I’ll call her Evie. That’s not her real name, but her real name was just as pretty. It’s best to honor her privacy, as a professional and as a fellow human being. After all, this is her story, not mine.
Evie was 14 when I met her. Six months earlier, she was involuntarily placed in an emergency mental health hospital (called a “5150” in California) for her “psychosis.” She was given chemicals almost immediately and, after the legally required 72-hour hold, she was declared medically fit to go back home.
About two months later another “5150” occurred. This time, they gave her a new batch of chemicals (see Evie’s Chemical Cocktail above) and upon release 72 hours later, she was placed, without her consent, in a residential mental health facility for teenagers. About four months later, I was brought in by the same agency as a consultant. I was there to train and supervise the therapeutic staff, and to train the child-care staff. For reasons you will see, I became Evie’s therapist. She was my only client.
Evie was “hearing voices,” according to the notes I read from her prior therapist. As I found out later, it was one voice. Evie had a friend who would talk to her once in awhile, especially when she was alone and when her emotions were in turmoil. I’ll call him Vlad. “Vlad is my friend, Dr. Cima,” she once told me. She wasn’t frightened. Vlad “spoke” to her at times, and she wrote to him.
For those trained in Keirseyan temperament theory, Evie is a Sphere – a young Idealist. That makes her rare (about one in twenty), and very hard to spot, especially in residential settings. Young spheres tend to blend in and take on the characteristics of Stars (young Artisans) or Squares (young Guardians), though, for reasons I’ll talk about later, they rarely, if ever, take on the characteristics of Cubes (young Rationals).
However, when Spheres are alone with someone they trust, their vivid metaphorical imagery quickly exposes their identity to an observant adult. We all use our imagination to some degree, now and again. However, Spheres stand alone in their ability to express their life experiences with metaphorical language. Little wonder why so many writers and poets are Spheres. (A few famous adult Sphere/Idealists: Emily Dickinson, Pearl Buck, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, Upton Sinclair, Oliver Stone, Paul Robeson, Joan Baez – and Plato. You can see more famous Spheres/Idealists here.)
Evie was “Goth.” Goth – from “gothic” – is one of those adolescent subcultures found in every generation. “Hippies,” “Hip-hops,” “Emos,” “Grunges” – and don’t forget the “beatniks” of the 1950’s” – are just a few adolescent subcultures. The more shocking and defiant the subculture, the more it brings out the worst in adults intent on “dealing with it.” Unwittingly, by “dealing with it” adults fortify one of the reasons kids join these subcultures – to gleefully irritate and annoy their supervisors. Another reason? Goth culture offers comforting refuge for some unhappy kids struggling to find their lost identity, especially true for Spheres.
Goth is often described as “somber, macabre, and glamorous.” You can throw in a touch of romance too. Black is the color of choice for the Goth crowd, and you could always find it in Evie’s lipstick, eye makeup, nail polish, and clothes – down to her black socks and black shoes. Evie always wore something in her dyed black hair too, usually flowers, often a black flower. Evie liked flowers.
She was introduced to Goth when she was twelve. She told me she fit in almost immediately. She started to read Gothic novels. A combination of horror and romance, famous Gothic literature includes novels like the Headless Horseman, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Modern movie renditions include Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and even Batman. (You can read more about the Goth subculture here.)
Something Else You Should Know
Evie was a “cutter.” Cutting is a form of self-mutilation. It occurs when a child takes sharp objects like razors, knives, or even pieces of glass and cut themselves, usually in secret. It’s usually done on the underside of the forearm, on the tops of thighs, but anywhere on the body is possible. When it occurs in residential settings, it can be “contagious.” Children vying for the attention of adults notice that “cutters” get a lot of attention. Like no other child at this 40-bed facility, Evie had the attention of everyone, and everyone was worried. She was an “active cutter.” (Nearly all long term “cutters,” in my experience, are Spheres.)
Also, as if there wasn’t enough turmoil in her life, for reasons unrelated to this story, her assigned therapist abruptly left the organization the Friday before I started, without a goodbye. Evie lost her only confidant, and she was devastated. When I arrived the following Monday morning, a number of staff members let me know Evie had an emotional, “cutting” weekend. I decided to be her therapist.
Evie was emotionally turbulent. Her family had deteriorated, and so had Evie. She drifted into the Goth subculture a few years earlier. She was talking to a voice in her head, and she was cutting on herself almost daily. Four months earlier, she was removed from home and placed in a facility that was, as she would say over and over – “a place for crazy kids” – and she just lost her therapist, the one person she could trust.
The worst of this? The medical profession declared Evie “mentally ill” and gave her chemicals because she was “psychotic” and she was depressed. Good thing I’ve seen this hundreds of times in my career or I would have been depressed too – and maybe a little “psychotic.”
NEXT TIME: The Story