Being in foster care feels like a lifelong diagnosis and as unfair as it is, as a patient of any lifelong diagnosis, we have the option to fight against the disease or cease efforts to overcome- simply because the path to cure comes encountering unbearable pain.
Currently, I am 27 years old. I aged out of foster care at 21. Still, in many ways, I can feel in moments that I am still in the foster care system. It makes my heart race and I have to fight to remind myself that I am truly free.
Why hasn’t anyone told me that when entering the system- that you will forever live to recover from the system?
Growing up in foster care, the ongoing condition of daily life feels like grabbing sand. You know it’s there. You know you can grab it all. But it all slides through the cracks of your fingers. The residue is a gritty reminder of what you couldn’t hold no matter how hard you tried. Trying to grab the feeling of security, stability, permanency, love, trust, and all things that makes life feel humane. It sucks.
One of the side effects that no one tells you about is the daily battles with anxiety. But it’s not quite the kind where it just makes you feel uneasy. Foster care anxiety feels in a sense comforting and we hate that it feels that way, but this feeling is like an armor that we keep- comforting because our guard will always be up. But hating it because we are tired. Another side effect is that you will live your life with the constant battle of will. The will to want to live, the will to fight against depression, the will to trust people around us, the will to forgive, the will to carry out a better life for yourself, the will to simply claim joy in your life.
Of course, those are in essence “phantom syndrome” side effects. What you feel but what others can’t see. But beware, there are overt side effects as well. It can look like reverting to younger ways as a reactionary habit. Your bouts in moments of anger, hurt, or sadness may look similar to the age group around the same time you were hurt (ie: kicking and screaming, but most likely you were hurt as a toddler or adolescent). There may be times when others around you won’t hear from you, and they won’t check in because of all the “if I don’t talk to you often just know I love you and when we do talk, it feels like yesterday”- facades. There’s no medication for trauma, just its extending symptoms.
A side effect is that we are the first to identify the presence of evil. We can sniff out the scent of dissension immediately, even countless times before the issues arise in front of us. We have the uncanny ability to see through people unlike anything on earth. A side effect is that we will gain the 6th sense- but no one will believe you because of our condition. The condition of foster care can drive you mad.
Side effects include mirroring what normalcy in others around us looks like, then carry ourselves as such because we are responsible for raising ourselves, yes, this is a side effect for the young and old.
The side effects are clear but not one understands how to help. Another symptom of foster care is that we, who grew up in the system become test subjects and sacrificial lambs for the sake of “awareness”. A side effect is that we in many regards are willing to feel the triggering pain so others won’t have to. The medicine of foster care to the world is our stories. So we constantly sacrifice our own mental health to spread the warning and heed others to protect children from being subjected to this condition.
Living with the condition of foster care feels like a lifelong fight for a cure.
Story can also be found: B Lifestyle Magazine, by Barry Farmer
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional Disclaimer – As a certified life coach, behavior aide, and trauma informed human service professional, I am only certified to help you with things that you personally have control over.
Living over 18 places has taught me that every child deserves a home. Being a survivor of child abuse has taught me that every child needs to be heard. Growing up in foster care has taught me to bloom where I am planted. Being a mother and a wife has taught me to be resilient. Operating a charity has taught me that people really do want to help. Providing homes for youth in care has taught me that bad days does not mean a bad life. Advocating for children has taught me to be brave.