For my entire high school career, I struggled with depression, anxiety, PTSD, self-harm, and an eating disorder. I did not get help until 2014, where I was in and out of a few Residential Treatment Centers, or RTC. At the beginning of 2015, I was sent to a wilderness therapy program, where my life changed for the better (I will be posting an article about wilderness therapy soon).
After wilderness, I was forced to go to this new kind of place, called a "therapeutic boarding school." My friends in wilderness dreaded these places because it was rumored that when you went there, you never went home and never got to see your friends or family again. So obviously, when my treatment team told me I was going, I thought my life was over.
When I arrived at this school, I was taken up to the offices, where I had to sign forms. The staff was very nice. My therapist introduced herself, and I had lunch with some kids. The kids were all very nice and eager to get to know me. Later in the day, I moved my stuff into my dorm, and then we hung out and had study hall. That night, one of the boys had the highest consequence and was angry. He yelled at me, "Your parents f***d you over for sending you here." Still being in the joy of wilderness, it did not affect me at the time, but I was still anxious and felt regret.
As my time went on at this boarding school, I learned that no one cared. Most of the teachers did not care if we did our work or not, and a combination of the teachers, students, and staff ultimately brought a culture of not caring about school work. No matter how much I cared about school, no one would let me. I was not allowed to take honors or AP classes, and if I asked for more work, the therapists told me "it would just make you more anxious." The academic director told me that my dream school would not accept me because of the school that I went to and that I would not be capable of their academics.
Now that I am in college, I forgot how to take notes, study, do homework, and even pay attention in class. I graduated top of my class, but that was because it was so easy that my GPA was boosted like crazy. Now I feel behind all of my peers in college and it is so embarrassing, especially since I feel I cannot talk to my peers about this.
The therapy culture was toxic. My therapist believed in just accepting where you were, and improvements were not needed. I was told that when I came home on visits, to keep my mouth shut and that I should just ignore my abusive family. I was invalidated when I opened up about my life. This school was the first place I opened up about my eating disorder. My therapist said, "you're overweight, you can't possibly have an eating disorder," and the nurse agreed. She also said that I didn't have PTSD because "He didn't hit me," and "He didn't actually rape you." We also had groups once a week, and they were very dainty, and while I wanted to get some personal work done, we did activities such as nature walks and drawing pictures. And when we did have an intense, productive group, it was when my therapist wanted to call people out and embarrass them, she turned us against each other and tore us to shreds to the point of students getting into fights and getting kicked out of the school.
My therapist told me that my problems were invalid, and because of this, I internalize my problems, and I am afraid to open up. I also feel that I have taken steps back in my recovery.
The nursing team was mediocre at best. The nighttime nurses were amazing, and some of the best therapy I could have gotten came from them. They became my mothers away from home. The full-time, medical director, was the day nurse. She was very very invalidating. She told me that because I could eat a little bit of dairy, that I wasn't lactose intolerant, and forced me to eat foods that made me sick. She also told me I was too fat for an eating disorder and too young for endometriosis. She also acted very dumb and spoke down to us. She acted like a therapist, and would force the female dorm to have groups with her which only made things worse. She also forced our dorm to go on day trips, skipping school and making the boys jealous, and going on trips that no one enjoyed or consented to. I was afraid to open up about my health issues, and I was afraid to open up to my dorm in fear that the nurse would make us turn on each other.
The residence life staff were amazing. They cared about us, and most of them knew that we just wanted to have fun during our off time. There were a few staff that really understood what we were going through, and did not treat us like we were less than them because we were in treatment, and these staff received more respect. Other staff were very strict and this lead to students lashing out. Some staff did not care and would play on their phones, which lead to chaos because rules were not enforced. Some staff would talk down to us and treat us like children.
We were not allowed any physical contact, no swearing. We always had to be watched 24/7, and even had night staff hired by a private company (the kind that supervises museums) to keep watch on us while we were asleep. In the dorms we weren't allowed to close our doors if we wanted to change, and we couldn't talk about certain things unless a staff was there.
The other students were very nice when I first got there. I became popular, something I had never experienced. I soon learned that no one there was there because they wanted to get better, they were forced there. Therefore, there was a culture of hatred towards the school and the people that worked there. There was also a culture of anti-recovery, and people that were trying to improve their lives were treated poorly by their peers. The students were so negative. Cliques were stronger here than in public high school. People tore each other down for little to no reason at all. I was afraid to even speak around the other students, in fear of being ripped apart. A girl hated me because she was rich and I was poor. Two girls hated each other because they dated the same boy. All of the guys hated my best friend because he was honest and told the staff about hiding contraband in the dorms.
And while I understand that the students were acting this way to prove their alpha-ness, it would have been better if we stuck together.
The school was relaxed enough that we were able to enjoy ourselves and not feel like we were trapped, but not strict enough that it lead to a mess. Also, often times the entire school would be punished for the actions of a single person. I felt like I was walking on eggshells trying to please all of the staff members.
Now that I have graduated the school, my family expects that i will never feel a negative feeling in my life. Last year they believed that I ruined Christmas for being anxious. I am afraid to be myself around my family now more than ever. When I come home from school on break, I am very anxious being in the household that caused me to develop so many of my mental health issues, and being around the person that caused my PTSD.
I felt like I was forced to keep my mouth shut, and survive at this school. I wanted to live, and I was not allowed to live. I am embarrassed to live my life, knowing that I missed out on a year and a half of my life. A year and a half of high school, band, robotics, friends. My college career is ruined because I am far behind my peers, and therefore my career is ruined. Most importantly, my recovery is ruined, because although I made large strides in wilderness, my boarding school threw me so far back that I fear I may not be able to recover from being there.