Nights at the Resi unit

In 2007 I was living in a pretty stock standard residential unit, a purpose built house filled with locks and a pervasive sense of darkness.

To go to the bathroom I had to ask a staff member to unlock it, to get something to eat I had to ask a staff member to unlock the pantry, to get a cup of hot water for tea I had to ask a staff member to boil it in the office and supervise me putting it to use.

There wasn’t much choice, it felt like every single aspect of my life was restricted and controlled. As if I was in a prison for which my only crime was having parents who were terminally unable to look after themselves, let alone a child.

I felt trapped, isolated and hopeless to the absolute. I was thirteen turning fourteen, a kid who had been in the care system since they were just ten weeks old and who had been accumulating a collection of personal shame and responsibility from every single placement breakdown and trauma they had experienced.

After months of my mental health worsening to the point I would sit in the hallway overnight because the darkness held terrifying thoughts of people breaking in through my bedroom window. I was so hyper-vigilant and anxious that my brain started creating the sounds of them drilling into the window pane next to my head.
I was terrified, alone and dead sure that every night was the night the ghostly apparitions of my traumatised brain would finally solidify and become real enough to serve out the punishment I was due.

It got to a point one night where I was so utterly terrified that I knocked on the office door, seeking some kind of comfort and safety from the staff member working.
I felt like I knocked for hours, the fear came flooding through even stronger. What if my knocking was a signal to those outside the window to come and get me? What if they had already got the staff member and they would be the ones to open the door?
The staff member finally came to the door, her hair messy, eyes tired and face looking beyond irritated. “It’s 3am” I knew that, every second that passed during the night was like a day marked off the calendar, I knew exactly how long it was going to be before the sun rose again the next morning.

“I’m scared, I can’t sleep” I told her, hoping that somehow she might hold the answer to make it all stop, that she would help me make it through the night but instead her face grew more frustrated than it already was “I’m off shift at 11pm, there’s nothing I can do” “you need to go back to your room and try to get some sleep, morning staff will be here at 8am” she shut the door and I retreated back to the corner of the hallway where I could see both the front door and the door to my room. My back against the wall of the office closest to the staff member, this was as close as I could get to the comfort they could have provided.

The darkness felt even more solid than it had before, it felt like the single lifeline I had left had been snuffed out. I still had two and a bit hours of darkness to fight my way through until the sun finally started shining again and I had no idea how I was going to make it through. I was completely alone and isolated in my petrifying terror, I almost wanted them to just come in through the windows and get me so it would be over with already.

8 thoughts on “Nights at the Resi unit

  1. Is it possible to get a hard copy of this? I would like to send it to a friend who manages resi units.
    Such a valuable and powerful piece of writing. Its so important to educate resi staff about these issues so that they respond sensitively to the children and teenagers in their care.


  2. I hear your words so loudly, I feel them within my bones. I hear the rush of adrenaline that freezes all function, I hear the desperate need for help slipping through your one and only chance to grasp help, I hear your heart tear that little bit further not knowing whether it will ever be patched. I hope the words you have written mean that you have found gauze in people, that you have found people that are loving and real and that you are wrapping all the tears with the gauze you are finding and given.


    1. This sweet, understanding message brought tears to my eyes, It is touching to know my words are reaching people.
      Healing is an ever ongoing process that takes daily work but I can truthfully say that I am through the worst of it and leading a life I could only dream of when I was younger.


  3. I am a new follower and I have read all your blog posts so far. Although my childhood wasn’t great, I wasn’t in the system like you, so I could never imagine what you have been through and I hope there are not kids that go through what you have been through that are in the system now.
    I feel your pain in these posts and your writing will help raise greater awareness to those that work in the system some way to be more aware of what they do, as it could affect these children. To hope that none suffer like you did.

    Although the past can’t be changed, as you continue to heal, I hope you find your writing helps and knowing that the awareness you can raise, helps too.


    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Liz. I’m so glad my words have resonated with you.
      Writing is a key part of the healing process for me, I know that once I am able to write about something I have processed it through at a very high level.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for your story. I currently teach in a PRTF. I am so invested in the students I have, but have also seen how flawed and broken the system is. I will share your story in our facility.


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