A Life Worth Living. Chapter Fourteen.
Learning To Trust
The first person I ever felt any respect for, was John Yardley, the new boss at the Hall. He was the first person to show me some genuine caring in a long time. He took time to talk to me. At first, I misunderstood him getting friendly as being a way to gain my trust before the abuse that usually follows. He was not like that. I felt that he genuinely cared for me. Little gestures like picking me up from the bus stop on cold dark nights and saving me the mile uphill walk home were much appreciated by me. He made me feel special but not in a perverse way. I respected him greatly and look on him as a father figure.
There were times, being the teenager full of angst, I did disrespect John and I felt guilty. He always forgave me and by forgiving me made me realise, we can make mistakes, mess up somewhere but that does not make us bad. We have all done things we not so proud of and one of mine was disrespecting someone who only showed me respect. No one is perfect. John taught me to trust and how trust feels, he also trusted me. I was grateful to him, for everything he did for me.
Barry was hitting me often and I felt ashamed. I used to think that I could handle the punches and slaps and that everything would be okay as long as we had each other. Every time he hit me I would think it was the last time, he would never hit me again but he always hit me again.
I knew Barry was dangerous but I thought I was in love so chose to ignore my instincts to stay away from him. I know now that I was just desperate for someone to love and care for me and Barry told me often that he loved me. I needed to hear that. A big part of me cut off from reality and I was in denial because I did not want to believe what was really happening to me. I felt I was no different than my mam; here I was getting beaten by my partner, just like she had beaten by hers, many years before.
Mr Yardley knew what was going on and tried separating us, moving Barry to another home just for boys. That did not work as Barry and I would constantly run away from home and meet up, skipping school and sleeping at some friends house whilst the police searched the streets for us. Mr Yardley was trying to help me but I gave that man such a hard time. I can still remember the look of concern he had on his face when he told me one day that Barry was not well and that I had to be careful. I did not understand then what he meant by 'not well', and he, would not elaborate or I did not listen. I should have listened to the man but I was a teenager who thought she was in love.
My First Journal
One day, John called me into his office, and I will never forget what he did and said next because that moment was to have a great influence on the rest of my life. ‘Take this writing pad and pen and try and write about how you feel. I won’t read it if you don’t want me to but you know you can come and speak to me any time and about anything’. I believed him. I took the pen and paper, hid in a corner where I would not be disturbed by the other kids and started writing. I felt some relief in writing about my internalised pain. It was cathartic to see my words on paper and the doing so released a lot of pent up emotions. I spent a lot of time crying as I wrote about some of my experiences. I wrote the words to describe how I felt and why. I wrote prayers and little poems, whatever came to mind I wrote and felt comforted for doing so. Most times, I would have a frenzied writing session, scribbling down my feelings and what I needed from life. Then I would tear the sheets I had written on to tiny shreds before dunking the shreds into hot soapy water until the ink was washed out of it. Then I would screw the bits of soggy paper into a tight ball, squeezing all the moisture from it before chucking it down the toilet and flushing. I would flush a couple of times before I would be satisfied that the words on the paper, that had come forth from deep within me, could never be read by another. I felt that the person who wrote those words was me and I had to protect me from the outside world at all cost. I could not bear the thought that others would see the real me through my written word.
One time I did forget to destroy my papers after an emotional writing session. I didn't even know what I had written about until Barry, my boyfriend, not so kindly, reminded me. Barry found my writing pad and was waving it about under my nose, goading me, encouraging me to chase after him. I begged and pleaded with him to give it back, but he thought it was all a bit of a joke. I died a thousand deaths as he read out those words for the whole world to hear. ‘Dear God’, he read. I don’t remember what else he said because I died inside. Afterwards, when we were on our own, having a snogging session at the bottom of the drive, he made fun of me. ‘What the fuck are you writing letters to God for?’ He asked. He was grinning at me, still not understanding the pain he had caused me by reading out what I had written. Trying to cover my extreme embarrassment, I lied, ‘It said, Dear Gordon’, and you, as usual, read it wrong, Div, I said, mockingly. I found out later not to call him Div, which was a term of endearment meaning a bit stupid, when he put on a boxing glove and whilst still smiling, punched me in the face a couple of times, bouncing my head off the wall behind me. I dropped to the floor, bleeding and stunned. I did not see it coming. Within seconds, I heard Barry, ‘Are you okay? I did not mean to hit you. I did not realise you were so close’. I did not believe him but pretended I did.
Barry did not want me writing a journal and I did not write again for a long long time.
I constantly ran away from home and from Barry and put myself in dangerous situations. I felt like I had to keep running even though I had nowhere to run. John was always there when I was in trouble and I felt like he really cared for me but I caused him pain because I could not talk to him and really open up so I ran. One night, after the police had brought me back after running away, John was waiting and obviously had been worried. Once I had had my bollocking off the police for wasting time, John fussed around me. 'Are you okay? Are you hurt? Hungry? Yes I was okay and yes I was hungry. I was also disappointed with myself that I had let this man down again by running away from the kindness he offered. I could not verbalise how I felt and he seemed to understand. I could not speak to say I was sorry or that I appreciated him and that he was an important part of my life. I could not tell him any of this because I did not know how to express myself. He made me fried eggs and beans and I choked on them, unable to swallow them because my throat had closed tight as my emotions were threatened to engulf me like I had always feared they would. I thought that if I allowed my emotions to show through, it would be too much for me to bear, so I said nothing. I just know that somehow he knew and for that I was grateful.
Frightened Of My Boyfriend
John and the Social services tried to split me and Barry up by putting us in different homes, in an attempt to save me from further harm. I did not understand back then so I resented their actions and retaliated as an angry teenager would. I was sent to Georgeville, in Barnsley, another children's home where I had already spent unhappy times in the past, and Barry went to a home for boys. The move just made us more determined to be together. We often missed school so that we could meet up for the day. He was like a drug to me. He was not doing me any good mentally or physically but I needed him. He started slapping me around more and accusing me of messing about with the other lads in the children's home that I was in. He got so nasty that I was afraid of him and sometimes did not want to spend my time with him. I was too afraid to tell him that. We spent our time together miserable and unhappy and I was getting slapped around. We still carried on with the relationship and clung together out of desperation.
That's Not Love
Missed Teenage Years
I missed out on school and teenage years because I allowed another to dictate to me what I could and could not do. Barry took the place of my bully dad and he told me what I could wear, who I could talk to and who I could not talk to, I thought that was love. I got to a point where I though I was going to go mad with what I now know as constant stress, that I was under. I felt that I was becoming my mother and at the age of 14, I was convinced that my mother resided in me. I felt like her. I was becoming as angry as she was and I was getting drunk and lashing out at people. I felt that, like my mam, I was going mad and I was scared. I did not understand then, the emotional turmoil that I was in. I needed someone to talk to that was not manipulative like Barry was. I needed someone I could trust, someone who would allow me to be myself and say what I felt. That someone turned out to be Elaine, the new girl in the home.
First Real Friend
When I first met Elaine, I felt threatened, even though she was only about four foot eleven in her high heels. She looked like she could look after herself. By the looks of her small stubby and scarred fingers, she had to, often. I discovered that she had had a hard life with her alcoholic mum. Her mum had run off with some man and left Elaine to fend for herself. I soon found out that like me, she was a loving person who had suffered too much already in her short life. She too was in pain but had no way of expressing what she felt. She was the most loving person I had ever met and she had a heart of gold, always there to help another in need, despite her own hardship and pain. She made me laugh and we became the best of friends. I knew that we would be come life long friends. I watched Elaine suffer over the years as she turned to the only way she knew how to blot out her pain, alcohol.
I rarely went to school and regretted that badly as I got older. None of us when to school because we thought school was a waste of time and energy. We were all too screwed up inside to take on board any teaching offered to us. I regret now not going to school. I did well academically but left school without qualifications because I felt like I could not handle the stress of exams. I did want to be a veterinarian but the careers officer just laughed at me when I mentioned it.
I was allowed to leave the home because I was working and so by the time I was sixteen, I was on my own with an abusive boyfriend and working in a factory. I did my job as a means to pay my rent and I hated every minute that I worked there. Even then when I was struggling in the world all on my own, I was offered no support, no after care, like they would offer today if a child was leaving care. I was given a new bed and bedding and sent on my way from the home. I had to find new ways of surviving.
At the age of sixteen, I moved out of the children’s home, into lodgings. I lodged with an old man and woman whose names I do not remember, and who at first, seemed lovely. They provided me with a bedroom and an evening meal and I paid them rent. For the first couple of weeks my tea was on the table when I came in from work and my time was my own. I had more freedom to do what I wanted and for the most part, that freedom felt okay. Then the nightmare began all over again.
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