Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An American Child, A Mexican Prisoner: My True Story of Casa By The Sea

Posted in memory of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
  For all my brothers and sisters and their families who are suffering or suffered under these programs.
And, of course, for my mother, who was just as much a victim as I was. 




  

Casa by the Sea Journal


Monday, November 11, 2002 8:46 p.m.
        It's hard to believe that I've only been here for almost 5 weeks.  It feels like a year already.  I feel so drained.  Drained of everything.  Drained from this daily routine, every day the same as before.  Everyday I spend sitting and doing book work, eat, PE, shower and then sleep.  I feel drained of my happiness.  Sometimes I sit and poke at my saggy cheeks and the bags under my eyes, from all the crying and weeks of no facial expressions.  I miss smiling.  A real, honest, joyful smile.  I miss laughing too.  Im drained of emotion.  I've learned to numb myself in order to ease the pain, but all that comes through is loneliness and hurt no matter what I try to do.  And regret.  Regret for everything I've done to end up here.  All of the times I spent taking everything out on my parents because of my own damn insecurities.  Not caring about anything or anyone because I couldn't even care about myself.  Until I met my friends.  I don't think anyone understands how much my friends have helped me these past few months.  Not even my parents.  I miss my friend. He made me realize so much, and for the briefest moment, I actually began to feel good about myself.  I began to care.  I began to realize what was happening with my parents.  I actually started to change for the better.  For the brief time before I was sent here - I was happy.  I didn't ever mean for things to get to this.  If only I had my friends a year ago, then I wouldn't even be here - pouring my heart and tears out on a sheet of paper at a program in Ensenada, Mexico.  I wouldn't be here reminiscing over how my life used to be, missing out on so much at home.  I'd be home.  Living my life.  Enjoying each day.  If only.


Tuesday, November 12, 2002  9:02 p.m.
 
        I couldn't sleep last night.  I was thinking of home and my friends and family - things I usually think about before I drift into a peaceful sub consciousness.  But last night it hit me.  Hard.  This reality; I laid there staring at the ceiling, somewhat lighted by the bright translucent light glowing from the bathroom.  I laid there listening to the orchestrated sound of squeaky beds and the percussion of snoring.  This anthem that has become my night life.  No more late nights watching Saturday Night live and simultaneously talking on the phone.  No more sleepovers with Nooshin, and Kelly and Lauren, and Dominique, and Rhiannon.  No more late night trips to In-N-Out at one in the morning on weekends with the J's.  No more soft, cool breezes flowing through the Jeep window at night as I drive home.  My home.  To my bed.  In my room.  To my family.  As I laid and stared at the ceiling, I thought.  Thought of what I had.  What everybody else still has and is taking for granted.  I took a deep breath to try to hold back the tears.  Ahh - nothing like the fresh smell of warm shit and stale air - the smell of Mexico.  That's about the time I broke down.  Look at me.  Look at where I am.  Look at where I'm spending my glorified senior year and my precious pre-adulthood teenage years.  Right then, the siren went off and everyone jumped out of bed for the midnight headcount.  Another runaway?  I climbed back into bed.  Would I ever get that desperate?  Will my life here one day resort to that too?  God, I hope not.  I try to keep reminding myself of everything back home.  Reminding myself that the empty desk at school, the vacant spot on the choir risers, the open seat at the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day, the one less stocking hanging from the fireplace on Christmas, the roomier limo at prom, the skipped name at graduation, and the blank photo in the yearbook under my name will all be acknowledged.  That it won't seem like just an empty space.  That they will all be painful reminders of the memories that could have been.  I don't want to be forgotten.  My entire life I've feared being unloved and abandoned.  Now here I am.  With nothing but my fears to comfort me.  I just don't want to become an empty space.
        I look at what surrounds me.  I see these girls.  I hear their stories unfold, and I can't help but question if my life was really headed in the same direction as them to end up in the same place. The drugs, the violence, the sex, prostitution, rape, alcohol, pregnancies, juvenile hall, the blood and the tears.  These lives and the sad souls who lived them.  The lost hope.  Was there no hope for me?  Could my life only be fixable by a last resort like this?  Was everything I had, the things I accomplished, the challenges I overcame just a lie?  Were they only covering up for the hopelessness that lay within me the entire time?  Or were they real?  Could I have more hope than these girls?  Or am I destined to live my life here like I'm one of them?  I guess so.  I'm still here. 



Monday, November 18, 2002 8:55 p.m.
        My feet pound against the ground, the earth vibrating from my energy; absorbing it.  Footsteps echo through my head and my heavy constant breathing pulsating through my ears.  The soft cool breeze brushes across my face carrying with it a whirlwind of worries, heartaches, loss, pain, suffering, and hurt in a gust of emotion-rich air behind me.  My legs ache and begin to become sore from the weight being hurled across the black pavement.  Only it's not black pavement anymore.  It's the grass at Westwood Elementary that I used to run across without any cares or worries.  It's the damp gravel pavement on James's driveway as I chase after Dusty. It's the concrete sidewalk on my street as I jog at night.  It's the cool sand at the beach as I run across the dampness and reach for the stars with my arms.  The ocean mist on my face.  My feet creating little pivots.  My mark.  My signature in the sand.  I WAS here once.  I DO exist.  Its' the worn gray carpet in the gym at the WWC as I run towards the basket and make a 3 pointer.  Swoosh.  Nothing but net. It’s the feel of concrete against my bare feet as I talk to Jon and Jason in my driveway. The sky is fire red that fades into a gray blue.  Stars shyly appear with the brightening of the crescent moon.  The sunset is beautiful - a life form all its own.  I'm running towards it.  I want to touch it.  I want to taste it.  The fiery redness on my tongue.  Scorching away the pain, melting away my fears and frustrations.  The walls around me crumble away, and all that's left is the vast horizon.  Just me and the sea.  I want to run across the rocks and swim.  Far away.  Without ever looking back.  Leaving behind me the bad habits, the suffering, the repression in a red concrete box; this huge red building of concrete “they” call help.  Starting a new life.  My heart is beating through my chest.  Remembering a first kiss, how my heart felt the same way.  Remembering how the world seemed so much brighter afterwards.  I'm remembering the high.  I'm feeling it.  For a brief moment - I am free.  "Es tiempo chicas!  PE es terminar!  Todos en la linea!" The mama shouts.  We all buck and gallop to the line - smelling and looking like the cattle we're treated as.  The tired faces.  I'm thrust back into reality.  I'm HERE again.  A place not deserving as sweet of a name as Casa by the Sea, but rather Casa of Repression:  Home of Lost Hope.  I stand in line waiting to call my number.  A small bird lands on the key of the basketball court, pecking at invisible seeds.  Why are you here? I think to myself.  Of all the places you could be, the unreachable heights you could be soaring,  why do you choose to be here? Just as I think it, it flies to the wall, where it lands once again. What do you see, little bird?  What's beyond these walls with the metal spiked tops and the sirens?  Can you see the freedom?  Can you see that the world is different on the inside?  Do you understand the difference?  It flaps it's wings and flies off.  Into the future - into the freedom.  Time moves on the outside.  People are happy on the outside.  Hope exists on the outside.  I am free on the outside.  Just as it starts to get dark, a cruise ship sails by on the ocean, littering this part of the world with more people who could never understand such agony.  A bright purple light shines from the top. Golden flecks of lights in rows.  I can hear the laughter.  The music.  I can taste the 24 hour all you can eat buffet.  The ship rocking slightly back and forth, underneath me.  The air is crisp as I stand on the deck.  I turn around and everyone is there.  Nooshin in her pretty homecoming dress.  James wearing another sarcastic smile.  Jon and Jason waiting for a hug. Adam laughing his famous laugh. My parents and Chelsea and Adam.  And everybody.  So happy. "Vamanos chicas!"  The mama yells. Left. Left. Left, right, left.  I march to the showers.  Will the showers be warm tonight?  Nope.  Icy cold on my warm flesh.  Shocking me, bringing me back to the present.  Praying for it to be over.



Tuesday, November 19, 2002 9:02 p.m.
        I guess it started a few days ago.  "Institutionalized" as a kinder, Shawshank Redemption way of putting it.  I've forgotten so much.  I can't even remember Nooshin's laugh, or the sound of mom's voice or any of it.  I've forgotten freedom - and it's the scariest feeling in the world.  It began last week when I started to have dreams about this place.  Nightmares, really.  And I'd wake up at night crying.   I can't even escape this place in my dreams.  My one escape, and now that's ripped from me too.  I broke out in a cold sweat in class on saturday.  I have no privacy here.  I have no time for myself.  Every waking and sleeping minute is spent with the same 25 people, hovering over me, eyeing me like a hawk.  Being sure to kindly "assist" me with their "feedback" in group anytime I'm not a walking robot like one of them.  Kindly. Ha- that's a laugh.  Even at night, I can't even rest without the night staff staring me down, making sure all of us fall asleep before they sit down.  This bootcamp-gone-wrong.  I try running at “PE” around and around in circles to release some of this tense energy, but I got so exhausted I collapsed in the shower and kept yelling at myself in my head to stop crying.  I keep thinking if my parents spent just one day here, living like I do, feeling like I do, then I wouldn't be here now, wanting to know so badly what they keep telling my parents on the phone, and why my parents keep believing them over me.



Thursday, November 21, 2002 11:08 a.m.
        I heard somebody singing the "What a Wonderful World" song today, and it triggered so many emotions.  I haven't stopped crying.  I'm trying to get it all down on paper so that maybe it will make me feel better.  That song always reminded me of Disneyland and my dad, and sometimes he'd sing it every once in a while.  They also played it at the Junior Prom last year, and it was the last dance of the night, the last dance I attended with the J's.  And I keep remembering all of the good times linked with that song.  I just want to stop feeling like this all of the time.  I was sent here a few days before the homecoming dance we were all suppose to go to also.  Am I just being selfish?  Am I just weak?  I don't know.  What I do know is that I'd give anything to go back in time and erase everything I've done to end up here.  I'd rather be stabbed a thousand times than feel just half of what I'm feeling now.  I read a 457 page book in two days, hoping maybe if I read, I could escape what my life has become.  She's Come Undone.  I can relate so much of what she feels at times.  I pretend that I live their lives.  I surround myself in a fictional reality.  I can't get that song out of my head.  It reminds me so much of home.  I just want to be four again.  Before things got complicated.  When ice cream solved any problem and mom and dad were like Gods.  When the smallest things such as rolling myself up in a blanket and pretending that I was a mermaid, or making forts out of couch cushions could keep me entertained for hours.  When I would follow Adam around everywhere, and I would always want to help mom with Chelsea (at least for the first few months).   Back to where I could grow up again and re-meet all of the wonderful people God put in my life.  Even the ones who were mean to me and picked on me, because they made me stronger.  I just want to get as far from this place as possible.  I'm never even going to set foot in Mexico ever again.



Same Day 9:09pm
        Tuesday night they passed out letters, and I waited patiently on my bed.  When they passed by my bunk, I got really lonely.  But when they passed by my bed again on Wednesday night, it made me feel really sad that I was the only girl two days in a row who didn't get a letter.  I feel forgotten.  Like now that I've been sent away, I don't exist anymore.  That I'm only alive when they think of me or hear from me.  Time for shutdown.



Tuesday, December 11, 2002 7:25 p.m
        There's a string of Christmas lights around a small house up on the hill, and it reminded me of the walks I would take around the block this time of year to see the different light displays.  I just want so badly to enjoy those simple things that make the Christmas season that much more enjoyable.  Like warm peach cobbler or apple pie with half melted vanilla ice cream on top.  Like the candy canes on the Christmas tree.  Like the 24 hour marathon of A Christmas Story.  I'd give anything to hear a christmas carol this year, or just be allowed to sing one.  I wonder if they'll let us listen to music on Christmas.  I hope so.  They didn't on Thanksgiving.  I miss music so much.  I've had the song Carol of the Bells stuck in my head.  Women's Ensemble sang that every year when we'd perform or when we went caroling down at the Vons plaza in RB.  Parent/Child workshop 1 was a few days ago.  They dressed this place up like a five star hotel for the parents.  It makes me wonder what they're trying to cover up.  Reality, perhaps?  The truth, maybe?  It bothers me that this place fakes their image while at the same time telling us to step out of our images and be ourselves.  Be real.  We even had a different menu.  We actually got semi decent food, one of the highlights of my week.  When the parents came parading through the classrooms, we weren't allowed to talk or look upset in any way.  The parents all seemed so lost - scanning the walls of the room for some kind of hope.  Their faces seemed so worn and tired.  I started bawling just watching them.  I felt so bad for who knows what their kids put them through, and I thought about what I've put my parents through.  I wondered if they're as unsure of this place as those parents.  I can only imagine how this place is trying to morph my parents into thinking just like them - trying to narrow their peripheral vision so that they only see through the eyes of this program.  Telling them that commitments and commitment letters will motivate your kid, if they tell them a certain thing.  I ain't no dummy.  I see right through this place.  I see what a lot of others don't.  I see beyond the enforced commitment letters in faded black ink, and I see only confused parents - just like their children - about as unsure of themselves and this program as a pencil in a crayon box.  And it makes me sad.  I wanted to run up and hug every single one of those parents.  I want to run up and hug my own parents, and let them know everything will be okay.  After that day, I started to notice a lot of things fake about this place.  Like how they relate everything that goes on in here as a reflection of your life.  "If your parents pull you, then you're giving up on your life," "If you don't graduate, then you're doomed to be a failure," "If your parents decide to give you another chance, they'll destroy you because they'd be practicing old behaviors," "If you don't respect the girls in your bunk, how will you ever respect your parents?" blah blah blah.  I'd bet anything that's the same plateful of crap that they're dishing my parents right about now.  But I see through it.  Forcing me to sign something I don't want to or I'll go to R&R.  Some visa that makes it legal for me to be in Mexico.  Isn't it illegal, though, to force a signature?  And I know it was illegal for them to transfer me into another country against my will, even with parental consent it's still illegal.  I didn't make a big deal about it though; you have to fake it to make it. Play the game and win back your freedom. We had pictures taken too. They let upper levels pluck our eyebrows and put on mascara and cover up for us.  Why cover anything up?  I say let the parents see what their child has really become.  It was hard to smile.  The fakest smile of my life.  They try to represent a person's life in one false moment of happiness.  As if they wear that smile and pretty face every day.  "Yup, your child is just fine and dandy here at beautiful Casa by the Sea.  Here, have a picture.  See how happy she is?  No need to worry about her.  She's just a dramatic, ignorant, manipulative adolescent delinquent."  Well, excuse me, I don't think so.  Just because you run my life now doesn't mean you know me.  You'll never know me.  You can sit there and act like you do, but you'll NEVER know me.  I'm not manipulating out of anything.  Take in your own feedback there, Mr. and Mrs. I-work-for-a-program.  Who's trying to talk parents into thinking their kid needs this place like a fish needs water?  That their kids a failure?  That I'M a failure?  Who's dressing this place up to impress those walking, talking wallets?  Oops, I mean parents.  And you want to call me dramatic, ignorant, and manipulative?  You best step off your high and mighty pedestal and take a step back.  This is between me and my folks.  You're only involved now because of the paycheck you get out of it. I feel like this place hurts more than it can ever heal.  I wish I could communicate with my parents without a third party having to comment on and psychoanalyze everything that is said between us.  I wish I could just be home, and far away from hypocrites, and tears, and uniforms, and all of it.  There's so much I wish I could tell my parents.  I wish I knew how they really felt.  Their real thoughts, before they become brainwashed and corrupted like all of the other program parents and teenagers tossed into this program.  Have I not been real this entire time?  I've told my parents everything I could possibly think of.  Honesty is the key, right?  I've sent them my journal entries for God's sake.  IM REAL!  Nobody is going to sit there and tell me who they think I am, who they think my parents are and how my life is best run.  But I guess I don't have a choice.  At least not for another 7 months.  No choice.  It's a scary concept.  Ive realized that this place is run by fear.  They scare people into believing they have to be perfect or you'll suffer the consequences greatly.  Such small things like looking out of line, or humming a song and -WHAM- a whole days worth of points gone.  They teach us if we go home, and we mess up just once, then we're failures.  I feel like my life has just become some huge game.  That the only important thing in my life now is to be here at Casa.  That everything back home comes second.  I worked so hard back  home.  Maybe not as hard as I should have with my family, but I did still work.  I worked for so long to get my senior year with first period off.  All the extra 6 and a half period classes and summer school I took for it. I worked for a babysitting job, and a short pain-in-the-ass waitressing job serving ungrateful old farts all day.  I DID work, so I DO NOT put Casa in a category that is more important than my life back home.  I put a relationship with my family first, but as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't have to involve Casa at all.  God, I miss home so much.  I  hate that my parents are putting all of this stress on them and me both. I often ask myself what exactly are my parents waiting for?  Do they even know?  Or have they gotten so caught up in this program that they've forgotten their purpose of even sending me here?  Are they expecting more than what I've already sacrificed so much to offer them?  When I go home,  I'm not going to be perfect.  I will fall.  I will make mistakes.  Probably several.  That's the point of life.  It's not how many times you fall, it's how many times you pick yourself back up.  Life is one huge rollercoaster with several different ups and downs, but we hope that eventually we'll hit an elevated level.  A calmness.  A serenity.  I was at a dip before I got here. Not necessarily a big dip that was dooming me for life, but a struggle.  In the nine weeks here I've lifted myself out of that dip.  Am I a failure? No.  I AM NOT A FAILURE.  And nobody here is going to make me feel like I am one any longer, because I know I'm not.  I never have been and never will be one.  I would never let myself fall into that same cycle that got me here.  That's stupid.  I'm not some little retarded chihuahua that needs to be trained over and over again not to piss on the carpet.  I can, and have already, learned from this experience.  I worked too hard to be considered a failure. JESUS CHRIST!  I just want to get out of here!  I think I know of every single drug, how you take it, the nicknames and slang for each, and about every type of sexual position there is.  And let me tell you, some of them sound painful.  Anyway, I have a headache, and my throat hurts from holding back the tears.   I need some time alone... like I'll actually get any besides my spare seconds on the can.... time for shutdown.



Outgoing Letter 
(Mid-December 2002)
Mom and Dad
  
 I'm going to try to be as blunt honest as I can, because I feel that that is the only way to communicate with you.  Please try to be as open as possible to what I have to say.  I'm not in denial about anything, Im not trying to deceive you into believing anything thats not true, or manipulate you into thinking a certain way.  I am not stupid, naive, ignorant or unaware of my surroundings, my situation or myself.  Im not throwing any guilt trips or playing any "poor pity me" acts.  And im not pissing and moaning about things needn't be pissed and moaned about.  Im getting this out now so that we both have a clear understanding of one another.
        I honestly believe that I don't  belong here.  Actually, I know that I don't.  Its been almost two and half months, mom, and my feelings about this  place havent changed one bit.  They've fluctuated a bit depending on my struggles, but overall, I feel exactly the same as I did 3, 4, even 8 weeks ago.  Its not that I haven't gotten anywhere or learned anything, because I have.  A lot.  But its not because of this program.  Its because of myself, and what I'VE experience, and what I'VE realized, and where I'VE managed to turn my life.  And it has to do with the stressful and painful situation I've been under while in the program, but the change itself is in no way related to this program.   Honestly, I didnt learn anything in Discovery that I hadn't already learned myself.  It merely reinstated what I already believed to be true.  I was so happy and "high" when I left, not because I was so much more "enlightened" or "changed" in any way, but because I was one step closer to being home.  I was so happy that it was all over with, that I wouldnt have to deal with the nervousness and the humiliation until the next seminar rolled around.  I wasn't fake, and Im not "faking it to make it" as its called, like what most people do to get by.  Im real, and was real the entire time in that seminar.  The emotions, the stories were all real and really felt, but they were all old stories and old emotions that I've already shared and dealt with and put behind me now since I started to open up to you.  I feel so far ahead of everything in this program.  Im not "special casing" myself, its just the truth.  Im not going to sit here and act like this place isn't going to help and blah blah blah.  But you have to consider the other options available.  You really don't see what goes on behind these walls. You really dont know how I feel and what has happened and how I've changed.  You're just a third party watching it from the outside and from a great distance. The levels and points are just a format for helping people proceed through certain "steps.” This program is just a format, mom.  Its a suggestion of a process and pace for people who might need it to change.  But not everybody needs the same format.  It's different for each different person.  Insight is personal.  Change is personal.  Our situation is personal.  Its unlike anybody elses here at the program.  And because some girl had similar "defiant" issues like me, and because she graduated and got this amount of points in this amount of time, it doesn't mean that I have to also.  I'm not her and she's not me.  She lead her own life and did her own thing.  And even though we may seem similar, the process and time it takes to grow out of our similarities are completely different.  I may not need to be here as long as her, or somebody else who's "behavior was similar" to mine. Just as some girls here who were major potheads back home don't need to be here as long as I have.  Its all personal.  It all depends on the individual.  I dont  like being compared.  I get frustrated sometimes because I reread every letter in chronological order every time I get a new one.  And I noticed that the letter I got recently was almost identical to one's I got close to 2 months ago.  I feel like 2 months have gone by and you still feel I havent moved.  That I still need to be told the same thing over and over again.  You say I don't "get it".  Trust me, mom, I get it.  But what you want me to "get" is not what I can give you.  You want me to "get" that this is our only option.  You want  me to "get" to learn to accept this place.  You want me to "get" to go with the flow and not feel so resistant to this place and not focus on my home life.  You want me to "get" to feel the same way about this place as you do.  But Im sorry, that wont ever happen.  And I'm afraid its you whos not "getting" me.  I know this is hard for you, mom.  I dont want to know that youre a hundred miles away and crying for me.  Because I don't deserve your sympathy at all.  You've been too good to me, and all I gave you in  return was grief.  And now it seems like even when you don't need to feel pain because of me anymore, you still are, and it makes me feel like Im the worst daughter in the world that Im doing that to you.  I don't want to hurt you, probably more than I dont want to hurt myself.  And I've wondered, several times, why has this pain between us been dragged out for this long already?  Dont you feel we've gotten anywhere?  I feel like we've come so far.  I just want to get out of this box.  And im so confused why you're doing this, not just to me, but yourself?  You don't deserve the plateful of crap you've been handed your whole life.  And Im sorry that I've helped to dish that crap on.  I just want to get how I feel finally all out in the open.  I dont mean to come off as upset or angry at you, because Im not.  Im just really confused and frustrated in general as to how my life has amounted to this.
        You want me to write you about how we can make our relationship better.  That decision was out of my hands when you decided to send me here. You asked me how many times have I talked to my friends and their mothers and have just wanted things to change without any changes actually happening.  But that's the first step mom:  admitting you have a problem and crying out for help.  It was far from easy to open myself up to my friends and their parents about my feelings about my own personal family life.  But I did because I just wanted things to change.  And now I've been desperately working for those changes.  I havent just been sitting here for the past months and just "hoping" and "wanting" some better relationship.  Ive been working for one.  I've written you letter after letter to you.  I've opened up and been real.  I've shared with you the most personal things about me.  The secret to improving our relationship isn't "where do we go from this point."  It's "what have we done to get to the point that we have?"  The improvement has already started, long ago, before I even came here.  And no, mom, its not "only the beginning".  That's the mind frame you've put youself in.  You or someone else for some reason has caused you to believe that.
        What was wrong with our relationship was the controlling issue.  Both sides wanted to be in control.  You wanted to control me so I rebelled.  I wanted to be in control, so I faught.  Relationships aren't about whos in control.  Even parent/child relationship.  Theyre about structure and respect.  There needs to be some kind of structure built between us, but that ultimately takes respecting one another.  And it takes EFFORT to build respect - not time - and thats where you get confused.  Because all this place has to offer is time, effort comes from within.  I feel like you're dwelling on the past.  You keep saying how bad things were instead of acknowledging how good things have gotten.  I can't erase the past, mom.  What's done is done, and there's nothing I can do or say that can make it all disappear.  Its almost as if you're forcing yourself to believe I need this.  It's like you believe the longer I stay here, the more the things from the past will be erased, but it doesn't work like that.  It's not time - it's effort.  And I've been trying so hard, mom.  Anger is just a secondary emotion.  It's a cover up for hurt and pain.  I wasn't angry because I hated anyone or I was trying to push anybody out of my life.  I was angry because inside I felt empty and alone. And right now I feel even more empty and alone.  I feel like some scared five- year-old who just needs a hug.  And this hole started to fill when I found people who genuinely cared about me, but I was still hurt because of the family support I lacked that so many others around me had.  It hurt to hear my own parents threaten "Do you want to end up like Carly?!"  And it hurt that I was so unwanted that nobody wanted to be me or be around me.  And I started to feel like some hopeless screw up whos own family didnt want her, let alone society.  So it made me second guess my real friends for so long.  And just as things looked somewhat hopeful - I get slammed in some lockdown bootcamp gone wrong.  This rehab/prison that ripped away any shred of confidence or securities that I might have had.  And I'm forced to remind myself to smile for the seminar facilitators, and smile for Violeta and play the "cards right" while people pat me on the head and call me a good little girl.  But inside im just some scared dog with its tail between its legs.  All I need are my friends and family back.  I just need to be held and told that somebody,  ANYBODY, loves me... and not just through black ink.  I love you both and I never meant to be angry at you.  I hate what my life has become, and what I've become here.
        I've found that it's not even the big things about this place that make me hate it, but the little things.  Like not being able to watch the movie on sunday with everybody else because the mama made me stay in the house and crawl on my hands and knees and pick up every snot rag, every string of hair, and every piece of dirt off the floor because no one else would.  Or being put on the sitting list and having my privileges taken away for two weeks because I dont "open up" to the the people here.  How do I open up to these people, mom?  They're nothing like me and some of them are just plain mean.  And its other things too - like laundry losing all of my socks and underwear except for a pair of both and both of my towels.  It's not having the freedom of speech and not showering for 4 days straight.  Its having to have your bowel movements checked every time I use the bathroom, or having no warm water, or a soft bed, or any privacy.  It's the entire facility breaking out with diarrhea from spoiled food.  It's having to clean out shit encrusted toilet paper out of the trashcans with my bare hands because we're not allowed to flush it down the toilet, wearing the same shirt I dry myself off with because I don't have any towels left because laundry loses it.  It's having to wear the same mold covered, shit stained shirt to seminars because they wont give me a new shirt or wash it beforehand.  Its the small things that drive a person mad, mom, you dont understand.  I cant live like this anymore.  I know its not healthy.  This place strips away your freedoms, your happiness, your pride, your friends and family, your accomplishments, and everything you've worked for.  It leaves you stark naked and uncomfortably vulnerable.  It leaves you with your raw insecurities and absolutely nothing of your life except for your thoughts, which race across your mind a mile a minute like flies in a shithouse.  All that's left are the haunting memories and your sanity.  And even then that slowly deteriorates as they brutally smack you mentally and emotionally with all of the rules and restrictions and commands, and restraints, and constant speeches of how you've failed at absolutely everything in your life.  And its so scary, mom.  You'll never know.  Its like standing in a crowded room and all you can hear is this voice in the back of your head, and this ticking sound as each second passes... just waiting for something to happen.  And everyone else is just standing around you, waiting.  And this silence is deafening.  I've never felt this much fear in my entire life.  I've never woken up every morning and wanted to claw off my skin and escape from this demented twilight zone world.  I've never had to fear whether or not I would survive the next day without slowly slipping into madness, or losing myself, as this place morphs me into something I'm not.  I dont know where the loud, carefree, humorous Carly went.  I've forgotten what Its like to be her.  I've forgotten what its like to be happy.  It's like this place is slowly turning me cold and bitter.  Maybe it wouldn't be so hard to accept if I knew I belonged here, but I don't, mom.  I don't belong here.  I know it.  I feel it in my heart - screaming from inside and forcing itself through my skin.  This isn't right. It isn't worth it.  These sacrifices aren't worth it.  The "brighter" future that you see for me mom?  It isn't worth this pain that I feel day in and day out.  Because I know in my heart that I have just as bright of a future from this point on at home, than if I pissed my life away in this hell hole.  Even after discovery.  Actually, especially after discovery.  It made me believe even more that I should have been home by now.  What they helped me to "discover" about myself was that what others have told me in the past made me turn my anger towards the wrong people.  Well, duh.  And my parents are paying you how much to tell me all of this?  But I didnt say anything.  I just nodded and smiled and let them believe they "enlightened" me.  I wasnt about to get kicked out of the seminar by speaking up.  I had come too far for that.  Im angry that things turned out like this.  I was afraid to tell you all of this because I was scared you would shake your head in shame and write another letter saying how im not "getting" it, or have Violeta tell you I need another commitment letter for a kick in the butt.  I was afraid you'd think I was some failure because I think and feel this way.  But the truth is, mom, that I'm far from a failure BECAUSE of the fact that I think and feel this way.  That I'm speaking up and not letting some program in Mexico make me believe that I'm some failure and disgrace to this world if I don't give them exactly what they expect.  This whole thing is creating even more unnecessary pain and drama.  And it's all too ironic that we're fighting the drama we had back home with a whole new set of drama.  It's like fighting fire with fire, and it's getting too confusing and overwhelming for me.  I've just barely managed to pull myself through for this long.  It's like I'm hanging onto a cobweb string of sanity.  And sometimes I wonder why I even try so hard.  Why do I even put all of this effort into graduating the seminars, earning the points, not getting any consequences, and putting up with all of this crap?  Why do I bother to push myself so hard, when, no matter how hard I push, it's never going to be good enough?  No matter how much things improved between us, things will always have to improve more in order for me to go home and live my life.  And I know that the points and levels dont even mean anything to you, but that all you want are for things to work out.  But I feel like my change is only apparent or acknowledged if it's backed up by seminars or levels or a program's word or something else mechanic like that.  And I feel like you pass up everything that I have worked my butt off for to offer you.  I feel like I've been put through so much pain - that you couldn't even begin to imagine - and it's like my word means absolutely nothing to you.  It's like the secondary sources around me - like the program's word, or your friends' word - mean more to you than anything I have told you, or any changes I have made.   And you're probably thinking "well that's because they've never lied to me, or deceived me, or treated me like you have in the past." Or somethting along that pointing-the-finger line.  But mom - if after everything I've told you, and after all of the time that has passed, and you still haven't grown even the slightest bit of trust with me, then when will you EVER trust me?  It's like you're setting yourself up for failure.  And please dont say "I'll trust you if you graduate" because I think we both know that that is a crock of bullshit.  Programs don't "build" trust, people do.  And I fear that you want time to back up my words due to your insecurities in trusting me, which means me sacrificing more of my life in a program.  And I don't know why this isn't good enough.  I don't know why you refuse to spare both of us all of this unwanted hurt and drama.  I don't know why this had to be a hundred times harder that it should be.  I don't get why I have to see all of these other girls around me getting pulled and going home and I'm one of the few "bad ones" left behind who's family doesn't mind too much if I'm not home for Christmas.  Or if Im not home at all.  And I wake up every morning and march through the facility recognizing fewer and fewer faces.  And I walk past vacant bunk beds, and I ask myself "what have those girls done so much better than me?  Why do they deserve going home and spending time with their families and not me?  Why am I not good enough?"  And its so hard to wake up every day and watch all of this happen around me and know that I will fall asleep again tonight in this same bed, and I will wake up again facing another day here, as time slips further and further away from when I was once home, as I am erased completely from peoples lives and replaced instead by memories.  And its confusing sometimes because I feel that I deserve it more than those other girls who have gone home and those girls who are left who are going to go home and dont know it yet.  And I find myself becoming jealous of everyone because it could be any one of these faces whos empty beds and baskets I will be walking by the next day.  Its so hard mom, and you will never understand this feeling.  You'll never know what its like to see the Christmas lights on the hill in the distance and become hypnotized as you fall into a memory from the past, and your cheeks are soaked from tears you didn't even know you were crying.  You'll never know what its like to want something so BADLY, and it's the furthest thing away from you.  You'll never know what its like to pray to God that just ONE car might drive by today with its stereo loud enough so you could feel just one moment of the music and bass flow through your blood, even if it's faint.  You'll never know what its like to eat your toothpaste because you want so badly to remember the taste of something sweet on your tongue.  You'll never know what its like to despise a single, solitary Christmas tree that stands in the middle of a facility that you can't escape from, not even in your dreams.  Youll never know the feeling of that tree taunting you, with its bright blinking lights as it reminds you in one glimpse of everything that you dont have.  You'll never know, mom.  Never.  And be grateful that you wont ever have to.  You can sit there and say that this isn't a punishment, but it is, mom, and that's all it will ever be viewed as to me.  This program has taught me absolutely nothing.  The time away from home has been the greatest learning experience more than anything.  And I feel like time is just wasting now.  It's not that I've "learned so much" and I'm "enlightened" now like what you have mocked me with in your previous letters... but rather that there is nothing left to "absorb" here at casa.  But outside, who knows what else there is to learn.  Does that make sense?  Sometimes I want to just straight out ask you "why are you doing this to me?"  But I dont because all I'll get in return is another letter telling me how this isn't a punishment but some great learning experience, and then you'll remind me of how im not "getting" it and you'll tell me of all the things I've done in the past to get me here.  Yeah mom... some great learning experience.  It isn't worth it.  None of it.  For me or for you.  Why have you not realized it yet?  I hate all of this.  Its all gotten so dramatic and way out of hand.  I love you all so much, and I feel selfish for focusing everything on me sometimes.  But I just want all of this hurt and anguish to go away.  I dont want to have to wake up tomorrow in that bed in this program wearing those uniforms.  Im tired of this place being one huge game show of which girl is next in the family to get pulled, and the losers who are left behind.  I miss you and love you so much - you'll never understand how much.  Im not just being a drama queen for the fun of it, mom.  This is all real.  Just remember that I love you so much... because that feeling is the only thing that pulls me through all of this.  I love you.... Carly 
PS: Merry Christmas


R.I.P. all of those who didn't survive these programs. You're gone but not forgotten.

Below is a list of children who died while in these types of programs. Please keep in mind this is just a list of deaths WITHIN THE UNITED STATES that we're aware of. Many of these programs operate outside of U.S. territory, and many deaths are not made public.
 
Travis Parker
13 years old
Appalachian Wilderness Camp
Restrained l l/2 hours.  Denied request for asthma med

Lorenzo Johnson
17 years old
6/27/94
Arizona Boys Ranch
Drowned while trying to escape

Nicholaus Contreras
16 years old 3/2/98
Arizona Boys Ranch
Prolonged and serious medical neglect and openly abusive treatment per investigative summary

Dawn Renay Perry
16 years old
4/10/93
Behavior Training Research
Restraint

Anthony Green
15 years old
5/21/91
Brookhaven Youth Ranch
Restrained face down for 15 minutes Asphyxiation

Corey Baines
16 years old  3/26/03
Catherine Freer Wilderness Expeditions
Tree limb fell on tent while he was sleeping

Erica Harvey
15 years old
5/27/2002
Catherine Freer Wilderness Program
Hypothermia with dehydration

Kristen Chase
16 years old
6/27/90
Challenger Foundation
Heatstroke

Tristan Sovern
16 years old
4/19/98
Charter Behavioral Health
Asphyxiation during restraint

Earl Smith
9 years old
1/11/95
Children's Village
Asphyxiation due to chest compression during restraint

Casey Collier
17 years old
12/93
Cleo Wallace Center
Restraint Asphyxia

Jeffery Demetrius
17 years old
8/26/97
Crockett State School
Strangulation while in restraint hold

Charles Collins, Jr.
15 years old
Crossroads for Youth

Jimmy Kanda
16 years old
9/20/97
Crow's Nest Family Care
Strangulation while in restraint hold 911 had to talk staff thru CPR

Latasha Bush
15 years old
2/14/2002
Daystar Residential Treatment Center
Complications of mechanical asphyxia Restraint

Edith Campos
15 years old
2/4/98
Desert Hills
Restraint Asphyxia

Robert Rollins
12 years old
4/21/97
Devereaux School
Asphyxiation while restrained after a dispute about his teddy bear

Michael Ibarra-Wiltsie
12 years old  2/5/2000
Eckert Youth Alternatives
Asphyxia -- Restraint sat on by 320 pound counselor

Andrew McClain
11 years old
3/22/98
Elmcrest Psychiatric Hospital
Traumatic asphyxia and chest compression Restraint

Candace Newmaker
10 years old
4/18/2000
Evergreen Attachment Center
Rebirthing

Roxanna Gray
17 years old
7/6/89
Family and Children's Center
Restrained Face Down on a Pillow Suffocation

Sakena Dorsey
19 years old
6/10/97
Foundation Behavioral
Suffocation during face down restraint with staff member laying across her back...history of asthma

Chris Campbell
13 years old
11/2/97
Iowa Juvenile Home
Restrained 4 times in her last 24 hours....Cause of Death undetermined

Jason Tallman
12 years old
5/12/93
KidsPeace
Restrained Face down on pillow
Suffocation

Mark Draheim
14 years old
12/98
KidsPeace
Asphyxiation while being forcibly restrained by 3 staff

Maria Mendoza
14 years old
10/12/2002
Krause Children's Center
Restraint

Randy Steele
9 years old
2/6/2000
Laurel Ridge
Restraint...in the scuffle he vomited then stopped breathing. After reviving he was transferred to a hospital where he died the next day. Had been restrained 25 times in 28 days prior to death.

Rochelle Clayborne
16 years old
8/18/97
Laurel Ridge
Pinned down by aids and given tranquilizer cardiac arrhythmia

Wauketta Wallace
12 years old
7/11/89
Marysville Academy
Postural asphyxia and stress due to restraint

Cedric Napoleaon
14 years old
3/7/2002
Mason Middle School
Restraint

Will Futrelle
15 years old
3/25/96
Mountain Park Baptist Academy
Murdered by other students

Kristal Mayon-Cenceros
16 years old
2/5/99
New Alternatives
Restrained face down by 4 staff

Shinaul McGraw
12 years old
6/5/97
New Directions 2nd Chance
Hyperthermia after restraint in a bed wrapped in a bed sheet with gauze over mouth

Jeffrey Bogrett
9 years old
12/1/95
New England Center for Autism
Sudden Death during Restraint

Jerry McLaurin
14 years old  11/2/99
New Horizons Ranch
Restraint

Sabrina E. Day
15 years old
2/10/2000
North Carolina Group Home
Restraint

Aaron Wright Bacon
16 years old
3/31/94
Northstar Expeditions Wilderness Program
Untreated Peritonitis *

Bobby Sue Thomas
17 years old
8/16/96
Northwood Childrens Home
Acute cardiac arrhythmia while restrained

William "Eddie" Lee
15 years old
9/18/2000
Obsidian Trails Wilderness Camp
Injury to Vertebral Artery at base of skull after being restrained by counselors

Eric Roberts
16 years old
2/22/96
Odyssey Harbor
Wrapped in plastic foam blanket for one hour stopped breathing due to pressure on chest according to autopsy

Charles "Chase" Moody
17 years old
10/14/02
On Track Wilderness Therapy
The Brown School (CEDU affiliated)
Asphyxiation by restraint

Gina Score
14 years old
1990
Plankinton Boot Camp
Collapsed (hyperthermia), left out in sun for 3 hours....internal temp at least 108

Chad Andrew Frenza
16 years old
Polk County Boot Camp

Melissa Neyman
19 years old
7/24/97
(Judith Young Adult Family Home (private group home in Washington)  Climbed out a window and became entangled in straps of restraint. Had been dead 6 hours before workers noticed her hanging from window.

Bobby Jo Randolf
17 years old
9/26/96
Progressive Youth Center
Asphyxia due to pressure on neck by 2 staff

Jamie Young
13 years old
Ramsey Canyon
Heatstroke dehydration

Katherine Lank
16 years old
1/13/2002
Red Rock Ranch Academy
Slipped and fell down crevice while hiking, suffered massive head trauma, died 3 weeks later.

Paul Choy
16 years old
1992
Rites of Passage
Restraint

Chris Brown
16 years old
3/7/98
Robert Land Academy

Matt Toppi
17 years old
3/7/98
Robert Land Academy

John Avila
Age unknown
7/25/94
Rocky Mountain Academy

Diane Harris
17 years old
4/11/90
Sequin Community Living Center
Violently Restrained

Stephanie Duffield
16 years old
2/11/01
Shiloh Residential Treatment Center
Restraint

Ian August
14 years old
7/13/2002
Skyline Journey
Hyperthermia Hiking

Willie Wright
9 years old
2/4/2000
Southwest Mental Health
Stopped breathing while in restraint

Christy Scheck
13 years old
3/6/92
Southwood Psychiatric Hospital
Hung herself while on suicide watch

Joshua Ferarini
13 years old
1/8/89
St. Aemelian Hospital
Facedown restraint, suffocation

Michelle Lynn Sutton
15 years old
5/9/90
Summit Quest
Dehydration

Bryan Dale Alexander
18 years old
Texas Correctional Services
Pneumonia

Brandon Haden
18 years old
1998
Texas Neurological Rehab. Center

Roberto Reyes
15 years old
11/3/04
Thayer Learning Center
Probable spider bite and lack of medical care

Laura Hanson
17 years old
11/19/98
Unknown

Carlos Ruiz
13 years old
12/16/94
Vision Quest

Charles Lucas
16 years old
11/24/80
Vision Quest
Drowning

Danny Lewis
16 years old
6/89
Vision Quest

Dawnne Takeuchi
18 years old
6/25/95
Vision Quest

Eric David Schibley
17 years old  11/24/80
Vision Quest
Drowning

James Lamb
14 years old
11/24/80
Vision Quest
Drowning

Leon Anger
Age unknown 9/16/84
Vision Quest

Robert Zimmerman
17 years old
11/24/80
Vision Quest
Drowning

Tammy Edmiston
Age Unknown
9/11/82
Vision Quest
Bernard Reefer
Unsure
VisionQuest

John Vincent Garrison
18 years old
VisionQuest

Lyle Foodroy
Age unknown
VisionQuest
Drowning; boat capsized off Baha during storm

Mario Cano
16 years old
VisionQuest
Blood clot while doing calisthenics

Robert Doyle Erwin
15 years old
VisionQuest
Drowning

Mark Soares
16 years old
4/29/98
Wayside Union Academy
Cardiac arrest from physical restraint

Leroy Prinkley
14 years old 9/28/88
Western Center
Cerebral anoxia caused by heart and lung failure due to forceful restraint

Joshua Sharpe
17 years old  12/28/99
Wisconsin Treatment Center
Restraint

Christopher Landre
16 years old
6/12/97
WWASP - Paradise Cove
Suicide

Corey William Murphy
17 years old
3/21/2000
WWASP - Spring Creek Lodge
Suicide

Karlye Newman
16 years old  10/8/2004
WWASP - Spring Creek Lodge Academy
Suicide by hanging (read article)

Valerie Ann Heron
17 years old
8/10/2001
WWASP - Tranquility Bay
Jumped to death; question if suicide

Thomas Mapes
17 years old
7/8/94
Youth Center of Topeka
Asphyxiation; handcuffed, pushed face down on floor

Below is a list of the unfortunate outcome for some other students from similar facilities. (Also keep in mind almost all of these facilities are run FOR PROFIT under an umbrella corporation using different names, but owned by the same people.)

 

Valerie Heron, Tranquility Bay, suicide

Ryan Grasso, death at home 12/12/05

Corey Murphy, suicide after Paradise Cove

Chris Sutton, on trial for hiring hitman to murder parents (mom killed, dad left blind from gunshot injuries)

Young female(name unknow), hung herself at SCL

Christopher Landre, suicide after Paradise Cove

Randi Koetz, suicide after Casa by the Sea 4/10/05

Bryan Richardson, murdered by brother after Casa by the Sea 2/27/05

Robert Carter Evans, suicide 4/10/05 

Leslie Carter, overdose (sister of Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter, as well as pop artist Aaron Carter) in 2012. Previously attended Cross Creek

Michael "Romeo" Perry, committed murder (executed in Texas in 2010). He stated, "The conditions for me on death row are better than [those] at Casa by the Sea."

Anybody with questions, comments, or concerns may contact me at: carcar716@gmail.com. I am happy to answer all inquiries. 





















7 comments:

  1. You are an amazing writer. I really, really appreciate the insight into how you were feeling as well as the incredible strength it took for you to remain true to yourself under those conditions. Thanks for sharing - excellent post. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. "When I go home, I'm not going to be perfect. I will fall. I will make mistakes. Probably several. That's the point of life. It's not how many times you fall, it's how many times you pick yourself back up. Life is one huge rollercoaster with several different ups and downs, but we hope that eventually we'll hit an elevated level. A calmness. A serenity. I was at a dip before I got here. Not necessarily a big dip that was dooming me for life, but a struggle. In the nine weeks here I've lifted myself out of that dip. Am I a failure? No. I AM NOT A FAILURE. And nobody here is going to make me feel like I am one any longer, because I know I'm not. I never have been and never will be one." don't forget this ever

    ReplyDelete
  3. Carly,
    I was in that horrible place "Casa by the sea" back on June 2001, because my plans by those days were to get my "rebel" step-son into that program, thinking that it would be the best and ultimate solution to all his uncontrolled misbehavior problems! but let me tell you something; when we got in that nauseating place I felt myself a VERY BAD vibration when I was able to see and observe how those poor kids were walking and acting like robots without no sense of direction or even worse like kids under the influence of who knows what kind of drug! and I could felt the dip emptiness and sadness in the hearts of all those poor kids! and something told that I have to rethink and reconsider about the idea of getting our kid in that devil place!

    I have read the begging letters that you wrote to your folks when you were in that hell, and I like to express you that during the time I read your letters I couldn't stop my eyes from crying and felling the same suffering that you did with the bit difference that you did it in real life, for minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months of your life in that miserable prison dealing with all those frustrations, contradictions of those ironic issues and darkness of those times of your life!

    Good news its that you were just having a bad dreaming, and that one day you just waked up and noticed that thanks God it was only a bad dream!

    If you notice it, you probably were physically and mentally abused and affected through out that time of your physical life, but your real You "your soul" remained intact and immaculate, and it will always be!

    God bless you!
    Julio

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you Carly for sharing your experience at Casa. I am a mother that subjected her daughter to Casa and then onto Ivy Ridge in Upper NY. I thought I had no other choice but to send her and for her to graduate the program. Destroying me financially for the next 7 years...it also ended my relationship with my beautiful daughter. I missed her desperately while in program for 14 months and I miss her for cutting me out of her life for the past 14 months. I thought if I did not send her I would bury her and loose my daughter forever. I have lost my daughter...not through death tho...through her choice 11 years later...for not forgiving me for sending her to the program...that I must not have loved her enough to just throw her away. Yet, her feelings and thoughts could not be further from the truth. I lived for my children and would have done anything to save them. Unfortunately, it isn't seen through the same lenses. I can only thank God today that she is alive, well and successful. I guess well enough not to want bothered with me anymore. For this I must accept as long as she is happy and safe! Was it the right decision I made 11 years ago...I pray it was. Once I read your story I cried...I cried for you and all the others and pray that you can understand the decisions made by parent and parents in a very desperate situation and forgive them.
    From a loving mom,
    In Pittsburgh pa....Mary ann

    ReplyDelete
  5. To the parents who give up on learning about their children and choosing a route of an alternative school that removes the children from home. You should rethink any further involvment in reproducing. seriously, if you thought that sending your children to an institution that would teach them something that you should have, long before their bad behaviors began, then you should be ashamed for not taking the time to learn what was troubling your children in the first place. As a former resident at "Casa by the Sea" I can tell you I have deep resentment towards the people responsible for sending me there. I also feel no pitty for the parents who are in debt because of their last resort efforts. You payed a small peice of what your children will pay for the rest of their lives. The parents who gave up are the parent who thought an institution would correct their childrens behavior. you can contact me anytime techniques101@yahoo.com adam salinas

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is so sad and heartwrenching to read, i really hop the writer has found a stable life now away from the memories of this place.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have read this twice, my heart truly aches for you and everything you endured. You will never be alone again. You will always have a friend ready to help you at a moments notice. You can count on me to be there for you.
    Alex G.

    ReplyDelete