“..Your voice matters.
Your mental health is very important and shouldn’t be ignored. There is support out there if you need it and the right support is paramount – in fact, lifechanging. You are not a burden, neither are you alone although it feels that way. Don’t give up – what you desire can be achieved.”
If you’ve stopped by, a huge thank you for your interest in my story. My name is Stephanie and I am the founder of Adorable Gems.
To understand why I am so passionate about this business, let me tell you a little bit about myself. Grab a cup of tea – or if you’re out and about, bookmark this page and come back to it.
I am a 31 year old, black, single mum to a beautiful teenaged daughter whom I had whilst I was a teen. I highlight these points because each one comes with its own challenges. Now as much as my day job as a counsellor is to listen, I’m not oblivious to the groans in the room when a contestant on X Factor starts with a sob story! So the reason for this message isn’t for sympathy, but it’s rather a message of hope, to educate and raise awareness to some of the challenges that many young people face.
In the 70s, my mother made a brave decision to leave what she knew and move to London to better her chances and provide her children with a better quality of life. She’d been a victim to some very traumatic experiences and wanted to avoid her children growing up in an area where resources were limited.
However, she quickly learned like many others who immigrate that things were not going to be any easier - and when things became incredibly difficult we were placed in a council property on a notorious estate. My mum was newly single and faced with a difficult dilemma – does she rely on benefits to be present with her 4 young children or does she make use of her incredible work ethic and work hard to provide us with basic necessities and teach us responsibility? Does she become labelled a lazy scrounger to be there when we got home and to attend our school plays or become unavailable and risk sabotaging our secure attachment? She chose the latter like many do, and although her intentions were good it meant she couldn’t be as present as she would’ve liked – a similar reality for a lot of children raised in single parent households where mum or dad have chosen to work.
The things is, living in an area where crime was high and adults were often working long hours in low paid jobs, there was little sense of safety and for many the sense of security came from being in another family – a gang. For even the most gentle souls it was better to join a gang than to be vulnerable and an easy target without adequate protection. Children were being groomed by older teens and behind the eyes of (what society would label) ‘thugs’ were terrified (often fatherless) young boys who felt trapped, forgotten and hopeless as a result of the limited help and support. Fear and naivety led them down a path that was eventually very hard to divert from.
Around me, my friends were afraid for their future, angry that no one understood, disappointed by the lack of support and most of all they felt like there were no other options for them.
What was even more astounding was that these children that were coming to school in fight or flight mode as a result of the chaos were expected to behave rationally. Their anxiety, restlessness and fear manifested in different ways, most commonly a disruptive attitude in class and the inability to manage emotions. But rather than come alongside those very children who needed to be understood and who were crying out for support without being able to quite understand or articulate their needs, they were the very ones written off because they didn’t cooperate. Then came damaging labels that further reinforced that child’s feeling of helplessness.
Few teachers ever said ‘I see you’re hurting/cross’, ‘I understand you feel frustrated’ or ‘I saw that it was very hard to concentrate this morning – Is there anything on your mind?’. Neither was the struggling child ever celebrated for reaching understandably smaller milestones in class with statements like ‘great job for the piece of work you were able to produce’, ‘I’m so proud’ or ‘you can do it’. That sort of dialogue was only reserve for those who performed a certain way.
By the age of 18, many of the young men I grew up with were in prison, one of my childhood friends was tragically stabbed to death minutes from our home and despite my mums efforts I’d become a teen mum. My self-worth was in tatters, I was coming to terms with loss, I had anxiety around being a new mum, being a single mum, being a teen mum all whilst learning that there were other limitations being a woman and being black. Everywhere I looked, I was fed with messages that people like myself were good for nothing and barely did well in life. I was battling internally with no outlet or form of help available. I watched the young people around me who were losing loved ones, failing at school and living in fear, continue to decline mentally and struggle with depression that led to more bad choices. It was a heartbreaking cycle.
Around this time, I had to think about where I take my education and how to support my new bundle of joy. She gave me a new sense of purpose and I called her Renee which means ‘reborn’ after persevering in a time that I could’ve easily switched off and let go of the faith that was so important to me. I felt I’d been given a lifeline and I began thinking about what I could do differently for her. What were some of the things that would’ve benefited me growing up and how I could give that to her? There birthed my desire to train as a therapist for 10 difficult years.
What I learned really put things into perspective. With all that my peers had been exposed to, there’d been no support, no mentors, no counsellors, no one who cared enough to understand how their experiences were moulding them and the impact it was having on their thoughts and behaviours. Watching my innocent, bubbly daughter, I was determined not to take her joy away from her. I grew very passionate about child development and psychology and how we could provide young people with the right environment for them to build resilience and flourish. If we could tackle trauma and equip children with the right tools from a young age it was less likely to snowball into mental health difficulties that were harder to deal with as adults. It would also give the child a better chance to channel their energy in the right areas and thrive, and also help prevent them from passing on trauma when they too became parents.
I want you to know that Adorable Gems isn’t just a business. It wasn’t birthed from a love that I had for fashion or jewellery. Whilst I wanted to come up with a solution to a problem that frustrated many mum’s like myself and a product that would put a smile on the faces of the age group that I’m so passionate about, the core driving force is to support in a different way. The main goal is to partner with mental health organizations that provide therapy and support to children and teens around the UK.
I’m glad that things are moving in the right direction. Although sadly anxiety and depression within young people is on a rise, so is mental health awareness. I challenge you to think differently about that young girl you see pushing a buggy, or that young boy that always looks angry. If we are not careful we continue to enable a cycle of broken people raising broken people by passing judgement whilst doing nothing. It’s important that we try to understand - to be kind. It’s important we can contribute to the growth of another person by building up with our words and not making assumptions about a life we haven’t lived. It’s important that we find ways to support a person where they may lack the resources or the know-how to make the changes that better their future. It only takes one person to change the course of another’s life.
And for all adults who feel helpless, lonely, anxious or need support in other ways please don’t suffer in silence. As much as you may not feel it, your voice matters. Your mental health is very important and shouldn’t be ignored. There is support out there if you need it and the right support is paramount – in fact, lifechanging. You are not a burden, neither are you alone although it feels that way. Don’t give up – what you desire can certainly be achieved.