Do You Trust Me?

I just wanted to fly under the radar. I didn’t want to bother anyone. I didn’t want to cause any problems.

When you have next to nothing, you tend to hold on to whatever you do have with whatever strength you have. For me, I wanted to hold on to having a place to sleep every night. I wanted to hold on to being able to stay at the shelter.

So I did everything I was supposed to. I made my bed every morning. I did my chores. I was nice to the other residents. I couldn’t afford to lose my spot. I thought the shelter was going to be a safe place. But that’s not what it turned out to be.

I didn’t realize what was happening. I’ve only read about it briefly in ethics books when I was doing my graduate work in counseling, how social workers and counselors would engage in inappropriate relationships with their clients. I’ve only seen it in a few TV shows and movies. I never witnessed it in real life. And then it happened to me.

It started out with conversations. He knew about my trauma history — I had to reveal it upon my intake at the shelter. Shortly after, he started asking questions. I didn’t mind answering; I thought he was just asking out of curiosity. But then the questions turned into asking for details. He wanted me to tell him exactly how my mother hurt me, down to every detail.

Then it turned to questions about sex. My discomfort increased. I didn’t want to answer. I hesitated, but all he kept saying was “Do you trust me?” He said he needed to know all of this stuff so he could help other clients. That if I answered his questions, I’d be helping them, too. And isn’t that what I wanted to do?

I was confused. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t want to upset him, or get him angry enough that he would turn around and kick me out of the shelter. So I obliged. I answered his questions, hoping that eventually he would get all of the answers he needed.

“Do you think you could ever have sex with me?”

It was then I realized this was going somewhere further than just questions. I felt sick to my stomach. I was trapped. Physically and emotionally trapped. What do I do? I hesitated as much as I could. I tried to make jokes to stray away from the conversation. But he wasn’t budging. All he kept saying was “Do you trust me?”

He told me he could help me be normal. Like he could fix the 29 years of abuse I went through. He was so insistent. I couldn’t say no. All he would say was “Why don’t you trust me?”

Everything always came to trust. I didn’t understand. I didn’t trust him. How could I? I felt like I was right back to being a kid again. It was so confusing. If I said no, it would get me in trouble. I can never say no.

I felt disgusted. I kept what happened to myself because I was so afraid of someone thinking it was my fault. Maybe I did something. Maybe it was something I said. Maybe it was something I did. I didn’t understand.

I spent my days at the shelter on edge. I never knew if he was going to come in my room at night, like he said I could. I never knew what I would have to do next in order to keep him happy. I was miserable. But I was so used to it, I thought that maybe this was just how everyone was.

I debated for weeks about telling someone. I wasn’t concerned about me; I was concerned that he might have done it to other women. If I didn’t tell, I’d be responsible for any women he hurt in the future. No matter what I did, it was going to be my fault. I feared I wasn’t going to be believed. But I was smart. I started recording what was happening on my phone, because part of me knew I needed something to stop him.

I had a panic attack one night when I was on my way out of my room; there was another resident walking through the hallway in his underwear, and I panicked because I thought it was him coming into my room for me. I couldn’t explain why I was crying. I couldn’t explain why it upset me so much. All I could get out of my mouth was you don’t know what happens here sometimes.

And that was enough. It initiated a conversation the next day. I hesitated, fearing that somehow I would get in trouble. But they told me I wasn’t going to get in trouble. They said if something not right is going on, they needed to know. Through tears, I told them what was happening. I couldn’t get everything out. I was overcome with shame, believing they thought that this was all of my fault. After all, something must be wrong with me since this keeps happening.

He is gone now. But I will soon be, too.

All I am left with is shame and confusion, and an even greater inability to trust.

Do you trust me?

I trust no one now.

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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.