My first account of my life has taken me up until I was seventeen years of age. At this point I was suffering from anxiety, social phobia, low self esteem, completely self conscious, and I had just left school and started a nursery nursing course at Wakefield College. Ever since my parents split up when I was five years old, we had had to adjust to living on state benefits, which in those days was much less than people get now so life was hard. I had to make do with mainly second hand clothes and although we always had vegetables, we only had enough money for meals, there was no extra’s. But I was never hungry, there just wasn’t much choice or opportunity for me, and I felt deprived compared to my friends and I found it hard to be friends with girls who came from families where their parents worked as they had so much more than me. I felt embarrassed to bring them back to my house. But I also couldn’t relate on an intellectual level to most other children who’s parents were on benefits. I just didn’t really fit into that culture. College seemed like my lifeline to escape the drudgery. I quite enjoyed my college days. I made new friends and I was becoming an adult and starting to go out and do things on my own. I have never got any pocket money from my mum because she didn’t have any money (although my brother always got £5 a week) so I got myself a little nannying job looking after an 8 yr old and a 10 yr old every other Saturday. Nice family and nice children and it paid well so I had my own money to do what I wanted with. I was becoming independent and I liked it. At home things were becoming more suffocating and constricting and I didn’t feel that I could be myself most of the time. I started to go out drinking (well actually I had been drinking at parties since I was at school) but now I could actually go into pubs and bars and I liked it. I liked getting dressed up, and I liked the feeling of being drunk. I became a different person when I’d had a few to drink. And I also loved to dance, and I was good at dancing. I come alive when I dance. My mum couldn’t stop me from growing up and she couldn’t stop me from going out but she had to put some sort of control measures in e.g. if she so much as heard the light switch in my bedroom (and she could hear a pin drop) she would be on my case saying that I was making too much noise, so I had to turn the light switch off without making any noise at all, which I mastered no problem. There was no way she was going to stop me from doing what I wanted. And as soon as I was able, I was going to leave home. I had to to preserve my own sanity. All my life I had had to live in a household where every aspect of my life was controlled. My mum even chose which children’s programmes we watched, which is fine when you’re 3 or 4 but not when you’re 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. Her reason for this was because she had paid for the tv. Sigh! All of this control was having a negative effect upon my psychological wellbeing. I had no initiative because I wasn’t allowed to make decisions and I found it hard to speak up for myself because my mum always spoke for me. But there was something inside me that wanted to break out of all of that. Deep inside I knew that I had a voice, I knew that I was my own person, I knew that I had a heart capable of infinite amount of love, I knew that I was capable of relating to people and I knew that I was more than I believed that I was at that present moment. Unfortunately I used alcohol as my crutch as I thought that it made gave me confidence. Fortunately I only drank when I went out at weekends, and I didn’t have the money to go out every weekend but when I did go out I would binge drink and get totally plastered. The academic work at college was not a challenge to me and I passed with ease and as soon as I had passed I was applying for nanny’s jobs in London. I couldn’t stay at home a moment longer. I got myself a live in nanny job, which was perfect because I was living in a safe environment, within a family but at the same time I was independent. The family who I was working for were just a normal family. They had 3 children aged 5 yrs, 3 yrs and 16/12 when I started. At first the youngest was in the workplace nursery so I just had the two to look after, which was enough because the middle boy had Down’s syndrome so was more like a 18/12 old and the eldest had got quite bad emotional problems and was badly behaved a lot of the time. To start with he would tell me that he hated me and was plotting ways to kill me. It was a constant challenge to get him to school in the mornings and he would be attention seeking and badly behaved in front of all the mums at school. Oh dear, what had I done. Had I made a mistake moving away from home. But I wasn’t going to give in. I saw it as a challenge. I learnt from various sources that the previous two nannies hadn’t been very nice and I think that there had been some abuse involved from hearing stories of what she used to do to them and she didn’t sound very stable herself. So I got told that I was hated, shouted at etc etc. One day, not that long after I had started, I remember taking them to the park and when we got home the key wouldn’t open the door. The eldest boy had double locked the yale lock and I couldn’t open the door. This was also after he had refused to come with us initially and gone a different way. Fortunately the back garden was enclosed and I had forgotten to lock the back door so I knocked on the nice next door neighbours door and asked if they would post the little boy over the back garden fence so that he could get into the house through the back door and open the front door for us. And it worked. Thank goodness. Another time he wasn’t very well and was off sick from school. He had spent the afternoon watching old movies on tv and it was tea time. I always made him sit a the kitchen table to eat his meals and he was cross with me for making him do this. When I turned around he was holding a meat knife and pointing it at me. For a brief moment I was worried he was going to try and stab me but I managed to keep my cool and told him calmly to give me the knife and was able to get the knife from him and breathed a sigh of relief when I got it. The little middle boy who had Down’s syndrome became really ill at one point. His mum insisted that I take them to the science museum that day and he had had to walk around there for a few hours but when I got them home I knew that something wasn’t right. He hadn’t been drinking all day and he was very sleepy so I rang the GP and he came to see him and said that he needed admitting to hospital as he had a chest infection. While he was in hospital, I would drop the eldest off at school and then I would catch a bus to the hospital to be with him. And this was where I really came alive. From the moment I was able to speak, as soon as someone asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, I would say ‘A nurse’. It was a knowing. I knew that I was going to be a nurse because I wanted to make people better. This feeling never went away. I chose my options in comprehensive school so that I could get into nursing but when I left school I got scared as I thought that I would have to do adult nursing first and I didn’t know how to talk to adults and I wanted to be a children’s nurse. But visiting the hospital every day while this little boy was in hospital reignited this feeling inside and before he went home I was shown how to do chest physio on him and I loved all of that kind of thing.I loved learning how to do these things and I really looked up to the nurses on the ward, and watched what they were doing. I had also had two placements on hospital wards when I was doing my nursery nurse training and I loved it and had that same feeling of excitement then too. When my little charge was discharged home, I remember almost bursting into tears when he told me that he loved me in makaton sign language. He had never used makaton before. And he couldn’t speak so it was difficult to gauge how much he actually understood. I was so shocked that I had to ask him what he had just said and he repeated it very clearly ‘I (pointing at himself) love (making circular movements over his heart) you (pointing at me). It made all of the cold shoulders that he had given me on the ward, worth it. Thank fully things got better. My drinking didn’t really get any better and I found a drinking pal in London who I would go out with sometimes and then I would come home every other weekend to go out with friends in Wakefield. I couldn’t understand anyone who would just go out for a couple of drinks and socialise. Why would anyone do that? Surely the aim was to get as drunk as possible and to be as ridiculous as possible too. So games such as accumulating as many artefacts or trophies as possible were part of the night out. I would often wake up with a bag full of bar towels, glasses etc. And this was how I got my thrills. Drinking was exciting because you could be whoever you wanted and do whatever you wanted when you were drunk. How an earth I managed to get through those years in one piece I don’t know. But my mum once said to me that I could fall in a pile of manure and I would come up smelling of roses. And it was true. I always seemed to land on my feet. As if someone was looking out for me. Which I actually believe my grandparents were, and probably still are.
So anyway the children were getting better behaved and when the middle boy started school at 3 1/2 yrs, I was then allowed to look after the youngest girl, who was about 20 months at this point. This was fine when it was term time but was hard work in the school holidays as if I went anywhere I had to take the double buggy. But I have taken all three of them on the bus on my own. I decided, though that I needed to be able to drive. My mum had bought me some driving lessons for my 18th birthday, which was really nice of her and I had taken my test twice in Wakefield but failed it. I decided to have more lessons in London and take my test again. The day that I took my test it was like I was in a bubble. I can only describe it as a being like a higher power took over. It was definitely not me driving that day. I had thought to myself previously that I needed to pass my test. It wasn’t an option, as I wasn’t sure when I would get another opportunity. I needed to be able to drive. And like I said, it wasn’t me driving that day. All sorts of things happened, which would have either put me into a panic and caused me to make a mistake or I wouldn’t have been able to cope with. I had dogs trying to go under my car, children finishing school and being in the middle of the road on bikes and pulling out in front of me and I managed to keep complete control of the car and not kill anyone or anything and remain calm. Needless to say, I passed and I think that my driving instructor was just as surprised as me as I really couldn’t drive but hey ho. Luckily I can drive now as I drive for my job haha. Not long after passing my test I was taking the children into London and a van ran right into the back of us (it wasn’t my fault by the way) and this put me off driving for a little while but I got back behind the wheel again. At this point my friend had got a job near me so we used to go to each others houses for breakfast and watch morning tv (oh the joys of being nanny). The job was quite boring though, and once I’d seen all that I wanted to see of London, I decided to hand my notice in and come home. Big mistake!! I should have maybe found another job before I handed my notice in but I was a free spirit in those days and that wasn’t my style. I never planned anything. Everything was done on impulse and it always seemed to work out but not really this time. Well not for a while at least. But before I left I had my first holiday abroad with my friend to Corfu. And had a ball. Spent most of the holiday drunk and ended up covered in mosquito bites and learnt that I am allergic to mosquito bites. The first thing that I have ever been allergic to. We also managed to miss our plane home (Corfu airport is very confusing and there were people waiting for multiple planes in the same place at the same time and it went early because of air traffic control strikes at the time. So the other girls who were meant to be on our plane all started crying and my friend and I were happy because we thought we were getting an extra night in Corfu. We didn’t though and the plane that they put us on was to Glasgow, which couldn’t have been much further away and I was meant to be working the next day (why I had planned it like that God only knows but I was young and fearless in some respects. Life was a big adventure and nothing seemed to phase me). I had to ring my boss when I arrived in Glasgow and explain. Luckily they saw the funny side but I had to endure an eight hour coach ride back to London and I had no luggage as my suitcase was on the plane to Heathrow (I did get my suitcase back later).
Anyway I left that job in September, I remember the day before I was leaving I was going to take the children to the park and all the eldest boy wanted to do was hug me. I was sad to leave those children. But relieved in some ways as I think that the mum thought that I was having an affair with the dad, which I wasn’t but he did try to kiss me when he took me to the train station, which really shocked me as he was 20 years older than me. Back at home, things became even worse than they had been before. I think because I had tasted my freedom and had probably changed, I had my own money and independence and now I was having to claim dole which was £31 a week and my mum took £20 of that for board, and my independence was limited again and the arguments started again. That was probably one of the most depressing times of my life. I couldn’t see a way out and there were no real job opportunities. I managed to get a temporary job for a month in Surrey, looking after an 8 year old and a 10 year old while their parents went away playing bridge. I enjoyed that too as I was completely in charge of the house as well as the children and because the children were older they were a lot easier to look after. I had my own car and they went to their dad’s for one weekend so I had the house completely to myself and managed to lock myself out of the house, while still in my night clothes and so the BT man rang the police who said they would send a locksmith round. All I could think of was that my employers were going to kill me so I managed to get a screwdriver from the garage and put my hand through the letter box and open the yale catch with the screw driver and get into the house that way. Locking myself out seemed to be a theme as it had happened at the first house I had nannied at and I had to get a ladder from the back garden and climb through my bedroom window as I had left the window slightly open. So yes the month long job as a nanny was a huge relief for me and at the beginning of the year I had decided to apply to do my nurse training as I had discovered that there was a course where you could do your adult and children’s training together so I had applied to Liverpool, London and Sheffield. At the time I had been told that there was almost a years waiting list but while I was in Surrey a letter came through inviting me for an interview. I went for the interview and got on the course and luckily some people gave back word so I was able to start in June. I was so excited.