Excerpt Chapter 8:
Age 13. Context: I was sent to a mental hospital for throwing a rock and was heavily medicated within 24 hours without showing any symptoms other than not wanting to be warehoused in an abusive shelter. The side effects took over every part of my being physically and mentally. The hyper-intense emotions the meds caused was not a good combination when living with a narcissistic foster mother.
For the next couple of weeks, I just tried to stay out of her hair, out of the way. I couldn’t bring myself to participate in her religion and I knew that in rejecting that, we would go back to the dynamic of her nitpicking everything. Unfortunately, it was summer, no school. If I didn’t leave my room, she’d come to me. Every day she’d come in just to tell me off. She chastised, she nitpicked, she reprimanded, she lectured, she reamed and she… she just didn’t like me. But, she was getting paid for me to be there so I thought I’d be okay as long as I stayed chill, but it was all getting to be overwhelming…
I had a tv in my room with cable. I could disappear into MTV. I would wait up till all hours of the night for songs that could make me feel genuine emotion. I had a lot of feelings, but I couldn’t truly compartmentalize them. I could through music and when I could wrap my head around a feeling through song, it would take hold of every fiber of my being.
It was always the same songs. Pearl Jam, Jeremy. A song about a kid who was ignored and unloved. Whose parents didn’t bother and everyone picked on him till one day he snapped and killed himself in front of his class. I wanted to die. I wanted to die in a big media-worthy way. Then, K’s Choice, Not an Addict. A song about someone who is denying their addiction, describing how they just needed the drugs took away the pain. I needed something to take away my pain. Maybe I needed real drugs. Like in the song. Whatever makes the pain go away. Blind Melon, No Rain. A song about someone who was alone and isolated and just needed someone to say they would stay by them, be there for them. I needed that. I needed someone who would stand by me.
Those songs were the soundtrack to the depression that was growing in me. Actual, clinical depression. Sadness was all I could think about. All I could feel. Every second of every minute of every day, I wanted to not exist. I wanted to die. I wanted to feel something, physical pain to take away the emotional pain. Then… I heard a song that wrapped it all up. The song, the video, everything. Matchbox 20’s Push. A song about a girl who had never been good enough, really loved, never belonged and who was angry and wanted to take that anger out on the world. That girl was me.
That song flooded me with emotions I couldn’t handle. Every feeling I ever wanted to express in my entire life but couldn’t fell on me like a pile of bricks. When it was over, I sat there sobbing, wishing the song would come back on so I could listen to it again and again and again till I didn’t feel that way anymore. Maybe a couple of videos later that didn’t register because I was too busy still feeling Rob Thomas speaking to my soul… Kurt Loader came on the air. Princess Diana was dead. A car accident. That broke me. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t breathe. This was the worst thing that had ever happened in the history of ever!!
I link my reaction to this stupid letter thing that my school did in 3rd or 4th grade, where we wrote letters to famous people. She had been kissing orphans and hugging lepers and raising AIDS awareness, so she was kind of my backup hero after Pedro Zamora. I wrote her a letter telling her she was my hero and that I wished she was my mother. I got a form letter back, but I was young and stupid and actually thought she had written me back. I was over the moon and fell even more in love with her. I honestly had forgotten all about that till that moment. That moment learning that she died. A wonderful loving mother who was devoted to taking care of not just her kids, but all the kids in the world was gone. And there were so many bad moms left.
I couldn’t handle it. I was floored into a depression that didn’t break. I just wanted to be dead, to not exist. To be out of the world that someone so good could die the way she did and all the horrible people who hurt kids were still around.
Funny story… all of this, all of these crazy feelings, the hyper fear of the chanting, the anxiety of being yelled at over bodily functions, the completely illogical response to a stranger’s death…most of my life I have always blamed all this on teenage hormones/PMS. But I had one period there and no more after. It wasn’t hormones. It was the Depakote. Yet another of the many side effects I experienced on that drug that I didn’t know was a side effect. I love watching the commercials now for bipolar meds. “may cause depression and suicidal ideation in teenagers.” That is an understatement.
That drug changed everything about me from my looks to my emotions. I’d gone my whole life experiencing every level of trauma and typically had a numb response or at best shed tears for the situations and move on. No matter the suck all of my feelings always fit the scenario. Even losing my sister only made me cry in that moment. I didn’t sit there wallowing for hours and days over it.
But these post-Regional feelings, the irrational longing for death over the smallest stimuli like good music, that shit gripped me every time I was medication compliant and didn’t fully go away till years later when I refused to take any meds. The system had literally made me crazy… but I didn’t know that was going on. Back then, it just felt like the world was ending all around me. EVERYTHING WAS SO HORRIBLE. Had it not been for the Depakote, I could have probably handled Ms. Anita’s bitchiness. I’d dealt with far worse maternal figures and kept my damn mouth shut. But in this case, yea… I didn’t.
So, part of the whole therapeutic foster parent thing is they take you to therapy appointments. We had one prior; I think. Maybe they were weekly and only two stood out. I can’t remember. Anyway, my sessions were in Winn Way Medical Center, my therapist was Dana. I liked Dana. She was a twenty-something white chick with raven hair and a kind demeanor. It was almost like she was still a teenager who understood adults sucked balls. That’s kind of how we related. Shortly after Diana died, I had a therapy session. A family therapy session.
The first part was me talking to Dana, about how I was feeling, about how sad I was, about how Diana dying was affecting me, about how much of an unbearably raging bitch my foster mother was. Then it was both me and Ms. Anita. For her part of the session, Anita went through her list of reasons that I sucked as a kid which culminated in saying I had an identity crisis. The reason? I listened to rock music and said I was Jewish. Then she flat out asked me why I was trying so hard to be “white.”
Ugh, this was probably what I hated most about the 90s. Every race /ethnic group was expected to stay in their little boxes. Black people like rap and hip hop and were Baptist or Methodist. That’s it. That was the whole of the identity we were allowed to have, and it was reinforced even harsher by other black people. I was so fucking sick of people telling me I acted white or talked white or listened to white people music and watched white people shows. Hell, if it meant not having to live life in that little box with a pre-defined identity, why wouldn’t anyone want to be white? White people were at least allowed to be themselves, even if it meant pretty much usurping any component of other cultures and without stigma. Well, except if they listened to hip hop an talk like dis. Then they would get called out for being a “wigger.”
Anyway, when Anita said I had an identity crisis, I snapped at her. I was like “Okay wannabe Buddhist. Funny, you don’t look Chinese. If I have an identity issue, what about you?” Then Dana stepped in to keep the tension from turning into an all-out argument. She tried to get us to a common ground. Identify what each of us needed from the other to make things work. I don’t remember the exact words I said, but it was something akin to ‘I need her to stop trying to make me a carbon copy of her daughter because not even her daughter could live up to her expectations.’
That was it. I was asked to leave the office. I sat outside waiting on some couch or bench and a couple of minutes later, Ms. Anita stormed out of the office. When she walked by me, I stood up, assuming we were leaving together. She told me to sit my ass back down and walked out the door. Ms. Dana called me back into the office and told me that Anita wasn’t comfortable with me staying with her anymore. Dana said it wasn’t my fault, and that sometimes placements just don’t work out because of personality differences.
I was going to have to go back to the shelter until they could find me another placement. Ms. Anita would bring my belongings to the office and Dana would bring them to the shelter. I begged her to just send me back to Georgia Regional, I told her I couldn’t survive back at the shelter. I was going to end up in jail again because the staff all hated me. Dana said that it would be different this time. She promised it would be only a couple of days, a few weeks tops before I got another foster home. I’d heard that song and dance before. But I didn’t have a choice but to pretend I believed her.
My total time in a foster home: 2 months. This would be the longest stint I’d ever spend in one.