High School

My high school shut down permanently the other day. I knew it was coming. It was a Catholic high school in the midst of severe financial misappropriation and scandal. Nothing could have saved it, despite the efforts of alumni donating money to keep the school open.

I didn’t donate anything. Mostly because I was poor, but also because I had such mixed emotions about that high school. As much as it was an outlet for me, a safe place for 8 or so hours a day, it was also another institution, another group of people who seriously missed the mark in getting me help.

I have nothing left from high school. No yearbooks. No memorabilia. Nothing but distant memories and bottled up emotions. I can count on my hands the number of people from that I still talk to from there, and that is only thanks to connecting with them through Facebook (oddly enough, most of them I reconnected with last year when they announced our school was in crisis).

There’s a lot of high school I don’t remember. I know that’s common with dissociation. I know it was a time of transition for me, and not just the typical adolescent transitions. High school was the start of my health problems. It was the start of a life in and out of emergency rooms and hospital beds.

It was also the time when the abuse I was experiencing became more physical and psychological. My mother could no longer overpower me enough to sexually abuse me as regularly as she had been, so she changed her ways. And it wasn’t any better or any easier. In many ways, it was worse. It was a change for me, and one I didn’t know how to cope with.

I turned to drugs and alcohol, because I knew no other way to cope beyond the ways I was already coping. And no one suspected a thing, because I was still functioning, I was still getting As. But I was drowning my feelings in alcohol, forgetting about life with every line of coke I snorted, popping any pill I could get my hands on because I didn’t care. I wanted out of the pain. I wanted out of my life.

I didn’t understand why no one helped me. There were many efforts, both mine and those of my teachers, but they all ended up in failure. I remember my health teacher pulling me aside after class one day. She knew something was wrong. It was the day after my mother had taken all of my clothes, threw them in garbage bags, and tossed them away, because I had no longer deserved them. I’m not even sure what I did or didn’t do to deem myself unworthy. I’m not sure I ever knew. But I ended up breaking down and telling my teacher what happened. She asked questions I couldn’t answer, questions I was trained not to answer honestly. I hesitated, and she knew something wasn’t right.

It didn’t matter, though. She went to the head guidance counselor, who questioned me and ending up calling my mother, who of course would never admit to anything that made her look at all bad, and it was all deemed a misunderstanding. But that was my fault. I could have spoken up. I could have told them both what else was happening, and I didn’t. I stayed silent. I stayed voiceless.

But my actions continued to speak; my actions screamed out loud something’s not right here. All the times I ended up in my guidance counselor’s office breaking down in tears, but unable to tell them why. The bursts of anger I had taken out on other classmates, both verbally and physically. The bruises, the unexplained wounds, the self-inflicted injuries, all getting worse, all getting (for the most part) ignored.

And I say for the most part because there was action. It was just the wrong kind of action. Any attempt I made to tell my counselor how I felt was met with a call to my parents, even after I begged, through tears, for them not to call. They didn’t understand why I was so desperate for them not to call. They didn’t understand that each phone call led to another beating, another punishment, another break to my heart. But I couldn’t tell them the real reason I didn’t want them to call. So whose fault was it?

I blamed myself for the longest time. If I had just spoken up. If I had just done more than cry, and push people, and bury everything down with shit I should have never been doing, maybe they would have noticed.

But they did notice something, enough to tell my parents I needed outside help immediately. But that was it. No calls to CPS. No further investigations. Why? Because private school tuition pays for silence. If they cause a commotion, they lose their money. I didn’t realize it at the time, but as I got older, I met more people with similar experiences. Obvious child abuse, but no action taken by private schools. Because money buys silence.

And that’s what angers me. I know times have changed. I know schools have started to take more action. But what we know now is not any different from what we knew then. Abuse doesn’t just happen in poor families; abuse happens in all kinds of families. It’s just easier to cover up when you have money and hide under the guise of the Lord.

I’m not sad to see my high school shut down. The corruption that was uncovered wasn’t new, it was just bad actions in a different form. It needed to be closed.

What I am sad about is the loss of those four years of my life, the let down I experienced, the screams left unheard, the questions left unanswered.

And the fact that I will never know how my life could have been different if someone had just spoken up for me, if someone had just listened to the truth in my silence.

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Fall down, get up. Drop out, get in.

I still remember the day I got the call that I was accepted into grad school. It was such a happy day. I had such high hopes for my future. I was so excited to finally interact with people who were understanding and shared the same interests as me.

And then six months later, I dropped out of grad school because someone (or multiple someones) reported my DID and my blog and all of a sudden, my abilities came into question.

I didn’t just lose my place in grad school that day, I lost my dream. My wish of becoming  a counselor was ripped away from me, trampled on, shit on, and set on fire. All because I struggle with a mental illness.

From talking with others, I knew that going into the counseling field would be difficult for me. I could not be open about my DID, but that is impossible, considering my name is forever tied to DID through my professional writing. I didn’t feel like I should have to hide who I am, and unfortunately, many in the mental health field are not accepting of people with mental health issues themselves.

So instead of putting myself out there to be hurt again, I took a different route. I applied to different programs, still connected to psychology, but not focused on the counseling aspect. Quantitative psychology, neuropsychology, and experimental psychology – all programs that got my interest, and all programs that so many in the counseling field would never, ever consider because they find the science of psychology too difficult.

I have been stressing out for the last couple of months, worrying that I would not get into a program, and if I did, that I would not be able to start until next year. I found an experimental psychology program I really liked, contacted the head of the department and asked if he would still consider me for the fall semester (the deadline was already up months before). I scurried to get everything I needed in, rushed to take the GRE as soon as I could, wrote a different essay for each program I applied to, and waited the last few weeks with a tremendous amount of anxiety.

I got my acceptance letter just a few days ago, my first choice school and program. I’m starting in the Fall semester. I will even be working with my first choice mentor, conducting research in the area of affective neuroscience and environmental impact on emotional development. Basically, I will be focusing on the biological and environmental bases of emotion, and what causes emotions to “go wrong”.

Hopefully, no one will feel the need to use my diagnosis against me this time around.

 

Why I Want(ed) to be a Counselor

I have been in and out of the mental health system for the last 15 years.

Let me be totally honest; the system sucks. I could go on and on about just how badly it sucks, but I just don’t have the energy for that right now.

I’ve had quite a number of therapists. Most of them have been horrible. Some of them, I seriously question how they were (and likely still are) allowed to practice counseling.

My first therapist enjoyed talking about herself more than about me.

My second therapist avoided any topic that was mildly serious. You self-injured? Oh. How is school going? 

My fourth or so therapist: Your mother loves you. You’re just overreacting.

The social worker assigned to me after my first hospitalization: I think you have an attachment disorder. You can never leave your family. You should try drinking wine (knowing I had a history of alcohol abuse). Your mother loves you. She’s just overprotective because she cares. I get it, I have problems with my mom, too. All children have problems with their parents. It’s okay to be suicidal.

I could go on about this woman. I had been telling her for weeks that I felt something wasn’t right, maybe it was my medication or what, I don’t know. But I told her that I was suicidal and concerned about ending up in the hospital again (or worse). That’s when she told me it was okay to be suicidal, and basically ignored my concerns. For the record, I ended up hospitalizing myself shortly after that, and my medications were changed.

Unfortunately, they sent me right back to this woman. I used to refer to her as SSW (shitty social worker). It had gotten so bad by that point, that I sought out a therapist just to help me cope with SSW (I didn’t want to risk missing my appointments with SSW and being re-hospitalized). I dealt with her for a few more months.

During what would turn out to be our last session, I told SSW of my plans to run away and leave my family behind. She immediately shot me down, telling me I could never leave my family. You can’t abandon your family. They are your family. What? How could you tell me this, knowing my history? I was so angry, so filled with rage. I knew I couldn’t go back to her. It was not healthy. She should not be a counselor in any capacity. She is dangerous.

That was my final push. I told myself I needed to become a counselor because people in need should not be subjected to people like her. Victims should not be invalidated by therapists. Clients should not be put in danger. Clients should not be ignored. I wanted to be everything my previous counselors were not. I wanted to change the profession. I wanted counselors to know that mothers abuse their children, and that they need to acknowledge that it happens instead of telling the person they are just misunderstanding their reality.

I wanted to be a counselor to make a difference in others’ lives. I wanted to go on that journey with them. I wanted to witness their growth and transformation. But I also wanted to initiate change and make a difference with a larger impact. I wanted to change the way counselors were being educated. Why aren’t they being educated about female-perpetrated abuse? Why are they not being educated or trained in dissociative disorders? Why is the system continually dropping the ball when we are perfectly capable of being better?

That is why I wanted to be a counselor.

But things change.

It’s time to reassess

It’s been a hectic two weeks. I have a lot of decision-making to do in a short amount of time.

I’m not feeling well. I’ve been working all week, which is good for distraction, but bad for leaving me any extra energy to apply to my life outside of work. Pain is also draining me, and I cannot get an appointment to get cortisone injections earlier than the middle of June. By then, I may just amputate my own feet (I’m kidding – I don’t have the energy for self-amputation).

Recently, my abilities were questioned. Now I have to deal with more shit on top of the shit I already manage on a daily basis to fight for something I shouldn’t have to fight for. It’s not that I can’t manage more shit; I feel I shouldn’t have to. I have never given anyone any reason to doubt me, or any reason to question my ability to do anything. I have never and will never put anyone in harm’s way.

Regardless, I am now questioning my life’s path. Maybe I am not where I am supposed to be. I have sort of, unfortunately, lost the motivation to continue where I am at. Part of me wants to stay so I can prove to these people that I can do anything I want to do, but part of me doesn’t want to be around people that feel the need to bring other people down.

I’ve been looking at other educational options. Perhaps entering a new program at a different school. Perhaps pursuing a doctorate instead of a masters. I’m not questioning my pursuit of psychology and counseling. That will never change. It is actually something I will need in order to be taken seriously, especially as I continue to grow PAFPAC. I want to be a counselor. I have had so many shitty experiences with counselors and I know that something needs to change. There are cracks in the system that need to be fixed. And I believe I can do that.

There’s just so much to consider. I wish I was more financially comfortable so I could take time to consider everything. I considered asking my grandmother for a loan – that is how desperate I’ve become. My grandmother seems oblivious to everything (as you can read here) and I’d be putting myself at risk of interacting with my abusers if she tells them about the whole thing. I’m still considering it, I just don’t know either way at this point.

I wish I could work more jobs, but it’s physically impossible at this time. I fear I will need surgery again to repair the damage in my foot. I never had the surgery I was supposed to have last summer because that was the time I ran away, and my feet are significantly worse now than they were back then. If surgery happens, I’m really screwed. I can’t afford to be out of work. Hell, I can’t even afford to be working.

It sucks right now. Everything just sucks. But I keep on keepin’ on.

Why can’t I feel anything?

I had therapy this morning.

It started out okay. But I knew my therapist wanted to talk about my parts, a topic we haven’t been able to delve into much because my life has been a clusterfuck lately. Talking about parts is not the most comfortable thing for me, because parts come out and I hear things that I am sometimes not quite ready to deal with, or things I don’t want to deal with.

There has been an issue with some of my parts and therapy. Parts don’t want other parts talking. One part doesn’t want anyone (including me) talking about a particular event that several of us happen to share experience and memory of. It’s so complicated. And the problem is that this particular event was so traumatic even for me, that it is very prevalent in my life and I need to talk about it. But every time it comes up, it causes chaos on the inside.

I tried to explain to my therapist a little bit of what was going on without going into specifics, because I didn’t want to trigger myself into a switch. That didn’t work for too long, because I realized I was thinking about the event in question and it brought up feelings and feelings get you in trouble and off I went.

When you come out of dissociation, you ground yourself. You try to engage your senses. My therapist always tells me to put my feet on the floor. I’m able to bounce back pretty quickly at this point, without going through the entire process. She told me to feel the water bottle I had near me, and asked me what the temperature of the water was. I held the bottle in the palm of my hand, but I couldn’t really feel it. I tried to close off everything else going on around me and focus on just the bottle and my hand. I still couldn’t feel it. I think my therapist sensed my frustration. She asked me what was wrong. I told her, “I don’t know, I can’t feel the water.”

She got up from her chair, took the bottle from my hand, felt it, held it out in her hand, then held out her other hand towards me.

“Touch the bottle and my hand and tell me which is warmer.”

I grabbed the bottom of the bottle with my left hand, and reached out and held my right hand against her palm. I tried, and I still could not feel anything. I was frustrated. My therapist played it off like it was okay. She told me she thought her hand was warmer, and went and sat back down in her chair. I sat back and started to cry.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

I was hesitant to answer at first. I just wanted to tell her I was okay. My go-to answer. But she knew by my expression and my tears that I was not okay.

“Why can’t I feel anything?”

She asked me if I really wanted to know her thoughts. I already knew. I developed parts that shut off feelings because that is what they needed to do in order to survive. They believed that feelings were wrong. They believed that feelings resulted in pain and hurt (because they did). How horrible it must be to still be stuck in a world where you believe you cannot feel. The sadness I experience with not being able to feel the water, or my therapist’s hand…that doesn’t come anywhere close to what my parts (and I) have experienced in childhood.

While I was crying over not being able to feel a bottle of water, I was actually crying over a whole lot more.

CPCE

I got the results of my CPCE Monday night.

For those that don’t know, the CPCE is the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination. It is a vital part of graduating your masters program and earning your counseling credentials. At my school, they have you take it in your first semester just as a measurement of progress when you take it again before graduation.

So when I took it back in February, it really wasn’t going to count for anything. Students fail it, and that’s expected and okay, because students are just entering the program and know absolute zero shit about counseling. The average score of entering graduate students is somewhere in the 50s.

The minimum score required to pass the exam and graduate is a 70. It’s 160 multiple choice questions divided into eight categories, all focused on foundations of counseling that you would learn throughout your masters program. It’s a lot of knowledge packed into one exam. Like an SAT of counseling. Students legit stress over passing this exam. And there are some that don’t pass.

Even though it didn’t really matter what my score was, I e-mailed the professor and asked if I could find out anyway. Just for shits and giggles. I met with her Monday before my class. Unfortunately for me, I had been mentally dealing with the stress from earlier in the day, so I couldn’t quite take in all of the positive greatness of what I was about to find out in in that moment.


I passed the CPCE. Not only did I pass, but I scored higher than the national average. I scored higher than students who had already been through the graduate program. I was not even one month into the program when I took this exam. Not even one month. I didn’t even try. I didn’t study. I didn’t prepare. This doesn’t happen.

My professor seemed so happy, and I broke down and cried. Partly because of the anxiety I was still experiencing from earlier in the day, and partly because I have continually doubted my ability to ever be a counselor, and this went against that directly. Here was proof, on paper, that I had the brains to be a counselor. So why is it still so hard for me to accept?

I think, no, I know, that other people have more faith and belief in my abilities to be a counselor than I do. And that in itself is a problem, and I recognize that. I also know that there are ways in which my life could be significantly easier than it is right now, and that is putting a damper on my outlook on life.

I have a gift to give. I have a story to tell. I have a heart to share. I have people to help. I have souls to reach. I have a world to change. And instead, I’m sitting here, waiting for my life to end, letting all of these good things waste away to nothing, because I’m too weak to take a stand for myself.

“I think we need to ban the scale.”

My eating disorder has been out of control.

And my life factors have made it so much easier to go along with it. No money this week? Perfect. We don’t need food anyway. We can stretch out this last cup of rice and make it last a week.

But it’s so much more than that. There are times when I am in such horrible denial that I have a problem. People ask me if I’m okay because I don’t look well. Well, I ate the other day. Isn’t that enough? In those moments, I can’t process that no, going days without eating isn’t normal. I can’t process that, in that moment, I look like hell because I haven’t eaten.

And then I sit in therapy and battle with my therapist. Did I eat today? Well, I had coffee. Coffee is food. Just stop. What is the big deal? I am FAT. I don’t need food. I ate the other day. I am still alive and doing just fine. What is the big deal? No, I’m not about to pass out. It’s the lighting.

I was so angry at myself during our session on Monday because I had gained three pounds over the weekend. THREE POUNDS. I had lost 23 pounds in the last 17 days, but now that I gained 3 back, I only really lost 20. And I was pissed. I told my therapist I couldn’t eat this week until I made up for the gain.

“I think we need to ban the scale,” she said to me. “It’s becoming a problem.”

I weigh myself every morning. Obsessively. And I know that. It is a sick obsession, but I need it. I need to know how much I weigh because I need to know if I deserve to eat that day. Am I too fat today? Someone will notice that extra pound and judge me for eating that bowl of rice. I just can’t do it. We’ll try again tomorrow. It’s a sick and twisted cycle that I keep getting caught in.

I go through periods where I can manage quite well. And then there are times, like now, where my eating disorder becomes full-fledged and affects my everyday life. I sit in therapy sometimes, half out of it, unable to think, because I’m tired and haven’t eaten. And I can sense the frustration in my therapist as she tells me we can’t work through much if I come to therapy starved. I can’t work through my issues if I’m not fulfilling my most basic needs. And I know she’s right, but I keep fighting it. I’m fat. I don’t need food. Why doesn’t anyone understand this?

Why can’t I just have a normal relationship with food? Why did my mother have to point out how fat and disgusting I looked all of the time? “Pull your skirt down, no one wants to see your disgusting legs!”

Why did she have to complain about how much our food cost her? To make us feel guilty for having basic needs. How dare we have basic needs and take away from her. Why did she have to take it away so much? Why did she send me to school with nothing and then yell at me when school would call that I didn’t eat? Why was it my fault? She set me up for failure every time. Food could never be a simple, fulfilling experience.

Why did I only get food if I deserved it? Why did food always have to belong to her or my brother? Why did she turn food into a tool of manipulation?

Do you know what it’s like to be told you can only eat certain food once it goes bad? Do you know what that does to your sense of worth? It destroys it. Whatever sense of worth I had left was no longer. It didn’t seem to bother my father that he and I were treated like shit. He looked forward to when some of his favorite foods were nearing expiration.”I see those doughnuts are just two days away from expiring!” and he was so  excited about it. I was horrified. I saw it as my mother’s way of telling us we were worth nothing. But hey, she can say she feeds us, and she wouldn’t be lying. Sick. It’s sick.

I’m not sure I have ever mentioned it here before, but I have a sixth sense for scoping out expired food and beverages. I can walk past something and just get this feeling that it is expired, and sure enough I check, and it is. It helped me a lot at my last job, as I cleaned out a lot of expired merchandise in their grocery department. I’ve also filled up baskets of expired foods while shopping at stores and dropped it at their customer service areas. I don’t know why it happens, it just does.

And I never made the connection before, until I was laying in bed last night and thought, have I trained myself to scope out expired food because that’s what I had to do at home? Have I done that without even realizing it? I don’t know how else to explain it. It makes me sad.

Deep inside, I still feel an immense sense of worthlessness, that I am in many ways unworthy of food, unworthy of the basic necessities of life. A piece of her is still inside of me, telling me I am worthless.

And now, thanks to all of this shit I’ve dealt with, I can’t even eat like a normal person. Every time I consider eating a piece of food, I have to go down an entire mental checklist. Do I deserve to eat today? Am I fat today? Is this going to make me fatter? Do I even want to eat this? Am I even hungry? Should I bother? I’m too fat to eat this. I can’t eat today. I’m bad. I didn’t earn this. I can’t. 

I ate today. But only because I weighed myself this morning and lost six pounds in two days. The cycle continues.