The first time I was put into a treatment facility, I was fifteen years old and had just gone to my sophomore year homecoming dance. I wouldn’t say that I was easiest teenager around but I wasn’t exactly a troublemaker either.
I was struggling with an eating disorder and self harm like many of my peers and tended to stay out later than my parents probably appreciated. But overall, I was a pretty average adolescent.
On September 29, 2011, my mom picked me up from school and drove me about 30 minutes from our house and signed me into the eating disorder unit at Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland.
Within my time there, I would be denied showers, phone calls, and visitors based on my weight. I would see kids develop kidney stones from being denied bathroom breaks. I had a nurse almost test my blood sugar with a dirty needle. Not to mention the several strip searches I underwent and on occasion either having to scrub my own vomit or watch someone else do that for themselves.
This would be my first of eight treatment stays between the ages of 15 and 21. In that time, I was strip searched over 60 times, denied showers countless times, had nurses walk in on me and roommates while naked, watched girls writhe in pain and be denied medical care, saw children being put in holds, and more in the name of our mental health and safety. Many of these stays would be co-ed and oftentimes have adults and adolescents together. Both of which cause their own issues between clients without the added stress of being locked inside most, if not all, of the time.
I am still dealing with the after effects of my adolescence. Of being told that I would never be able to live outside of treatment centers. Of having my body belong to those around me rather than myself. So much of my life today is focused on reclaiming my body and my life and coming to understand that what I went through is not okay. That mental health care does not have to be traumatic, nor should it be.
We all deserve compassionate mental health care and for our stories to be heard.
I see you. I hear you. I am #BreakingCodeSilence.