Resilience can never be taken for granted
Laura Beveridge on how too often care can feel like containment rather than building resilience
I have just moved house. I never handle moving house very well. I’m the most settled I’ve ever been with family and friends around me, yet when I move house, I become very anxious and feel depressed and overwhelmed by it.
I decided to take three weeks off work this time, to allow myself the time and space to manage this move.
Now that I have a four-year-old daughter, I wanted to approach my emotions with curiosity rather than fear and take the time to reflect each day to try and find out why I kept regressing back to old behaviours.
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In the first few days I kept asking my husband, Steven, things like “do you think the couch should go here?” or “is it OK if we put this lamp here, what do you think?” Steven told me that I really didn’t need his permission which told me everything I needed to know - I am home and I am safe.
During my break, I was invited to attend the ‘Resilience’ documentary as it was being screened at the Scottish Government building at Victoria Quay in Edinburgh. Normally, I would hide away during times where I felt anxious but I decided to go because I knew it could really help me learn and understand why I was feeling so low.
It explains the impact of adverse childhood experiences, how common they are and talks about how the mind may move on but how the body still remembers these experiences and will remember the responses. It also carries a powerful message of hope.
I started to think back to all the moves I’ve had and my feelings made a lot of sense. I felt scared because my body remembers the fear of moving place to place.
Whilst growing up in care I got moved around many times; one of the worst moves that I ever had was my move to secure care.
This was me at my lowest point where I was taking weekly overdoses and chronically self-harming. I was crying out for help because I was constantly scared because of childhood abuse and my body had never fully stopped being in fight or flight mode.
The very nature of secure care, to me, doesn’t make sense. The local authority spent a total of £72,000 for my three-month stay in the secure unit, the secure unit where I was subjected to a strip search, room raids, a brutal attack and was locked in my room where I relived my childhood trauma in my mind. I was 15 years old living in what felt like a torture chamber.
I’d play loud music just to drown out the screams of the other young people being locked up in their rooms or restrained. I didn’t speak about how I really felt, I just told everyone what they wanted to hear so I could get out of there and never look back.
I was being contained, not helped.
It was there that I met Charlie, who went into secure care at 12 years old. Charlie was always locked in her room and we were all scared of her, even some staff were scared of her. The last I heard, she ended up in prison.
The power of resilience is an incredible thing yet it can never, ever be taken for granted, especially with those who are in care. It’s about human connection, not containment.
If Charlie had had that connection, maybe she would could have gone to university, travelled the world, maybe she would have been the one writing this column. Charlie is someone that I will never forget and she is someone I’d like the Care Review to remember when they look at secure ‘care’.
Resilience is like a badge of courage but it is also the the thin line between life, survival or death.
As I watched the ‘Resilience’ documentary, it became very clear that there is hope. We are all just one person away from feeling safe and starting to thrive. But it’s not only about the relationships, it’s about the environments, cultures and having the right support when we need it the most.
Resilience is something that needs to be built, nurtured and never taken for granted. Even as an adult, the trauma of secure care echoes its way into my adult life from time to time but I know that I’m safe now.
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