Michelle, 27

This is Michelle’s story, told in her own words:

(You may find the contents of this story upsetting.)

“I’m a parent now. Well, I’ve been a parent for a while, but I’m actually a mother that’s able to look after my children now. My twins run me ragged on a daily basis. I live in a flat which is my own – it’s rented from the council. I am waiting to start college, hopefully to do a music course.

I don’t really have any memories of when I was little. I kind of block them out. I wasn’t bad, but my family made me bad. They used to be bullies and I was the black sheep for some reason. I don’t know why, but I was always getting smacked about, or I was getting abused verbally. And other things happened as well, which I’m not going to talk about.

I became very boisterous, very in-your-face. I kind of retaliated, fought back at them. It didn’t get me very far. It got me put into care when I was 10 until I was 17. My mum will swear black is white that I put myself into care. But the way I look at it, there was obviously something wrong at home if I put myself into care. I lived in 14 placements over a couple of years.

When I was 13 I used to run away from foster placements and ended up sleeping rough. They used to take me back and I’d run again. My little plan, running away, just hoping my mum would get worried and actually want me back, never worked. My mum never really wanted to know. All I wanted was to be with my mum, but she’s openly admitted she doesn’t love me.

So I ran away to London and it was just a rollercoaster from there. On the streets, that’s the only place I felt welcome. It’s bad to say the only place for a child of 13 to feel welcome is in the gutter. I used to sit on the Strand and just sing. I like to sing – that’s my passion. People used to walk past and everyone thought I was great. So I felt good about myself for the first time. That just kept drawing me back to the streets.

I moved into supported housing but that didn’t really work for me and I came back on the streets. I’ve been really unsettled in life, running away from problems. It’s not as bad now because I’ve learnt to deal with it. But back then I used to just to uproot and run, start afresh somewhere else. But it always catches up with you in the end.

I smoked cannabis since I was 13, my mum gave me my first joint. I tried crack when I was 15 or 16. I never touched heroin until I met my ex-partner. I don’t think it was love. It was a case of pity for him and the fact I wanted to be loved. I didn’t know he was a drug user. Two weeks after we got together, I saw him with a needle sticking out of his groin. He said he’d come off it – but he was using behind my back.

As soon as Social Services found out that I was pregnant with my baby boy they told me my child was going into care. They made a point of letting me know that they would have supported me had my partner not been around. I wasn’t given that chance to be a mum. I knew I’d be a great mum. I thought, ‘I’m such a failure,’ and it just went from bad to worse.

I was using [heroin] when I was pregnant, but not until after they told me they was taking him. I thought what’s the point? After I’d given birth, I got to cuddle him. It was the best thing ever. I really hit rock bottom when they took my little boy away from me. That just made me run a mile and not face anything. They took the only thing – the only chance I had – so why not just throw it all away?

The drugs blocked out all the pain. It was non-stop drug abuse. I was sleeping rough in the middle of snow without a blanket, I was in a bad way. I’m not proud of anything I’ve done whilst on the streets or on drugs. But when you’re on heroin or crack you just lose all morals, all self-respect, everything. You just think you’re invisible to the whole world because everything’s blocked out in your brain.

[One of the hostels in London] helped me realize that there is better out there and made me look in the mirror and decide right, this is it, I need to change now. I need to sort my life out.”

(All material on this page is copyright of Georgina Cranston.  Text editing by Sarah Carrington.)

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