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I entered foster care for the first time at the age of three due to my mother's decision to go to rehab and my father's inability to manage his addiction and seven kids while she was away. This would be the first of many times entering care. These abrupt and often traumatic separations from my siblings and parents stripped me of the only home I had ever known and threw me into institutions that were cold and confusing. I quickly adapted to survive, ignoring every instinct to attach because everything I had ever experienced told me that caring was dangerous. I shut down, the world became dark and I stopped trying to fit in. There is a period in my life that I clearly remember experiencing but not being a part of, I drifted from one placement to another unable to articulate the deep loss that I felt inside. Late nights hot tears streamed my face as I attempted to muffle the sound of my deep disappear in my pillow. It was at this time that I first considered what I would later learn to be suicide. Too young to have been explained such things I just knew that the feelings boiling within where unbearable and that living was just too hard and I didn't want to be a part of it. I felt unwanted, unloved, abandoned and a burden to those I interacted with. I was a job, a job to feed, clothe and transport when I needed to learn and grow with someone who loved me. This person would eventually come into my life when I was 13.

Dawna Marshall was strong, confident and happy; all things I had never experienced up close. She was a whole lot of women for little ol' me and she was just what I needed. Stern and bold Dawna demanded more from me than anyone else, she expected me to participate, encouraged me to grow and provided me the unconditional love I needed to make mistakes. Dawna changed my life but she also saved it.

Over the next 5 years I would continue to struggle with depression until finally opening up about my condition; I was 18. For a long time I didn't think that my life fit the criteria of that in which one could be depressed about. Without Dawna I truly believe I would have continued to think that because I would have never had so much to be happy about that I would question my sadness. It was with this realization that I was able to acknowledgment my depression and therefore finally deal with the emptiness I felt inside. Through my work to combat my past and the hold it had on my present I discovered that everything I ever needed was within. I wouldn't be able to depend on four walls and the same bed until I emancipated foster care at the age of 19 but I found my HOME within, I would always love and except me and through that love and acceptance I attracted family.

Jul 27, 2015 By Rosalina Burton


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