My dear friend and active participant on this site, Linda Lee, has written a wonderful and OMG SO TRUE post, which describes a lifetime of abuse, including incarceration in a state mental hospital, and being faced with unethical doctors and caregivers, including one who raped her. She was sent back home to a rejecting family–who had put her there in the first place! Linda Lee has Complex PTSD, a form of PTSD that’s often the result of chronic abuse during childhood, rather than an isolated traumatic incident later on in life. After describing the insane house of mirrors she had been thrusted into that seemed to have no way out, Linda lifts the reader out of the darkness with an uplifting message about Easter and the resurrection.
Linda Lee also has a blog about her Complex PTSD caused by prolonged, severe trauma called Surviving Trauma (formerly Heal My Complex PTSD). (I got a little confused here because Linda recently changed her blog but the old one is still there too. Her new blog is called A Blog About Healing From PTSD. )
I know the following story sounds so crazy, it’s hard to believe. But it is all true, so help me God… unless I really AM nuts, and the mental health professionals who have told me otherwise over the years were all wrong!
If you take a young puppy away from his canine family before he is weaned, yell at him, kick him, shake him, beat him, half-starve him, and leave him on a chain outdoors, exposed to every kind of weather without shelter, that poor little puppy is going to grow up to be a deeply disturbed dog – if he lives to grow up.
If you treat human children like that pitiful dog, they are going to have behavioral and emotional problems, too.
I grew up with parents who were normal and nice some of the time, and behaved like insane, demonically possessed monsters part of the time. I never knew from one day to the next whether my mother was going to be like June Cleaver in the TV show “Leave it to Beaver,” or Joan Crawford in the movie “Mommy Dearest.”
As for my dad, a fundamentalist minister whose episodes of violence led to his diagnosis of multiple personality disorder (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder), some people believed that he actually was possessed by demons.
When I was fourteen years old, I began to have some emotional problems. Big surprise, right? I told my mother about the difficulty I was having, hoping she could help me. But, although my problems were mild compared to both of my parents’ history of extreme mental problems, my mother said “You are crazy just like your father!” Then she contacted my dad (my parents were divorced by then), and he agreed with her that I needed to be put in a state mental institution – against the advice of my doctor!
Of course, my dad said that I was “crazy like your mother.” He also told me he was GLAD I had psychiatric problems, because now I would understand what he had gone through.
But I did not understand. Almost fifty years later, I still don’t. Unlike both of my parents, my behavior was not out of control. On the contrary, although I wasn’t perfect, I was obedient, subservient, and eager to please. I had never been the least bit violent. I had never threatened or tried to harm anyone.
My dad, on the other hand, came so close to murdering my mom when I was twelve years old that for several terrifying moments I had thought she was dead. That’s when my father was arrested, then put in the psychiatric ward of a general hospital after the police took him to the emergency room because his insulin-dependent diabetes was out of control.
As for my mother, a few weeks after my dad tried to kill her, she did something even worse – she tried to gas us all to death while my four younger brothers and sisters and I were sleeping in our beds. Yet she never put herself under any kind of psychiatric care. With no other responsible adult living in the house at the time, there was no one to force her to get help. So now, because she has never been to a mental health professional and labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis, my mother thinks she is “just fine.”
When my dad’s medical insurance ran out and he was discharged from the psych ward, my mother dropped her charge of attempted murder so he could go back to work and provide financial support. Then my dad married the head nurse of the psychiatric ward whom he had met while he was a patient there (how unethical is that?), and my mother started dating a newly divorced man who had previously worked with my dad. She soon became pregnant (accidentally on purpose?), and quickly married the unborn baby’s father.
So now my parents were living happily ever after with their brand new loves while I, their eldest daughter, became the family scapegoat and “the crazy one.” And together my parents decided that I needed to be locked up in a state insane asylum, because: “she might become violent some day.”
About a year after my parents put me in the institution a new psychiatrist, Dr. Fenster, was hired to replace the rapist shrink who had been caught and fired the third time he drugged me unconscious and raped me. Lucky Otter posted this story for me almost a year ago. Here is the link: https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/04/12/have-you-ever-been-hurt-by-a-psychiatrist-guest-post-by-alaina-holt-adams/. (I wrote that post under the pen name Alaina Adams. I have since changed my pen name to Linda Lee, because it’s more like the real me.)
I had originally met the newly hired doctor when I was first put in the asylum and he was there, finishing his psychiatric residency. He had told me then that there was nothing mentally wrong with me, in his opinion, and he was confident that the psychiatrist in charge of my ward would soon have me released.
When Dr. Fenster took over my case more than a year later, he was shocked and dismayed to see that I was still there. Within the first five minutes of his first day on the job, the good doctor made me a promise: “I am going to get you out of here as soon as possible. You never should have been put here in the first place!”
But his promise turned out to be much easier said than done. Eight months later, Dr. Fenster called me into his office one last time before sending me out into the world. “I am very sorry that it has taken me so long to get you out of here,” he said. “The amount of legal red tape involved to release a patient from a state hospital is unbelievable, especially when it comes to a minor child. Because you are only sixteen, you are legally a ward of the state and you cannot be released on your own recognizance until you are twenty-one, five years from now! Until then, you can only be released into the care of a responsible adult. I have spoken with every adult in your family several times, at length – with your grandparents on both sides, and your mother and father. I hate to tell you this, but every last one of them is far sicker than you ever were! Frankly, it’s no surprise to me that you had emotional problems. Coming from a hateful, self-centered crew like that, I don’t understand how you can be as sane as you are! Even your maternal grandparents are unbelievably hard-hearted and selfish! At first, I thought they would be the best hope for you to have a decent chance at life. With your grandfather’s current position as the associate warden of Leavenworth Federal Prison, they could so easily provide you with a stable home and every advantage.”
He shook his head sadly. “I hate to tell you this, Linda, but no one in your family wants you. Every single one of them came right out and told me they don’t want a ‘mental patient’ living in their home. It didn’t make any difference when I told them that you are not mentally ill and you never should have been put here in the first place. In fact, when I mentioned that, your mother said that just by virtue of the fact that you have been kept here in this place for so long, you have probably been changed by the experience and now you may be dangerous! So… when I kept hitting a brick wall with everyone in your family, I gave up and tried to find a foster home willing to take you in. But they have to be informed about your time in this institution, and I could not find any foster parents willing to take the chance. I even tried to talk my wife into the two of us fostering you, but… it was a no-go.”
Dr. Fenster stared down at his hands, which were lying palms-up on his desk in an attitude of defeat. “Your mother is coming to take you out of here today,” he said. “although she is the last person I want to send you home with. Why she chose to have so many kids when she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body is beyond my understanding. But she is coming to get you because – frankly – I found out something about her and I have used it to blackmail her. But even then, she would not agree to take you unless I wrote your discharge paper in such a way that it says you are being sent home on an ‘indefinite leave.’ I’m sorry this isn’t a full discharge. What it means is that your mother can bring you back here at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. So my advice to you is to get as far away from everyone in your family as soon as you can – and don’t ever go back!”
A nurse handed me a paper bag full of my threadbare clothes, then escorted me from the doctor’s office down to the lobby. My mother and her mother were waiting there, both with very grim faces. After a tense, silent two-hour car ride to my mother’s house, I discovered that I no longer had a bedroom or a bed – I was told to sleep on the living room sofa. In fact, everything that I had ever owned, my beloved books, the papers I had written, my clothes, my costume jewelry, and the childhood toys I had cherished and saved, were all gone. Taken to the dump, I was told, right after I was put in the mental institution.
My “WELCOME HOME” was nonexistent. Not one person said “I’m glad you’re back, I’ve missed you.” My much younger sisters and brothers had always looked up to me, loved me, and depended on me, especially during our mother’s deep depression after the violent end of our parents’ marriage. Along with my new stepfather, my four little siblings had begged our mother not to send me to the institution two years earlier. Even my grandparents may have questioned why she would send her adolescent daughter to the most notorious insane asylum in the region, when my behavior, to all outward appearances, was completely normal. So then my mother had told horrible projecting lies about me, to justify what she had done. Lies which the majority of my family apparently believe to this day.
Three days after my return “home,” while I was being ultra careful not to be a bother to anyone in any way, my mother waited until my stepfather was at work and my school age siblings were all in school, and then she told me that I needed to leave – to run away – because she could not afford to feed a big grown girl like me.
“I can barely afford to feed the five little ones,” she said. “Your father doesn’t pay nearly enough child support, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect your stepfather to feed you. And after where you have been, I am afraid you might be a bad influence on the younger children. I had you when I was only eighteen, too young to know what I was doing. So I made all my mistakes on you. Unfortunately, it’s too late for you. But I think that throwing one child away, in order to save the other five, is the right thing to do, don’t you? And don’t worry, I promise I won’t call the police and report you as a runaway!” She said this, about not calling the police, with a big smile on her face, as though she had just handed me the keys to a brand new car.
“You know, I married your father when I was sixteen. Sixteen is old enough to be on your own. And, like I’ve been telling you ever since you reached puberty – no house is big enough for two women!”
This happened in the middle of a cold December and there were several inches of snow on the ground. The tiny town where my mother and stepfather had moved to while I was in the institution was miles away from a city, where there might be some kind of shelter or help. Without a penny to my name, with my few clothes bunched up in a pillowcase, because the paper bag I had brought my clothes home from the hospital in, had torn – and I remember feeling guilty for taking one of my mother’s pillow cases, that’s what a “terrible” daughter I was! – I walked out the door into the frozen December morning. I had not eaten any breakfast that day, because no one had offered me anything and I was trying so hard not to be a bother….
Whew. Right now, as I am writing about that terrible time in my life, I feel so ANGRY!
My husband today, a combat veteran from the war in Vietnam, has talked about the pain of coming back from the hell of war and getting rejection, instead of a Welcome Home. I’ve told him I understand how that feels. A few years ago, there was a big push to finally welcome our Vietnam War Veterans home. I’m so glad they got that. They deserve it. But… deep down inside, I feel like I am still waiting for my Welcome Home.
I did not follow Dr. Fenster’s advice to have nothing to do with anyone in my family of origin, until I was in my fifties. Why? Because I loved my family. I wanted to have a family! Although I stopped living in the same state forty years ago, I kept reaching out to them, time and time again, over the years – by driving very long distances to visit them, by phone calls, by letters, and finally, when social media became available, I reached out to them through Facebook.
With the exception of my aunt (my mother’s younger sister) and my oldest niece, every time that I have ever reached out in any way to anyone in my family of origin, I have been hurt and abused all over again. The bullying I took on Facebook was so bad, I ended my account. Even today, every time I see that ubiquitous blue logo, I shudder inside.
WHY does my family of origin despise me so much? Because they apparently believe my mother’s lies about why she “had no choice” but to commit me to an insane asylum almost half a century ago. And anything that I have to say on the subject is suspect because, you know, I must have been really crazy in order to be locked up.
They BREAK you, and then they HATE you for being broken.
Every trauma story is unique. Some people have told me that my trauma story is so extreme, it makes them feel ashamed of having any kind of emotional problems when their trauma is “less” by comparison. But I absolutely do not want anyone who reads this to feel that way! Please!! Pain is pain, trauma is trauma, and – in my experience – THE WORST PAIN OF ALL IS THE PAIN OF BEING REJECTED BY THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO LOVE YOU. Not the terrifying episodes of violence, not the rapes, not even being labeled “crazy” and locked up for almost two years in a lunatic asylum, hurts as bad as this!!
If you, like me, have ever been scapegoated, lied about, shunned, and rejected for being so “bad” as to have any kind of emotional or mental problems, then I believe your wounds go just as deep as mine.
Thank you for reading this. Please feel free to share your own story in the comments. And thank you, Lucky Otter, for giving people like me the opportunity to share our mental health struggles with your readers. God bless.
In truth and love, Linda Lee
PS: Today is Easter, the day we Christians celebrate our risen Lord. I believe HE is the reason why I finally got free of the insane asylum, during an era when 97% of the people committed there were never released. (This is what one of the psychiatrists told me right after I got there, when I asked him how soon I could go home.) I was one of the lucky few who got a second chance at life. I think the reason may be because I had given my heart to Christ when I was a little girl. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Amen!