Kelsey: A Daily Reminder
Dork, Toad and Freak are just a few of the names coined for sixteen year old Kelsey by her siblings. Yes Kelsey (not her real name), the middle child, is different from her sisters. All four are confident, athletic, pretty and popular at school. Kelsey, on the other hand, is average looking, quiet, and a little bit plump. Her sisters and mother, often ridiculed Kelsey for her fashion choices and her figure. A tongue-tied Kelsey was virtually defenseless against their harsh words. Labeled “bad,” Kelsey became the scapegoat for nearly everything that went wrong in the household.
With no outlet for her frustration, Kelsey began to injure herself and have thoughts of suicide. Using razors, she started to ritualistically cut her arms on a daily basis. As she sliced her pale skin and watched the blood trickle down the side of her arm, somehow she felt more alive and in control. It was strangely liberating. One particularly exasperating day, Kelsey carved the words “Fat Girl” in block letters on her stomach with a knife. The cutting continued for months.
No one knew about the cutting until finally a teacher caught Kelsey with the knives she brought to school to cut herself. At that point, she was referred to a day treatment program. Her mom felt Kelsey was ruining their lives. Kelsey continued day treatment – and cutting. A few weeks later, Kelsey was found bleeding so profusely that she needed to be hospitalized. Unfortunately, the treatment and hospital staff were unable to engage Kelsey’s family in the treatment process and County Child Protection intervened. Kelsey was sent to another facility for shelter, stabilization and further evaluation. That’s when Kelsey was referred to Volunteers of America–Minnesota’s Children’s Residential Treatment Center (CRTC) which provides intensive residential treatment for severely emotionally disturbed adolescents who suffer psychiatric challenges including mood and anxiety disorders, eating disorders and self-destructive behaviors. CRTC used intensive psychotherapies and cognitive and emotional skill building to assist Kelsey in developing the skills she needed to relate more constructively to her environment, change her dysfunctional patterns of behavior and stop cutting.
Kelsey felt validated and safe while at CRTC. Therapy gave her permission to acknowledge the behavior of others, as well as taught her to effectively verbalize and assert her needs. Through active program participation, Kelsey learned to change her dysfunctional patterns
of behavior, interaction and communication. She developed the skills she would need to feel emotionally safe when she was living back at home—without cutting. Kelsey also found attention, acceptance and hope at CRTC.
After completing the program, Kelsey began her senior year at a high school for culinary arts in Minneapolis. And, she hasn’t given her family a reason to call her bad. She has empowered herself to get what she needs using logic rather than emotion. To date, she has not self-injured. Although her mother is embarrassed by Kelsey’s scars and has suggested surgery to remove them, Kelsey isn’t ready for that. She says, “The scars are a daily reminder of where I’ve been – and how far I’ve come.”