Messages in a Bottle#5.5: You Failed *Me* the Day The Newspaper Headlined “Families Trusted ___ To Care for Their Relatives and it Systematically Failed Them,” Too.

CW: Discussions of systematic abuse of various types.

This post has a much longer introduction here that explains why I am posting it today. Read that first if you want the full backstory (or forward story as the case may be). I won’t give the original date of this journal article. I’m already quoting almost verbatim the headline I found when I looked up the new hospital system I’d been referred to for outpatient treatment for ADHD in the new state I once hoped would be better than the one I grew up in. If I dated the journal article, I’d probably be sued for libel for mentioning it without having been a direct victim. I’m sure that hospital employs an army of lawyers to keep that article well buried, especially when referenced by families not directly involved. I wasn’t directly involved – in that abuse case, at least. I’ve been involved in others. I’ve been the family member speaking out against systemic abuse, and I’ve been threatened with libel for daring to speak the truth. It shouldn’t be libel when it’s true – but, hey, that this is the world we live in and the country we live in.

Go ahead and look up the article that I found in the city papers after just moving to a new city that led me to write the journal article below. You’ll find it. You will also – if you dig far enough to find that one – find dozens of others that are similar from other states. You’ll find enough that maybe you will wonder which article was the one referenced in this journal article. You’ll find enough that maybe you’ll take it a step further and wonder which of those articles is the one written about my original trauma. I welcome you to figure it out if you can, but I know what’s in print. I know that my little corner of the journalism world is buried behind a whole lot more recent stories of abuse. Stop and think about that for a bit. Then read this very meta post about a girl who was in one of those stories in the paper years and years ago later moving to a place she hoped would be better, but only finding in her new city paper another one of those stories of abuse, now written about the clinic she had just been referred to for her own care. Read her writing about her attempts to process a world in which this keeps happening and the therapist who was assigned to help her deal with it was part of the system itself. Then process that it never stopped happening for her even this week – and that’s why there is a whole separate post’s worth of introduction to this meta-post in addition to the post she apparently felt she needed to write just now. Is that a big enough picture for readers to believe that her trauma was real and that action needs to be taken to stop it from happening to others?

C-PTSD as a diagnosis is supposed to account for the really $h177y continuous trauma. It’s supposed to account for the poverty and the wars, for the disabilities and the cyberbullying and the starvation and the child abuse. It’s supposed to account for the Catholic Church and for Somalia and for police brutality. It’s supposed to account for all the never-ending traumas. So why does the treatment for it always still start from the assumption that the sufferer is currently “safe”? Why does it assume that the victim has already escaped and isn’t still trapped in her 9th Circle of Hell? Why does it assume that therapy isn’t the 1st through 8th circles of Hell, given what happens in so many inpatient psychiatric facilities? Given what happened in yours, eh, therapist?

What is your proposed therapy for a girl from a family outcast even among their fellows with C-PTSD, because no one wants to believe that the nightmarish world of “care” afforded to those with disabilities is so poor that she never escaped her Hell? That she’s still fighting her war even as she sits in your office – and that she knows she’s looking at an enemy combatant?

I know who you are. I know your type. I did my homework after our first session. You sit in your office in the outpatient clinic and stick your head in the sand about what your hospital is. You didn’t work for the inpatient, so you think you’re okay. You aren’t okay. You are the type that works for an abusive system that turned a blind eye while children fell through unkempt attic floors or were impregnated without consent by an agency worker whose background check should never have allowed him to work in a facility for the disabled, to begin with. You think it matters whether those examples were from my story or the story of your hospital. You think you’re different, but maybe you need to read that article I read again.

I know your type. You’re the type who will look me in the eye and tell me that unless the bruise is “in the shape of a boot or something,” that you will write it off as self-injurious behavior despite the weight of all the evidence I can bring.

I know your type. You’re the type that will blame me for not running far away and leaving my family member to rot because at heart you believe someone like that has no value. Or maybe you’ll blame me for moving here, saying I must not care either, instead of realizing I moved here to try to someday create safety for my family, not to run away.

I know your type. You’re the type who will go to Church on Sunday and proclaim what an angel you are for working with “those kids” – when you created the Hell I grew up in. (Or maybe not. This is a Blue State, after all. Maybe you are the sanctimonious little agnostic type instead of the sanctimonious Evangelical. Or maybe you are the sanctimonious little Catholic – after all, this state was one of the centers of that abuse scandal, after all. It doesn’t matter. It’s the sanctimonious bit that damns you, whatever the overt expression.)

I know your type. You are the type who will want to look to my home life to find the cause of my symptoms. Yes, I lost family young. Yes, that why’s I became a caregiver while barely an adult myself. Yes, that sucked and might even be called traumatic. It’s nothing compared to the type of Hell facilities like yours caused my family when we asked for help caring for our loved ones after that loss.

Oh, yes, I said facilities like yours. I’m a scientist. Did you think I wouldn’t do my research? I know what your agency did. I know what you haven’t confessed to me as you sit in our session pretending your agency is safe. I asked if this agency could be trusted. I asked if I could trust you to always tell the truth. You said I could, but you left out that little abuse scandal in your agency’s history.

Now, I’m a stickler for proving my case. I’ve gone toe to toe with enough agencies like yours to know to get the details right. Thus, I know that technically this clinic didn’t create the abuse. I know I’m in your outpatient clinic, getting routine treatment for a routine learning disability called ADHD, and it was your inpatient facility that was abusive. I know that difference – plus the fact that I came to you as a put together, white, middle-class adult instead of the scared barely-adult I was when I first learned what’s out there in the mental health and disabilities world – and the fact that I advocated for myself means I might be able to function in this facility without experiencing that abuse personally. I know I have a good job that brought me here after a good undergraduate and graduate degree from good name-brand institutions. I know I’m safe from you on the surface.

I also know I don’t care, if my loved one wouldn’t be safe from you. I also know you didn’t tell me the truth, and I will never trust you because you didn’t.

I also know that being personally safe from your facility doesn’t actually make me safe. I also know that seeking treatment for C-PTSD stemming from past abuse doesn’t mean the trauma has actually ended. Why isn’t there a CTSD – Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder – diagnosis for the situations that families like those that seek help from your inpatient facility find themselves still trapped in?

You probably don’t know how to deal with someone like me who will have to wait many years to rescue her relative from a Hell very much like the one your agency created for others. I know that you don’t know that I know that your agency caused my “original trauma” for other families just like mine.

I don’t know how to fight the system you work for, any more than I know how to fight the one that gave me C-PTSD in the first place. Don’t think that means I’ve forgiven you. Don’t think that means I don’t blame you for your silence. Don’t think that means I wouldn’t do anything I could to help those families your facility systematically failed – as the headline put it – if I could. Don’t think that means you will ever see my face again. I won’t be treated by an abusive hospital system even if it means I wait months longer to get the meds I need to function. I won’t be a party to that abuse, even as a patient in a hospital system that did what yours did. Unlike you, who continues to work for it even after the abuse came out.

Or will I? Will the next one I’m referred to be any different? If I scratch the surface of all the social services in my new city will they turn out just to be the Blue version of the Reddest Hell I know? Will anywhere be better? Will I wait my years on the waiting list to move my family member – only to find out it will never be better here? Will it ever end?

I don’t know. How do you treat that, therapist? How do you propose to teach me that I am safe when it was agencies like yours that made my family unsafe in the beginning? How do you treat my continuous trauma when you are one of the perpetrators, even if you never specifically raised a hand against us?

I don’t know. I wish I did. Maybe then I’d know what it was like for my family to ever truly be safe from places like the one you work for…

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.


7 thoughts on “Messages in a Bottle#5.5: You Failed *Me* the Day The Newspaper Headlined “Families Trusted ___ To Care for Their Relatives and it Systematically Failed Them,” Too.

  1. I wanted to say anything after reading this, just because I need to connect with you. It hits close to home, but I have to ignore that so I can feel you. (Sorry, I’m trying to make sense.) I feel intense rage over what you and yours have suffered. I seriously want to kick a playground ball to the moon right now. Instead, I need to embrace you in my mind and just rock back and forth with you for a while. (You knew I was weird already, right?) I ache for you, my friend. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hugs. Thank you. I’ve had such awesome support from the ASD community over trying to get decent care for my family member. I just wish so many of the virtual hugs didn’t include that this had been done to others, too. I remember being a kid in the nineties when all the elder abuse scandals in nursing homes came out and also naively thinking that meant that what we’d been through as a family already – before even the time that sticks in my memory as “the worst”- meant that disabilities would be ‘fixed next. 2018 and we’re still waiting…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This. This is why people are now wary of care homes and sheltered living. Here in the UK we have had several scandals like this – what particularly has stuck with me is a place called Winterbourne here in the UK. It was a residential living facility for people with learning disabilities where someone from a TV show called Panorama at the BBC worked undercover there following concerns from family members. What he taped and what was shown on TV was that the employees working there were abusing the residents. Husband’s sister has a learning disability and every time something like that comes on I can’t help but think that could very well have happened to her if she went to live somewhere that wasn’t visited or supervised by us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All of this sounds so familiar. I grew up surrounded by mental illness and frequent visits to Mental Health Facilities, inpatient, group homes, and locked down wards. My mom didn’t see anything wrong with taking us with her to see her siblings. It installed a fear so deep in my sister and I that we always talked about which one of us was going to get “it”. It was me. I already knew I was different by age 10. I live in New England. I’ve been forced into inpatient “treatment” on several occasions. There is no “treatment”, they give you the ingredient in over the counter allergy medication to make you sleepy, you watch TV, do arts and crafts, and sleep some more. No one should be treated like an animal, circus freak, or like their life isn’t as important as a “normal” person. I’ve had medications taken away, cruel comments made by staff, threats of being kept longer if I wasn’t a “good girl” and labeled a “difficult patient” for asking questions and doing research. Once you’re labeled “difficult” other doctors do not want to deal with you. Even Primary Care Doctors suddenly stopped taking my insurance after receiving my records. It isn’t easy.


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