Messages in a Bottle #5: Don’t Tell Me I’m Safe

CW: Discussions of systematic abuse of various types.

This week has not been a good week. I’ve said before that I’m a primary caregiver (along with another family member who still resides in the state) of someone who needs full-time 24/7 medical, disability and mental health care beyond what is possible for us to provide at home. I’ve said before that one of the organizations licensed to provide such care was demonstrably abusive to my family member, and that we received no justice when we fought the state to try to close that organization even with all of our carefully gathered evidence. That organization is still open, still providing services to others, and that thought never leaves my nightmares.We removed my family member from that particular situation, but we didn’t change the system.

Over the years, other organizations that have been licensed providers in that region have been found to be abusive, too. The same state services that should have been protecting society’s most vulnerable have shielded the providers more than then they have ever shielded their patients. They have dolled out only slaps on the wrist, but slaps on the wrist don’t change anything. In rare instances, organizations have closed. (I’ll leave to your imagination what had to have been found for that to happen given what we discovered that didn’t lead to closure.) But, in most instances, they haven’t. I grew up with an acute awareness of just how common this kind of abuse is, how unlikely anyone is to help, and with further ramifications of the toll of that early exposure to trauma that then happened to me in other ways because the nature of early exposure to trauma is that it begets further situations that cause trauma for any person who grew up with it.

I fled from that state as soon as I could, and at one point I was naive enough to believe things would be better in other states. I then discovered decade-plus waiting lists for disability services in other states, and, quite frankly, that the abusive situations I hoped were unique to the Red State I grew up in happened in the Blue States, too. I am still on the list to try and re-establish services in the state I currently live in, but this Messages in a Bottle is both a current story of something that happened in the Red State I call the 9th Circle of Hell this week and a past story that happened in the Blue State in which I currently reside.

The Red State story happened to my family. The current story – and the reason is I’m having such a very bad week – is that the organization in which my family member currently resides apparently needed to re-run background checks in advance of a state inspection. One of those background checks came back with a prior history that precluded the individual from ever working with the disabled or children. I’m sure you can imagine what would have to be found on that background check to cause that, but that individual had been working for the agency for several months before the background check came back. We think nothing further happened. We know to always be on the lookout for signs, having lived this before, but it’s still terrifying to think what could have happened. That individual was fired, and an emergency re-hire was made and trained.

When my co-guardian brought my family member back yesterday after a regular visit, all the lights were out in the facility, the residents who were still there were left unattended and frightened, and the emergency hire was passed out and not responding to the texts or phone calls to unlock the door sent by my co-guardian. When finally roused, he claimed to have just fallen asleep, but could he really just have been asleep for so long that it was still light out when he first fell asleep and even the increasingly frantic texts and calls from my co-guardian didn’t rouse him? Or was he on something? Ask my nightmares, I’m sure they will have an answer – but not a way to jump the bureaucratic red tape in the Blue State that isn’t any better to finally complete the transfer of services and maybe leave the 9th Circle of Hell behind for good. Or maybe ask me later after I’ve flown back to Hell once again to try another futile attempt at changing that same damned system given what happened this week. I visit Hell a lot, and, unfortunately, I have the airline receipts and low bank account to prove it.

The Blue State story is a past story, recounted in a journal article I wrote when I discovered that the very first outpatient psychiatric clinic I was referred to by my insurance for my monthly ADHD meds and “therapy” also had inpatient psychiatric services and that those services had been in the A section of the city papers because they had been found to be abusing vulnerable patients with severe psychiatric diagnoses. The irony of having researched that clinic system and having found evidence of abuse that reminded me so viscerally of my family’s own story, then being told by my so-called “therapist” that whatever trauma had led me to have a PTSD diagnosis on my records was “over” and I was “safe” now was a bit too much – given that I had done my homework and that I knew full well the clinic system in which she worked had probably caused my trauma symptoms for a new set of families when it was discovered a mere year before I was referred into that system for routine ADHD treatment by my new insurance. As I read over what I have written, I realize just the introduction to this Message in a Bottle journal article is the length of a full post in and of itself. (This is is probably not surprising, given I was inspired to post it by a very current thing that happened this week, and reading over my leather-bound notebook late at night since I’ve barely managed two to three hours of sleep after hearing about that background check.)

I think I will post that journal article as a separate Messages in a Bottle #5.5 here. Consider this the introduction to that post.

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