I need to be heard

I need people to know what happened to me. I need people to know this happens. I want dialogue and awareness.

But I’m terrified of being blamed. There are people who will think this was my fault, not the fault of a flawed system.
These fears keep me silent.
There are so many things I can handle different options on, but not this. It is too personal. Defending them is an attack on me.

I don’t have the perfect way to tell my story. I have started so many drafts, saved on my computer, forgotten. I’m going to give bullet points a shot. I need to, if nothing else, get out the key points.

-A bit over 2 years ago I was feeling very depressed and suicidal.
-I felt terrified of myself and made an emergency appointment with my therapist so I could get help. He was a therapist in my college’s health center.
-He decided I should go to the hospital. I was not surprised by this and, though terrified, I agreed to go.
-When in the hospital he suggested I take the rest of the semester off. I said ‘no, school is too important to me’ and he said ‘well let’s see what the doctors at the hospital have to say’.
-I was feeling better and getting ready to be released. A meeting was held with my therapist, the hospital doctors and I. The hospital doctors said that when I was released it would be fine for me to return to school. I had decided I would drop a couple of classes, but that I wanted to return. My therapist disagreed with this.
-My therapist told me he was going to talk to the school and ask them to place me on an “involuntary medical leave”. He said he was going to talk to them whether or not I gave permission.
-After he left a hospital doctor told me “This is discrimination”
-After my therapist spoke with the school my parents spoke with a woman there to plead my case. They asked for her to please talk to the hospital doctors who had a different opinion. She refused, she was only interested in hearing what her employee (my therapist) had to say.
-The decision was made that I would be forced out of the school until they decided I could return.
-I moved out of the dorm and back in with my parents.
-One condition placed upon my return was to meet with a therapist and have that therapist speak with the school to discuss my return. On the surface this seems reasonable, but it isn’t. How can I have real therapy knowing anything I say might hurt my chances of returning to school? As a result, I had about 6 months of ‘fake therapy’.
-I stumbled upon a newspaper article telling about people who were in similar situations as myself. They had won legal cases against their school. I contacted the lawyers who had helped them.
-My case was taken pro-bono. They helped me file an OCR (office of civil rights) complaint. This was not a lawsuit. There were no financial damages. The complaint only asked for their policy to be changed, so what happened to me couldn’t happen to others.
-I won my OCR complaint and returned to school

Okay I’ll end the bullet points now.
It’s not such a happy ending though. When I returned to school things were not the same. I was a semester behind in a very small (40 people) program. It worked on a yearly cycle. The semester off put me a year behind and my absence had been noticed. People knew things. I don’t know how, but they did. No one knew the whole story, but there were rumors.
Based on these rumors I was harassed by my roommates who dug through my things and found my seroquel. From google searches they concluded that must mean I have schizophrenia ( I don’t) and that I was dangerous (I’m not) . They made demands to the RA wanting to be told why I had left the last year. In general they made my life miserable, trying to force me out. They succeeded. I not only left their room, I left the school.

In my new school now I’m paranoid. I extend a lot of energy protecting myself from the same situation repeating itself. I have trouble making friends because I worry if they get to know me too well they’ll realize how crazy I am and then the school will find out and somehow it will be used against me to kick me out. I know it’s illogical, but it shows how much this impacted me. I’m better informed now. Kicking me out would be hard if not impossible, but the thought terrifies me. It doesn’t help that I know this school did something similar to a classmate.
I have nightmares about this happening again. I see people who look like my old therapist and worry he’s gotten a job at my new school.
I love school and want to stay here.
It wasn’t damaging just from the lost semester. They kicked me when I was down. It damaged my ability to trust. It hurts me every day still.

If you know someone who is going through a similar situation send them here
http://www.bazelon.org/Where-We-Stand/Community-Integration/Campus-Mental-Health.aspx

Here’s an NPR story about this issue.

There’s also a facebook group I found today. It’s existence means so much to me.
I wish there were a support group I could go to with others who’ve experienced this. I feel like only people who’ve been through this can fully understand.

I want people to know they’re not alone and there are resources. When this happened to me I had no idea this was a widespread issue. It was a fluke I read that newspaper article.

Just to elaborate on some things:
-Justifying the schools actions by saying “I was a danger to myself” is not reasonable. If I had been a danger to myself then the hospital shouldn’t have been releasing me and it would have been an issue to take up with the hospital, not my school. School is for learning, not for judging my mental health.
-A major issue was my therapist’s duel roles. He wasn’t just my therapist, he was also an employee of the school. He was acting in the interests of the school, not for me.
-Another issue was my school refusing to talk to the hospital doctors. They couldn’t make an informed decision without hearing all sides.

15 thoughts on “I need to be heard

  1. You have (imho) been very mistreated. I hope you manage to find a situation that works for you. Stick to your convictions.

    Reply
  2. Hiya :) Just happened across your blog. What happened to you is awful but I think not uncommon. People fear what they do not understand. Sadly, most people don’t even want to understand.

    May I link to you?

    HF

    Reply
  3. That is just horrible what happened to you…i cannot believe your therapist would do that to you…did you fire him/her? i hope things are better now. i am sooo sorry this experience has made your life today so difficult and scary. My college years were so awful too, unfortunately, i didn’t get help until years later.
    be well, be happy,
    tracy

    Reply
  4. well…yeah he was totally screwed…totally…I wouldn’t ever want to talk to him again…

    all the people involved in my hospitalizations are on my shit list.

    and it took me 20 years to deal with them…don’t rush things.

    http://bipolarblast.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/the-psychiatrist-who-traumatized-me-most-rises-from-my-past-smack-dab-into-my-present/

    and this was a bizarre accident!! I would never have sought him out…

    and like I said it was over 20 years…i’ve had a lot of time to process…if I’m gathering your story right you’re just a couple of years removed from this asshole, right??

    Reply
    • Yea it’s a bit over 2 years ago it happened.

      Email’s already sent so it’s done.May have rushed things, but considering things have been pretty stagnant for 2 years on this issue it feels nice to think some progress is maybe being made.

      Reply
  5. Hey,

    I feel so sorry that your school treated you badly when you needed help the most. I’m also taking a year off from school but my school is more reasonable than yours. Honestly, there are so much stigma associated with mental illness and they made them worse.

    Reply
  6. I am going through this right now. My Campus Counseling Center has tried to get me kicked out on 2 separate occasions. The first time was when I cussed out a counselor for being rude to me. I went in there really upset and she was rude to me the whole time.

    They told me I need a psychological assessment before I came back to school. They would not help me find a psychologist that offered this either. Once I paid the $600 for the assessment, they did NOT ask to see the results.

    After my regular counselor left to go into private practice, the head of the Counseling Center Dr. X told me that I could not go back in there. I was extremely depressed and they would NOT help me find another psychologist. They did tell me about this program that cost $1,000 a day; even though I do not have insurance.

    When I finally found another psychologist, Dr.X bullied me into signing a release that she could have permission to talk to him. She told me that if I did not sign it they would “send my case to a committee that would determine rather or not I could stay in school.”

    I am basically on a watch right now. They are waiting for me to screw up. I trusted the Counseling Center to help me with my problems.

    I am really scared right now and I do not know what to do. I have no one to talk about with. Feel free to email me!

    Reply
  7. Hello! I work in the features department of Seventeen Magazine and I think your story would be perfect to include in an article regarding campus mental health. Would you be interested in sharing with us? Just shoot me an email at 17newsintern@gmail.com if you’re interested :)

    Reply
  8. Again I just have to say thank you for sharing your story. I feel like I can actually be understood. Many things about myself that bother me or I feel guilty about, I see you feel too. It’s so wonderful to hear that I am not a bad person, alone in their views.

    Reply
  9. Don’t know where you are, but there are peer support groups where you can talk to people who get this stuff and have had similar experiences. These are non clinical groups, the best are hearing voices groups (not just for hearing voices most places in the US, also for other extreme/unusual experiences). Check out the hearing voices network USA and /or intervoice (international movement). The best and newest would be self harm/suicide support groups, this is a really common experience, just because people don’t talk about it doesn’t mean most people don’t experience these feelings at some point. Talking about this stuff with people who get it and aren’t going to freak out can REALLY help. Its hiding it, and the fear, and the shame from people that don’t get it that make it harder. Check it out for yourself. search Western Mass RLC and AFIYA.

    Reply
    • I wish i felt like I could go to a support group. For one I’m very very concerned about privacy. And then even if I got past that the biggest problem is that now that I do therapy I worry that by attending a support group as a patient I would be wading into a murky ethical territory. I wouldn’t want people to think I could have anything other than a peer role there, but at the same time I don’t want to feel like I am hiding a big part of my life by hiding my profession. What I really need is a support group for people in the mental health field.

      Reply

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