Small Teen Turns Eighteen - Jazz Burkitt
Small Teen Turns Eighteen is on Monday at 9pm
I was born with restricted growth, which means I am the size of an average nine year old, and this affects what I do every day – the world isn’t built for people of my size. I try my best to not let my condition get in my way and am determined to live my life like every other teenager because after all, I am the same - I love fashion and going out with my friends. The only thing about my condition that holds me back is other people’s attitudes – my life would be a lot easier if people were more accepting, because if I am fine with having restricted growth then why shouldn’t other people be?
Since the age of 15 my life has been followed by cameras for a series of BBC Three documentaries. The first documentary called ‘Small Teen Big World’ saw me take the huge decision to get in contact with my estranged dad, who I had not seen since I was born. My dad was addicted to drugs and my mum made the heart-breaking decision to bring me up without him in my life. But mum wasn’t alone; she had her parents - my lovely grandparents - to help raise me and without them I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I then had a four part series made about my life called ‘Small Teen Bigger World’. In this series my dad got in touch and became a huge part of my life – he moved to Wales to be with me and mum. Finally my life and family felt complete. However at the end of the series I found out that my dad had relapsed and had started to take heroin again. My world had been turned completely upside down and my family torn apart.
Clip from Small Teen Bigger World:
When I was first reunited with my dad it felt strangely natural and I was really comfortable around him. I thought it would take longer for me to be willing to let him into my home and my life, but it was actually surprisingly easy to let him in. We got on really well and the best part of our relationship was that we had the same sense of humour – we were always laughing together. Dad also loves animals, so that was a bonus, as I love animals too so we could talk for hours together about them. He was like an 18 year old trapped in a 40 year old man’s body.
Although we laughed and joked there was always a sense that the past was hanging over him and our relationship. Even before I found the drugs there was always a constant reminder that he hadn’t been part of my life for 16 years – it was like I had to tell him my whole life story and explain everything and every person in my life –that was really difficult.
The worst part of finding out that dad was back on drugs was knowing that once again he had chosen them over me. He did it when I was a baby and now he had done it again. It made me feel worthless and like I wasn’t worth choosing. When I was reunited with him I made it clear that although he was welcome back in my life, I only wanted him around if he was clean from drugs. He knew the rules and what would happen if he turned to drugs again, but he still took the risk.
Deciding not to have dad in my life anymore until he gets clean from drugs was definitely the hardest decision I have made, but I know that in the long run it is best for everyone. I didn’t want drugs in my life let alone in my house – imagine if a friend had stayed over and they found them in my room! Having him in my life was just too much of a risk.
This new documentary follows me coping with the devastation of finding out my dad is back on drugs. Mum had become so reliant on his help that she found it difficult to cut him out and I completely understand her choice to continue seeing him but I needed a break and some time to think. My Grandparents were in America visiting my Aunty Shelly so mum and I decided I should visit them to give me chance to think. Whilst I was in America dad started a methadone detox programme, but did it work? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Clip from Small Teen Turns Eighteen:
The documentary also sees me become an official adult, as I celebrate my eighteenth birthday in style with a fancy dress party. Turning eighteen has been a huge milestone for me; when I look back a year ago I’ve changed so much and I feel like a completely different person. I have grown up inside and out and feel as though I am a stronger and better person. My experience with my dad has taught me to be more wary of people and to not be too trusting.
I have definitely learnt a lot about myself from making these documentaries. I’ve become wiser to the world, feel a lot more confident in myself and have more pride. I actually feel as though I have aged four years in just one year! I am a lot happier than I have ever been and I am ambitious for my future.
Small Teen Turns Eighteen is on Monday at 9pm