I was neglected as a child
Chloe* went off the rails at school because of her neglectful parents, but with the support of her friends she's turned her life around and is now on her way to uni.
I noticed my parents treated me differently from other parents when I was 12. I was staying the night at a friend’s house. Her dad tucked her in to bed and gave her a kiss on the forehead. I couldn’t remember the last time my mum or dad had done that.
When the arguing started
When I was little we lived on a new-age traveller site. It was such a tight-knit community – my sister and I loved it. But when I was about seven, mum wanted to move into a house. That’s when she and dad started arguing. I had a baby brother by then, but my dad moved out. He came back, and we moved to a new village to make a fresh start. They had another baby, but it didn’t work. They would row all the time, so loudly the neighbours called the police. They never had time for us.
A living nightmare
When dad moved out for good things got really bad. I was 13. Mum was depressed and took multiple overdoses. She could get us up for school, but was drunk by the time we came home. She was also verbally abusive. My sister went to live with dad, but I felt responsible for my brothers. One day, mum smashed up the house – something she often did. My six-year-old brother was so upset, so I convinced him I was his guardian angel. I was always on edge waiting for something bad to happen, and ready to make it better.
At 14, my school wanted my sister and me to see the counsellor because we were truanting. I poured my heart out to her. This is what she said: “Take all that negative stuff from home and put it in a box by the school gate. Go to your lessons, and at the end of the day pick up your home worries again on your way out.” It made me think ‘fuck you’. All she wanted was for me to give the school high grades. She didn’t care that I would go home and cry under my duvet, that I resented my friends with stable homes, or that I felt worthless. From that day I hid everything.
Going off the rails
Mum didn’t care what I did, so I would stay out late with older kids. They thought I was cool because I had so much freedom. They admired the amount of alcohol and drugs I could take. I craved that attention. No one ever told me things like: “You’re really good at maths“. Or when I got lead roles in plays at school, mum never said she’d be there in the front row. So I thought being the party animal was my role in life. I really went off the rails. Sadly, my sister copied me and ended up on heroin.
Despite her drinking, mum held down six cleaning jobs and kept the house tidy. I didn’t realise how much support I lacked until I made close friends with three girls at school at 16. Before that, I’d been friends with everyone, but close to no one. These girls knew how to apply makeup, accessorise and go shopping. I’d never done that – I wore black, baggy clothes because I’d never had any mother-daughter bonding.
I really relied on them. I never spoke to anyone about what life was really like, but they understood. Sometimes I’d get upset, self harm, and contemplate suicide. They would always calm me down.
One day after school I had a huge row with mum. She was slagging off my dad again and I’d had enough. My dad had been useless – he never stood up to mum’s temper, so he hadn’t helped us – but I found out where he was living and went to live with him. I didn’t go home for 18 months.
My relationship with mum is better now. She has a new boyfriend, lives with my brothers and takes care of them. She cooks them dinner and they even go to the gym together. It makes me resent them a bit.
After school, I had a few difficult years trying to decide what to do. I didn’t think you could achieve anything without your family’s support. I lived in a tent for a while, but the council put me in touch with YMCA, which gave me a room in a hostel. Now I’m studying childcare and plan to go to uni.
*Names have been changed and photo posed by model
- Crisis helps single homeless people find somewhere to stay. Get help here
- Shelter's advice website for young people offers help with housing problems and a free helpline 0808 800 4444. If you're in Scotland, use http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/ instead.
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
- Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.
By Gabriella Jozwiak
Updated on 29-Sep-2015
No featured article