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Hardships and Triumphs

Foster Care, RTC and the journey of discovery.

Hardships and Triumphs
Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

Life has taught me that there are no fair deals. You can slog through life, fighting for every inch, or lay down and let life dictate your future. My life starts in the Kansas town of Newton, where I was born. A year after my birth, my younger brother is born. Life’s first bad deal is swiftly dealt to us. Our parents are not only drug addicts, but abusive as well. We were physically and emotionally abused, with suspected sexual assault at one point. Finally, CPS stepped in and removed us from their custody.

Now that sounds like a great thing, which it was, but unfortunately the US Foster System isn’t the best service in the world. The primary goal was to keep families together, so when our parents should they were better we were released back into their care. Soon after, CPS stepped in and removed us again. We spent a couple years in the system, before reaching our final foster home.

This foster home was make or break for us. Why? It was becoming increasingly clear that not were we going to have to be separated but I was reaching the critical age threshold were getting adopted would have dramatically decreased. Nearly 50% of all adopted kids are under the age of 5, after that the chances decreases. Thankfully, a family looking to adopt found us.

Every other weekend, they would make the two hour trek to visit with us. Finally on one December day, we were adopted. Life finally gave us a much needed break. However, I begin to notice how much more my parents favored my younger brother. Anything he wanted, he got. His punishments were always lighter than mine, despite committing more egregious offenses.

Angered by this, I did everything in my power to bring balance. It quickly cascaded into outbursts and behavioral problems as I fought to make things fair. Life’s first lesson: Fairness doesn’t exist, you either overcome and adapt or you don’t. A slew problems, eventually led to my first cutting incident. A family friend, quickly noticed the fresh marks and asked about it. Young me fed him a story that he appeared to believe, in reality there was no way he didn’t know exactly what they were.

During an argument with my Father, he let slip that I was only adopted because they wanted my brother and felt pressured to honor the no separation order. Soon after, everything came to a head when after numerous therapy sessions and refusals to change, my parents threw in the towel. After a brief stint in juvie, I was sent to my first RTC (Residential Treatment Center). This enraged me and only furthered my view of the injustice being down.

This was where I spent the first months of a nearly 6 year journey. It was also the start to a life long battle with mental illness and suicidal tendencies. Months later, a particularly bad outburst led to me being put back into a juvie before I was transferred to another RTC. My anger at the perceived injustice being done only increased, but I eventually completed the program and was able to go a lower security facility. That was my assumption, but I was instead placed in another facility similar to the one I just left.

Enraged, I had one of the most severe outbursts I have had. In total, I lasted all of 24 hours before I was shipped off to another facility. This new facility was not only stricter, but one of the largest facilities I stayed at. Grinding through, I tried to better myself but constantly felt cheated. One day, I hopped the fence and escaped. I wondered the city for hours, before heading back to the facility. This facility was on the end of a long dirt road and on that dirt road, I committed self-harm for the second time in my life.

Smashing a bottle, I stabbed myself with the shards before heading back. A couple months later, a month long riot broke out. Staff quit, were fired, or just simply left on a daily basis leading to increased violence. Violence that targeted anyone who people didn’t like. People were hiding drugs in the wall, fighting, storming buildings and god knows what else. By the end, I had be beaten multiple times, chased on a chair by a dog, and stabbed by a shard of a heavy duty plastic tote.

Keep my head down, I powered through to the end. Upon completion of treatment, I was transferred back to the previous facility. I lasted longer than the 24 hours previously, but this time the stay was fraught with numerous suicide attempts, self-harm incidents, and anger outbursts. I went for cutting with a box cutter, to giving myself eraser burns, to stabbing myself with glass bottles, before stabbing myself with fluorescent light tubes. Even through that I still managed to do well enough to be transferred to another facility.

I started off at this facility in the Independent Living side, where residents were mainly left to be self-governing. That wasn’t meant to be and soon after, I was transferred to the stricter side. It was here that I inflicted my worst self-inflicted injury. I shoved a large piece of glass into my arm, that was a hair shy of hitting a number of vital arteries and vein, but caused damage to both my nerves and muscles in the region. Finally having enough, I was sent to the state mental hospital.

From there I was transferred to yet another previous RTC. I was around long enough to have corrective eye surgery to fix an eye with weakened muscles. Seeking to hurt others, something young me failed to realize only hurt me, immediately proceeded to refuse take the antibiotics and constantly put foreign objects like urine, feces and spit into it. As anyone can guess, it quickly became infected. Unable to deal with my behavior, the facility transferred me to the state mental hospital

Even with my refusal to take the antibiotics the infection went away, but left half my eye permanently yellow. After a lengthy stay, I was transferred to my final facility. One on the other side of the state, farther than anywhere I had been previously. After a rough start and another self-harm incident, I committed to working through the program.

This facility was different in a number of ways. Instead of staff treating you like a problem, they treated you with respect and understanding. It also helped this was one of two facilities were nobody felt the need to bully you, start fights or threaten you on a daily basis, granted it still happened but was rarer. The facility also had horses, a pig, chickens and a pair of donkeys. Animals have always brought a great deal of comfort to me, even to this day.

Realizing that I needed to work through things and accept things as they were, I worked through the program. Eventually, I even managed to a obtain the position of office cleaner and always worked hard on my “job”. It looked and felt, like I managed to turn a corner but Life decided it was time for one more surprise. After being at this facility for around three months, they were being shut down. It was a pretty devastating blow to me.

This was the one facility where I wanted to be, where I wanted to work on myself and my issues and most importantly, knew I could actually succeed. A week before my 18th birthday, my parents made the trip and picked me up. Thinking this was finally the start of a new beginning, I was excited. Three weeks later, I realized that even though I was trying to work on things, my parents struggled to admit any wrongdoings on their part.

After a argument that ended with me jumping out of the car, I wondered aimlessly around town. I ran into a few former friends gave me cash, before walking to the city ball fields. I stopped at the gas station, bought snacks, then made my way back to the ball fields. Finding the bathroom unlocked, I stayed in there for the night before heading to school the next day.

Following a series of events, I ended up at my aunt’s house. Inevitably an argument broke out between my father and I. Not knowing what to do, I hitched a ride to neighboring town to talk to my DHS worker. Proving to be a fruitless adventure, I ended up at another gas station. Not knowing what I was going to do, I hung around until dawn started to break. I walked about fifteen miles towards what I perceived to be a town I wanted to go to, but I was wrong. Thankfully a man on his way to check oil pumps stopped and gave me a lift to the next town and bought me breakfast.

Now knowing where I was at, I begin the forty mile trek to my original destination. With help from one more good Samaritan, I finally made it my destination. The kind stranger bought me dinner, which my dislike of hamburgers meant I didn’t eat but instead stashed by a dumpster. Wondering around, I eventually made my way to a park where I spent the it next two days sleeping at in thankfully decent fall. After exhausting my meager amount of cash over the next two days, I swallowed my pride and ate the two day old hamburger.

Soon, I found a campground manager who allowed me to using a camping site and camping supplies. Over the course of fall, I worked odd jobs for him and managed to scrape by. Come winter, I was unable to remain so I packed up and worked on finding better housing. My journey through life eventually led to me moving to a neighboring state, where I spent a year and half on the streets before catching a break.

I was approved a rental program that would help with rent while I worked on becoming independent. Things were looking up, it had been over a two years since my last suicide attempt, a year since my last self-harming incident and I had finally clawed my way back to something. I managed to scrap by doing odd jobs and writing my first book. It wasn’t much and I still had to apply for food assistance, but I managed to get somewhere.

Proud of myself and wanting to improve our relationship, I told my parents. It was a move that I wasn’t aware would have a lasting impact and lead to one of my worst suicide attempts. Realizing that I was never going to get the some approval from my parents and amidst a severe mental breakdown, I drank 6 ounces of antifreeze. Coming to the realization I needed to realize that no matter what I did, my parents would never look at me the same way they did my brother.

Things got better until another mental breakdown resulted in another hospital stay. One that led to one of the most dangerous self-harm incidents I have ever committed. Angered by being forced to remain somewhere I felt was unnecessary, I took the batteries from the TV remote and hid them. Less than 24 hours later, my feelings boiled over and led to an outburst.

Staff managed to confiscate one of the batteries, but I swallowed the second one. I soon came to understand that the action was rash and unnecessary. Nevertheless, less than a year later I swallowed twenty-two .22LR cartridges and one battery. This resulted an ICU stay, before I walked out upon hearing I was would be transferred to another city for psychiatric care. A move I strongly opposed, due to an overwhelming anxiety of new places and things. Signing AMA and leaving before they could submit a 5150. I walked the hour and half home barefoot, before a friend who I thought I could trust told the cops were I was. The resulting standoff ended with me being drive stunned and put in handcuffs.

Even though it may not look or sound like it, I have come to the realization that every attempt I made only succeed in hurting me. If you were to ask me who was at fault today, I would always tell you it was my fault. Had I realized that outbursts weren’t the correct solution, I would have remained at home. If I just worked through the program instead of fighting it, I would have been home sooner. If I had been home sooner I would have finished high school on time.

People always wonder why I never cover my scars and I always says they are mistakes I made, marks I created and I should always remember where I started and where this path has led me. The good comes with the bad and vice versa. My almost 6 years in RTCs and Psychiatric hospitals may have given daily PTSD flashbacks, but it’s led my life long fasciation with Rubik’s cubes, animals and most of all writing.

I may have a daily struggling to scratch out a living and have weeks where I can’t even afford groceries, but it is a life where I have turned struggles and hardships into triumph. Who knows if, I would have ever been a writer without this path or if I would ever develop my love of Rubik’s cubes. The lessons have learned have taught me that how you deal with Life’s bad deals is a testament to peoples ability to overcome difficulty and find their own ways.

This isn’t a plea for sympathy, a sob story or cry for attention, it’s proof that hardships and bad deals can lead to good things. All that is required is that you slog through the muck and reach for your goals, realize what your self worth is, and understand that not everything can be saved. Is my story the most sad, heartbreaking or worst case of hardship, no. Frankly, it’s the most tame one you’ll ever hear. I know that, you know that, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discredit it.

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Kraths

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