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Real Stories

A Tale of Courage

By Christian Womanmag

From the book Journey of Hope  Michael Davey shares his story with Kara Martin and Lynn Goldsmith of institutional life from the age of 17 months to abuse to then finding Christ and fulfiling his dreams. It is a heart wrenching story but one that ends with inspiration and faith

Michael was just 17 months old when he and his five siblings were dropped off at the Sydney Metropolitan Children’s Court and became wards of the state. As he grew up in various institutions and foster care, he was actually unaware that he had siblings.His life in foster care was harsh. He was abused by his foster Uncle, felt unloved by his foster mother who didn’t even acknowledge his birthdays, and during ‘respite’ times at Royleston’s Boys Home, various carers watched and interfered with the boys while they were having showers.He had developed various survival techniques to get through his traumatic upbringing. One was humour, with his quick wit helping him overcome awkward social situations, and escape punishment. The second, unfortunately, was alcohol, combined with risk-taking behaviour.Twice he was involved in car accidents that should have resulted in the death of all the occupants as well as him. After the second, he found himself in hospital with concussion and facial cuts from being jettisoned through the windscreen. He reached into the drawer of the cupboard next to him, and started reading the Bible he found there.While Michael is subtle about the difference that faith made, it is clear that a sense of being loved was significant, and a sense that “God had his hand on my life”. In addition, Karen Chapman, consulting psychologist, includes a comment at the end of the book that fundamental to Michael overcoming the trauma of his childhood was that he “believed in love and practised forgiveness.” These were the gifts of his faith.

We ask Michael what was significant about writing his book.

Why did you decide to write Journey of Hope?

Well, there were a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to celebrate the innocence and beauty of childhood. These years are extremely precious. Unfortunately, my childhood was largely lost and my innocence stolen at a young age, but in it I still discovered a couple of remarkable things – the significance of family and friendship. Experiencing the wonder of these two things gave me hope, which helped me endure many challenging things. Despite the difficulties I encountered as I journeyed through to adulthood, these exquisite wonders still held me in awe. Owing to their rarity, I cherish them dearly, and I wanted to share them with others.

Secondly, I wanted to highlight the plight of children in foster care. Many fostered children were, or have been given up by their parents or carers, mostly in unfortunate and heartbreaking circumstances. A number of these people experienced great trauma at the hands of the people meant to provide safety and care.

Thirdly, I wanted to describe my depressive episode and encourage others who have suffered something similar. If you’re still there then take heart – it will eventually pass. In dealing effectively with it I’m encouraging others to seek professional help, just like I did. To anyone who has a family member or friend suffering from depression you must continue to love them and never, ever stop doing this. Sometimes they don’t understand what they’re doing or the consequences of their actions. Also, I want to ‘destigmatise’ depression and expose it for all that it is – just an illness that is no different to other illnesses such as diabetes or for that matter, a broken leg.

Lastly, I wanted to make a simple statement – it doesn’t matter what difficulties you’ve experienced in your journey because you can still find happiness and purpose in life. In essence, this book encourages you to reach for the sky.

What motivated you to write Journey of Hope?

I wrote Journey of Hope to provide hope and encouragement to others. Unfortunately, most of us have a natural tendency to dwell on our past, especially when we have been hurt or abused. Journey of Hope looks at this through my experiences and makes a clear statement; we can all move on from our past and find meaning and fulfillment in life.  Refusing to dwell on the negative things that happen is of crucial importance.  Also, we need to forgive others who have wronged us.Ten-percent of the proceeds from the sale of every copy of my book is donated to Mission Australia’s Triple Care Farm, which meets the needs of homeless and disadvantaged youth.

Tell us a bit about what your book covers?

Journey of Hope is an honest and open account of my time as a fostered and institutionalised child. In those cold and sterile places I experienced abandonment, rejection and abuse. Retelling these events was a very emotional experience and naturally enough, my story is an emotional one. There are also the powerful and compelling interactions between my violent, abusive schizophrenic parent and myself. My mother completely rejected me, but I longed for her affection and love, in similar ways to how she treated my siblings who she genuinely loved.  I internalised my mother’s rejection and hatred of me when I was a child and did not adequately understand the way schizophrenia had manifest itself in her.

Journey of Hope also openly discusses the post traumatic stress disorder that I experienced as an adult, which included a 12-year depressive episode where at one point, I almost committed suicide. Both illnesses were related to the significant abuse I experienced as a child, especially at the hands of my tragically mentally-ill mother. It was also related to my low self-esteem. This is because as a young man I felt worthless, completely unlovable and a total failure; all products of my childhood.

Journey of Hope also shows how I overcame this incredibly negative mindset and began to appreciate and believe in myself. This was all intimately related to becoming a Christian when I was 22 years old. It was a turning point in my life and God then took me on a journey of significant healing and restoration. I was fortunate to have married a beautiful, caring Christian woman and from our Christ-centered union had two wonderful children who love the Lord.

Unfortunately, I had been a delinquent as a child and was unable to succeed at school, growing up believing that I would never amount to anything. It was in fact, a real and persistent fear that I had – I genuinely believed that I would always fail in academic pursuits. However, I was able to overcome this fear of failure, eventually winning $160, 000 in scholarships to study at university including PhD and Medicine scholarships.

 

Do you hope by writing the book that you’re reaching out to men or women who are having or have had the same experience?

I am reaching out to both men and women and adolescents. The things that I’ve experienced both men and women have also experienced as have teenagers. Many people, including men, women and our youth have spoken to me about my book saying they know how I felt because they experienced similar things in their lives. In fact, a number of teenagers whom I’ve taught and worked with in youth groups have suffered depression and some were or are fostered. With this common bond, there is a strong friendship forged straight away.

I recently had a book launch in Sydney and Steve Irons, the Federal Member for Swan and former State ward, spoke on my behalf. He said that he could relate to all things in my story. Many people who were there are called ‘Forgotten Australians’ – people who grew up in Church or State care.

 

What did you set out to achieve by writing Journey of Hope?

I wanted to encourage others, but I never realised that I would gain a remarkable understanding of myself in the process. Having the pages of my life opened in front of me resulted in being very therapeutic. I understood for the first time why I struggled in relationships, running away from friends who were reaching out to me – all because I was afraid that they would reject me.

 

How do the themes of the book relate to current issues in society today?

Journey of Hope speaks openly about childhood abuse and neglect. These are important and compelling issues in our society and ones that need to be prevented. But this can only be achieved when such issues are placed in the clear light of day, acknowledged and steps taken to prevent such things from happening again. We all need to look after our children and there are still many fostered children in our society who experience what I’ve experienced. Awareness and education seem to be improving the situation, but abuse of fostered children still occurs. Journey of Hope takes the necessary steps towards awareness and education, and highlights the plight of children in foster care.

Journey of Hope also addresses the topical issues of depression and anxiety and speaks openly and honestly about these chronic conditions, and encourages sufferers to seek professional help, just like I did. Also, there are the emotive charged interactions between a schizophrenic parent and her son who she blames for her illness.

Journey of Hope also highlights my genuine desire to show others how to become successful in life, throwing off the shackles of fear and failure and tackling life head on.

Kara Martin | Lynn Goldsmith

 

More about Michael Davey 

In his 20s Michael went back to TAFE to complete his HSC, overcoming some false starts. Then he went on to university and achieved well in his Science degree. He was offered a scholarship to complete a PhD in Chemistry, and did a diploma in Education to become a science teacher. 

Michael was even offered a coveted scholarship to study medicine, but decided that his calling was to teach. This was a remarkable transformation from his poor schooling record, and the assessment of his teachers.

 

To read his incredible story, ‘Journey of Hope’  visit Ark House Press.

 

 

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