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
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.