Strange, The Belle Stars, Junior, Modern Romance and so on – it was a dream come true for this particular 11 year old) and I was filled with an excitement that rippled through my being.

Within moments I found myself chatting with Spandau discovering that Steve Norman’s sister (I think) went to my school and generally chit-chatting the afternoon away. The boys thought I was cute. They had no idea how young I was and I wasn’t about to tell them. I was just so happy to have achieved what I set out to – I wanted to stand out from the crowd and not only had I made that happen but I was now – within only a few months of having discovered this band – standing and passing the time of day with them.

What enormous fun!

This event was the starting point for what was to come and it really did set in stone the belief that not only could I manifest any desires I had but I that I could do it fairly simply.

Over the following months and years I began to attend more ‘Junior’ events and realised that there were groups of young people who felt like I did. Word would travel through the groups about which celebrities would be where during the coming week and arrangements would be made to meet up so that we could see them. It was a way of getting out of the house and doing something different, so for a while I joined them.

However, being part of the crowd did not suit me. I didn’t ever feel like I fitted in and this situation was no different. I didn’t want an autograph. I didn’t want to be a fan. I wanted to be part of the excitement. You know the feeling you get if you have ever been in a school play – the excitement that builds up over days where you are so energised that you can almost see sparks coming off your skin – it was like that. I wanted to be in a constant state of ‘pre-performance nerves.’ It made me feel an all-consuming excitement and was an antidote to the complete and utter sense of despondency, loneliness and fear that I had as soon as I walked in through my front door.

There was also something about the people I chose to meet. I soon got over the excitement of Spandau Ballet and Tony Hadley. I had done what I had set out to do – I had met him and stood out from the crowd. The organisers at Capital Radio had put me on the guest list (no more fainting for me to get back-stage) and so I sat with the band and chatted away whilst Tony suggested that I might like his younger brother and I suggested that their new musical direction might be more commercial but had totally lost that Spandau ‘essence.’

Depeche Mode were also there and having met them a few weeks earlier at Kensington Market, I was already on speaking terms with Andy Fletcher, so we swapped numbers. It was a little bit odd a week or so later explaining to my Mother who it was on the ‘phone when he called from his mother’s home in Basildon.

Soon none of these bands held any further intrigue for me and so my attention diverted to the more unusual performers of my time. I fell in love with Boy George and Culture Club. Not to any end other than a distraction from my daily dismal life.

‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’ had just reached number one and the presenter of TOTPs announced that the band would be live on the following week’s show. Great! I took that as a personal invitation to go along to the studios and meet them all. Somehow I already knew that TOTP’s was filmed on a Wednesday and then broadcast on a Thursday. Wednesday was double art after lunch and so I felt that I would not be ruining my formal education by expanding my extra curricular activities, deciding to bunk off school and go down to the BBC.

A friend and I embarked on this adventure together. I won’t name names in case she would like to keep this part of her life to herself! We made our way by underground to White City and then walked the short distance to the studios.

There was a main gate manned by ‘concierges’ who were in a security ‘hut’ located centrally between two barriers; one for those going in and one for those coming out.

Confidence is always a winner so rather than faff around waiting for the band to arrive or leave and be one of many, my approach was to just brave it out by approaching security with these immortal words, “My cousin Debbie works in make up and is expecting us.”

“Do you know where you are going?” came the reply.

“Yes,” I said as we sauntered through the barrier to the main doors without daring to look back.

Neither of us had ever been inside the BBC, nor did we have a cousin named Debbie between us, let alone who worked in make up, so we didn’t exactly know where we were going but we had fun finding out. Too much fun it seemed because after about 30 minutes of us wandering aimlessly around the corridors on the lower level, a security guard on the inside of the building spotted us and gave chase.

We clearly had age and chutzpah on our side because he didn’t catch us – even when he was joined by more security guards who were all on the look out for the two young girls in their school uniforms roaming the hallowed hallways.

It was quite simple. Instead of running away from them we had instead taken up residence in a dressing room on the TOTPs corridor and were now neighbours with Boy George et al.

It wasn’t long before we heard BG’s dulcet tones in the vicinity and dared to peek our noses out of the door. He laughed. Well, you would if you discovered two adorable schoolgirls had taken up residence in the room next to yours.

We shyly chatted and became mesmerised by George. He kindly invited us along to the Lyceum where the band were performing the following day. We had no idea whether it was a  formal invitation or not but decided to go along anyway.

What it meant was that George came out of the backstage door to say hello to us. We were happy and then went on our way.

Future visits to the Lyceum to see the band would not be as simple.

A year or so later, a different friend and I heard that Culture Club, along with every other great band of the time, would be attending the British Rock and Pop Awards. Nowadays they are known more simply as the BRIT Awards.

Having learned a thing or two about getting into venues without being on the guest list or having been provided with tickets had now given us professional ‘ligger’ status. At the prime ages of 12 and 14 we had this down.

My friend’s mother (my chosen mother) vey kindly dropped us off outside the Lyceum the morning before the actual event. Dressed in what was appropriate for the times: track suit bottoms (with the double white stripes up the legs) and day-glo tops and accessories it wasn’t as if you could avoid seeing us and that was our plan. We sauntered in with a variation on the ‘Debbie in make up’ line by saying that we were just looking for Mike. There is always a Mike.

We spent some hours wandering around inside the Lyceum and chatting to people, mainly security and roadies and at one point my friend recognised Noddy Holder whose child she had once baby sat. Or been sat on by – who knows? My memory is not what it was.

We walked down to the main ballroom from our ‘spot’ in the Dress Circle and were seen again by everyone in the venue talking with one of the stars and that added to our credibility so that…..on show day we were welcomed at the door, still without any ID or passes and shown in.

Our plan was to hideout all day and then appear once the party started and mingle with all the bands. Or whatever plan a 12 and a 14 year old might have in these unique circumstances.

As you know, making a plan makes God laugh and it was thus with us. God belly laughed (almost out loud) when he placed the official show dance troupe right next to our hide-out as we were gathered up along with all of the dancers (also dressed in similar attire) and escorted to the stage. It’s hard to even type this remembering back to that moment as we wondered whether we should just go with the flow or whether we should admit defeat and let them throw us out of the venue as we confessed to gatecrashing.

As we were deciding what the best course of action would be the lights went up, the music started and we danced along with the rest of our stage partners watching the cameras pass in front of us. There’s no business like show-business and it really was none of our business but the show must go on! We were trapped on stage and dancing like there was no tomorrow.

Thankfully the music eventually stopped, the clapping started and the host took his place on the podium. We hovered, along with the rest of the troupe at the side of the stage wondering what would happen next and whether it was going to be okay.

And it was okay – even when Boy George came up to the stage to collect an award and spotted us both only a few feet away from him. Watching the show back later on the VHS that my Mother had kindly recorded, you could see the look of complete shock on George’s face as he recognised us followed by a massive laugh as he walked on by.

Variations on a theme of this lifestyle went on for quite a while. Some adventures were more successful than others. For a year and a half I attended every recording of TOTPs. I was there for the last ever performance of The Jam, chatted with U2, Echo and The Bunnymen and Pete Murphy (Bauhaus) amongst many. I laughed as Boy George and the singer from Twisted Sister had photo’s taken together and ran away from Bananarama for fear of being dobbed in by them to security. There were so many well known faces who appeared on the show during those 18 months and I met each and every one of them. Some of those bands, who enjoyed more than one big hit during that time, even looked out for us on subsequent visits to TOTPs.

I must now mention that gaining entrance to the studios was far harder than that first visit might have lead you to believe. We now had to resort to climbing over the wall into the Blue Peter Garden and then timing our run to the stairs, with when security were distracted and looking in the other direction. It was like running the gauntlet and it didn’t always work. Sometimes (oftentimes) we were escorted off the premises…but then we just did it all over again.

Saturdays at the BBC were slightly different. We had made friends with an older gentleman (whose name escapes me), who was one of the scenery painters. He took pity on us and rather than watch us be turfed out, escorted us around the building, taking us on tours of all the departments and then walking us into various of the studios whilst rehearsals for shows such as ‘Sorry,’ with the late great Ronnie Corbett and ‘Hi De Hi’ with Su Pollard were taking place. Rather than raise the alarm Ronnie C and Su P treated us like Royalty and were happy to see us each week thereafter.

For a young girl who was living with a paedophile ‘stepmonster’ it was astonishing that I went anywhere near Jimmy Savile during this time. He must have been presenting TOTP’s during our 18 month after school club so we also got to know him a little. He also lived around the corner from where I grew up and so was quite familiar to me. On many an occasion we were invited into his dressing room to chat and yet not once did he do anything inappropriate. Thank God. Having become aware of the reality of this man more recently, it seems like a miracle that we were left unharmed.

Another celebrity neighbour who I bumped into in the corridors of the BBC was the wonderful Kenneth Williams. Oh, what a wonderful man! He was so kind and patient with me and chatted like the neighbours we were even though we had never met before.

There are so many incredible stories to relay of this time but they would render this post never-ending and so just imagine the fun you would have had in the same circumstances from 1981-1983, or thereabouts.

It was acceptable in the 80s.

*For all the posts in this series, please click here:

https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/

 

 

 

It Feels Like This

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Recently, a friend asked what it felt like to be fostered. Obviously, I only know how I felt to be fostered so the following is not necessarily an indication of how any body else might feel or has felt.

For me, the knowledge that I wasn’t really one of the family was always made exceptionally clear; either because I was continuously told that was the case and by the treatment I received. The biological children, my ‘siblings’ had an entirely different bond with their mother than I had and that manifested in some interesting ways.

The actual sensation for me, if you can try to imagine it, is this: picture all of your family, including the extended family (cousins, aunties, uncles, in-laws, pets etc) all standing on a desert island with you somewhere on the edge. Now imagine that whilst they are all standing on firm ground and interacting with one another, you begin day by day to realise that the ground beneath your feet is becoming less stable and less supportive. In fact, before you realise it, you feel like you are being devoured by a giant sinkhole that has opened up directly beneath your tiny feet and that no ties are strong enough to stop you from being swallowed whole.

As you begin to disappear from sight no one notices because you were already standing apart from them.

Every family has it’s issues. My foster family was no different. I know when I hear about these incredible foster mothers who have fostered 85 million children over the years that it always seems as though those families never encounter problems other than the difficulties the child brings with them but that isn’t necessarily so.

Our unit was unconventional to start with in many ways. My foster mother was a widow, so we had no father figure for most of my childhood there, until she remarried when I was seven. My foster mother was also an older mother; eleven years older than my own biological Mother and from a totally different culture and mindset.

My foster mother was English through and through and I, although quite hard to believe nowadays, was a little bit of an exotic addition with my Mediterranean complexion.

Most different, although we didn’t realise it when we were very young, was that my foster mother was battling cancer throughout my growing up. It was just part of what was.

I remember seeing my foster mother in the bath when I was very young and being fascinated by the scars across her chest where she had had at that time,one breast removed. It was back in the old days, when I am told, the doctors removed as much tissue as possible, so the area was quite terrifying to look at.

My foster mother was extremely brave and (it seemed to me) nonchalant about it all, so we learned to be the same. Over the years the cancer returned and more scars appeared as more hospital visits and stays occurred and we all took it in our stride. It just was.

After I lost all of my foster family overnight in 1977, when I was taken from there to live full-time with my Mother and then never heard a word from them, I grieved their loss. It’s hard to explain just how devastated I was – how often does a small child lose everyone and everything they have ever known in one go and then be forbidden to talk about it? Not often. In fact, when it does happens it becomes front page news, like the poor woman whose family drowned in their car a week or two ago.

My enormous loss, however, was not acknowledged. I would sit and cry for days alone in my room. I would beg to be able to see them and ask why they had abandoned me. The response I got from my Mother was that if I kept ‘going on’ about it, she would put me in a home.

Having already been fostered for ten years from six weeks of age and sexually abused by the ‘stepmonster’ from the age of five, this threat seemed very real and one to be avoided at all costs. Life was already bad enough enough but I had a feeling that whatever I was suffering now would be multiplied many times over if I was ever put in a children’s home.

Instead, I begged to be sent to boarding school. My head was filled with ‘Mallory Towers, tuck boxes, japes and Lacrosse,’ from all of the books my nose was constantly stuck in. It seemed like a fair compromise to me. Sadly, it didn’t seem like one to my Mother.

Even when I gave back as good as I got, viciously telling her how much I hated her and pointing out all of her many failures until she was also in tears, nothing changed and still no contact with my foster Mother.

I knew that as I got older, I would be able to arrange contact myself (if they were all still alive) and so waited until I was seventeen to do exactly that.

I remember taking the two buses that had been so much part of my weekend routine as a young girl and then walking up the road to what had once been my home. Suddenly everything seemed smaller, including my foster mother.

My heart pounded as I knocked on the door and waited for someone to open it, not least because I could see and hear a giant dog barking through the frosted panes in the door.

The first visit went well. We all caught up with our ‘news’ and remembered old times. My baby foster sister was now a sturdy ten years old (the age I was when I was wrenched away from this family) and the other child who had also been fostered with me (my foster brother) was now twenty-one and still living there. We had been as thick as thieves as children (up until seven years earlier) and so the transition of get to know each other again as adults (or thereabouts) was weird.

Another visit was arranged and so for the next few weekends I repeated that same journey back and forth and became part of the family again. Or so I thought.

On one of these visits, my foster brother and I travelled up to Leicester Square to see a film and then because we were enjoying chatting and catching up so much, decided to walk all the way back from there to Edmonton in North London. It took hours but we didn’t notice as we laughed most of the way, just like old times.

The next morning, I was told off by my foster mother’s husband. He berated me for having a good time with my foster brother and told me that the only reason I was welcomed there was to ‘babysit’ my little foster sister and that I was no longer allowed to spend time with my foster brother. Hmm. Of course, I didn’t take too well to that.

The visits lessened and my feelings naturally settled in a state of hurt and disappointment once again. Where I had had an insatiable hunger for my ‘family,’ the fact that there was no family and never really had been became strikingly apparent.

Eventually, I hardly visited or had contact at all. It all weighed massively on me and I felt like I was free-falling constantly. I had no real attachments with anyone at all and if you have never known any kind of emotional security it only gets worse as you experience more of it.

By this time I was in my first relationship and had recently discovered that my boyfriend was seeing someone else behind my back. The bottom fell out of my world and I felt like that tiny child all over again. No one, not even someone who themselves had chosen to be with me, not for money, but through their own freewill wanted to be with me.

I felt totally unwanted and unlovable.

My self confidence, which hardly existed as it was, shattered into miniscule fragments and instead of doing what any rational fully rounded human would do- dump him, I panicked and did everything I could think of to make him choose me over her. He did but there was no longer any trust and instead of feeling joyous in the relationship, all it did was turn me into a nervous and clingy emotional wreck.

During this time, I was ‘gifted’ with my first ever counselling sessions. I had never considered counselling and given the opportunity all over again would politely decline them. It’s not that counselling overall is bad but when it’s the wrong counsellor and the wrong counselling it can do tremendous harm. I have suffered more at the hands of appalling psychotherapists than I have from the actual traumatic events themselves.

As with everything else in my life, I felt a gigantic urge to be a ‘good girl’ for my counsellor, somehow believing that the more effort I put in to fixing my life, as prescribed by her, the sooner everything would be ticketyboo. I think it’s safe to say at this point that I learned very clearly that things get far worse before they get any better. If they ever do get any better.

For the first time in my life, I felt I had to confront my foster mother with what I percieved to be appalling treatment by her. I needed to know why. Why had I been abandoned at the age of ten without any explanation then or since? I had never spoken out of turn to my foster mother so this was a big deal. I didn’t have any intention of being rude but I was determined to ask all the questions that had been building up in me for years and also wanted her to understand how it had felt for me, a young child, to have been treated in such a despicable manner.

The conversation did not go well. She didn’t apologise. She did not want to acknowledge any responsibility for what had happened. She said that she always considered me her child and still included me when talking to other people. When I said that I had noticed that she only mentioned things about me that were ‘impressive’ to other people (I had noticed that from childhood that I would be criticised to my face but my achievements would be used to boost her ‘mothering’ to others), she put the ‘phone down on me.

That was it. Done. Or at least so I thought.

Six months later I received a call from my little foster sister to tell me that her mother was in hospital having been given only days to live. I was given all of the details of the hospital and asked if I would visit. I (wrongly and have since apologised) asked her why I was getting a call now that her mother was dying but for all of those years when I was desperate for some kind of contact from them no one bothered to pick up the ‘phone?

I asked my counsellor the same thing when I called frantically with the news, not knowing what to do for the best. The ‘phone had been put down on me all those months ago when I was legitimately asking for answers, hoping for an explanation, for an apology and got nothing and now, here I was being asked to attend my foster mother’s deathbed.

My grief was already spent. I had cried every day for years for the loss of them all. You can’t grieve the loss of the same person twice, or at least not in the same heartfelt way. There would be no wracking sobs, snot streaming down my face, my eyes so sore and dry that they looked seriously infected. The hollow in my heart had already scarred over.

Where it could have been healed somewhat with an apology, an explanation – something to help me feel less worthless – to understand why; nothing.

My counsellor said, “If you go and you don’t want to, so be it. If you don’t go and she dies, you may regret not going for the rest of your life.”

I went.

As I walked along the corridor to my foster mother’s deathbed, her eldest daughter and her sister (my aunt) were walking towards me.

The daughter, my sister, stopped in her tracks when I said, “hello.”

“Oh. I’d forgotten about you.”

That is what it felt like to be a foster child for me.

*For all the posts in this series, please click here:

https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/