June Taylor, after 39 years of institutional care, is now keen to share her experiences with workers
They say it’s good to talk, and I think it is, which is why I want to tell my story. I always jump at the chance to be a speaker at meetings for social workers and carers who are just starting out. If they are going to help other people, they should know what could happen if they or others do not get it right.
I was in institutional care for 39 years – all because no one listened! I had problems as a teenager, and no wonder. My mother gave me up when I was two weeks and I spent my childhood years in boarding school. I felt upset and angry about my circumstances when I reached 15. They called it bad nerves then and I was admitted to a mental hospital.
They put me on a drug that had a dramatic effect on my personality and made me angry. Three years later I found myself back in hospital and I remained there for 11 years. It was horrible.
Of course, in the end, 21 years later, they had to wean me off the drug, otherwise I would go blind. They gave me only five weeks to adjust and the side effects and the withdrawal were terrible. I thought I was going to die.
Then they decided that the diagnosis should be “personality disorder” and wanted to put me in a hospital for “subnormal people”. Can you believe it?
I went from being a teenager with teenage problems to an adult whose life had been ruined. I had lost my identity and part of my personality. I felt very bitter.
But a social worker saved me; he really did. Little by little my life was turned round. I came out of institutional care, and spent time in a rehabilitation unit run by social services. Then the best thing in the world happened to me. I got my own flat. I could come and go, do what I wanted and was fully independent.
I love being my own person. I wear bright colours and smile – that girl, me, years ago was unable to do either of those things. She wasn’t free. I was never allowed to grow up because I was in hospital, so my journey into adulthood has been a difficult one but it has all been worth it. Do you know, I couldn’t cry for 20 years, and even now I can’t sleep through.
These days I am in sheltered accommodation because of mobility problems due to cerebral palsy. But I am happy with my life. The care workers are nice, and the warden is lovely as well and will do anything for you.
I have strong links with the organisation Skills for Care North East – I knew the learning resource network manager when she was a social worker – and I give talks to professionals whenever I’m asked to.
I was recently on the stage with Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, the Paralympic star, when she was the speaker at a Skills for Care North East conference. She was an inspiration. She liked hearing my story, and I really enjoyed hers. We both agreed that the only way to change things is to talk!
June Taylor has cerebral palsy