I’ve always struggled to focus in an academic environment and I never really understood why. Until about 3 years ago when I made a discovery that would change my outlook on my life forever…
It was post my Grandmother’s death and I was still entertaining my mother for the sake of seeing my younger brother. I hated the sight of her during this time. It was so hard to forget everything that had happened. Every time I saw her I would have visions of smashing her face against a brick wall. She was making me become as bitter as her. It was scary how much anger this woman made me feel.
Whenever anything would happen that could trigger an argument, I wrote it down. Waiting for the end of my sentence; this was how I referred to my relationship with my mother. Each day got harder and harder to pretend, but documenting everything to build my case against cutting ties from her helped a great amount.
My mother was housesitting for a friend of mine; I found this particularly weird. She had always kept my friends close to her, not my closest friends; as she knew she couldn’t put on a front with them, yet the friends that wouldn’t have known the full extent of my mother’s madness, she showed a great interest in them. Anyway, as she was not going to be home; which was a rare occasion, I decided I would stay over at my mother’s house so I could hang out with my sister.
It was nice to be able to talk about my mother without worrying if listening ears were close by. It was also nice to just spend time with my sister and not have to hide we had a relationship with each other. I had recently asked my mother for my birth certificate, yet she swore blind she did not have it and that she had already given it to me. I know for a fact I gave it to her when I moved house to keep it safe. As she was out of the house my sister and I went in search for it. We looked where all the other birth certificates and passports were kept. It wasn’t there; I remember thinking to myself “This psycho probably burnt it to pretend I don’t exist”.
During my search I came across my old school reports. “Let’s read these, this will be fun” I laughed to my sister. They were from years 1-5 of primary school. I started off reading them full of enthusiasm, but what I read next stopped me in my tracks. I started flipping through the papers in disbelief. My sister was confused and asked what was wrong. “It is a great shame your daughter is being deprived of the education to which she is entitled. Please think carefully about what you are doing to your daughter. She cannot repeat this time. Her future is in your hands” I read to my sister. “This b**ch never sent me to school” I felt all of the emotions I had been holding in towards my mother over the last few months exploding inside me. I felt sick. My average attendance for the school year was 33%. I stayed up all night reading all the reports over and over. Each year repeated my poor attendance. I just couldn’t comprehend why she would do this.
One of the reports mentioned a social worker. That’s when I remembered. There was one day I was on my way to school and my mother said to me “if the school ask you why you have a lot of time off school, you have to tell them it is because you are ill with your stomach aches. Otherwise they will take you away and you will never see your family again. You will have to live with a strange family and they will do horrible things to you.” I didn’t quite understand why she was telling me this and at this point in my life I honestly believed I was always ill. My mother had dragged me to the hospital on more than one occasion; I was constantly prodded and poked by doctors. They ran test after test, scan after scan. I even remember them saying to my mother “we really do not know what is wrong with her”. Now that I have discovered these reports I realised my mother had been fabricating the truth with the doctors for some reason.
When I got to school I was taken out of class and into a room with two ladies. They started asking me questions about my mother and they questioned how I feel when I am ill. I closed up instantly, due to what my mother had said to me in the morning I did not want to speak with these ladies. I cried and told them I wanted my mother. They had to call her and she came to collect me. She was irate when she picked me up, accusing the school of interrogating and frightening her “poor child”. I remember staying off for the rest of the week after that, I heard my mother on the phone to the school saying “she is too distressed and scared to come to school after yesterday”. Finding these school reports, I was hearing a different story.
The morning after my discovery, I woke up thinking it was all a dream; until I saw those green pieces of paper next to me. We were due to go to the house my mother was staying in as my sister was going to watch the dogs while my mother went out. How was I going to face this woman? I’ve lasted this long, it will be fine; I could feel the end of my sentence coming. I decided to have a shower at my friend’s house as my mother didn’t have a shower. When we arrived, I sat and had a conversation with my mother for a while; through gritted teeth of course. Before she left I asked her for a towel so I could have a shower. She came out with a kids Disney towel, which she held up while saying “sorry this is the only towel I could find, she doesn’t have any proper towels”. I told her it was fine and she hung it up in the bathroom for me.
I jumped in the shower and grabbed the towel as I got out and threw it around myself. The stench I was greeted by literally made me heave and I dropped the towel in disgust. It smelt like a wet dog that had dried and then had become wet again. I pinched a corner of the towel and picked it up to examine it, my mother had given me the dog’s towel. Even from a distance you could smell how bad it was. I jumped back in the shower and then shouted to my sister to bring me my younger brother’s towel.
It could have been an easy mistake, so I excused it and went into the bedroom to get dressed. As soon as I walked in I saw a huge pile of big, fluffy, clean towels and my mother’s pyjamas were folded up and sat on top of them all. She knew exactly what she had done! When she got back I imagined myself smashing her head against a brick wall again. I needed to shake out of it, but I also wanted to get her back for what she had done. I saw her lip gloss on the table; it was one with the little brush you use to apply it. I picked it up and called my dog over. I gave his teeth the best clean they have ever had with that lip gloss brush and placed it back into the container. When she came back into the room I asked her to try it on so I could see what the colour looked like. She put it on whilst I sat there feeling extremely satisfied with myself. It was probably quite a spiteful thing to do and I shouldn’t have sunk to her level, but surely it was better than smashing her head against a wall?
I went home that night and instantly looked up the details to contact social services; as they had been mentioned in my reports, I knew they would have a record on me. I also knew my rights to request information anyone holds on you. The next morning I received an email back from them to say they were dealing with my request and I would hear back from them within 21 working days. They were the longest 3 weeks of my life.
One day I came home and saw an extremely large envelope on the doormat. I picked it up wondering how the postman managed to squeeze it through the letterbox. I straight away knew what was inside. I ripped it open and stared at it in astonishment at how thick the file was. The file could just about close it had near 1000 pages in it; if not more. I started to read through it all; nothing prepared me for this.
My mother was countlessly not turning up to meetings with social services. She would ignore them when they were knocking at the door; this I remember, people were always at the door and my mother would tell me to be quiet and we would hide so they couldn’t see us through the windows. I read on and discovered that I was on the child protection registered for neglect! My mother was summoned to court; she didn’t attend though, so a warrant was put out for her arrest. She was prosecuted and fined £250. Despite this my mother still didn’t see the importance of sending me to school or to cooperate with social services. She said I wasn’t at school because I was ill; the school arranged four medical examinations for me; my mother did not take me to any of them. This went on for about 5 years; eventually social services were starting procedures for me to go into care. Only then did my mother start sending me to school.
I couldn’t believe that I was on the child protection register for neglect and that me going into care had been threatened on my mother so many times; yet she still did not care.
In my last year of primary school I now had good attendance; for the first time in my life. I hadn’t realised how much this had all affected me as an adult. Yet now I grasp it had more impact than I thought, I have never been able to engage well in large groups; when I went to high school I really struggled to get involved in class discussions. I’ve spent my whole adult years thinking I was shy; when really the isolation I was put through growing up made me become an introvert. I didn’t know how to get involved; I had spent my whole life not wanting to speak out because I was worried I was going to say something wrong and that people would think I was stupid.
Despite this though, I also feel extremely proud of myself. Having read some of my record and seeing that I was on average 3 years behind my English and Maths age, I still managed to end up tutoring 16-18 year olds. These kids hadn’t coped in mainstream school; some of them had extreme behavioural issues, some had given up on themselves and some were about to go to prison. Yet my uneducated self, tutored them in Maths and English and got them through their exams. This is something I will forever hold as my greatest achievement. And ever since I have never let anything stop me from achieving my goals…