I am pleased to have guest writer Kylie Devi writing about Unhelpful Mental Health Providers this week at Emerging from Broken. Many of us have been through the mental health system with less than wonderful results. In this post Kylie shares examples of how helping professionals failed her in her quest to overcome the devastation of childhood sexual abuse and how she emerged victorious in spite of them. ~ Darlene
To Shrink? Or Not To Shrink… by Kylie Devi
I have been raped, repeatedly. I have lived to tell my story. I healed by creating my own support systems, and not so much from psychology or therapy. I am sure there are many loving people with good intentions in the field, but the “system” is not set up for healing. The “get better” industry doesn’t thrive on people “getting better.” So for me, I realized I was going to have to take it into my own hands. I did whatever it took. And it took a lot. Writing, crying, sharing my story, connecting with anger, releasing guilt and shame. Forming bonds with people who deserved my trust. Simple things that seemed complicated at the time. That is what allowed my healing to occur.
I made FOUR solid attempts at rape and crisis counseling. These experiences are comical to me now, but at the time they were re-traumatizing, life shattering, and felt like a second rape. I was addicted to drugs, destroying my relationships, and hanging on to my will to live by a piece of dental floss. I knew that childhood sexual abuse and rape in my teenage years was the root of why I was creating my life in such a way. I reached out for help where I could. Free county rape counseling, student rape crisis centers, expensive psychotherapy. Every time it was so hard to find the courage to ask for help when the previous counselor had either failed to create space for my experience to be real, thickening the denial I already had to deal with within myself, or practiced questionable therapeutic techniques.
I recount some of these experiences in a book I am currently writing called Love After Rape. The following three paragraphs are excerpts from this book:
I wanted to talk to her. I really did. She was a counselor I went to see. I had twelve weeks with her. Twelve weeks to make her understand – to know where all the pain was coming from and how to heal it. By week six she said: “I have to fill out forms to track our progress together, in six weeks with you I have only gotten as far as where we should have been half way through the first session.” Paperwork. Everything was about paperwork, and progress, and moving forward, and being orderly. I could not feel. I just wanted to say “I can’t feel. Can you help me?” But I could not allow the broken notes to escape my locked throat, I wanted to say so badly. Every week I thought about that one hour and I knew that would be the week I could say it. The unspeakable, unsayable, unknowable, shameful thing. I could not, I was not willing, the words were not there. The words were scrambled, the memories. The twelfth week never came. One day she looked at me and said: “I wish I could help you.”
I did try again, a few years later. I wanted someone to understand. I went to the free state or county funded therapy on the bus. Once again, I had twelve weeks. If I was really effed up, they would reapply at the end of my twelve weeks and see if I could qualify for more. I rode the bus for an hour each way, watching the town sink into itself, watching the filth and the gray of the city I will never call home buzz by. Watching the gray after gray finally turn into brick red and then it was my time to get off. The whole time my stomach was in knots. Could I say it, could I say? What would I say. My clever mind would plan the whole way. Plan it’s defense against the truth being seen, all the while wanting desperately for the truth to be seen. She was short, and had a face that reminded me of a bulldog. It looked out at me with a kind of meanness. A bulldog therapist with brown hair. She kept on telling me that I had anger, I have anger, I must have anger. I don’t have any anger, I have made my peace in the world, have found peace. Peace through marijuana and promiscuous sex. She sent me to Barnes and Noble to buy a book about shame. Healing the Shame that Binds You, by John Bradshaw. I was desperate. Bulldog or not, I needed her. I read it, cover to cover. I was proud of myself for doing so. The next time I got off the bus at the red brick building, and walked up the long flight of stairs, down the hallway that smelled like an attic and too many years of unfiled paperwork, yes, that time. She was not there. Something had happened to her. Instead, a chipper blonde bird lady was there. She said “I cannot tell you what happened to Mary, I cannot.” I hadn’t asked. She went on to say a whole lot of other things. She talked and talked. She did not ask me about the Bradshaw book I had in my hand. We made another appointment, even though not much had happened in this one. I went back the next week, on the bus, through the gray, up the stairs, same as before. She was ranting and ranting. Her son was too young to have a baby. His girlfriend had never even held one before. Did I see the Jodie Foster movie with the rape scene. Did I know how many times she said no in that movie? Did I wonder if I would be raped again? It could happen again. It could keep happening, again and again. This was therapy? She looked at me wide-eyed, at the edge of her seat, and talked, and talked and talked. I am glad someone was getting help.
I tried one more time, years later. At college. My relationship was falling apart. My drug addiction was literally killing me. I went to the place on campus where they specialize in dealing with rape and sexual assault. I was tired of talking. I wrote a letter to the therapist. I told her everything. That I had been raped as a child, as an adult, that I was killing myself with drugs, that I couldn’t have sex with my fiancée without blacking out. I told her everything. She rustled through the papers quickly, clinically. She said, “You know, we can talk about the assault you experienced in high school. As far as childhood goes, I really don’t want to put ideas into your head.” Ideas into my head? I just told her what happened. It took so much, so much courage to share that. I could not even speak it. There were no ideas put into my head. There were penises put into my mouth. That was all I was trying to say. Even those who are meant to serve this population of me, of me’s, of the women and men who endured what I had, couldn’t speak. Even those specially trained and educated. They did not want to know. They did not want to hear about it. Why were they there? What were they doing there? I never saw her again. Later I learned about an “epidemic” of women accusing families of origin of sexual abuse that supposedly had never happened and it ruined those families. Therapists all over the country were suddenly afraid to touch it. Like it was rotting meat, stay away, don’t touch it, its raw. You could get an infection, a disease. Don’t ruin the families, protect those who abuse, protect their rights, they have them too. File your paperwork. Go home. Enjoy your house, your television. Collect your paycheck. Allow those you serve to suffer in silence, continue this for years. One day, before you die, in the last moment of your life, you will think to yourself. Maybe they were telling the truth. Maybe they had been raped by their fathers, their mothers, their brothers, their uncles. When they confronted their families, it tore their families apart. We were afraid to tear a family apart. Telling the truth is not what tore those families apart, and if it were not true, it would not have torn anyone apart. I will tell you what tore them apart. Sleep well. Enjoy your life.
You know, I am no longer a drug addict. I no longer consider suicide, I value my life. I may have been victimized, but today, I am not a victim. I am thriving and living on purpose. The “get better” industry is not to credit for that. Not one bit. I healed myself, with the help of others who shared their struggles and their solutions. In the end, we are our own solutions. We all have everything we need inside of us, and within the communities we create, to live the life we are meant to.
NOTE: Kylie has written a follow up post ~ Breaking through the Fear of Speaking about Child Abuse
**As always, please feel free to contribute to this article with your own stories, feedback or comments. ~ Darlene Ouimet ~ founder of Emerging from Broken
Kylie Devi is a writer and healing artist working with men and women who have survived sexual trauma. She offers an eight week course “Recovering the Spirit from Sexual Trauma” in Gainesville, FL, and is writing two recovery oriented books. Her passions are poetry, qigong, bodywork, and transformative communication. She can be contacted through her blog at www.kyliedevi.com
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