Introduce yourself please…
I’m Kelly Mattison and I’m a freelance health and social affairs journalist from Manchester. My articles have been published in The Guardian, Big issue north, Big issue Scotland and Young minds magazine. I have worked as a domestic violence worker for the past seven years and I also play music with my husband Jake Mattison.
Do you mind telling us the reasons you went into care?
My dad died when I was 2 and a half and then shortly after I was removed from my mum’s care because she was suffering domestic violence.
How did you feel about going in care?
I was so scared at first. I can remember how terrified I was and that anxiety stayed by my side my whole life. At 2 and a half I went to live with my Nan and I was always so afraid that my Nana was going to leave me. Every time she went out I would cry and pray that she would come back. I would stay awake until I heard her come home and then I would settle. I was so afraid of losing her. I went to live with my auntie and uncle and four cousins when I was 11 and I loved this and them so much but I also missed my 4 younger brothers who lived with my mum and I wanted them to live with me.
I was so scared at first. I can remember how terrified I was and that anxiety stayed by my side my whole life.
Whats your favourite childhood memory?
I have loads, playing cards with my Granddad Stan, Christmases, making up stories and plays with my cousins, being with my brothers and laughing with my school friends. Secondary school was such a great experience for me as I had a lovely set of friends who never ever judged me for being different to them. If anything they were so kind and their families almost took me in and treated me as one of their own. That meant a lot to me.
What is your biggest achievement?
I have a few. Being married for 13 years to my husband Jake is definitely my biggest one. I used to have a limiting belief that things didn’t last and that at any moment the rug could be pulled from underneath me and I could lose everything. This has been the biggest thing I have had to overcome to believe that everything is going to be okay and that people can be trusted. Also having my articles published in The Guardian and getting one of my articles on the front cover of The Big Issue in the North was great and playing in my husband Jake’s band and supporting Emeli Sande on her UK tour was a brilliant experience and one I’m really proud of.
having my articles published in The Guardian and getting one of my articles on the front cover of The Big Issue in the North was great and playing in my husband Jake’s band and supporting Emeli Sande on her UK tour was a brilliant experience and one I’m really proud of.
Overall, what has your care experience been like?
It has been positive and I have always been loved.
Has your past had a positive or negative effect on your future?
It has had a positive effect as I feel it has given me a sense of empathy which I would not have had if I had not been removed from my mum. I would have liked to not have had the anxiety but I feel I have learned to cope with this better now.
What has driven you?
Pain, I’ve always wanted to get away from the pain that I feel on the inside that something is missing and my determination comes from wanting to get to a place where I don’t feel that something is missing.
Who is your role model?
My husband Jake. He has been and is still the most consistent, kind and loving person in my life and he has never let me down and I know that he never would. He just understands everything and never judges me for anything and he believes in me and his love for me has taught me to believe in myself. He has taught me how to trust and let people in. I always ask him even now, “Do you think I can trust them?” and he always reassures me no matter how many times I ask :))
Have you ever felt like giving up?
Yes I have definitely. A couple of years ago I hit a real low point and I felt so useless to everyone around me and that I was a burden to my family and I thought it would be better if I wasn’t around. The anxiety that I felt was debilitating and I never thought I’d get to a place where I could believe in myself and believe that I wasn’t going to lose everything. I went for EMDR therapy and I started to feel better and more in control of my thoughts and my anxiety.
The anxiety that I felt was debilitating and I never thought I’d get to a place where I could believe in myself and believe that I wasn’t going to lose everything.
What keeps you going?
I want to stop domestic violence. I want to educate young people so that they know what a healthy relationship is and so that the world can just be a better place especially for children. I hate that there are so many children living in fear. No child should have to live in fear.
I hate that there are so many children living in fear. No child should have to live in fear.
How much have you changed since you left care?
So much. I have completely changed as a person. I have learned a whole new set of beliefs, that people are consistent and kind and the biggest thing that I have learned and that I am still learning is that it’s okay to have my own opinion and to tell my own story.
Do you think you were ever judged or labeled for being in care?
Never. Like I said people have always loved me. I judged myself though harshly and beat myself up.
When did you start to believe in yourself?
In the past couple of years I have really pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone. I taught personal development groups and healthy and unhealthy relationship courses to children in schools. I have taught groups of up to 20 people and although it was scary at first it became easier the more that I did it. I also got my social care files last year and this has helped me to believe in myself and to stop blaming myself for my childhood.
Did you ever feel alone?
Yes and I still get that feeling especially on Christmas day and New Years Eve. It’s these 2 days when I feel acutely aware that I don’t have my mum in my life. Last year I went to a party at my Nan’s house on Boxing Day and the only thing I could focus on was that everybody in the room had their mum there apart from me. It made me feel different, sad, ashamed and embarrassed and like it was my fault.
Did your foster parents help you?
Yes when I was younger my Nan, my auntie and uncle brought me up and they encouraged me to achieve.
What’s your message to children in care?
Firstly it’s not your fault that you’re in care. Try not to judge yourself. I did and I understand that it is easier said than done. You’ve done nothing wrong and one of the things that has helped me a lot is getting counselling and doing a lot of personal development and I have had to teach myself to believe in myself. Not having a conventional family meant that I found it hard to trust and counsellors were almost like a parent who I could talk to about things I was really worried about. I’ve had loads. I’ve had person centred counselling, CBT counselling, I’ve attended personal development courses and I’ve had EMDR therapy. Having EMDR changed my life. It’s not been easy and has a lot of the time been embarrassing and uncomfortable but I was determined to change my negative thought processes. EMDR helps you to process painful memories and you don’t have to go into great detail about the memories. It files away the trauma in your brain and my anxiety has lessened so much since I have had this.
Firstly it’s not your fault that you’re in care. Try not to judge yourself. I did and I understand that it is easier said than done. You’ve done nothing wrong and one of the things that has helped me a lot is getting counselling and doing a lot of personal development and I have had to teach myself to believe in myself.
What was it like when you first went into care?
Terrifying. I used to send my Nana letters all the time asking if she loved me and if we had an argument I’d send her a note to say sorry. I was always seeking reassurance. I just did not believe that she was going to stay. It was really hard. Once I learned to recognise that the terror I felt in my adult life stemmed from my childhood I was able to move on. I still suffer with anxiety now but I have learned to cope better with it with exercise. If I feel a panic attack coming on I eat healthy foods and exercise and do things I love like listening to music.
Once I learned to recognise that the terror I felt in my adult life stemmed from my childhood I was able to move on.
If you could change anything about your life what would it be and why?
I would see more of my mum, my brothers, my nieces and nephews because I always feel like they are missing from my life.
In the difficult moments what kept you going?
Jake’s love for me, his consistency and his constant love and encouragement and my close friends and family who have been there for me and are still there for me at my lowest points.
How did it feel proving people wrong?
I don’t ever feel like I needed or wanted to prove anyone wrong. I had to prove myself wrong. It was me who kept telling myself that I was going to mess up and that I was no good. I was and I am my own biggest critic.
What do you think about the care system now?
My only knowledge of the care system now comes from my husband Jake who works with young people leaving care. He has taught me that the most important thing for children in care is to find role models and if they do then the system can work but if they don’t then it can sometimes be a negative experience.
the most important thing for children in care is to find role models and if they do then the system can work but if they don’t then it can sometimes be a negative experience.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge has been to believe that I am okay and to believe that I deserve the happiness that I have and that it’s not going to get taken away from me. I have overcome this by doing a lot of work on myself and challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone and scaring myself with new experiences like playing music with Jake to big crowds and starting my blog and putting my own opinions out there.
How do you become successful despite a care background?
You have to be kind to yourself. You have to find out what makes you truly happy. Ask yourself what do you love doing? Then do it. What makes you feel alive? Do it. Anyone can do anything whatever their background. Don’t judge yourself and make it part of your being that you tell yourself constantly none of this was your fault.
You have to be kind to yourself. You have to find out what makes you truly happy. Ask yourself what do you love doing? Then do it.
Is there something you’re most proud of?
My marriage to my husband Jake, we’ve been married for 13 years now and been together for 14 years and bringing up our four beautiful dogs Cliff, Paulie, Big Frank and little Frank.
What is your message to professionals and foster carers?
Understand how much fear children in care must feel and the different ways they may express it. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you had no parents? Can you imagine how terrifying this would be? And understand that no one could ever replace a parent. Don’t make a child or an adult that you have raised feel guilty if they want to reconnect with their birth family. Encourage them. Love them unconditionally and don’t cut them out if they do reconnect with their birth family just because you feel they owe you something. Support them and understand that they don’t owe you anything. None of this was their choice or their fault.
Understand how much fear children in care must feel and the different ways they may express it. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you had no parents? Can you imagine how terrifying this would be?
My piece for The Guardian about my work in domestic violence.
I had EMDR therapy with an amazing therapist and one of the most intelligent and non-judgemental people I have ever met called David Knight at http://www.manchestercbt.co.uk