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Carolyn's story

Carolyn Lennard headshot

"The intervention that we received from different services inspired me to be here. It is thanks to all those professionals that saved my family that I am here."

Adoption of a child, Charley, from the care system and the subsequent intervention received for her, specifically from a psychotherapist, motivated me to consider retraining. Past traumatic experiences came back with vengeance, triggered four weeks into her placement, and she could no longer cope with living in the world as it was. We found ourselves managing extreme emotional behaviours that we had not been sufficiently trained to deal with. Charley was scared at home and scared outside of home. She seemed completely overwhelmed by absolutely everything, lost within her own grief, fear and ravaging distress. The intervention that we received from different services inspired me to be here. It is thanks to all those professionals that saved my family that I am here. Charley is nine now, she was placed with us at 20 months. I had never seen a child so destroyed by their experiences. Putting them back together takes more than just a doctor; it takes an army of professionals working together.

I studied BA Therapeutic Communication and Therapeutic Organisations at Essex, and now I’m studying MA in Psychoanalytic Studies. I don’t really know where I’m going because I never really had a plan. I’d quite like to train with The Tavistock Centre, and eventually specialise in autism and trauma. I didn’t expect the journey to be quite what it’s turning into so I’m just trying to enjoy it and remain open to whatever opportunities come my way. I’m claiming psychoanalysis as my subject though, my passion, because psychodynamic psychotherapy showed itself to be the core that held, supported and pulled our family and all the other approaches offered to our child together. Charley didn’t have any vocabulary, she couldn’t speak - that part of her brain had been damaged through fear and emotional trauma. I couldn’t understand her in the ordinary ways one might expect to, so we had to use her behaviour as an alternative means. Psychoanalysis offers a way of thinking about behaviour that no other discipline provides.

A typical day would see Charley fall apart numerous times. She would scream and cry, collapse to the floor and fling her arms and legs around, kicking those who came near, including myself. Her distress became my own. From the outside in, it would have looked like bad behaviour, but actually, she was intensely scared. We were fortunate enough to acquire intensive psychotherapy on the NHS for three and a half years, three times a week. That gave us some consistency and offered a way to gradually understand Charley by gaining insight into her experiences of the world. That is how I came to be doing this university course. I recognised the significance that this intervention holds for parents whose children cannot speak, for adopted children, children in the care system whose behaviours seem to make no sense. Psychoanalysis makes sense out of senselessness.

I was a dental nurse before adoption and was anticipating 9 months off and a return to work. That didn’t happen because Charley’s needs were so extensive. Once we reached a better stage, I began to consider the importance of support for families and children like my own. There isn’t always support out there unfortunately so, I made the decision to retrain. I won two awards on my BA, which was so surprising as I come from a very working-class family and was out to work at 15. Books were never really part of our world. This is a completely new experience for me - higher education is something I thought would never play a part in my life, I thought I had missed that opportunity. However, adopting Charley pushed me to take this journey; a journey I, and we as a family, could never have imagined.

So, what makes me smile? Well, that is easy to answer. When Charley comes running through the door and she’s had a great day at school. At Christmas she managed to see Father Christmas, and she wasn’t scared. She was able to stand there with her classmates, and then come home and tell me all about it. After such a long time, and a lot of intervention, which is still ongoing, she is now able to live in the world as it is. We no longer have to navigate life from a position where we are constantly offering her protection from the world - she is able to take her place in society. She is part of a community at a special needs school, she is able to access education and learn, and she is able to speak, which is a world away from where we began. She really is truly remarkable. Adoption changed my world, and she continues to change my world. She is the reason I smile.

My motto in life is ‘just do your best, be the best person you can be, and help where you can’. I really believe in ‘paying it forward’. So for all those people who have helped my child and my family, I’m going to try and do something positive. I don’t know where I’m going but I’m going to do something.


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