While I was in foster care and in the juvenile justice system, I managed my mental health by saying positive mantras to myself everyday, no matter what. It was the only thing I really could do at the time because I didn’t have a support system. I told myself things like “You’re doing great” and “Everything’s gonna be OK.” It seemed to help with the negative thoughts that were circling in my head.
While I was homeless, I managed my mental health by talking with close friends and safe adults at school. I also tried to do the hobbies I liked and felt like I could do at the time, like writing. The trauma I experienced from foster care and from my birth family has a big impact on my mental health to this day. The trauma has resulted in a fear of abandonment. Sometimes, I will go to great lengths to prevent being abandoned by the ones I currently love. But that doesn’t always end well because I tend to push them away or tend to come off as overbearing because I care so much. I also have trouble building new bonds and trusting new people because of my fear of abandonment. Even when I do begin to trust, I’m still skeptical. What I realized was that I was neglecting myself.
During the pandemic, my educational and job performance dropped dramatically. I almost didn’t graduate high school because the transition to online learning was stressful and hard to do as a visual learner. At the same time, my dad passed away. I lost my job of two and a half years because of the pandemic and grief. Prior to losing my job, my hours were cut at work, even though my hourly wage was raised, making my paycheck consistently the same amount which was barely enough to get by. The thoughts I had during this tough period were very overwhelming and negatively based.
I was also enrolled in a technical college in my hometown last year. However, due to a lack of reliable transportation, I decided to wait until this year to start pursuing higher education. Although I had to wait, I looked at the positive side. This situation gave me enough time to prepare. No one expects to fail a class at the beginning of the semester or lose their job. Even if you fail or lose, I know that I’m doing a great job because I’m focusing on something very important, my mental health. Without our mental health in good shape, we couldn’t do what it takes to reach our goals. Self-care is health care.
I’ve learned that even though I’ve struggled with my trauma, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Who I am today is full of love. Today, I am kind, thoughtful, helpful, generous, ambitious, resilient, and hopeful for the future. I practice resiliency by telling myself that it never hurts to try again and that if I don’t ask for support or help, the answer will always be no. I also learned how to handle my negative emotions that were affecting me greatly throughout the pandemic by using positive self-talk. I wish I had been easier on myself during those difficult times. Kind words can go a long way when it’s said to yourself. I deserve to be loved and appreciated and I have the power to tell myself that.
The advice I have for people who’ve lived through traumatic experiences such as foster care or homelessness is that you will always grow as a person when you opt out of things that don’t make you feel good. It does get better, even if you have to take it day by day. Without the small steps, you can’t make it to the top of the ladder. You are more than just your story or a case file written by people who didn’t take the time to get to know you. You are a human being who’s deserving of unconditional love. If I didn’t constantly say positive mantras to myself in the mirror, I wouldn’t be here today.