I don’t remember when reporting of suspected abuse and threat assessments (e.g., suicide risk identifications) became mandatory for educators and counselors. It was before I became a parent, I know that much, and it dawned on me a long time ago that there were probably plenty of reports that resulted from misunderstandings.
About a month ago, while we were in the middle of Princess’ most troubling days, while we struggled to identify and treat her emerging bipolar tendencies, our son, Hoss, ran away from his school and was brought back by the county police. It’s been a long time since he ran away like that, but it brought back memories of the tough times before he was diagnosed with his mood disorder.
One of these elopement incidents was the final thing that sent him to the psychiatric hospital back in the day, and that he’d gone all of last school year without ever feeling the need to escape like that made me feel like we’d made serious progress. Last month’s bolting was not as serious as what we used to see, but he did leave the property.
When the police officer brought him back to the school, they said he’d expressed that he’d wanted to die. As a result, despite the assurances of the school staff with whom Hoss has a history (principal, counselor, psychologist) that he was not actually a danger to himself or others, the police informed us that they would be taking him to the ER for a psychiatric consult. I was told that I would not be allowed to go along until I had spoken with the Mobile Crisis Team.
I spent time with the MCT explaining all of the steps I go through to care for my children and myself (outpatient therapies for the children, family therapy with a social worker with whom all of the family members are comfortable, open lines of communication with the schools, medication monitoring all around) with a response that roughly translated to:
“Okay. That’s exactly what we were going to recommend, so keep on keeping on.”
My husband went to the ER to stay with Hoss, and the evaluation indicated that Hoss’ “I wish someone would just kill me,” was not actually a cry for help, but rather a misstated outburst that is not all that unusual for a nine-year-old boy with ADHD. During the next therapy session, Hoss got an opportunity to talk about how upset he was that he’d been forced to go to the ER when he’d wanted to stay with his sister and I.
While Princess was in the day hospital program a few weeks ago in preparation for the transition back to school (now that we’ve gotten her medication properly titrated), she spoke of her brother’s boundary issues, and how he’s gotten in trouble the weekend before for not keeping his hands to himself.
Part of that boundary crossing included trying to tickle her all over, and missing her stomach by hitting a bit further south. Because we are working with Hoss on respecting personal space as well as just plain leaving his sister alone sometimes, he had to process what he’d done and he had consequences for not acting as he was supposed to.
Princess accepted his apology, since he’d properly identified what he’d done wrong and what he should have done instead. I didn’t hear about the incident until days later, since it happened while I was out of the house and it was no longer on everyone’s mind by the time I got home that evening.
However, the hospital reported the incident to the county, who interviewed all three of my children.
The end result of the interviews (from the point of view of the police and social worker) was that there was no criminal activity or additional cause for concern.
The end result from the point of view of my children was slightly different- Princess feels bad that she got her brother in trouble, Hoss is irritated and slightly grossed out that he “…had to look at pictures of private parts! Even girl ones!” and Little Joe doesn’t understand why he had to answer a whole bunch of questions about body parts and our family and stuff.
I know that mandatory reporting has resulted in abuse being caught before more damage can be done. I know that conducting threat assessments in elementary school may mean that we have fewer young children reacting to their stress by harming or killing themselves.
I understand this, and of course I want those bad things prevented.
I’m just struggling with how this has put me under a microscope when, according to the mental health and educational professionals who know me and my family, I’m one of the good guys
In my teens, I was toxic to everything I touched.
I didn’t mean to be – I just had a lot of pain inside and was too young to understand the connection between that and the reckless behavior I exhibited. You understood it and prayed for me, always hoping I would see the light.
It wasn’t that I was a trouble-maker as so many claimed. Yes, I vandalized an elementary school in my home town, thoughtlessly claiming the rooftop with my giant ‘My Name Was Here.’ Yes, I ran away once, all the way to Tennessee, and yes, I became a teenage mother at the age of sixteen.
Maybe I was a trouble maker.
And then into my twenties, the bad choices and reckless behavior chose to continue itself. I’m sure you remember the destruction I left in my own life after post-partum depression led to the loss of my two children.
Years 23-29 are a blur – six years in a hellish nightmare that I had convinced myself I deserved. You screamed at me that I deserved better, that my children deserved better. I assured you that I believed you – and stayed in the nightmare anyway, because that’s what I deserved.
I lied to my friends and my family. I became a stranger even to myself.
The worst part was marrying my abuser on your birthday as if to honor you in some sort of way. ‘Look Mama. I did it. I married what I earned.’ I spent my entire twenties hating myself for my teen years – and so another decade was lost to my toxicity.
I didn’t mean to lose those years with myself and my children.
It wasn’t until my thirties that I started to feel like you know – maybe I gotta start forgiving myself in order to act right. I read all the mushy quotes, convinced myself I was beautiful inside and out, walked away from everything that caused me harm and for a while I was so happy.
I was so brilliantly happy and dazed by how very blessed my life was – I even found myself being loved by someone who never raised his voice or hands to me.
But here I go again – unable to forgive myself and unable to stop the path of destruction. I can see it happening. I know I should stop it. But I can’t. Not until it’s all burned to the ground.
Because I’m toxic.
And I don’t know that I ever won’t be..
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”
“Seasonal Affective Disorder”
“Generalized Anxiety Disorder”
Since I was 15 years old, I’ve been diagnosed with one thing after another.
It’s like a revolving door. Or a carousel of diagnoses. Like a really bad carnival ride, where you just want off, but it seems like it won’t end. Ever.
Usually I get a new label because we’ve run through the gamut of medication that is supposed to “solve” one problem, only to find that none of them work.
Or I have changed providers.
So I fill out another 500 question sheet of paper, which of course has answers that are completely dependent on what day of the week it is, what time of the day it is and whether or not I got any sleep the night before.
Then after this highly scientific deduction process, I’m given a new prescription to go with my new label and sent on my merry way.
Only to fall flat on my ass at some point (and I do mean fall, like rock-bottom), and have to start all over again.
This is why I’m a big fan of saying that medicine alone is not enough. I fully believe medicine is a hugely helpful tool. But I also think that it needs to be in conjunction with some form of therapy.
Of course, that doesn’t explain why I haven’t managed to make it to my appointments with my therapist in the last couple months…
About a week and a half ago, I did something that I regret so very deeply that it’s consuming my life. To give you a bit of background, I’m a 17 year old girl. A senior in high school who’s always been known as a good girl; the nice girl. I’ve always gotten good grades, practices good judgement, and has bright future ahead of her.
There’s a boy – a freshman – at my school, who I’ll call Jake. We’d had a kind of jokey, flirty relationship. Sure, he’s cute, but I knew from the start that he was bad news, plus he’s four years younger than me.
One night, he asked me if I wanted to come over to chill with him and his friend Adam. I made the mistake of sneaking out of the safety of my own house to go see him.
I made it very clear beforehand that I was not looking to do anything sexual with him, and he reassured me that he just wanted to chill and smoke some cigarettes.
I told my other freshman guy friend, Matthew, what was going on, and he warned me not to go because he was afraid I’d get raped. It’s not that I didn’t take him seriously, but I took it as an exaggeration.
I was smart, rape wouldn’t happen to me.
But still, once I’d snuck out, Matthew suggested I come pick him up and we could drive around and talk.
I knew hanging out with Jake was a bad idea because I don’t even smoke. I drove past Jake’s house, contemplating just going back home, before I finally decided to just do it. When I got to his room, Jake was playing video games and Adam was lying on the bed, using his phone.
I sat down on the bed and we talked for a bit before Jake handed me a cigarette. I politely refused, but he eventually convinced me to take just a puff of his.
After that I refused any more. Adam asked me to come cuddle, which I brushed off as a joke. Then they brought up my ex – still a bit of a sore spot. Adam asked if we were still dating, to which I said no. He said, “Well then, come cuddle with me.”
I agreed because I thought, “Why not? Fuck my ex.”
Well, eventually, he started getting handsy. I’d push his hand away each time, but he was persistent. He moved my hand to his crotch, and I would try to pull away, but he kept pushing it back.
It was never really forceful, just very persistent.
I kept saying “no” and “stop.”
He kept asking over and over if I’d perform sexual favors for him. He even tried to shove my head down toward his penis a few times. I kept refusing, and he’d always ask why.
I felt that I didn’t really owe him an explanation, so I would either say “Because,” or I would tell him that he was too young for me. He would say “Because why” and I would say “I don’t know.” He would ask how I didn’t know and I would just turn away. Then he would repeat this over and over. It was just plain annoying.
He continued to try and touch me.
Each time I moved his hand away, he got more persistent. Long story short, I eventually gave up and just let it happen. I ended up giving him a hand job, and letting him finger me. I wanted to stop, but he flat out told me I was not allowed to leave until he came.
Jake was in the room the entire time, and although he asked multiple times if I wanted to come see something or do something else, he didn’t do anything to stop Adam, even though I clearly did not want to be doing this.
After I left there, I wasn’t entirely aware of what had just happened. All I could think was “What have I done?” and “Why did I let that happen?”
After doing further research, I’ve determined that I was sexually coerced, which can be a form of sexual assault.
I’m having a lot of trouble coping with this.
I feel dirty, I feel like a whore, even though I know that I’m not. I’ve never had sex. I’ve never even given a blowjob. The only other person I’ve ever done these things with was my ex, and it was completely consensual.
I’m so beyond upset that I let this happen to me. These sexual acts are things that are supposed to be special, not something that I’d let just anyone do.
But I did.
I let this stupid, douchebag, horny freshman boy do this to me. I know that it was not my fault that it happened, but I can’t help but feel so, so, so guilty. Guilty that I snuck out, guilty I’d even gone there in the first place.
Matthew warned me beforehand, for Christ’s sake. I could have hung out with him and everything would be perfectly fine right now. But instead, I’m consumed by regret and guilt and all of these awful feelings, and I’m stuck.
I feel like I can’t enjoy anything anymore because all of this is just looming over me. The only person who knows what happened, besides Jake and Adam, is Matthew. I constantly replay it in my mind, and I constantly want to talk about it with him, and I feel like I’m bothering him.
I feel like everyone would be so ashamed of me if they knew what happened. I want to tell them so badly, but my friends would look down on me, and my mother would be so incredibly disappointed. It would break her heart if she knew I was sexually assaulted. And I’m scared that no guy will be able to respect me again.
How will I handle a future relationship?
Do I tell him that this happened to me, or do I pretend like it never happened?
Will he judge me?
It was just one mistake, but I don’t know how I’m going to live with myself. I can’t help but feel like I’m smarter than this. I should have been smarter than to go over there, smarter than to let this happen.
But it happened, and I can’t change the past.
I need help dealing with this.
I’ve been acting like everything’s okay with the hope that eventually, it will feel that way. But it just seems so hard to believe that it ever will.
I want the anxiety to stop. I want to know that I will feel okay again. I have so much to look forward to; college next year, but I feel this is something that will drag me down forever.
I never thought of myself as the victim, but now that I am, what do I do?
To the 2 year old little girl, Allison, with brown eyes that love everyone and everything you are perfect never change.
3 year old Allison:
The dog bite and 120 plus stitches you will need in your face will only hurt for a little bit. It’s what comes later that will really hurt you.
4 year old Allison:
The daycare teachers and other kids at daycare will call you the ugly duckling. Don’t cry to much about it because at the end of the story the duck ends up being a swan. But that’s just a story and stories aren’t true. Right?
5 year old Allison:
Now is when you should try and run away from people. Here is when you change schools for the first time and you have to deal with the bullies again. Now is when you will have to talk to the state police about your aunt sexually harassing and sexually assaulting you for a couple of years. But that’s okay because that’s how you show people you love them. WRONG!!!! Now is when all the nightmares will start and you won’t sleep for the next couple of weeks and, sleeping the next couple of months without waking up screaming will be a miracle.
6,7,& 8 year old Allison:
These years will be different right? Wrong! These years the bullies get worse because they make new friends and become “Popular”. Don’t worry about what popular means you’ll find out within the next couple of years. But on the plus side you make a few new friends too. The downside to these friends one will steal your things when you have her spend the night, one will hate you most of the time, and the other is a boy that only has you for a friend.
9, 10, 11, & 12 year old Allison:
Those boys who always “pick on you” as the teachers call it only do it because they like you. Let me tell you how wrong that is. Those boys don’t like and probably never will. They are rude and can get away with murder because their dad is the big man at the school. You will be hurt emotionally, physically, and spiritually because of these boys and the fact that no one will help you because their daddy signs everyone’s paychecks. The teachers will say money is more important than you. You can’t get help.
You’ve made it this far through hell. Don’t look anyone in the eyes and don’t speak unless spoken too. You will break down in tears because now the boys are sexually harassing you and it brings back the nightmares. But still no help.
13 year old Allison:
You move schools to a place where no one knows your name. You will feel relief but only till a group of girls start to bully you. Those girls don’t matter though because later on they will become so of your closest friends. What really matters is that at the end of the year there will be a boy who takes his junk out in science class and measures it to see how manly he is. He will blame you on telling even though you didn’t. He will tell you that he is going to make small but deep cuts on you after he beats you so you will feel pain and slowly bleed out. The nightmares will come back but now you have him and his “manhood” threatening to kill you after your aunt takes advantage of you. You start to cut.
14, 15, & 16 year old Allison:
You’re in high school. The first day will go okay until you run into him in the hallway and you have a panic attack. You will have a panic attack at least once a day and will end up with a few new cuts for every panic attack. The nightmares will start again and for every sleepless night you add a couple of new cuts. Your wrist will be stained red for awhile but that’s okay because you realize how poetic black is and you wear it almost every day.
17 year old (Present day) Allison:
You have stopped cutting and hopefully for good this time. You never see him at school anymore but that’s because he is in a different building now. You’re a senior in high school, have panic attacks, social anxiety, and migraines often. You are falling apart and you shouldn’t be. You’ve been through so much that you will be up one night at 12 writing this warning because the nightmares wont stop and you haven’t been able to sleep all week because of them.
Thanks to all the crap that has happened I don’t feel. The only time I ever feel anything truly is when I physical hurt myself or when I have the nightmares. Other than those times I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s not normal for a 17 year old girl to not feel emotions. I talk to my mom about all of this all the time; she just doesn’t know how bad all this actually is.
Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I the only 17 year old who questions life, God, death, and emotions?
Looking back on my/our times inpatient, I see an array of different experiences. Whilst at first I felt locked up, caged and incapacitated, later on I felt safer and more in agency of myself. My first inpatient experience was in 2010. This is what I wrote about it:
“I was in psychiatric hospital from April to June 2010. The rooms were cold, with white walls and loud air conditioning. I always fell asleep watching the wall, the shadows portrayed on it by the blinds.
The worst of all was when the visits went from once a week to none. When my phone was taken away from me. When I wasn’t allowed to see my parents.
Being caged in a room with no lock, no security, no privacy, without any contact into the world — and no hugs, that was what hospital was like.
I can’t believe I went there by choice.”
The hospital rooms I’ve been in still aren’t all that comfortable. The one I’m in right now is a mix-match of blues and purples (with a blue ceiling, of all things!) and the clock on the front wall is loud and crooked.
Here, we fall asleep with not just our teddy bear but also with our unicorn, bundled up in surprisingly comfortable hospital sheets. Here there is much less need for the sort of musical escapism I did as a teenage patient. Here I am a subject, an agent in my own treatment, and my folks no longer dictate my medical ways. On the contrary, I/we decide how and when and why I am treated.
I was visited by a friend last night, and would most likely be visited by my family and other friends if I were/am to stay longer. My friend gave me the biggest of hugs and played with my hair and kissed my forehead while we lay on my hospital bed talking at ease.
This time round, I have my phone, my laptop, my tablet – all connection to the outer world is intact. We are not trapped or suffocated, though staying within these four walls does get a tad bit boring in the end when I’ve finished all imaginable tasks on my computer.
And I do not regret coming here by choice, or having come here the last few times this past February and the year before. In between we have been treated in an open Daytime Ward, a six-hours-per-day sort of thing, like a part-time job except your job is, well, your own health and well-being.
Unfortunately, it is still a struggle for the staff to understand our condition and our way of being. The phrase ”So I hear you have these personalities?” is still a frequent visitor, and if I don’t remind them they’ll forget I’m not L (unfortunately, L is still up in her Limbo Room).
I’m seeing the doc today. Going to determine whether I leave or stay. Wish me luck!