I was a few months into my 16th year when I knew I needed help. The way in which I would handle pressure, particularly social pressure and any conflict that arose with my fairly new but steady boyfriend concerned and even scared me. I didn’t know how to manage my sense of fear, anger that might come up and the feeling that I controlled little over my life but had to do everything possible to maintain any bit of control I could muster out of a given situation. My family still lived in the north, but had since moved from the village to a slightly larger town accessible to others by car and we would drive to the state’s largest town once a month for groceries and any doctor or other appointments we might have. It seemed if there was help to be had it would be there and so I told my parents I felt as if I needed help and could I meet with a counselor? They must have agreed because the next memory I have on this topic is leaving the office of a social worker (probably affiliated with the church as any other form of mental health provider would have been suspect,) feeling more hopeful than I had in quite some time after hearing that if I committed to the process in time they believed I would see progress on the behavioral issues and fears I had expressed with him.
That hopefulness would soon disappear. On the way home somewhere along the winding highway my dad stated, “Okay, you can see this person. But, if you do, we will all know that you are insane.” Insane? I’ll be labeled insane? I don’t think I even stopped to explore or understand what exactly that meant, all I could do is feel my instinctual knowledge and fear that having such a label assigned to me would ensure life would become even more hellish when it came to how my father would judge and treat me. And so what happened next was simple, nothing. I never returned.
I have been angry at my dad for many things in my life, but this is at the top of the list. To use his power over me in such a way, in the form of a threat of a damaging label to prevent his own daughter from getting the help she herself knew was needed is a great sin. I don’t know if the person I met with that day was any good and if relief and emotional progress would have come from a relationship with them, but I was stopped from the chance of that potential for one reason: my dad choose to protect himself at my expense. He couldn’t risk my talking to a person about my life without his supervision and what might eventually be shared outside the walls of my family’s home, where secrets were held in place by fear. How do you forgive such an act? How did this change the trajectory of my upcoming years? I have a few ideas, but I’ll never know.