You Failed Me
Way back in the day...and by that, I mean, when I was still a young thing back in high school, I did something kind of stupid. Okay...so I did a lot of things that were REALLY stupid back in the day. I admit that. But this one, well...my stupidity was minor compared to the failure of the authorities.
You see, in the tenth grade, I got mono...you know, the "kissing disease". And although I had kissed someone, it appears that I didn't get it from him. Half of my algebra II/trigonometry class got it too...especially the kids who sat near me. We all got it the week after Thanksgiving. By the time I was really feeling sick, it was the middle of the first week of December, and my doctor ordered that I not return to school until after the holiday break was over.
That meant, I was going to spend the next thirty days locked up tight in the hoard. Now mind you, I knew our house was bad, I knew it was different, but I hadn't heard the terms hoarding or cluttering. That wouldn't happen for another twenty years. I believed at that time that we were the ONLY family in the whole world who lived in this disastrous amount of clutter, trash, and utter filth. I was pretty sure I was the only child hiding these kinds of conditions.
It was a very long month. I thought for sure I would die before I got out again. And when I did head back to school after winter break, it landed me back in bed for two days of nearly constant sleeping. So we returned to the doctor to see why I wasn't rebounding the way I should.
The doctor was, as it turns out, just as baffled as we were. Finally, he pinned down my extended fatigue as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. What he didn't know, and what I didn't know how to tell him, was that I felt chained to this fatigue and to our house...literally. I wanted to get out of there so badly. It was another month before I returned to school part-time.
In the meantime, I felt worse and worse. Eventually, I became suicidal. But I'm a girl and so my best idea for killing myself was "falling" down the stairs from my attic bedroom. You see, I didn't actually fall. I kind of flung myself over the railing at the highest point hoping to end the hellish jail I was in--that house and this life.
Obviously, I didn't die. I didn't even have major injuries. But, because I had mono just a short while before, the paramedics arrived and were very concerned that I had ruptured my spleen. The team of three men came into the hoard, loaded me on a backboard, and carefully finagled their way with me on the backboard through the mess.I wouldn't say that I forgot about this incident, but what I never put together is that the paramedics failed me that day. I only realized this today for the first time while working on the research survey for Adult-Children of Hoarders being done by Dr. Suzanne Chabaud.
And I became angry.
How did those three men break the door in, walk through the path in the living room, load me onto a stretcher which they then had to try to lift precariously through the hoarded kitchen, past the open door to my mother's hoarded bedroom (the bed was mostly covered at this point), and back out yet never contact Child Protective Services? Especially given that I "fell down" the littered stairs!?!
[Insert deep breaths, prayer, focusing, and more deep breaths.]
Dear Mr. Paramedic,
Do you have any idea how much you failed me that day? I didn't fall down the stairs. No, sir. I flung myself down the stairs hoping for major internal organ injury that would kill me and release me from the hoard. And yet, you, who are a mandatory reporter of these kinds of things did NOT report the home condition to the medical staff in the ER or contact CPS on my behalf.
I am far enough in journey of personal recovery to forgive you. But it makes me wonder how many other situations or conditions that should have been reported by you went undetected. It makes me wonder how bad a home had to be for you to do the difficult. It makes me feel like the world is a very dangerous place, especially if you are the child growing up in an abusive/neglectful home. Those who are there to protect, fail to do so.
It's messy, I know, to get involved. But you picked me up out of a pile of dirty clothes, trash, food waste, and other debris. It was not tough for you to see the house was not fit for a roach, let alone a child or teen. But you were too busy minding your own business to do what you are REQUIRED to do.
I hope that if someday I am in the same kind of position, I will take the risk to get involved because I know that others may have already failed in this department.
Teen Girl Who Didn't Really "Fall" Down the Stairs
Today, this whole thing makes me sad. It takes me back to the girl I once was, trying so desperately to tell people that something was wrong but feeling as though my voice was silent.
I'm not that girl anymore. I have grieved for the loss of my childhood, the loss of a healthy parent I deserved, the absence of a healthy family. Today, I will allow myself to feel the pain and disappointment. But tomorrow I am going to dwell in the knowledge that these events have shaped me into a wonderful woman, a fiercely loyal friend, a strong advocate, a loving mother, and a beautiful wife.
See, recovery isn't about making these kind of events disappear. I'm not capable of truly forgetting. But I am capable of choosing how the story will end. I will choose well. What about you?