I was sixteen years old when I was sent to Evangelhouse Christian Academy. I had been in and out of hospitals and treatment centers for the prior 3 years. A month before I was sent away, I had been raped by my girlfriend, attempted suicide, and relapsed hard with my anorexia. A doctor gave me a choice: go back to the inpatient eating disorder clinic for the third time or find a long-term residential facility. I chose the long-term facility in hopes that it would be better. It wasn’t.
At the time, I had undiagnosed autism, ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,) and OSDD-1 (Other Specified Dissociative Disorder) from childhood physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and neglect. My symptoms of autism and ADHD were repeatedly reported. The therapist and the director of the program both listened to my symptoms and laughed at me. My symptoms, especially my sensory problems, would become a running joke that they also shared with my mom and step dad.
I told my therapist about my abusive ex-girlfriend who had raped me. At the time, I didn’t accept that she had raped me. I blamed myself for it. My abuser had groomed me from the time that I was twelve. She had physically, emotionally, and sexually abused me for four years. Instead of helping me work through the trauma that would later develop into PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), my therapist blamed me. She told me that I needed to repent for my homosexual sins. She made me talk to the priest of the church that we were forced to attend. He said the same thing. Other girls who were sexually assaulted/abused by men received therapy and trauma treatment for their abuse while mine was blamed on me. One girl had a breakdown due to trauma. Staff sat with her and talked her through it. When I had a breakdown due to trauma, I was scolded for getting escalated but the staff didn’t help me with any de-escalation techniques. The difference? Because her trauma was from a man. Mine was from a girl.
My eating disorder worsened when I arrived there. I was refusing every meal and only eating snap peas. One night, I binged and ate two chocolate chip cookies. I purged them up immediately afterward. The next day, the teacher, who was the wife of the director, pulled me aside and chastised me for choosing to eat cookies. She told me that it would have been much healthier for me to have eaten something at dinner rather than eat something bad like cookies. I didn’t eat anything for the next two days.
I have a severe peanut allergy. One morning, I ate a granola bar that was cross-contaminated with peanuts. I went into anaphylaxis and required three Epi-Pens. They didn’t take me to the hospital per the instructions on the label for every Epi-Pen. When I began wheezing and struggling to breathe an hour later during school, the teacher told me that I was fine and that my allergic reaction was over. They neglected to listen to me when I tried to explain that the hospital would have kept me for supervision for four hours because sometimes there can be rebounds that result in more allergic reactions. I consider myself lucky that I didn’t spiral into anaphylactic shock again because we were thirty minutes away from the nearest hospital and I was out of Epi-Pens.
We went horseback riding once a week. My horse threw me off one day and I snapped my arm in two places. My arm was shaped like an “S.” The staff member who had taken us to the ranch called the secretary, who took an hour to arrive. I told her that I thought my arm was broken and that I needed to go to the hospital. She took me to Urgent Care because she didn’t believe me. The doctor at the urgent care looked at my arm and looked at me like I was crazy. He asked me why I didn’t go to the emergency room. The secretary told him that she didn’t know if it was broken or not. He rushed me into X-Rays and was back in five minutes to tell the secretary that I needed to go to the E.R. to get my arm set. After my cast came off, they immediately pushed me back into P.E. which caused lasting damage. I now experience chronic pain in my right wrist.
The physical work that we had to do as “P.E.” was ridiculous. We had to maintain eighty acres of land. One time, when I was leaf blowing, I picked up a pile of sticks to move them and was bitten by a copperhead snake. The director looked at the bite and told me that I was fine. I was lucky that the bite didn’t break the skin past the epidermis. We had to work as unpaid staff at a horse show in February. It was about thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit with a strong wind. We had thin jackets and weren’t allowed to wear anything more. I was new at the time, so I didn’t have my school jacket yet. I had to go in my short sleeve uniform shirt.
We were expected to be perfect. Any mistakes were punished. I became friends with one of the interns at the youth group. I got my privileges suspended for a week because I sat next to her and lightly shoulder bumped her to say hi. I have rejection-sensitive dysphoria and trauma from my perfectionist abusive father, so when I got my first B on a school assignment, I cried. The teacher mocked me, and I had my privileges revoked for a week. If we tried to contest our punishments, we risked getting a level drop, which would set our graduation date back by a month.
These are just a few snapshots of what it was like at Evangelhouse Christian Academy. I may have graduated from self-harm and eating disorder-free, but that was because they instilled a greater fear of rejection than before. I graduated with my diploma, religious trauma, untreated OSDD, an improperly healed arm, and neglected PTSD, autism, and ADHD.