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Updated 9:41am Tuesday 3rd June 2014 in Leader
SPEAKING OUT: Craig Griffiths speaks about his traumatic life from being dropped and kicked in the head by his birth mother to bullying and drug taking. Pictured at his home in Roseberry Road, Redcar. Picture: CHRIS BOOTH
CRAIG Griffiths’ mother deliberately dropped him and kicked him in the head. He was two weeks old.
Brain damaged, bullied at school, he turned to drugs in his late teens and has been unable to find a job since he was 20, ten years ago.
His anger to his birth mother, who he met for the first time since he was three last March, was such that he would say that if she was the only person on earth who could save him with, say, a liver transplant, he would choose death.
Now the Redcar man is telling his story to the world so that all that anger, all that sadness, can be put to good use. His Facebook site, in which he tells his story and how a little known charity is helping this father-of-two turn his life around, has more than 29,000 followers.
“That charity, Momentum, has changed my life, changed it completely,” says Craig, breaking into a broad smile. Sitting in his small, comfy front room he pets his beloved dog, Katie a pet that gives him enough assurance and comfort to allow his long-term partner Rebecca to leave the house. Previously she would have to stay with Craig to keep him calm.
Craig, who was adopted by a loving family from the age of three, explains that he was introduced to Momentum, which helps people with brain damage find work, by Redcar job centre. The support he has received and the chance to meet others in the same situation has transformed him, he says, given him a fresh determination to help others.
He is motivated and works hard on his charity and campaigning, often talking to troubled souls who email him on his website deep into the night.
Craig explains his mother was prosecuted for attacking him but escaped jail and he was left in her care until he was three years old when he was adopted by a family who had sometimes help look after him. “They took me, this broken child, and gave me a life,” he says.
Home was happy, but the inevitable bullying, relating to the fact that Craig can’t walk properly, has limited use of one arm and sometimes finds it hard to process certain kinds of information, began at primary school. But it escalated to a truly vicious level at his Middlesbrough secondary school. “I was called ‘one-armed bandit’ and ‘spastic,’ it was very painful.”
After school he got a job at Safeways Supermarket in Coulby Newham when he started to have debilitating panic attacks. “My birth mother lived nearby,” he explains. “I was scared I would bump into her. I had so much hate for her I was scared about what I would do.
“I started to have this terrible anxiety and panic. I turned to drugs for two years. I understand now I was self-medicating. I was taking cannabis and cocaine regularly, day and night, for two years. One day I woke up and said, ‘no more.’”
There was some good news in his period. Craig met a Welsh girl online. “I had an image problem which doesn’t help when meeting girls,” he says. “The internet was a good way for someone to get to know me first.”
He left Safeways and headed to Wales to start a new life with his new girl but couldn’t find work. He began to feel more isolated and the panic got increasingly severe.
“You become scared of everything,” he says. “You live in fear. I call them my ‘weeks of hell.’ I won’t eat, I won’t sleep. I’ll cry. I get very negative thoughts and angry, thinking; ‘I’m stupid, why can’t I just have a normal brain.’ It’s very hard to make friends.”
Craig explains he moved his family back to Teesside in 2010 where there’s more family support.
The angry, panic-stricken young man who helps so many other people has become determined to understand and tell his own story. That’s why, after more than a quarter of a century, he used his Facebook site to track down his own birth mother.
“I wanted to understand the detail of what had happened to me, how she had come to it,” he explains. “She said on Facebook, ‘why are you trying to contact me after what I’ve done?’
“I took my real mum, who adopted me, and we met up. I could tell she (my birth mother) was sorry, just from her body language. She explained she had post-natal depression.
“But I couldn’t get the detail, the chain of events, I wanted, she just kept saying, ‘it’s hazy, I can’t remember.’ I felt frustrated that I’ll never have the full truth. I find it hard to forgive her...I backed out of a second meeting. I still hate her, but now I can control that hate.”
Craig insists he will use positive emotions to go on looking after his two children, aged three and eight, fighting for a job, and doing his bit to help as many other people as he can.
- Craig’s website can be found at: facebook.com/MyStoryCraigGriffiths
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