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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Support Groups » Finally considering counseling...maybe

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Author Topic: Finally considering counseling...maybe
polyprotic
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I'm leaving for college in just a couple of weeks and will have access to ten free individual counseling sessions per year, and one group therapy course per quarter. I've struggled with PTSD for about five years now from a variety of traumatic experiences and have been told by a lot of people that I would benefit from counseling. So now with the opportunity to get those services free and confidentially, I think it may be an option. I've still got some reservations, and was hoping I could hear some of your thoughts/personal experiences, as I know many here have also experienced PTSD and counseling. I'm sorry if this is so long. It's kind of a braindump of everything I'm thinking. Hopefully it will help you understand exactly where I'm coming from with this.

First, I've had a lot of really crappy, unethical experiences with various counselors, law enforcement, doctors, and "counselors." I've discussed some of these experiences in previous posts here. When my years of sexual assault came to light and my brother was convicted of aggravated sexual assault, he was only given 6 months-1 year in jail and has already had his records expunged. So his life is going on now without any remaining consequences as a result (I think it's really shitty that so few perpetrators are convicted, and when they finally get one, they go so easy). So that pretty much told me that they thought what happened to me really wasn't that bad, even though it was considered "aggravated." So then he did the year in jail and got counseling from this terrible woman (you can read about how wonderful and revolutionary she is here: http://www.co.collin.tx.us/juvenile_probation/rebuilding_lives.jsp ). She told him that he was the most normal, sane member of my family, and also tried to do some crappy legal things to my family. I was forced to go to the jail to have "counseling" sessions with her, in which I was often locked up in a jail cell with my brother and had to talk about everything that happened. I was made to address the "fact" that he took my virginity. The purpose of this was to have him come home to live with me until he went away to college. I went through the motions and he came home for two and a half years. Needless to say, that was an awful lot for a thirteen-year-old. Quite possibly almost as traumatic as the assaults.

In the meantime, this "counselor" sent me to a psychiatrist that gave me a high dose of Seroquel and Valium for simple insomnia. I also (willfully) tried just about every antidepressant approved for kids. I walked around like a zombie for three years. I think the psychiatrist was actually trying to help, but it seemed kind of misguided to give a kid that much medicine.

Recently I went to a doctor and was extremely triggered by an exam and had one of the worst panic attacks of my life, and she was very unsympathetic and told me my reaction was abnormal, and kept going on about how common assault is (using that as an excuse to tell me how I was overreacting), as well as other unprofessional things. So I was again trivialized by someone that was supposed to be an expert. That's not really encouraging.

Then there's my family. When we were dealing with the legal aspect of things, they did not allow me to press charges and repeatedly brought my brother home when he was released to go to doctors' appointments. At thirteen I was forced out of the house while he was there. I remember I had a cold one day and still had to leave for a few hours. My mother straight out told me that she was pissed off at me because she had to deal with all of this stuff, and that I was equally responsible. She even said that if my brother were the younger one, I would have been the one convicted. But when my first counselor, who was independent of the law enforcement, suggested that my parents had neglected my needs, they refused to allow me to continue seeing her because they thought she was planting ideas in my head. I should mention that my mother was dealing with few different cancers simultaneously during this time, so it wasn't her fault she wasn't there for me when she was sick. But she said all those things before she found out. My mother insists that I should get help, but then she says stuff like "I know you're just going to whine about how crappy your dad and I were on a shrink's couch someday." So obviously, my family would be much less than supportive if they found out I was seeing a counselor.

Then there's just the fear that my PTSD could get worse. My PTSD really didn't start to show up until I was no longer being harmed physically, and I still have a realistic fear that my brother could attack me (I leave my house at 3:30am for work when everyone else is sleeping, so it's scary as hell running to my car). So I think that once I no longer have that fear and am allowed to turn off my "fight or flight response" my PTSD symptoms could get worse, if that makes sense. Then when I finally deal with everything, I think I'm going to have a hard time emotionally. I'm taking a really tough load of courses my first quarter, so I (and my GPA) can't afford to be an emotional wreck. I also won't have any friends when I get there, so I won't have a support network there. I don't really have any friends now, so I probably won't have anyone to talk to at all.

I should also mention that I'm just plain scared to even begin to deal with this, because I never really have.

So if anyone could contribute their thoughts/ideas on how to go about this/personal experiences with something like this, I'd appreciate it.

[ 08-06-2010, 11:16 PM: Message edited by: polyprotic ]

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Heather
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Hey, poly: glad to hear from you. I'm starting to lose a little gas here tonight, and this is something I'd want to obviously have plenty of brain cells and energy to talk with you about.

Are you okay with waiting until tomorrow morning to talk about this if another volunteer/user isn't available? I'll be in and out tomorrow, but could come and post first thing of the morning then check in sporadically throughout the day to continue.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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polyprotic
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Yeah, that would be great. Thank you.
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Heather
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You got it, and thanks for the patience. Talk with you then. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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I'm back, and appreciate your waiting.

I just read through all of this again, polyprotic. Sometimes I just don't have adequate words, or any that feel adequate, to express empathy and sympathy to someone else in certain situations, and I'm afraid this is one of them where words are likely to fail me. To say you have been let down a whole lot by people who should have been caring for you well, who you should have been able to count on, and who had the responsibility to care for you, seems the understatement of the century. As someone who went through some related kinds of trauma at an early age, and also felt incredibly dizzied and lost in the politics of the adults around dealing poorly with that trauma, I know how hard that was for me and that's without some of the elements you had to deal with.

At the same time, I'm really awed by your ability to keep pushing to take care of yourself and to stand up for yourself. Not everyone survives events like this, especially when they happen over many years and when they keep getting let down so much. Some people do just kind of break, and your clear strength and determination is really amazing and inspiring to me.

Suffice it to say, I completely understand your fear in trying to address all of this now. I'd be surprised if you were not afraid, since your history most certainly gives you reason to be.

While certainly things could go any number of ways when you go away to school, it seems more likely to me that things will actually get a whole lot better for you just by changing your environment. You'll have adjustments to deal with, no doubt, but you've been living your whole life in the same place you have been continually traumatized: getting out usually creates improvements all by itself.

So, a couple ideas on a practical note:

1) Can you look up if your college has support services for rape and abuse? Most likely they do, and I'd suggest you consider connecting with them, potentially even before you arrive. That way, you can have some built-in support from people who intend, fully, to be advocates for survivors, not advocates for perpetrators, general counselors or insensitive third-parties.

2) We actually have a very wide net here at Scarleteen given our traffic, so if you wanted, I could put some feelers out on our Facebook and Twitter to see if we have any users/readers at that school you might be able to connect with in advance, so maybe you DID know someone, and someone very likely to be supportive and understanding.

3) I'm sure you know this already, but obviously screening anyone you're going to get counseling from is a big deal. Mind, your brother's counselor crossed a line in my book ethically, and I can think of a lot of people I know who are therapists who would agree. She should have recognized that she was NOT someone in any position to be working with a survivor, especially doing the things that she did. I don't know if you ever want to make a case over this legally or with her licensing board, but if you did, I think you have one.

Anyway, it sounds like you have this in you, but do you feel able to be a very strong advocate for yourself and make clear to any potential counselors that you have dealt with profound counseling maltreatment before, and you NEED to not ever have that happen again?

I'm probably stating the obvious to you, but while good counseling is something that likely would benefit you a whole lot, if you can't get that, I think substandard or poor counseling is something that could set you back, and that you'd be better without. Mind, in the event the counseling provided by your college does NOT feel like a sound fit to you -- and I'd trust your instincts here: if in a screening appointment, your guts sense anything not-good, I'd trust them -- I don't think that means you're SOL. I'd be happy to help you see what other resources might be available locally so you can find someone good to work with.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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polyprotic
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They offer a couple different relevant group courses every quarter that I might find beneficial.

I think I might prefer going in with a completely blank slate, actually. Thanks, though.

I will definitely be careful in choosing a counselor/group and will let them know that I've had some bad experiences with therapy. I really don't know how much good ten sessions will do, because it will probably take a while to even begin to trust them. I think I'll have to give it a shot to find out. I just feel so fragile about the whole thing, like if anyone says anything wrong, I don't know how well I could handle it.

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Heather
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For sure, you have a lot you've been though and have been carrying, so ten sessions probably won't make some HUGE difference. But what ten sessions could at least likely do is give you some good cues about if further counseling looks like it will help you out or not, and for that reason alone, I'd encourage you to look into it.

I also think you absolutely get to take all the time you need to build trust, and SHOULD take that time. Your boundaries are important, and any good counselor would agree.

Per handling any statements or suggestions that feel painful to you, this could be another arena where getting connected with rape/abuse services there could come in handy. But you're also more than welcome to come back here for that kind of support too, if and when you need it. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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polyprotic
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Well, I've been doing some research into the sexual assault resources available on campus, and it seems that they only offer services to students that have something happen while they're attending the university, including the support groups. So I'm not entirely sure how much I'll be able to benefit from campus resources.

I guess I'm just feeling pretty messed up and like I'm not going to fit in. I've always felt pretty alienated from my peers and thought it would be helpful to meet a group of people that have gone through some similar things. I mean, I'm going to Ohio State, so on a campus that big, with that many different kinds of people, it would be entirely my fault if I didn't find at least a few friends. But I was looking forward to having that automatic support.

I'm still considering the individual sessions, but this seems like another reason not to. But maybe I'm just looking for reasons at this point.

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Karybu
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Honestly, the individual sessions are probably still a very good idea, and I'd really encourage you to take advantage of having that available. If you're looking for support groups as well, you may be able to find some off-campus (and if you haven't done so already, it may be worth putting a call in to the counseling center on campus and asking if you could still participate in the support groups).

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"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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polyprotic
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Just a status update here: I moved out about a month ago and into my new dorm. And I absolutely love it [Smile]

I just made my first counseling appointment (after calling and hanging up three times) and things are really starting to look up now. So thank you everyone for your encouragement [Smile]

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Heather
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Yay! That's so awesome! [Big Grin]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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