As part of National Care Leavers’ Week 2017, Jemma Davis from Peterborough writes about how she conquered her battle with anorexia after moving in her with foster parents:
When I was 15 years old I was hospitalised with anorexia and had to undertake therapy.
During the therapy I discussed my home life with my schizophrenic mother. Afterwards, social services took my mother to court for custody of me and my younger brother, who was 13 then. That is how we ended up with TACT (The Adolescent and Children’s Trust) foster carers Jackie and Wayne.
The change wasn’t easy at the beginning. When I lived with my mum we used to hide away in our rooms and never spoke to anyone. Jackie and Wayne are complete opposites - they’re open and confident and always have lots of friends around.
This new lively environment made me feel claustrophobic and I had to go back into therapy. I struggled with being very shy. I used to squeak like a mouse instead of talking.
However, the longer I was with Jackie and Wayne the better I got. It took about a year for us to get comfortable with each other but then we felt just like a normal family.
I am sure that I can thank Jackie and Wayne for my newfound confidence. And I have also received lots of support from my social workers and my personal advisor Paul, who is always there for me.
My foster carers were very important in helping me win my battle with anorexia. When I first came to live with them I had a very strict relationship with food.
I had to eat the same amounts of the same foods every day so that the calories were always the same. If anything changed it would cause me to panic.
Over time Jackie and Wayne have helped me to become more relaxed with my routine and to understand that little changes here and there aren’t going to make much of a difference if any at all.
I remember driving home with Jackie not long after I moved in. I was starting to panic because we were stuck in traffic and I needed to eat my dinner on time. Jackie noticed me panicking and said: “Why worry when there’s nothing we can do to get back any faster.”
In a strange way this calmed me down. It didn’t stop me from getting stressed when things didn’t happen to plan but it has always been the thing I’d tell myself to help me relax in those situations.
Now I am 18 years old and I still live in Bretton, Peterborough, with my foster carers under Staying Put arrangement, which enables me to stay until I am at least 21.
I have just started my second year of level 3 photography at college and I couldn’t be enjoying it more. I have also organised work experience with the media house I would love to work for when I finish my course.
I will be working with the head photographer and helping with photoshoots for various magazines they publish.
In addition to gaining confidence, being in care taught me to be more open-minded and adaptable. I believe it is important to respect different backgrounds and how other families live.
With this mindset even very different people can find a bond between each other, just like I did with Jackie and Wayne.
They have always been and will always be family to me. They have done so much for me and my brother, I don’t know what life would be like if it weren’t for them and I could not be more grateful.
More National Care Leavers’ Week 2017 stories: