My Words Were Heard

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to address something with the hospital I was admitted to several times in the year before I ran away.

I was admitted to the voluntary psychiatric unit three times, and each time, the hospital provided my mother with information and direct access to me. I felt extremely frustrated about it, but didn’t have the strength or the energy to fight back at that time.

I know it’s too late for me, but I’ve continually thought about how this needs to change, how victims of abuse and domestic violence need extra protection, how they need to feel safe in a place where they should be able to feel safe.

I finally sat down last night and wrote what was on my mind for awhile now. I sent it in an email to the hospital.

I didn’t expect an answer back. I was sitting on the couch an hour ago, and heard my phone ring. It was a number from my old town. My immediate reaction was one of fear; I wanted to deny the call, fearing it was someone from my family. I wasn’t even thinking about the letter I had just sent.

Hesitantly, I answered the phone. It was the director of patient services. He wanted to let me know that he received my letter and was taking it seriously. He is launching an investigation into my particular experience and forwarding the matter to the board. He will be contacting me again, and wanted me to know that I was heard.

I couldn’t believe it. I can only hope something comes from this. Even if nothing happens, I know that I was able to speak, and for a brief moment, I was heard.

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Crystalie. I was a patient at * many times throughout my life. I am writing today to share my experience with several of my last hospitalizations there, in hopes that changes will be made to protect future patients.

In November 2014, December 2014, and February 2015, I was a patient in your voluntary psychiatric unit at *. The first stay, I was sent by my doctor after I revealed abuse that was going on that contributed to my suicidal thoughts. My doctor thought it best to send me to the hospital to keep me safe — not only from myself, but from my abuser. Despite multiple attempts by my abuser, the doctor refused to give out any of my information about where I was. Somehow, my abuser contacted * and had it confirmed not only that I was admitted to the hospital, but what unit and floor I was on. This allowed my abuser to contact me countless times via phone throughout my stay. My abuser also requested information via the MHAs and was provided updates about my care. I never gave approval for this person to receive any information about me. This person was not listed as an emergency contact. This person had no right to any of my information, yet she was given all of the information she needed to keep me under her watch.

I was discharged a few weeks later, back to the home of my abuser, who believed that I informed people of what she had done. I had indeed informed the treatment team, including my social worker, about the abuse that happened, but because I was an adult, not much could be done. I found myself in an unsafe situation at home, so I checked myself into the hospital just a couple weeks later to keep myself safe from her. I wasn’t suicidal as much as I needed somewhere to hide and be safe. As I waited in the emergency room for a bed to be open, I saw my abuser walking down the ER hall, right towards me. The front desk had confirmed I was there, and told her what room I could be found in. Once again, I had not revealed any of this information to her. She found me, most likely by chance, because * was the hospital most local to me at that time. She was not listed as my emergency contact. I did not okay anyone to visit me or to contact me. At this point, the hospital had it on record from my prior stay that this person was abusive. Yet she was allowed to have access to me once again. I was too afraid to tell the aide to ask my abuser to leave, for fear of what my abuser would then do to me. There was no safe way to go about it. I suffered once again, and received retributive punishment after I was discharged back into my abuser’s home.

There are multiple points where the system failed me. The system allowed a known abuser to contact me, to physically find me in a place that should have protected me, should have been a safe spot for me. My health information is supposed to be private; that information should include my general status as a patient, and should not be disclosed to anyone without my approval. It’s a violation of HIPAA. I realize it’s difficult to monitor who comes in to visit. But there needs to be some procedures in place to keep victims safe. I am not the only one. And while it’s too late to change what happened to me, it’s not too late for other victims of abuse and domestic violence. Victims of abuse rarely confront their abusers in public because of the fear. I know that was why I was unable to tell hospital staff once my abuser was there. What if there was a safe way to go about this?

My abuser was my mother. I think that’s what made it so easy for the hospital to share my information. Most people don’t expect family members to be abusive. But the truth is, they are. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, partners — no one is immune. I know for me, it was difficult to tell people that I was in hiding from my mother; I had faced a lot of disbelief when I did. I know, in speaking to other victims of similar abuse, that there was a similar hesitance. But that fear and difficulty doesn’t mean we don’t deserve privacy and protection. I need to know that the hospital has changed how it shares information. I need to know that there’s a way victims of violence can protect themselves from their abusers while in medical settings. I couldn’t fight the wrongs that were done to me back then; I wasn’t safe enough to do so. I realize it’s late for me now, but I need to take a stand for others. What can we do to keep this from happening again?

Please contact me. I have provided my phone number and e-mail address.

Thank you for your time.

A Letter to Us

Dear younger parts and me,

I know things seem really scary right now. It’s okay to feel scared. I’m scared, too. You had to be scared in the past, because there were a lot of scary things and scary people. But you are safe now. We are safe. You don’t have to be scared anymore.

I know that mommy made you believe that you were sick. She told you that parts of you made you bad. I know she made that part of you hurt really bad. I know she made your heart hurt, too. I’m so sorry she hurt your body, and your heart. Little girls shouldn’t have to hurt like that.

I know you wanted so badly to be a boy. You thought that it would make everything better. You believed that it would stop mommy from hurting you, that you wouldn’t be sick anymore, that mommy would love you like she loved R. I’m so sorry you felt that way. But it was never your fault. You were never sick there. You were never bad just because you were a girl. Mommy was wrong. So wrong. There was nothing you could have ever done to make mommy love you. She was the sick one. She was bad. Not you. It was never you. You were always perfect. You still are.

I know you’re still so scared of mommy hurting you. You still try to protect yourself from her hurt. I’m so sorry you don’t feel safe. Little girls deserve to feel safe and loved and respected. Mommy shouldn’t have stolen that from you. You deserved all the love and respect and safety in universe. I wish I could have given it all to you then, but I can give you them now.

I know that mommy made you think that your body was not your own. She controlled your body and your mind. You had no other choice. I’m sorry she made you believe that lie. But you have choices now. Your body is yours. These are your toes, your feet, your legs, your arms, your fingers, and your eyes. This is your hair, your nose, and your mouth. And this is your vagina. It belongs to you. It’s part of your body, just like all of your other parts that make you, you.

It isn’t sick or bad. It doesn’t deserve to be hurt. It deserves to be taken care of, just like you. In order to take care of it, we need to go to the doctor. Just like the doctor that takes care of our lungs, and another doctor takes care of our feet, we need a doctor to take care of our vagina. It’s not bad or wrong to go to the doctor. All of those things that mommy said, they were wrong. She was wrong. She was just trying to scare you, and make you feel bad. I’m sorry she lied to you. You are not — and never were — dirty or bad. The doctor knows that, too. The doctor just wants to help us, and make sure we are healthy and strong. The doctor won’t hurt us. She won’t make you feel like mommy did. I promise.

I know you are afraid. You’re just a little girl. Mommy made you do things that children should never have to do, or see, or know. I’m sorry she did that to you. But you don’t have to do grown-up things anymore. You don’t have to hurt anymore. You don’t have to be scared or ashamed. Mommy isn’t here, and you can be you now. A beautiful, kind, loving, healthy, wonderful GOOD little girl. Mommy can’t take that away from you. She tried, but she didn’t know how brave and strong and courageous you were. She didn’t know the amazing little girl you grew up to be.

You can be that little girl now. I can take care of the big girl things, like going to the doctor. I will keep us healthy and safe. I will make sure that we are okay. I promise.

Thank you for being so strong. It’s my turn now.

Love,

KJ

499

I have some things for you from your mother.

He said it like it was nothing. He didn’t know it wasn’t nothing to me.

I wasn’t expecting it. I was having a regular conversation (over text) with my friend about something I wanted to do and out of the blue, he mentioned this. I froze for a minute, both physically and emotionally. I was numb. You could have stabbed me in both hands with a steak knife and I would have stayed sitting where I was, staring blankly at the wall, never flinching.

Then the emotions rushed in. I couldn’t tell if I was angry, sad, or both. I asked my friend what it was. It’s a letter, and some other things. At that point, I didn’t care about the other things. My thoughts danced around the letter.

I felt myself being swept away by hope. My mother is finally apologizing. She is finally going to say how sorry she is, how she never meant to hurt me. She is going to tell me how much she misses me, how much she loves me and has always loved me. She’s going to say she wants me back, that we are family. She is sorry and she loves and cares for me.

I sensed the joy of younger me, the excitement over the wish of family and of love coming true.

But I was crying, because adult me knew that those wishes were not coming true. This letter was not going to be one of love and caring. It was not going to be a letter of acknowledgement or apology.

My heart is breaking again. I am torn between the wish and the reality, the hope and the truth. Part of me wants to see that letter, to read my mother’s words, because there is still a small wish, a flickering of hope that my mother would be what I need her to be: a mother.

But then part of me knows that what I hope and wish for will not be fulfilled in that letter. Part of me knows that my mother will never apologize, that she will never be sorry for what she’s done because she believes she has done no wrong. Part of me knows that my mother doesn’t miss me, because she has pretended like I don’t exist. Part of me knows that she doesn’t love me now, and didn’t love me then, because a loving person would have never done the things she did. Part of me knows that I can never be a part of that family.

My mother hasn’t been a mother in the last 30 years. There’s no reason for her to change now. She won’t change. She will never be 1/100th what I need her to be. And her letter won’t be what I need it be. I don’t even think I need to read it to know that it isn’t. But I still want to read it. Part of me wants to know what she has to say.

I feel like I would have been better off not knowing this letter existed. I could tell my friend to throw it away, or I could take it and burn it myself. But then I would never know what my mother wrote, and I’m not sure I can manage never knowing. I also know that I could never handle reading the letter on my own. The mere knowledge of the letter’s existence has created an emotional storm in me that I am trying my best to weather. I imagine the its contents would let loose a tornado.

At first, I wanted to rush back to my home of origin just to get that letter; part of me still does. It’s that hope again, rearing its head in my consciousness.

But I am trying to focus on what is important to me here. I can exist without that letter. I have things to do here, experiences to celebrate. I have made it 499 days, without her and without her letter.

Dear K Explained

After I posted the letter to K last night, I was emotionally exhausted. It was the first time I read the letter in its entirety, and the emotions I had experienced during the last three days of writing it had hit me all at once. I wanted to write more, I wanted to explain, but I couldn’t. I ended up crying myself to sleep, hoping that would be the last time that I had to feel it. But it wasn’t.

I didn’t want to write a letter at all. How do I write to a stranger? How do I write to someone who I’m not even sure is there?  I didn’t even really want to talk about K, let alone write a letter to her. But my therapist encouraged me to think about writing a letter to K after session last week, and since my therapist has yet to steer me in the wrong direction, I followed her suggestion.

I’ve had such a disconnect from K for so long, partly to protect myself, and partly because of the guilt I felt about her absence. Her loss is connected with one of the worst experiences in my life, an experience I end up reliving each time I think about her and what she went through.

I never knew K. She took care of my parts before I knew I had parts. She was there, protecting me and the others, as I spent my younger years in blissful ignorance of my DID. K was the reason I made it through childhood. 

But then K went away, on the night my father attacked me, the night I got beaten for being depressed. I don’t know all that happened. I still only remember small parts of that night. But I do know that’s when everything changed. That’s when the voices started. That’s when Charlie came to be. That’s when my life became chaos.

I learned who K was over the years, and I was able to put all of the pieces of who she was together. I missed her. I never knew her, but I missed what she did for me. My life before that night was vastly different from my life after. The difference was her.

I also felt an immense sense of guilt. She disappeared because of me. I couldn’t fight back my father. I couldn’t stand up for myself. I wasn’t strong enough, and I let her take all of the pain. I don’t even know what happened. That’s the frustrating part. I don’t even know why she had to go away.

I just know that, if that night never happened, K would still be here. If I just fought my father back, K would still be here. If I would have just acted normal, K would still be here. If I hadn’t been depressed, K would still be here. K is gone because of me.

It’s why I never talk about her much. I feel at fault. She existed because of me. She left because of me. Why couldn’t I just be better, stronger, and more courageous? Why did I have to be so weak?

As I started writing the letter, all I could think about was how sorry I was. I was sorry she had to exist. I was sorry she had to work so hard to protect us. I was sorry she had to endure something so horrible that she had to go away. I was overcome with so much guilt that I couldn’t see anything else. The first sentence I wrote down was not a “hello” or “thank you”. It was “I’m so sorry.”

It took me three days to finish that letter. The emotions were so overwhelming for me that I had to step away several times so I wouldn’t break down completely. I felt sadness. I felt guilt and shame. I felt a sense of loss over someone I didn’t even know was there. I felt for my parts, too. They lost a mother. Really, they lost two mothers; one I caused to go away and one I took us away from.

I thought I had got it all out. I thought that once I wrote those words down, the feelings and emotions would disappear. But they didn’t. As much as I wanted to read the letter to my therapist, I worried that speaking it out loud would make the feelings all come back. And they did come back, stronger than ever. Guilt. Shame. Sadness. Confusion. Loss. Hurt. Pain. I cried for her. I cried for my parts. I cried for me.

I didn’t understand why she left us. Why did she have to go?

I still need her. I can’t be her. I can’t love. I can’t nurture. I can’t be caring. I can’t protect anyone. I’m not K. My therapist says that I am all of those things. Those qualities were K, but they are me, too; they always have been. But I just can’t see it.

K was all of those good things. K got hurt and went away. I am not any of those good things. I wasn’t the one who got hurt.

K is not me, and I am not K.

I can’t be.

Dear Brother Explained

The other day, I posted a letter I had written to my brother: Dear Brother.

It wasn’t very well thought out. It was Sunday afternoon, and I found myself still struggling with my emotions about the situation that happened on Friday. I felt paralyzed by them, in a way. I couldn’t get anything done because my mind was set on thoughts about my brother. I needed a way to get my feelings out, because they weren’t serving me well by being bottled up inside.

I walked to the card store, still not set on what I was going to write. I walked through the card aisles, and came to the sympathy section. Loss. That is exactly what this felt like. My brother was still very much alive, but everything else about him was gone. My image of him: gone. My hope for him: gone. I lost him. He died in my heart.

There were only five or six cards dedicated to the loss of a brother. I picked up each one and read it. Unfortunately, none of them captured the type of loss this was. Then there was this card, describing the brother I always wanted: a brother I could depend on, a brother I could share good memories with, a brother I could love.

I started to cry as I looked through the card. I knew this was the right one. I put it in the envelope, wiped my face, and went to the register to purchase it. I left it in the bag until I got home, because I didn’t want to get emotional in public. Even so, I was already going through some of the things I wanted to write in my head. It wasn’t until later that afternoon that I sat at my desk, pulled out the card, got my pen, and wrote what I needed to say to him.

Even though I knew this was going to be just another card left unsent, like the cards I wrote to my father and to my mother, I found it oddly therapeutic. I didn’t need him to respond. I didn’t need him to give me an answer. I just needed, for myself, to say what I needed to say in the best way I knew how: through writing.

I didn’t always feel this way towards my brother. In fact, I struggled with feelings of guilt over leaving him behind. Every so often, the guilt would come back full force. It got especially bad after my father died. I knew that with my father gone, my brother was the only person my mother had left. I was scared for him. But there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t financially help him — I am barely surviving myself. I couldn’t risk my own safety by directly reaching out to him, because his closeness to his mother made it too dangerous to even attempt. I was (and still am) a mess myself. I needed to focus on me. I didn’t have the energy to devote to his cause. And I felt horrible for it.

Then the situation on Friday happened, and everything changed. I realized he didn’t care about me at all. He never once called me, but he still had my number. He couldn’t even contact me himself to ask for what he needed; he had someone else do it for him. And he didn’t even need to do what he did. He wanted to trade that Jeep in so he could pretend like it never existed, just like my family pretended like I never existed.

He could have offered me back even some of the money I put into buying that Jeep. Instead, he used all of it to get something bigger and better. The money from my father’s life insurance? Nothing. My brother and his mother have kept it for themselves. Because that’s who they are.

I realized that my brother is just like her. He is an adult. He can make choices. He chose to spread lies about me after I escaped, just as his mother did. He could have denied it, but I know that would have been hard to directly defy her. He could have said nothing at all and been okay, but he instead chose to fuel the fire his mother set for me.

He could have reached out. He knew my phone number, and my e-mail address. His mother would not have found out. But he chose not to try.

My brother could have just paid off the Jeep. Money was not an issue. Instead, he chose to trade it in, and trade it in for something better. There is something symbolic in that. He traded in that Jeep just as he traded me in.

My brother could have gotten away. He always had more financial resources than me. He worked full-time for a long time. I figured out a way to get out. He could have figured out a way, but he chose not to. He could have taken my father’s insurance money and left, but he chose not to. He chose to stay with his mother.

Together, they have chosen to take what isn’t theirs. They are opportunists. They are takers. They are liars. They are users.

My brother is just like her. Her training didn’t work so well on me, but it has worked on him. I didn’t see it before. Well, no, I did. The truth is that I didn’t want to see it. I wanted my brother to be a true and good person. I wanted him to be the brother I needed, the brother I always wanted.

But I realized he’s not that person. He never was, he’s not now, and he won’t be able to be. I can’t change him. I can’t show him something he refuses to see. I can’t save him. So I have to let him go.

It’s another loss. But sometimes, losses are for the better.

 

Dear Brother

Dear brother,

I wish you were the brother described on the front of this card. I wish I could have depended on you. I wish I could say “I love you” without it feeling so complicated.

You were my big brother. Seven years older, taller, and stronger than me. I looked up to you. You were the only friend I had. You were the only person that knew my reality, because you were living part of it, too.

I wonder how hard it was for you to stand by and watch me get hurt. You were there all those nights she came into our bedroom. You knew what she was doing to me in the shower. But you had to close yourself off from it all, you couldn’t help. I understood that. You were just a child, too.

I grew up and watched you struggle. I watched you get beaten, just like I had been beaten. I watched you slowly self-destruct. I heard you crying in your room at night. I was crying, too. I watched you make yourself bleed, and I bled, too. Those scars on your body that you still bear, I know how you got them. I have those same scars, too.

I still remember the night you locked yourself in the bathroom. You banged your head against the wall until you were bloodied and bruised. You couldn’t even speak. All you could do was cry. Hurt and cry. I understood, because that was the language that I spoke, too.

We didn’t know any better. We weren’t allowed to have voices. We shared the same silence. We shared the same hurt. We shared the same pain. I understood you. I thought you understood me, too.

But then you turned against me. You became her adjutant. You pretended to be my brother only to report everything back to her. You helped her terrorize me. You stood by her side as she treated me like a prisoner. Why? You are her son, but you were also my big brother. I needed you. You could have protected me, but you didn’t.

I wanted so badly to help you. I felt horrible leaving you behind. I was weighed down with guilt for over a year. Did you ever feel any of those things when you chose to work against me? You never reached out. You never once showed me that you cared. You told lies about me just like she did, when you could have just said nothing at all.

I used to envy you. I wondered why she loved you so much. Then when I got older, I realized that’s not love. It’s abuse, too. I hope one day, for your sake, you will see that she doesn’t love you. What she’s done to you, what she continues to do to you — it’s not love. It never was.

Part of me fears that it’s too late for you. You’ve become so much a part of her that you don’t even know who you are without her, and who you could be. There’s a great big world out there waiting for you to see. I hope you see it one day.

We have chosen different paths. I chose to be nothing like her. I chose to be free. But you’ve chosen to follow in her footsteps. You’ve chosen to stay.

I’m grieving your loss, because I’ve realized you will never be the brother I needed you to be. I held out hope that you would make the right choice, but you haven’t. I don’t blame you, but I hope you understand why I have to let you go.