Life is hard in general, regardless of your background…

…For me, social work breathing down my neck, being in a care home, being homeless, experiencing mental health issues, as well as getting in trouble with police, made it extra hard.

When I was rebellious, this was a way of preventing me from feeling vulnerable and from feeling emotions which inevitably caused negative effects throughout my life. I was disciplined a lot, either hit, shouted at, or punished in some way. This imbedded anger into my life from an early age.

How do you know how to make a cup of tea? Someone shows you, right?

What if all you were seeing as a kid was violence? Your brain is a sponge, taking in what you see. Especially as a kid.

I used what I had seen in my home life as a child to deal with confrontation, and situations got worse due to people’s wrong approaches towards me. I normalised behaviours that were negative.

It did not matter who you were. If you had been disrespectful to me, then you could expect me to mirror your images. How can I care what you think, when you didn’t care about me?

Does your brain control you, or do you control your brain? Just because we can’t see mental health issues doesn’t mean we should dismiss them. My emotional development was affected. I did not trust adults who dictated to me and tried to control me. I developed a persona, especially when being provoked. In not having love or respect shown to me, it did not matter if you were genuine. The damage was already done.

Looking up to the abusive adults in my life, the poor choices I made had long lasting effects. I didn’t grasp ‘consequences’ as a threat, or even think of them.

I can’t respect people who don’t respect me. The tone of voice people spoke to me in, and the aggressive body language they used, was meant to intimidate me. It just made me lash out.

We pretend that people in a paid role working with vulnerable young people can’t feel emotions like anger, or speak to people with disrespect. We are doing a disservice to all people who have been abused if we believe that. We are all human.

It is humans who start wars over power, control and greed. It is humans who kill other humans. It is humans who decide that you can go to war at 16, but have to be 18 to buy a pint of beer.

I had many meetings with professionals, but these did not help me. They were judging my actions and not knowing the underlying reasons. I was on fight mode. Many inaccurate findings took place.

I didn’t understand their language or care about the outcomes. I just wanted meetings to be over with, so I wasn’t in a room with people who I didn’t want to engage with.

They did not even compare each other’s approaches to see what worked and what didn’t. I only worked with those who had the correct approach.

State your intentions, be warm and welcoming. Don’t judge what you don’t understand. Educate, don’t belittle. Even the devil was once an angel. What even is the definition of a good person?

The right people can make you feel that they are there for you.

In my opinion, you shouldn’t be in a role working with vulnerable young people if you don’t let them express themselves without judgement. Not allowing them to access their emotional side creates a bitter mind-set and ultimately belittles them.

The emotions I had, others also had as a kid. I could easily go from 0-100. But I was misunderstood and my learning style was never embraced. I got penalised for what I had done wrong, rather than praised for what I excelled in. The only touch I received as a child would be a slap or a restraint.

I’ve reflected on the negative approaches shown towards me and others. I can see what worked and what didn’t. I can see what would have worked. Now, pointing out how things can be delivered respectfully and engagingly, is what I do.

A respectful, unconditional commitment to young people needs to happen, as well as the ability to show compassion. Building relationships with people is hard, but not impossible.

“Don’t get emotionally involved” is what workers say to each other. This is hypocritical to the word ‘care’, as well as ‘corporate parents’. I beg you to get involved, as suicide is the consequence of having no-one in this world. Death has infiltrated my mind, from time to time, as a way out.

The understanding of psychology needs to be explored by ‘professionals’. A youth work type approach needs to be implemented, and tailored support delivered for each individual. We need equity, not equality.

We should not have to convince people who have a duty of care for us to effectively care about us.

Being treated like a prisoner will ultimately make a person act like one.

This was my situation. It is crucial that people have emotional intelligence when working with kids from toxic pasts. The best interests of the young person need to be at the front of their mind, and not record keeping or representing a council.

Now an adult, I struggle with love. It is tricky. Accepting love is what I desire, but not being able to is soul destroying. I have unlocked so much potential in myself. I am not all the way there, yet there is a drive to get there. How do people know to change or be ‘loving’ if they don’t know how?

I know everyone’s situations are different. I respect that and I have learnt from that. However, the system stays the same. We are all affected by it in some way. Transferable skills? What about transferable emotions? Don’t give people a duty of care for us if they can’t grasp our realities.

I intend to use my experience and voice to challenge perceptions and offer an insight most struggle to speak of. I wish everyone could see that only love will kill people’s demons.

I don’t want your pity. I want your understanding. This system cannot – and has not – given us that.

About our blogger

This month’s blog is by James Frame, a member of the STARR group and Amplifying the Voice of Young People amongst other groups.  He has written about his experiences growing up and what skills and qualities practitioners should possess.  You can hear more from James via his Twitter account here.

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