When I was in foster care, managing my mental health was more difficult than one can anticipate. For people outside of the foster care system, there are a plethora of services and solutions to choose from when managing their mental health. However, as a foster care youth, I didn’t have those options. I was forced to make use of what I could manage. However, what I could manage was not much.
People outside of the foster care system had a privilege where things were considered a given if they needed to talk to someone. It was a privilege I unfortunately did not have. In foster care, you do not have your own voice. Although the decisions made are strictly regarding and concerning you, your voice is never counted. I found this to be the most challenging aspect of managing my mental health. I never had the option to ask for an ear to listen to me. I also didn’t feel like people genuinely cared about how I was feeling when I did manage to get a listening ear.
With the initial difficulty of finding out how to best manage my mental health, I received a lack of support from my appointed caregivers in helping me figure it out. I soon learned that the best way for me to deal with mental health was to write my feelings down. This method allowed me to rely on myself. It didn’t make me dependent on whether or not someone was in a generous mood to help me when I needed mental health support. It was the perfect solution for me in my very limited capacity to help myself with no means at my disposal. It helped me address what my present concerns were, how I felt about them, what solutions were available, and how these situations affected me mentally. This method began to help me almost instantly. It was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I could suddenly see problems from outside the bubble of my thoughts. This allowed me to be independent even in situations where dependency would be considered necessary.
The trauma of being in foster care has greatly impacted my ability to form meaningful bonds and relationships with others. Growing up in foster care, you never knew how long or short you would be at a placement. Knowing you can be there one day and then gone the next day made it impossible to form a real bond with people. It was a reminder of the abandonment I felt when I first entered foster care. So I err on the side of caution and try my best not to get too attached. Even though I am aware of what I am doing, I cannot help but feel protected by this defense mechanism because it kept me safe all throughout my time spent in foster care.
The most important thing I have learned about myself from my experiences in foster care is that I am more resilient than I think. No matter what I went through or what condition my mental health was in during those experiences, I always pulled through to the other side, coming out stronger than I previously was. My advice for all those who are current or former foster youth is to always believe in yourself. Know with full certainty that you are stronger than your problems and how they make you feel. Know that there will always be brighter times ahead.