I grew up in a working class family in the 1970’s. I hated school, I was always in trouble because I was never challenged – I was naturally smart, and always asked the teachers “why”. I got sent to the Principal’s office too many times to remember, and soon began wagging school as I was too bored. When I was 13 the school passed my poor attendance record on to a Government department called the ‘Juvenile Aid Bureau’, who sent one of their social workers to visit my parents. The social worker recommended that I be sent to a local children’s home for a four week “assessment”. It was horrendous. There was so much abuse there, they used sedatives to keep us all under control, and the Matron hated me and constantly locked me in solitary confinement as “punishment”. After my four weeks were up, they wouldn’t let me go home. They said I had to go to halfway house.
I hated this just as much, and the other girls and I kept trying to escape. I got sent back to the children’s home and was in and out of there for the next several years. I was in there when I got notice that my Dad had died suddenly. I was sent to the psychiatrist at the children’s home, whose response was to sedate me.
When you grow up surrounded by people who constantly tell you “you’re bad, you’re no good”, you tend to take on that script. My response was all I knew at the time – I’ll show you how bad I am. And I was. I did all sorts of bad things, including drug trafficking. I was arrested for this when I was an adult, and in 1989 I was sent to jail for 6 years.
The following year, I was sitting outside with my best friend in jail – also called Debbie – when she was set upon by other inmates and stabbed with BBQ forks. I intervened to try and help Debbie and got stabbed as well. We were both sent to hospital – I was ok, but Debbie died. I couldn’t come to terms with it… I spiralled out of control. It was a life-changing moment for me.