I write articles and present in front of people all of the time, and it is always the hardest to write for my peers. Do I go serious with a guest post? Or do I go funny? My goal is to impart some sort of wisdom gleaned from a quarter of a century of experience. My other goal was to try and use the least amount of exclamation marks as possible. You probably have enough people shouting at you. I’ll start with a few of my thoughts that occur throughout the day.
“One step at a time”, “day by day”, “feared things first”, “Follow a To-do List”, “Compartmentalize that pain”, “You can do it”, “You can’t do it”, “Will I ever get over it?”, “Your story wasn’t as bad as others”, “What happened to you was wrong”, “Your feelings are valid”, “Your feelings are not valid”, “You are special”, “You are not special”, “I’m a survivor”, “I feel so fragile”, “Be Productive”, “Be Functional”, “Mind your finances”, “You are beautiful”, “You are awesome”, “You suck”, “You can do this”,
The above is how I self-talk. The way you self-talk may look different. It is how I get up in the morning, it is how I get my work done and it is how I plug along. Some days I feel so honored to be a former foster youth, and other days I just wish the baggage would dig itself a hole and disappear. It leaves me feeling drained and fragile. Yet, something inside of me keeps me going, keeps me climbing that mountain. There is something special inside all of us that keep us going. We survive, we strive, we lift, and we throw down. We keep our head up.
If you are a former foster youth reading this, you already have survival skills. Move over Bear Grylls! Some of these survival skills are really hard to turn off because they have served you very well. Here’s a life example, one of my personality traits is that I’m a pleaser. It served me well as a survival tactic, because it made working with foster parents and case-workers easier. They naturally liked me and I was considered “low-maintenance.” It has served me so well, that I have wrapped my self-worth up in my ability to please or assimilate. It has also made me loyal to a fault, if I can’t make a relationship work; it is because I wasn’t able to please enough. I wasn’t good enough, or there was ultimately something I was doing wrong. I worked very hard to gain my foster parents love, acceptance and approval. That is not something you can simply turn off.
As you transition out of care, you are going to have lot of emotion. You may move from surviving in one system to surviving in another. If you are no longer in a situation where you are simply “surviving,” you need to grieve, because you don’t have the time to acknowledge it while you are experiencing it. I attend therapy on a pretty regular basis and I talk constantly about how I am feeling. The act of figuring this out has me being more forgiving of my faults. The self-talk I listed above, comes from years of negativity from the people around me, so in grieving I’m learning how dead wrong they are. I’m a survivor and I know you are too.