The pizza was the final straw, the last part of a jigsaw that came together to to bring me the special of the day, a shut down. To anyone around I’m sure it looks as though I am behaving like a spoilt child sulking over not getting what they wanted, there may be a tiny amount of truth in this but as is often the case there is a lot more going on.
For me the lot more starts with feeling helpless and unable to help the children I look after. At this time of year we have a number of children who leave us to move on to their next placement, we will have worked with these children who have experienced severe complex trauma for the past three years and built significant relationships. For a lot of the children we look after it My be the first safe relationship they have had. The children test these relationships to destruction and day after day we come back and carry on. It is incredibly hard and painful work, it is also unbelievably rewarding watching them grow and develop.
Three years is just a start and when they leave us they continue to need help and support, this is not cheap and a referring authority will have already spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the child’s treatment. The next school and placement have to be right to build on the child’s hard work rather than destroy it. Twenty years ago when I started doing this work I and my colleagues would talk about the consequences of getting it wrong, after all these children are the most vulnerable and traumatised in our society; would they end up in jail, would they continue to enter abusive relationships or repeat the cycle of abuse? Worst of all would they end up dead?
These were all possible but largely theoretical, sadly we don’t often hear what the children we look after gone on to do or how their lives progress, so we continue to worry and do the best we can. For me this changed one day a number of years ago, I was at work and it was a fairly normal day when my manager called me into their office a few minutes later and I was distraught, in tears and my world had changed for ever. That day it stopped being just a possibility, something to worry about, that day it all became real. I child I had worked with, cared for and helped for four years had experienced a series blows after leaving us and had taken his own life.
I questioned wether I had done all I could, I hadn’t agreed with the plan for him once he left us and I argued against it but to no avail, it wasn’t my decision to make. Now it had all gone wrong, months of personal soul searching and investigations followed. I know I did everything I could have done but I still feel guilty and I don’t think that will every change, now though each time a child moves on from us I fight harder, worry more and remember what the consequences on a child can be.
So at the moment I am embroiled in this battle to do the best for the children we have cared for and helped as they move on, thing is each year it gets harder. It costs money to help these children and the people who pay haven’t got much to go around. There are many costs of austerity and amongst them are children who have suffered trauma and abuse for years not getting or having to fight for the help they need, they don’t need it to do well in exams and they don’t need it so that they have nice clothes to where. They need it to survive, with out this help this child will die far sooner than they should.
The battle is not going well this year and more and more things just keep pilling up to make things that bit harder. Now we will get there but for me the toll is significant and I feel like I’ve been run over by a steamroller. In all of this I lost sight of things outside of work, so yesterday when my wife reminded me that my son was going on a day trip to France the next day and we would need to drop him at school at three in the morning, it was not happy times for me. The next day I would need all my spoons for visiting a potential placement for a child and interacting with strangers in an alien environment. I didn’t need to be getting up in the middle of the night or to be worrying about if my son would be ok. I am prone to skipping straight to the worst case scenario. Hence a head full of thoughts about ferrys sinking and coaches crashing.
That said I made it through the night and the visit and whilst I felt I would need to shut the world out and sleep for a month, it was Friday I had a few things to tie up at work and then it would be rest time or so I thought. That’s when I got the email saying that I would have to work, I was teetering on the edge now so I finished what I was doing grabbed my things and headed home, if I was going to have a meltdown I needed to not be at work. I got home and had a couple of hours to relax on my own and was calming down a bit. Shortly after my wife came home she received a text message from our son, the school bus had missed the ferry it would be another two hours before the next one. I was back on the edge.
Then it came we had decided to order pizza it had been a long week and my wife and I were tired, the pizza arrived quite quickly and I sat down to eat, I opened the box and there in front of me was my pizza and on amongst other things mushrooms and onions. I absolutely hate mushrooms and onions, this isn’t the end of the world it is after all a solvable problem. Trouble is it was the last nudge it pushed me over the edge and now I was free falling. At times like this I get overtaken by a sense of despair an inability to make decisions or see a way out I stop functioning and this time is was because I was taken down by a pizza.
Aspie and Proud