Growing up in care, I was not confident. One of the struggles of growing up in care, especially after experiencing abuse, is being happy with who you are and trusting yourself to know what you need for yourself.
I remember being constantly put down. And my quirks? I was told they were too “childish.” One of my earliest memories in care was being told by a foster mother that my imagination was “childlike.” The things that I enjoyed would cause people to treat me like a child. When I tried to tell people what I needed, I was ignored.
I struggled through these experiences feeling shame and self-hate. I felt like I could not trust myself to know what I needed and relied on others to speak for me. Spoiler alert: it is not a good idea to just let people advocate for you, especially when you have a history of trauma and mental health issues. Other people are not in your head. They will never know your daily struggles and how to best help you. Only you can do that. It is also true that only you can change the labels that have been placed upon you. They were put there by people who were trying to fix what they perceived as wrong.
This summer, I finally decided that I was through being defined by the words of others. I decided that I no longer cared about what people thought of me. I understood that I could not help and protect everyone around me; I could only truly protect myself. I was done hiding in shame. I was ready to tell my story and show everyone that I would not simply be a statistic.
Now, I can say that I am healing and finding strength to show what I can accomplish and how I will be legendary.
Janette Helen is in her fourth year at University of Maine at Machias. Their major is art, and they plan to use their voice to talk about their experiences and use art to showcase their life in foster care.