Saturday, November 6, 2010

foster care success story

Since I was a teenager people have been calling me a foster care success--whatever THAT means.  Am I a success because I went to college?  Because I have a job?  Because I'm not homeless or in prison?  Is that how we measure success for foster children?  By what they are not?  That infuriates me.

When people call me a foster care success story I cringe.  My soul splits and cracks just a little bit.  I like that people think I am successful, but I also hate it.  I feel like they are not really judging my on my skills and talents and accomplishments, but are judging me on what I am NOT.  They are judging me as a success because I'm not a failure.  Because I'm not in prison.  Because I'm not a total fuck up in life.  I makes me feel like a loser that the standards have been set so low for me.

How can anyone look at my life story and think success?  I lived in 42 placements in 18 years.  I was severely abused by my mother and stepfather in the US and in the middle east.  CPS took me away over and over again until eventually they kept me when I was 8 years old.  I was severely abused in foster care.  I was never adopted.  I was never wanted.  I was never loved.  No one ever kept me longer than a few months, except for one foster home that I stayed in for three years.  That foster home left me mute, anorexic, and suicidal.  That foster father took something away from my soul that I will never be able to get back.  That foster home changed my life forever.

Maybe they view me as a success because I was so good at school.  Nothing could be wrong with a girl that gets straight A's right?  That girl must have a great head on her shoulders.  She must have it all figured out.  She must have a great support system.  I went to 25 elementary schools, two middle schools, and seven high schools.  How on Earth did I freaking manage to get good grades?  I don't know.  I used school as my escape.  I thought if I was good at school someone would love me.  Hours and hours of homework left me with little time to think about my life and myself.  I had school.  I had school and NOTHING else.  

My childhood is NOT a success story.  I tried to kill myself three times as a child.  I swallowed pills at 12 and then again at 14.  I tried to shoot myself in the head at 15 with my foster parents gun but the kick back made me miss and I hit the wall.  The bullet barely brushed against my head.  My childhood was hard, and painful, and scary.  The only way I survived was by turning off my emotions because I couldn't cope with my feelings.  My feelings made me want to die.  I learned not to have feelings.  I learned not to care about myself or other people.  I learned that the only person I could count on in life was myself.  I learned to focus on goals and not my heart.  I can master any craft if my heart hurts enough.  I can morph into whatever I need to in order to avoid myself and my pain. 

Today I live my life but I don't really feel like I'm the one in control.  I feel like I'm a passenger along for the ride.  Who is driving the car?  Who is navigating my life for me?  It's not me.  Not really.  I watch life happen through a little window.  I peek from behind a curtain but I never fully expose myself to the outside world.    I don't know if I have truly ever been myself since I was 12 years old or maybe I stopped being me at 9.  I don't know if I will ever feel comfortable in my own skin.  I have never truly wanted to be alive.  I have never truly enjoyed life.  I have little moments of joy here and there, but they always feel tainted.  My joy will forever be tainted.  Behind ever smile is a lot of pain. 

Am I really a success?  Would you consider me a successful person if I had a great childhood and family?  I highly doubt it.  I know people don't mean to offend me when they call me a foster care success story.  They are trying to make me feel good.  It doesn't make me feel good at all.  I feel like it diminishes the pain I carry around all day, every day.  It makes me feel like my pain doesn't matter because I can function in life.  My nightmares don't matter.  My panic attacks don't matter.  My flashbacks and dissociation don't matter.  None of it matters because I am a success.  My poor brothers and sisters must have been through so much.  They are struggling so much more than me, so they must have suffered more than I have.  Maybe people view me as a success because I don't wear my pain on my sleeve like my siblings do.  I'm good at hiding it.  I'm good at pretending to be normal.  I'm a master of emotional trickery.  I can laugh when I want to sob.  I can smile when I want to scream.  I can stick my hand in a bonfire and pretend like I feel nothing if I need to.  I feel it all.  I feel it strongly, and then I turn it off.  I store it for later, but later never happens.  I have a huge storage shed in my brain.  It is now overflowing, but I'm afraid to go through what belongs to me.  I'm afraid of what's in there.  Now I have a growing leak and I can't fix it.  My crazy grows stronger and stronger every day.  Maybe if I completely lose my mind, people will see what's really going on in my heart.  People will truly see me for who I really am and not for who I am not.