PTSD from abuse and wanting to die

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Hello,
A little back round about my problem: First, I have no memory of the first 10 years of my life. It’s totally blank. However, everything past that has been scared by abuse. Abuse by my family, by school staff and by the psychiatric hospitals my mom would send me to as punishment.

My mom would call the children’s psychiatric hospital and tell them I tried to kill myself. That got me an automatic 72-hour hold that would most times turn into a week or more. Staff would abuse me in there, one such visit I got a spinal injury from a staff member putting his knee on my spine and applied his full body weight. There was a series of crack and severe pain. I am on 3 different pain meds currently to handle the pain.

My first stay, instead of just asking for my shoe laces (suicide watch), I was rushed by 3 staff, bent over my bed and they pulled my right arm behind my back and up toward my neck. When they finished taking my laces I was let to fall to the floor. I didn’t have use of my arm for 2 days.

And they were solitary room crazy. They once left me in the room overnight, in the pitch black room from 7:30pm-8:30am. I have been terrified of the dark since that night. I have night-lights in every single room of the house and hallways, and a lamp in my room that’s on 24/7.

The schools were just as bad. I was put in closet sized “time out” rooms for hours on end. Carpet on the walls and floor and a solid steel door with no handle inside. There was no way out. I was locked in the room for hours at a time. If I were in before lunch, I would miss my lunch for the day. And they don’t let you out to go to the bathroom. You either held it, wet your pants, or just went on the floor. So the room smelled pretty bad of urine.

This other staff member removed his belt and hit me three times with it. Another lifted me by my shirt off the floor and threw me into a chair facing a brick wall that was another form of their time out. I was scared out of my mind. I couldn’t stop shaking. I have had my lunch kept from me for weeks at a time, but kept just out of reach to look at and smell. So while going to that school, I had to eat a big breakfast and eat lunch when I got home. I couldn’t even use the darn bathroom myself. The staff would follow me into the bathroom and stand right behind me while I used the urinal or would stand right outside the stall door if I had to make a bowel movement. I had no privacy what so ever at school.

I have been slammed to the floor face down and had my arms and legs spread out like I was flying while two full-grown adults sat on me. They called it “therapeutic restraints”. I always had problems breathing from all the weight on my back. I couldn’t get a deep breath. But if you moved at all to shift the weight to get a breath, as many kids including myself did, they took it as you were fighting and added more weight. I came close to passing out several times. And other kids have died of suffocation. And as bad as that was for me to handle, this one staff member would take his elbow and drill it into my shoulder blade on my back till I was screaming out in pain.

When I finally was let up, he would tell me “do ANYTHING, and I will drop your ass. I don’t care”. The school incident reports always made me out as the attacker. Saying I just got up and began attacking staff. Why the heck would I do that? I clearly saw the lie. Anyway, no one even questioned it. I was told I was lying to get out of trouble. So the abuse went on with no one to stop it till I attempted suicide when I was 17. Clearly I failed because I am still here. But not without problems. I turned to self-injury as a way to control the emotional pain.

My grandma threw liquid hot sauce in my eyes. I couldn’t see for several hours, not to mention my eyes burning. My dad made me hold out my arms with my palms up with dictionaries in each one and told to hold them up for an hour. If I dropped them I would get beat and the time would start all over again. When my dad got tired of hitting me for dropping the books he would send me to my room. It was a punishment that set me up to fail. Or he would beat me straight out, no dropping books first. During the beatings all I could do was curl into a ball and wait for him to get tired.

I dropped out of school at age 18. I tried to take my GED and failed horribly. I later came across an IEP form and found out my grades were horribly low. I was in 11th grade when I dropped out due to the abuse at school. According to the IEP, my spelling was at the 3rd grade level, my math was 5th grade and reading was at a 6th grade level. I was nowhere near prepared for the GED. I was so very far behind due to so much time either in a time out room or being held on the floor. I never had enough time actually learning. I gave up trying to get my GED and found a company that would hire me without a GED.

My whole life has been about abuse. As an adult I have tried to get help for the depression and PTSD. I tried to get set up at my local county mental health only to be told that they don’t take my insurance and refuse to let me do their by in program for 76.00 a year. That’s a huge story in itself.

Basically they refuse to help me. I don’t know what the problem it. They said I needed to pay for a therapist out right with my own money. Being on SSI that isn’t an option. And according to social services, that’s what my insurance is for. I have been brought into the hospital as a 5150 only for mental health to overturn it and send me home, which I didn’t know they could do. The police told me they would have to help me with a 5150. Guess not.

Meanwhile, going to the ER is just as bad. The staff does all they can to make me as uncomfortable as possible so I won’t come back. The last time I was in the ER for the PTSD/Depression I had everything taken from me and told to put on a gown. I tried to explain to them that the gown would trigger the flashbacks. I was in shorts and a t-shirt, which made every part of me easy to access. I didn’t see why the gown was being pushed so hard. Anyway, the nurse left and the next thing I hear is “get the restraints”.

5 minutes later 6 staff walk into the room. One nurse begins putting restraints on the gurney. Then I am told that if I don’t put on the gown, that I will be held down, put in restraints, have my clothing cut from my body and a catheter put in (even though I am in diapers for urine incontinence due to past abuse). I put on the gown and as I said freaked out by flashbacks. My heart rate jumped to 190/110 with a pulse of 120. I tried to warn them.

Finally the doctor comes in, the whole reason for the gown. He didn’t even touch me. No exam. He just stood there and told me that I must like the way that they are treating me or I wouldn’t keep coming back. Then he left. I had nightmares of that stay for 6 months. When brought in by the police, I am released with no way home. I have to walk 4 miles home, which is hell for my spinal injury.

I have reached a point in my life that I just can’t take it anymore. Every time I reach out for help I am harmed…..abused. I don’t get it. What is it about me that make people want to “teach me a lesson”? I am sick of people wanting to hurt me. I have just reached a point where I am ready to leave and return to heaven. At least I can get therapy and help there. Be free of the PTSD. No more nightmares and flashbacks. I just need to do a few things and I will be ready to leave this life. I don’t know what else to do. I am tired of living like this.

-Stanley

A: I am sorry you have had so many bad experiences with mental health and medical systems and personnel. I cannot account for the recurring abuse you have experienced, and can only say that I hope we can figure out a way to make things better.

I admire your resilience and perseverance in trying to get some much-needed services. I think we have to begin by building three layers of assistance through support, advocacy, and training. I have used this strategy before, and it has helped others. My hope is that it will help you.

The very first thing I would do is contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline. They can find a support group in your area and are a wealth of information about support and help. You can peruse their complete resources at their website. You will see that they have a special section just on PTSD.

Secondly, I would encourage you to begin going to an open Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon meeting in your area. Although you have not mentioned alcohol use or abuse there is usually an issue of either not wanting to drink, or drinking, or (perhaps more likely in your case) being around people who were drinking with the chronicity of abuse you have experienced. Al-Anon (for those struggling with the alcohol use of others) or AA (for those attempting to manage their desire to drink) is a good way to start making a connection to a support group that may be able to provide a vehicle for something corrective to occur. The availability, lack of cost and proven success of these support groups makes them potentially a good choice. Many people attending either one of these meetings will have been exposed to traumatic events. I often recommend these meetings because they may be more prolific and available than the NAMI ones. If you go to the open meetings and it feels like you are in the wrong place there is no harm done. The open meetings are for that purpose, to sample.

Each state has a division of vocational rehabilitation. It is supposed to help with training and therapy. I would contact them for an evaluation. They are likely to be able to provide at least some alternatives for therapy, and perhaps even help with a GED. I am including a link to the DVR from my own state (New Jersey) so you can get a sample of what may be available. Please find the one where you live for services.

Finally I would contact an SSDI lawyer for help with getting you services. I have found these lawyers to be very helpful in knowing the proper referral systems in the county. While I can’t vouch for this to be so in your state I know this is true where I am from, and my hope is this would be the case in your county. Here is the link to national disability lawyers.

Here is the national suicide prevention hotline. They are very good, and can usually help you find a caring agency that can help.

I would also avail myself of local churches or temple as they often have a liaison within the community.

Again, I am sorry for the way the system has failed you, but you did the right thing by writing us here. Please don’t give up. Don’t let those who have abused you continue to limit your life.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Jul 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). PTSD from abuse and wanting to die. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/07/15/ptsd-from-abuse-and-wanting-to-die/

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