I think I am ready to share my story.
I began creating this series….well since I was born….but the ideas were formed on canvas in 2020 and 2021. As I cultivate my mental wellness and process personal trauma, these paintings continue to sprout out of my mind.
As a child in foster care, I learned that silence was safety. Silence was accepted. I hid myself away for a long time. Trauma is something I was born into, and toxicity was something that was allotted to me as a ward of the state. Like barbed vines, I was clung to as a child, and forced to grow in a very unhealthy environment. As a young adult, I began to flourish, but there was much below the garden bed that never was realized or healed. So, the sweet child inside waited until I was ready to embrace her, acknowledge her and love her. Self esteem is something that I have struggled with because of my experiences. I learned to take care of others’ needs over my own, and I learned that my story was not important enough to be told. Until now.
Born, as a child of a black man and a white woman in the late 80’s, challenges were to be expected. Birth is trauma. Parents birth children into this shocking, multisensory world, and I was born unprepared. At three days old, as I am told, I was placed as a ward of the state into foster care. At some point, my mother, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia set a fire to our home. I was a baby, and my sister was very young. I have no memories of my biological mother. My father fought for custody, and he was finally awarded custody when I was two. But even though he had custody of me my foster parents found me and started a pattern of taking me. My father was struggling as single parent in a one room apartment. Over the years, I grew up and when I gained consciousness I knew this man was my father, but I did not live with him. What I did know was that I was scared. What I did know was silence and isolation. Playing by myself was always safer. I was safe with dolls or outside. Asking questions was not. Leaving food on my plate was not. Saying I love my dad was not. Calling my father “dad” or expressing joy in moments with him in front of my foster parents was not. My foster parents already had a complicated family unit of second marriage, seven biological children and an adopted child, and for some reason me. No case worker checked on me. My school did not know where I lived, and I was instructed not to tell them. There is a period of time where I can’t remember. I don’t remember where I slept, holidays or birthdays–and I was born three days before Christmas. I just opened my eyes and existed in this situation, surrounded by mental health issues, toxic relationships, alcoholism, drug abuse, dysfunction, domestic violence, and then me. Quiet me.
What is funny is, I never viewed myself as a foster child. Technically I wasn’t. But, I wasn’t adopted. I wasn’t supposed to be there. My father was a taxi driver, and worked long strange hours. He struggled to pay for his apartment, but he had a solid residence for quite some time. I was confused and had many ear infections. I cried when I had to go visit him because I didn’t understand anything that was going on. I was told that he only wanted to have visits with me so that he could keep collecting welfare for me. But I think he was torn. I think he was depressed and lacked resources and family. Many times, he would be working during my visits, but was happy that I got to spend time with my sister. He would say things like, “That white woman has you spoiled.” My foster mother would say things like “That n—-.” To be clear, I had a bed, a roof, a room–eventually–but I do not think my father ever knew that I was not spoiled or cared for in the sense that I needed to be. I am not sure if he ever knew that my foster mother moved on two separate occasions out of the house she lived in with my foster father. As far as I remember, she spent almost a year in Florida when I was five. She spent time in upstate New York as well. I am not sure where I was for all of this, and that scares me. I remember my foster father drank too much, and everyone in the house was relieved to hear him snoring at night. He snored more when he drank.
I was kept from my father and sister. My foster parents hid their address for years. I remember my father walking me to Kindergarten with a blue mat, and walking me home. Memory is a hazy thing. As an adult, who has go through child development training, adoption training, and has lived in the world and developed relationships, I look back and say this…I was stolen and looted.
I grew up quiet, unsure, anxious and sad. I learned how to protect myself. How to wrap myself in my own imagination and dreams. As my character developed, I keep my opinions, pain and confusion quiet. Anytime I needed help, I was pacified by omissions and nothings. So I talked to my toys. I lived in my own world. It took a long time for me to wake up and find my own beauty. Eventually, I did, but I never took the time to honor the little girl that needed so much. I take the time now, to tell my story, to be honest, to create and share my world.
I wish it was as simple as this blog post, but my life has many layers or trauma, and I struggle with identity and self-esteem.
I hope to share more as I continue to heal. Thank you for reading.