Please don’t judge me

Bianca Nicholson spent her childhood finding ways to fit into society and learnt quickly that to be popular you needed to say the right things, even if it meant you told a lie.

Being given up for adoption at 3 years old, along with her baby brother of just 20 months, Bianca was launched into a ‘caring’ role. She always felt responsible for him, although she was only three. Bianca said; “Society pre-judges you, if you were in foster care you would never amount to anything have no ambition or self-worth. I lied and pretended I wasn’t fostered to fit in.”

At 16 she ran away from her foster home. Her brother had always been happy, so she felt she could leave him. “I’m not even sure why I did it, it seems so ridiculous now, but at the time I hated being there. I knew my brother was safe and happy, so I left. My Nan (Dad’s mum) took me in and I lived with her.  I liked spending time with Nan and often would tell her I had a free period from college and we’d watch Richard and Judy on TV together.  For the first time I felt I belonged.”

Bianca married young and became pregnant, which is when the fear and self-doubt set in. “Would I be a good Mum? Would I have a natural bond with my baby. My Mum had rejected me and my brother.  But when my son was born, I couldn’t have loved him more. Three years later I had a little girl to complete our family.”

Having grown up in care, Bianca wanted to do something to give back, particularly to young carers, and children that are carers. There seemed to be a gap in that area of the care system, which needed to be filled. Bianca volunteered for a local charity called Off-the-record for 15 years, counselling young people and some young carers. This fuelled her desire to help and support young people even more. “I decided I would break the mould and dispel the stigma that fostered children never reach their full potential and enrolled at Portsmouth University in 2012 to become a counsellor. It was then that my life was turned upside down. To become a counsellor, you have to be counselled to learn about yourself. It was then I realised I was still living the same lies in order to fit into society. I was in an unhappy and abusive marriage and had to find the courage to leave.

“My children by this time were 3 and 6 years old.  So, I was now a single Mum, which has its own label and judgment in today’s society. Social media has a knack of making you feel even more isolated, when you see all you ‘friends’ out having fun and you weren’t on the invite list, because now you were no longer married, didn’t fit in.”

Bianca’s life dealt her yet another blow.  Her half-brother, died suddenly.  He and his estranged girlfriend had a baby son. His mum was sick and couldn’t take care of him, so he would be put into care. Bianca couldn’t let this happen. She put her case forward to the judge to adopt him.  It was then she learned that the baby’s mother had been an addict throughout her pregnancy, and the baby was born at 29 weeks, with foetal alcohol syndrome, 2 brain lesions and severe cerebral palsy. Most people at this point would have walked away, but not Bianca. She was more determined than ever to adopt him and give him the life he deserved, in a loving, caring family.  It was a long and painful process but finally she brought him home. “It was really hard at first, whilst we settled him into a routine with the family. The University creche took care of him whilst I attended lectures.  They were fantastic and worked with me exercising him and moving his limbs to help develop his strength and progress his growth.  He was such a happy little boy too – my children would help me with him and although sometimes it felt like hard work, it was so rewarding to see him sit up, crawl and achieve, after having been told he would never be able to walk or do anything for himself.”

‘Things were going well.’

By this time Bianca had started to form a relationship with her birth mother.  She was still struggling to understand why she had left but they were working on forgetting the past and building a future.  Bianca was then diagnosed with breast cancer. “I was devastated.  I couldn’t deal with this, my kids depended on me.  I didn’t want to have to depend on them, and for them to become young carers, it wasn’t fair to them.  I had Anthony too!” The cancer was dealt with quickly, but Bianca contracted sepsis and almost died.  Thankfully her mum stepped up and took care of the baby and running the home whilst Bianca recovered.

Having held everything together whilst Bianca was ill, with the worry and working too, it took its toll and she suffered a mental breakdown owing to the lack of support she had whilst taking on all the extra responsibilities.  A friend Bianca had known for some time became her rock, he helped and supported her through her recovery.  Although this changed as Bianca got better and wanted to pursue her studies, the relationship became more toxic and ended. The resilience of the family unit was tested again.

Bianca graduated in 2016 with a degree in Psychology Counselling.  And has gone on to complete a Masters Degree in 2019. “It is amazing, I have found myself, my true vocation in life. I can now give young carers the help and support they need and with my background and life journey can empathise and identify with their situation and offer guidance and support through their difficult times.

“I have chosen the Rotary Organisation as my platform to develop my Social Enterprise, counselling for carers – the unsung heroes of our communities. Working with a local college, I hope to recruit volunteers studying psychology, to mentor them and support them in their work with young carers. The volunteers will also gain the practical experience they need to go on to qualify. Together we can fill that much needed gap in the current system.  These young people shouldn’t be forgotten, they need encouragement and recognition for the vital role they play. I know how it feels to be a young carer. My own children too were in that role themselves, through circumstances beyond anybody’s control.”

 

 

Bianca is the Wellbeing lead for Rotary Social Innovation (RSI) in the South East Hampshire area, where she is collaborating with other RSI members to develop innovative ways to raise awareness of proactive wellbeing.

To join Rotary visit: https://rotarysocialinnovation.co.uk/join-us-form/

 

 

My Latest achievement  was to win Emerging Business Award at the Inspirational Women of Portsmouth Awards

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