Saturday, April 28, 2007

more introductions

So now that I've done an overview of my feminism, I'll start in on the other things in my little bio.

My interest in mental health issues comes from having them. My mother sent me to therapy at age eight, because I was depressed. Amusingly enough, spending so much time (10 years, really) with the same therapist was a really bad move -- I got to know him so well that I came to see him as another person that I had to keep up a front for. So I didn't tell him how everything went to shit in high school. I went from a small, close-knit middle school where I knew everybody to a comparatively big and scary high school. My social skills are not the greatest today, after years of practice and extensive therapy that actually helped. They flat out sucked then. I didn't have a whole lot of friends, or in fact talk to anyone. I started cutting myself. Eventually I started to starve myself. I was miserably depressed. By that point I had close friends, but there was a lot of unhealthiness there and they had their own issues, so we all, as Pigeon in a guest post on LL's blog put it, "signed off on each other's behavior".

Eventually (April of my senior year), it got to the point where I scared myself. I got dizzy and eating didn't help, I spent an afternoon in bed because I couldn't walk across the house. I told my mother. My parents, especially her, are masters of sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending nothing is wrong (I inherited this one but good), so every time I told them I was "fine", they believed it. After I told her, I got put on medication, which (after a few tries and some nasty side-effects) helped. I got into more therapy, which both helped and made my life really hard. I was taking a full class load at a tough prep school, driving myself there and to five hours of therapy and tutoring a week, and all my friends lived half an hour away. I was run ragged. My grades plummeted, not that they'd been great before. The learning disorder I'd recently been diagnosed was something nobody, not even I, knew how to get accomodations for. I call the second half of my senior year "my nervous breakdown".

My therapists and parents started talking about inpatient treatment. We flew out to Utah, one of the few states in the US where it's legal to hold minors against their will for treatment, and looked at a few programs. They were way more drastic and way scarier than I had thought. I freaked out and told my parents I didn't want to go. They wanted me to go. We had a lot of arguments that didn't go anywhere. I convinced myself there was something else I could do, that I wouldn't wind up in one of them.

The morning after my younger brother's birthday in June, I was woken up at three in the morning by a couple of people whose job it is to take kids to the airport for things like this. My folks said goodbye and didn't go to the airport, which hurt. I got on a flight with one of these people. She let me use her cell phone at Salt Lake to call my boyfriend. Then I got handed off to the looney bin people.

I spent ten weeks in the high desert in Utah in what's called a wilderness treatment program. We hiked, set up shelters from tarps, dug holes in the ground to shit in, cooked ove propane stoves and fires. It was extremely hard for me, and looking back, not all of it was just shock and self-centeredness. I was very underweight and, I know now, very anemic. Hiking was fucking difficult. Some of my difficulties adjusting and learning new skills, I now put down to my LD -- I don't learn things the way people expect. I have an unituitive skillset and I didn't mesh with what they were doing. A lot of it, however, was just me. I was in serious denial when I got there. I cried for a week or two. Solid. I had a lot of dreams where I was back home, and it was very hard to wake up from them and be in Nowhere, Utah, in a blue tarp tent. I didn't try to hurt myself or run away, it wouldn't have gotten me anywhere.

I did, I suppose, enjoy some of it. I made friendships, of a type, with the other girls there. A particularly impossible day hiking led me to a feeling that I can only describe as "divine serenity", something I've experienced a few times since and consider incredible. I learned a lot. I lost a bunch of bad habits (which I promptly regained upon reentering my circle of friends). My communication and introspection skills went through the roof. I forgave my parents for sending me. I think.

I got out on my eighteenth birthday because it would have been illegal for them to keep me any longer. I spent some time with my parents and promptly got the fuck out of Dodge. I now live in Portland. I rely on my parents financially, but I hardly ever have to see them and they have very little control over me. This works a lot better than when we lived together. There was a period of a year or two after I got home when things continued to be pretty crappy for me, but after a certain person moved away, I discovered that it was a lot easier to engage in healthy behavior without a nutjob around (yes, this is supposed to be funny). My experiences with that person (toxic is a good word) have made me very sensitive to manipulative behavior and self-deception. I consider myself stronger for it, but, like the looney bin, wouldn't do it again given the choice.

I have some stuff written up about my time in Utah that I'll probably post later, but this is plenty long now. I'm very willing to talk about this, I'm pretty zen about the whole experience, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask.


little light said...

Hey, Allie.

It's good to see you blogging and this was a really good post.

I just want to remind you that even though the pseudonym 'pigeon' is awfully close to the name she goes by in her real life, it's a pseudonym for a reason; we're both pretty careful about not linking our blog identities to our actual ones, for obvious reasons. I know it's a nickname you've got in your post and the comment at my place, but I'd appreciate a quick edit if you can, because it's increasingly the name everyone knows her by.
Thanks awfully.

Allie said...

Oh man, thanks for letting me know. I think I was confused by the similarity and was unsure about what was what. I'll keep an eye on that in future.

belledame222 said...

Thanks for sharing all that, Allie, and welcome to blogging. and, yeesh. I'm glad you're able to pull some positive meaning out of the Utah experience; the idea of such a thing fills me with horror, but then i also associate such camps with the whole "reparation therapy" crap.