“Never once do I remember someone saying to me ‘what’s going on for you Hannah? How do you feel?” Multiple failures by the systems meant to support her led to Hannah experiencing turmoil and trauma from an early age. Here, she shares how despite these challenges, she’s working on healing herself so that she can be in the best place to give others the helping hand she should have had.
As I sit on the bus to Glasgow to take part in an event that has been a pinnacle point in my life for the last four years, I’m reflecting on the past. Something that has kept me alive gave me the opportunity to heal from trauma from pain, from events that could have been prevented from such an early age. I think to myself, am I still getting failed from a system that is meant to provide equal opportunity for all? Prior to 2017, my life can be explained as multiple accounts of failures from a system that is there to protect and provide. From the first encounter with Social Work at the age of 9 to the last one in 2017, not once did I have the opportunity to heal from the emotional turmoil that occurred through an 11-year period until I sought it myself.
Entering the system at an early age with no explanation as to why this was happening or what I was supposed to gain from meetings with a social worker, just added to the confusion of the picture I called life. Yes, my behaviour had become problematic, yes, I was running away from home, yes, I was displaying violent outbursts. I was also suffering horrific abuse; these acts were not malaise, they were cries from help paralyzed inside from fear and now thrown into a situation that confused me even more. At that point in my life, I was so desperate for someone to listen to me, to hear me see my pain. This was never picked up but what was, was my behaviour, my attitude, my violent outbursts. Never once do I remember someone saying to me “what’s going on for you Hannah? How do you feel?”
This was my life for the next 17 years, from social work interaction to residential care and further on to prison accumulating more trauma, more pain, more feelings of loneliness and confusion. From the period of leaving residential at 16 to the age of 26, I had entered the prison service 28 times including remand and sentencing accumulating around five years of time served. Eighty percent of this time was served as a young offender. Brought to prison at 16, left to navigate my way through prison and the proceedings that went on inside. No support, no help, no social work interaction till days before my court appearance. This was yet another situation in my life that I had to do alone, feel alone whilst pretending I was okay. This went on for multiple years with multiple failures. However, through all my diversity in 2017, I found the start of life where I saw some peace, I saw some hope that life could be different. That I could find some happiness.
This place was a 12-step recovery programme, a programme that saved my life, a place I sought out on my own yet again. This programme gave me the opportunity to start navigating my way through society as a member and not a hindrance. As the substances stopped, so did the court appearances. I became aware of my surroundings for the first time in years and this is where I encountered even more struggles. I now had to learn how to live in a world that I had never quite understood.
Gaining employment came quite quickly to me. I secured a job as a kitchen porter working 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week on minimum wage just to afford my rent. In my life prior to recovery, I had accumulated debt, so not only did I have to pay back debt from periods of my time in supported accommodation where I was not receiving any financial support, I also had to learn for the first time how to pay bills, set up direct debits budget money to buy food, gas, electricity – things that sound so simple were so far removed from me, and here I was doing it alone again.
While working as a kitchen porter, I would cry when I got home, I would think that due to my past record, my life events, that this was all I was worth: cleaning dishes. I had no one to inform me about college, training programmes, employability courses. There I was, just me and my shame of the past 17 years. One morning I woke up and decided I wanted to go to college. I watched a video on YouTube on how to apply for college. I went and I did it. I studied sports for three years because as sad as it is, it’s the only thing I can remember being good at from childhood. During this I maintained working 30 hours a week in the first two years as no one told me about a care bursary. This was yet another gap I had slipped through.
Today I sit writing this, I am halfway through a social care course at college with an interview at the end of this month for my first year in social work. I am hoping to go on and secure my Bachelor’s in social work. In June last year, I secured a job as a support worker and in the past six months, I have sat with those feelings of confusion, anger, sadness after securing a job in a field that I am so passionate about that I had to go through a process of waiting months to start. My Disclosure Scotland took three months to come; alongside this I had to go for a risk assessment interview where I had to explain my convictions. It felt demoralizing and just another hurdle for me to climb.
I am proud to say I started that job this month. Life has been a challenge for me and quite a lot of these challenges could have been prevented if I had not been forgotten about. I am 30 this year and I am now just learning about organisations that can help with issues like home energy saving, debt support, money budgeting. It should not be this way; however, it is, and I just keep climbing the mountains so one day I can sit at the top and pull people up to join me there.
About our blogger
Hannah Snow is currently working as a support worker and is employed by CYCJ. In both roles Hannah’s main purpose is to help individuals thrive within their community and reach their full potential whilst bringing her lived experience to help shape change. Hannah is also studying Social Care to allow her to combine my lived experience and educational teachings into one.