Everybody who knows me knows a few things about me.
As a kid I was in Care, some people may see that as a bad thing, I saw it as a necessity, if I never went into Care when I did, I would have ended up either dead or in Prison and the fact I am still alive to tell this story is proof that being in Care worked out for the better.
People may think that bad parenting put me in Care, but that is rubbish, circumstances put me there, circumstances that I caused myself, I was being bullied and mentally tortured and was ashamed to speak up and would not confront my tormentors because I would just get bullied 10x worse.
I was taking overdoses, skipping school and slowly losing my mind, till it reached the point that something had to be done, my idiot shrink kept threatening to put me in a secure unit, so I decided to hand myself over to the Care System, I was accommodated under Section 20 of the Childrens Act 1989, which means my parents still had full parental responsibility for me, but I would find out years later that despite being on a Section 20 if I had tried to leave Care at any time, then Social Services would have sought to get a get a Care Order under Section 31 of the Childrens Act 1989
I first went into Care in early 1996, I had left Chorister School, started at Easington and things went downhill the moment I graced the corridors of Easington Comp, teachers took an instant dislike to me as they labelled me a trouble-maker, other kids did not like me because my face did not fit, I effectively made myself an easy target, I would not fight back, I had no pain threshold, and I would have to endure physical violence and sometimes sexual violence from the day I went into Year 9. The Headmaster lied to my mothers face one day when she came up to school to complain about it categorically stating ‘Bullying does not happen in my school’ and my Head of Year went a step further by effectively condoning bullying and said ‘David is a clown, he disrupts classes, so he is bound to get a little slap here and there’, only thing was, it was not a little slap, it was having the shit kicked out of me and bruising me in places that was not visible, so while I have had the odd black eye, I would mainly be beating on/around my torso, the worst thing was people grabbing and twisting my nipples or being booted in the Bollocks. Teachers in that day and age were as much to blame for bullying as the bullies themselves. I won’t name people but anyone who knows me will know just who I am talking about, it was that bad I refused to shake one man’s hand when I left and to this day, he would get the time of day from me, the people who were supposed to have my best interests at heart were actively against me, and in part, played a role in my going into care.
From the moment I walked into that place in 1995, I was doomed to fail, a head of year who hated me, a headmaster and deputy head who were so blinded by there claims of being a bullying free school, the asylum was effectively being run by a bunch of clowns, that in part contributed to the way I am today, now I must also accept responsibility for my actions, I chose to skip school, I chose to mess up opportunities handed to me, and believe me, I had the opportunity to go whereever I wanted in life, in the end I chose to go down the route I went down.
Between March 1996 and July 1997, I was moving about all the time, it started by going to Darlington for a few days, wonder if thats where my love of all things Darlo stems from, I was certainly asking for trouble when it came to supporting Darlo, a lot of ups and downs, especially in the last 6 years.
Being moved about does not do anybody any good, within the next 16 months I would live with my Grandparents, my parents three times, Middlestone Moor Childrens home twice, Witton Gilbert in Foster Care and Crook Childrens Home, before settling in July 1997 in Framwellgate Moor Childrens Home where I stayed for 4 years.
By 1997, it was plain to see I was becoming a lost cause and if something was not done, I would either end up in jail or wearing a wooden overcoat, if you went back in time and told me back in 1997 I would outlive my sister, I would have laughed and told you to ‘Fuck Off’.
Social Services were starting to come down on us, putting measures in place to stop me from moving back home, it started around my 15th Birthday when I went into Crook Childrens Home, from there I found a fondness for Alcohol, getting drunk whenever I had a chance, which was never pretty.
Things got a bit better that Summer, I settled into Fram, and I learnt about brotherhood, and learnt something I never had before, true friendship, I made quick friends with the people I lived with.
I believe within the Care System, the people you live with, you may not have been friends with these people in other circumstances, but when you find yourself in that situation, you only have each other to look upon for help and support and I chose to do that quite quickly, I had to love with these guys, if we could not get on, it was going to be very lonely, and friendships formed then are still going strong today, even if I rarely see those guys, I always find myself bonded to those guys.
I got into Care in Durham in mid-1997, it would turn out to be a life changing decision, I am here today because of Care in Durham, the bond among us ex-Care in Durham guys is like glue, we stuck together, become best of friends, we laughed and cried together and if it was not for them, I would never have had the opportunities I have had since then, the bond I have with those guys is extra special, it reminds of part of Shakespeares St Crispins Day Speech.
WE FEW, WE HAPPY FEW, WE BAND OF BROTHERS, FOR HE TO-DAY THAT SHEDS BLOOD WITH ME SHALL BE MY BROTHER
Througb all my troubles, I learnt a lot, a lot of stuff I have forgot over the years, but the opportunities I have today, I can personally link it back to Care in Durham, I have learnt more since I left School than when I was at School, My Carers and Youth Workers drove it into me that I could do whatever I wanted if I wanted it bad enough, sometimes that fell on deaf ears and I let myself slide into depression and substance abuse, but I am doing something about it, I have a habit of becoming reclusive and wallowing in self pity and that is simply a waste.
It was drilled into me, if you have a problem, talk about it, somebody will listen, I do have trust issues with the authorities, especially the NHS, who have slammed so many doors in my face, but I have recently been getting help from my local CMHT, I still have concerns about slammed out yet again, but I will deal with it if/when it happens.
In the last 20 years I have learnt a lot and achieved a lot, I have been up and down the country attending conferences amd seminars, talking about Care in Durham, worked with Save the Children, worked on stuff round Every Child Matters.
At 18yrs and a few months, I joined the first Management Committee, which I stayed on, on and off, for a few years, I left in my early 20’s for a year or two and reconnected with the Organisation when I was about 24, round about that time I was voted back onto The Board of Trustees as an Officer, namely Vice-Chairman, being voted into that position meant more because it was my peers who put me up to the position and I was voted on unopposed and held the position right up to the point the organisation shut down, I was the only person left from when I joined the organisation 10 years earlier.
Ever since I left Care in Durham, I was looking for something, but could not find what I was looking for, looking for a community project, and out of the blue it came, in Shildon, my family had seen something on the news about an organisation called ManHealth, an organisation for Men with Depression and Mental Health Problems, the last word anyone would use to describe me would be shy, but I was filling my pants before I walked into the ManHealth Group, but I had nothing to worry about, as I was made welcome the moment I got through the door, the group and it’s ideals reminds me of Care in Durham with it’s emphasis on support and friendship.
Since I was 16, even I thought the world was against me, I have had good support, from family, from friends, I had support at Care in Durham and I can now say the same about ManHealth, talking about my problems and mental health, while hard, has becone easier, I always had the opinion it was not very manly to talk about my problems, that it was not manly to openly cry, but now realise our emotions make us who we are, I have always been emotional person, I have cried a lot recently when things have not been so good.
I am in a position where I have a very understanding wife, she understands I have mental health problems and that it is serious, but she has stood by and supported me every single step of the way, when it would have been easier to dump me, she has witnessed her own family with mental health problems, so she was in a position to understand what was going on was very real.
We have been together nearly 3 years and married just over a year, it has not been easy, I am a hard person to get along with at times, I am awkward, pig headed and stubborn, but in that time, I realised I needed help if my relationship was to survive, to say I am absent minded is an understatement, I am forgetful, to my detriment a lot of the time, forgetting a prescription when I need meds, it can leave me unable to function properly.
Being in care was tough at times, being away from family for years was hard, but I got through it.
When all is said and done, when I lose my breathong priviliges and I leave this Mortal Coil, I want my legacy to be a positive one, I want to be able to have made a change, even if I helped just one person, I did my job and I want my epitaph to read
HERE LIES DAVID
AT LEAST I CARED