I Was the Real-Life “Girl Interrupted”

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posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 03:41 PM
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I’ve seen a few threads on ATS that talk about mental hospitals but have never seen one that deals with this particular subject:

During a brief period in the US, from about the mid-eighties to early nineties, some mental hospitals came up with a great way to make money: falsely hospitalize teenagers in order to collect the insurance money. How do I know this? Because it happened to me. And it forever changed who I am.

First, THIS ARTICLE gives some background into the story that follows – it’s the best I can do to validate that this really happened to me. I’ve never been able to find much information on this topic (it was more than 20 years ago after all and I suppose not many people really knew, or even cared, this was going on.)

Second, for those of you unfamiliar with the book and movie “Girl Interrupted”, Susan Kaysen (who wrote the book) spent her days at McLean hospital in Belmont MA (just north of Boston). McLean has a rich and fascinating history and I heard about many “lifers” who lived there during my stay. I sometimes wondered if there was a sinister force in that place that tried to keep you there…. At any rate, if you’re a history buff like I am I highly recommend the book “Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America’s Premiere Mental Hospital.” (check it out at your local library).

So my experience...When I was 14 I had an eating disorder (bulimia), suffered from teen angst and made a piss-poor attempt to commit suicide (we’re talking taking 10 pills – it was a call for attention, not a serious death wish).

Because of this I went to McLean with my parents on an October day in 1988 and was told that I would stay for a 6-8 week evaluation. That seemed like a long time, and it would mean I would have a ton of freshman schoolwork to make up, but my parents agreed and I was signed into the hall known as “Upham 2” (the floor just above the one that Susanna Kaysen lived in during her stay).

Flash forward to 6-8 weeks later and… “oh we’re sorry, you don’t get to LEAVE now. That time was just so we could evaluate you to see if you should stay longer. And guess what – you should!” Maybe my parents didn’t read the fine print before they signed, or maybe the hospital wasn’t entirely transparent about what that signature would mean, but either way I would be staying-- for how long they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say. Had we known it would be nine months – that’s right NINE MONTHS - we might have all raised a ruckus. As it was we figured they were the “experts” and so dutifully complied.

Now a few things to know that are important to the story:

1) In those days there were no limits on mental health benefits like there are now. The full coverage limit could be exhausted for mental health expenses as with any other illness.

2) My mother’s insurance policy had a coverage limit of $2 million dollars on me. The day she told me that I nearly fainted because I understood by then that the policy was all that was standing between me and the door.

3) My parents could not get me out even if they wanted to. Requesting release required signing what was called a “three-day” which meant you would be evaluated by the hospital staff and if you did not retract the three-day notice before the three days was up, and they determined you were unfit to leave, they were legally able to commit you (and they threatened to do just that the one time my mother tried to get me out).

4) If you were committed and your insurance ran out you would at that point go to a state mental hospital.

5) There were people who had been on that hall for more than a year. A girl who had recently left had been there for almost three years – basically her entire teenage life.

6) Everyone who was on this hall was between the ages of 14 and 17, both boys and girls.

Now it’s interesting to note that during my intake exam the nurse who was taking my background information thought I was lying because I had never drank, done drugs, ran away from home, stayed out all night or had sex. She actually asked me at one point “what are you doing here?” I shrugged. Good question lady.

Here’s where things get hard for me to talk about because I have spent years of my life wondering if I am inherently screwed up or did they make me that way during my time there? What I mean is, if I had never gone into that place and been subjected to all the things I was subjected to would I be this insecure, addicted, volatile, control-freak, suspicious person that I have become? Is this who I really am? Or was I simply a hormonal, confused adolescent who needed better parenting or maybe just time to get through a very turbulent time in my life? I will never know.

What I do know is I was inundated with medications. According to the doctors I was “bi-polar” (a fact I later learned was NOT true). And being bi-polar meant I needed medication. LOTS of it. They tried one kind, then another, then another, always adjusting levels. After experiments with older pharmaceuticals I had the “privilege” of being one of the first citizens of Prozac Nation. Mixed with Lithium for good measure!

I was not allowed to shave my legs without someone watching me. I was not allowed to be around food, or in the kitchen, alone. I was not allowed to go outside or even leave the hall without supervision (which rarely happened). I had countless psych tests, EKGs and MRIs. I had therapy in a room with two-way mirrors. I once spent three nights in “the quiet room” - nothing but four white walls and a mattress (I counted the holes in the radiator to keep from going insane.) I was put in a strait jacket once. I blocked that memory for a long time because I couldn’t handle the memory. Still can’t.

Mostly I can remember looking out the metal screens over the windows and trying so hard to remember what it was like “out there”. I wondered if I would ever get out – I sort of knew I would but then that word “commitment” was always looming overhead, like a terrifying dead-end. “If I cry too much or say the wrong thing or do something that looks 'crazy' they could put me away forever.” I developed a deep-seated insecurity about my own autonomy and an inherent mistrust of people, especially authority.

There will always be a special place in my heart for the person who got the funding cut off. After nine months the insurance drew the line and said they would no longer pay. That is the only reason I got out after nine months. I truly don't know how long I would have stayed had that not happened. Maybe at that point insurance companies were wiser to the scam, don't know.

I won’t get into my life after McLean. (You can probably guess what an experience like that would do to a person). Suffice it to say I'm just now coming to grips. It took 15 years before I could trust the psychiatric profession again and seek help on my own terms. I haven’t really talked about this all that much – people are always incredulous when I tell them - and I have never heard another person who experienced the same thing. So if anyone has, or can point me to additional information they might have found, I would welcome the company.

Thanks for listening.

S




posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 03:57 PM
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I don't know if you at referring to the one in Belmont or not but I have done some per diem work with some kids there back in the day. If my memory serves me correct your story does sound like the typical story coming out of that place. It's basicly the parents trust the "professionals" and all their advice. Might not be the best advice but it does keep their beds full... $$$$$$


+2 more 
posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 03:57 PM
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Nothing like going to a mental hospital to become mental...



The only thing I can say about the whole ordeal is I hope that this has not, or will never be a controlling factor in your life. There may be several lingering effects that influence your opinion on the people you interact with, but at the end of the day life is about you and no one else. Your past doesn't need to have any relation to your present, so long as you are living life for yourself.

Thanks for sharing.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 05:02 PM
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reply to post by BlastedCaddy
 


Yep, the one and only.

I have to say most of the staff there were very nice. But the directors of the adolecent ward (Shapiro and some of woman whose name escapes me) were pieces of work. "How does that make you feel..." I still here it in my sleep.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 05:12 PM
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reply to post by boncho
 


I think when I was younger it did effect me. When I got out I had no idea how to function on the outside anymore. I gained 30 pounds in four months and I had a real suicide attempt (surprised I survived.) I think more than anything they convinced me there was something wrong with me. Finding out I wasnt bipolar years later made me really angry. All those years of medication....who knows what it does to a developing brain?

Oh and one thing I neglected to mention: I was on an "experimental unit." So they made no bones about me being a guinea pig.

Overall I think the experience made me a more interesting person. And if I ever need counseling I get sent to the front of the line.... But in the end I am still pissed off about it. Another case of humans being nothing more than profit generators.

Maybe someday I will write a book. I started one in there. Was really pissed when I saw Kaysen's - she stole my story!



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 05:36 PM
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reply to post by otherpotato
 


I'm just glad you're ok. Judging by your sentence structure and overall tone you're more healthy than I am.
hahaha.. I enjoyed reading your story. I havn't known anyone who had to stay anywhere like that for more than 3 days because they thought about suicide, and wanted help. They got help and 4 years later they are still doing great.

I had thought that these kinds of things ended a long time ago.
At least it wasn't like "One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest."



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 06:25 PM
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reply to post by otherpotato
 





“If I cry too much or say the wrong thing or do something that looks 'crazy' they could put me away forever.” I developed a deep-seated insecurity about my own autonomy and an inherent mistrust of people, especially authority.


Enjoyed reading your story. ^ is probably an indication that you [may be] living with the fight or flight syndrome, which in itself causes a lot of psuedo crazy mentality, always feeling as though you have to be careful of what you say, think, feel, and most especially-share with others.

It's a shame that your mother [or one of your parents, I said mother because you mentioned 'mother'], but it's a shame that she didn't contact an attorney in-so-far as the 'contract', or small print in the contract that was mentioned in your story. I would wager that would have made a huge difference in an earlier release.. as I'm sure you have probably given some thought to the length of your time spent in the hospital and surely hold some sort of feelings on the subject. Even had your mother simply mentioned getting an attorney to your Dr/s, that would have likely made a difference in their reviewing of your hospital records.

Everything we go through leads us to who we are and who we become, so certainly your time in the hospital has contributed to who you are now. Blaming any of who or what we are has nothing to do with excusing what we do on our past experiences. But knowing and understanding can be big factors in using that knowledge to our advantage & learning from it. I mean, we can't control how or what anyone else does or thinks, but we can control our own actions and reactions.

Thank you for sharing your story with us



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 07:22 PM
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reply to post by Dustytoad
 


Well, I did just light the wrong end of a cigarette so don't give me too much credit for being all there....


I really didn't intend for this to be a pity party for me - I thought it was more interesting to post about something that most people probably didn't know used to happen. The scariest part was the lack of control over my life. I have not, and will never, allow something like that to happen to me again.

And this was more than 20 years ago so no, it isn't like that anymore. Unless you are psychotic, detoxing or well-off and need a "rest" it is very hard to get in-patient admission these days. I don't think they will ever be able to pull this stunt again.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 07:27 PM
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reply to post by otherpotato
 


Heh, good ole Leslie, she used the whole "how does that make you feel" on her staff too...



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 07:41 PM
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reply to post by RobinB022
 


You are right to an extent about fight or flight, but I did it in a very different way: I became work/career driven in order to make money so that I could purchase my own security. I got a job as soon as I got out and spent all of my teens and 20s and most of my 30s working hard, climbing the ladder and working part time jobs to accumulate "security." Unfortunately it was a false kind of security. The house you live in does not make up for the house of cards that lives inside.



It's a shame that your mother [or one of your parents, I said mother because you mentioned 'mother'], but it's a shame that she didn't contact an attorney in-so-far as the 'contract', or small print in the contract that was mentioned in your story. I would wager that would have made a huge difference in an earlier release.. as I'm sure you have probably given some thought to the length of your time spent in the hospital and surely hold some sort of feelings on the subject. Even had your mother simply mentioned getting an attorney to your Dr/s, that would have likely made a difference in their reviewing of your hospital records.


I never blamed my parents - not only did they not have the money to hire an attorney (we just had good insurance - those were the 80's - the days of government defense contracts) but they were told what they were told by soft spoken, articulate people with letters after their names and an unsettling habit of peering down their glasses at you. They were out of their element. I credit my mother with convincing the insurance companies to stop paying. She never admitted she did this but I know my mother and I have the feeling she was behind how I got out.

In truth part of the problem was me. By February McLean had started to convince me I really belonged there. Case in point: one night me and another kid made a break for it. We layered our clothes (it was below freezing - coats would have given us away), timed the rounds so no-one would see, and took off for Harvard Square. My my dad and step-mom found us and they were actually plotting how to steal away with us so we wouldn't have to return.

I told them to take me back. They had me at that point.

Thanks for your interest. This was a hard thread to write.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 07:45 PM
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reply to post by otherpotato
 


It happened to me too. Early 90's, I was 15 years old. I did party and stay out all night. I was a wild kid, no doubt.

But I was only there for six weeks, (that is when my parents insurance slammed on the brakes). But during that time it was everything that you said, except I was on an adolescent psych ward in a for-profit hospital.

First, they tried to diagnose me as anorexic, I weighed 94 lbs at the time, but they couldn't prove that I had lost 40% of my body weight in the last year which was apparently the criteria required to cover that. I was then diagnosed as bi-polar, which was the flavor of the month diagnosis for teenage girls at that time. To sweeten the pot I was also "diagnosed" (a.k.a. badgered and bullied into "confessing") with having repressed memories of sexual abuse, most specifically an incestuous relationship with my father. Just to be clear, this never happened.

They would grill me for hours and that is when they threatened me with the "quiet room" or a straight jacket or even shock therapy. Those things never happened because eventually I gave in and told them what they wanted to hear. My psychiatrist was rarely present, but I remember there were usually two or three adults in the room sort of tag-teaming me and slamming me with questions and innuendo. It was like the spanish inquisition... with anti-depressants. There was a male nurse in particular who would even hound me in my room outside of therapy. The whole time I'm on a cocktail of rotating and ever-changing anti-depressants, lithium, valium, and...? I don't remember how many times they changed my drugs in that month and a half, but it was quite a few.

Then suddenly, my problem wasn't really any of those things, what I really needed was rehab. One of the nurses told me that the insurance company wouldn't cover where I was anymore, but they didn't consider it "safe" for me to be out with the general populace yet. My parents confirmed the insurance debacle when they came to get me and ferry me straight away to the next hospital. I'm suspicious that I wasn't "safe" yet because they could milk yet more money from the insurance company.

I was in rehab for another four weeks, and halfway through my psychiatrist there took me off of all of my drugs, and reversed the bi-polar diagnosis.

My parents and I still speak, but the relationship is strained and probably always will be. I don't know that they will ever really be able to forgive me for those accusations I made against my father, and I can't really hold that against them.

I wanted to let you know that you are not the only one. Good luck to you. You sound like you have it together though.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 07:47 PM
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Originally posted by otherpotato
reply to post by Dustytoad
 


Well, I did just light the wrong end of a cigarette so don't give me too much credit for being all there....





Well if THATS the marker for sanity...


Seriously though, *write*a*book*. You may help more people than you realize.

I was working ER in a certain town when that certain town's mental health facility decided to close and toss all of their patients on the street or to whomever would take them. Most went to the street due to insurance issues and being suddenly declared right as rain before the mass tossing. The ones who werent the sort that should have been institutionalized had no idea how to live.. and the ones who actually did need to be institutionalized were hitting the ER with a cop escort like a revolving door.

Our treatment of the mentally ill is lacking and our hunger for money.. insurance money... is certainly a real form of insanity. Everyone loses. These days they just pump teens and kids up on meds and send them to school with outpatient treatment.. this makes the ins co, pharma, and drs happy since we have mental health caps and cant warehouse folks long term anymore.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 07:57 PM
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reply to post by redhorse
 


THANK YOU.

So much.....

I no longer inhabit this story alone.

(I wish ATS had little hearts, unicorns and rainbows to give...well actually I don't
)

So I see they were still milking it years later.

----------------
Edited to add:

My experience was not quite as grueling as yours in terms of the intensity, perhaps because they had the luxury of more time with me, or because the institution you went to had less of a reputation to maintain (McLean had quite the prestigious reputation in my area). I find your story more disturbing than my own in some ways -- shorter time, worse tactics. I was just a research rat after all!

Thank you so much again for sharing. This kind of truth-telling is never easy.
edit on 1-10-2012 by otherpotato because: More to say



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 08:09 PM
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reply to post by otherpotato
 


I am so sorry you had to go through that and I do hope you have forgiven your parents. Do you still get help?

I also put my son in a mental hospital about 1988. His father was putting a lot of pressure on him, belittling him, sometimes holding him down on the floor with threats during this. I was only present one time during this and tried to stop it. He became OCD at home. His writing looked like an ant crawling across the page, it was so tiny. he also told me he saw little men standing at the foot of his bed at night. I got a call from a teacher about him acting out in an angry outburst at school. That is the first time we really knew something was wrong. I called several psychologist's for advice and it was suggested he be placed in a hospital during treatment because the home environment would keep him from improving.

The hospital was Charter and it was just for teens. They did not put the kids on meds and to my knowledge was treated well. Still, they were milking the system.

He was there 6 weeks and was excited about coming home on Friday. He said everyone had always been dismissed on Friday. Not him, they said he needed to stay until Monday. I forget the excuse but I recall it seemed pretty lame. Sure enough, that was the day the insurance ran out. I recall a conference with the counselors and others the day he was dismissed and the reasons given for the extra stay...they all had to know what was going on.

I was angry at myself for a long time just about those extra 3 days (even more so for not leaving my ex sooner).
You do the best you can for your children and as every parent knows we don't always make the best choice but it is usually the best available to our knowledge at the time. My son was angry with me as well tho mostly because of the stigma.

I am glad you are getting help, at least I hope you still are.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 08:20 PM
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reply to post by Advantage
 





Seriously though, *write*a*book*. You may help more people than you realize.


I revisited my journals from that time a few years ago. I remember thinking "I feel really bad for that girl" which leads me to believe I have the degree of distance necessary to keep it from being a whine fest.




I was working ER in a certain town when that certain town's mental health facility decided to close and toss all of their patients on the street or to whomever would take them. Most went to the street due to insurance issues and being suddenly declared right as rain before the mass tossing. The ones who werent the sort that should have been institutionalized had no idea how to live.. and the ones who actually did need to be institutionalized were hitting the ER with a cop escort like a revolving door.


One of the things I didn't talk about in my post, because it was getting long, was the tremendous guilt I felt all the time while being in there. I had the "golden ticket", while I lived with kids who had been raped by relatives, were abusing drugs, had their lives run by gangs, were physically and emotionally abused... and they would get marched right out the door once the insurance ran out -- after, of course, we all had a good week of conditioning to accept that they were "just fine to go." I went through the same conditioning before my abrupt departure. Amazing how you can be a danger to yourself one week and right as rain the next.




Our treatment of the mentally ill is lacking and our hunger for money.. insurance money... is certainly a real form of insanity. Everyone loses. These days they just pump teens and kids up on meds and send them to school with outpatient treatment.. this makes the ins co, pharma, and drs happy since we have mental health caps and cant warehouse folks long term anymore.


I do think the psychiatric profession has improved to an extent (I even went back to it years later), but meds are definitely pushed and definitely over-prescribed. I consider myself something of an expert on psychiatric medication. I learned they can help, but you must always listen to your own body and read everything there is to know before you take them.

The bottom line is no one really knows how most of these pills work. They just know how they "sort of" make people behave/feel when they take them and what sort of "weird" side effects could happen. That is very, very dangerous in my opinion.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 08:35 PM
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Same thing happened to me. Twice. Being orphaned early on, a relative 'rescued' me from foster homes. The relative and I didn't get along too well, so when I got caught skipping school and smoking, I got a nice ride to the
psychiatric hospital for a six month stay.

I was released into an all girl group home and things didn't go well there for me. Fifteen girls living together is not fun. So, I told my social worker if she didn't get me out of there, I'd run away. Since no other homes were available at the time, I got another 6 month stay at the same hospital.

I missed a whole year of 'real' school. In the hospital, we only had 2 hrs a day of school. It was more like daycare for 2 hours a day. We were not allowed any "SHARPS". Everything like curling irons, blow dryers, shoe laces, belts, makeup, etc was kept in the "SHARPS ROOM, and had to be checked out every morning and returned within 15 min. We were allowed very few personal items.

We were locked in, and there was no way to get out. We were on the 7th floor of the hospital. We had Physical Therapy and Recreational therapy, group therapy, one on one therapy, etc. There was a 'seclusion' room that had padded walls, and there was always one kid in there yelling and screaming to get out.

We were on a behavioral system. Our points were determined each night. We could gain or lose points, and the points given add up and determine your privileges. Points determined whether or not you could have visitors on visitor days. Some could go home on weekends, if they had the points, but alot, like me, had nowhere to go. If you were able to go home on the weekend, you had your blood drawn for drugs, and strip searched before you were let back on the unit.

All the kids were drugged. Thorazine was very popular. Even I took meds, when really there was no need for me to be on drugs.

I was 15-16 at the time and I literally lost a year of my life.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 08:43 PM
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reply to post by otherpotato
 



TY for the reply. It IS curious.. those sudden miraculous healings.
Did you know those miraculous healings happen with every illness in the hospital? Yep.. dying and needing hospitalization/monitoring.. and suddenly healed of heart disease and fine to take meds home and go to the dr outpatient when the ins cap is met. Just went through that with a fam member.
I just looked at it and my own mental health coverage on our insurance which is one of the best private insurance companies.. for inpatient or a psychiatrist you have to have a diagnosed major mental illness ( they list bipolar, schizophrenia, panic disorder, etc) previous to the current issue.. or go to a counselor first and be referred to a psychiatrist. They also only pay for 6 visits to a counselor. Amazing...

As for our screwed up system with kids and meds.. I was mainly talking about prozac for whiny dramatic and wholly annoying teen girls.. I have 2 of those but I see it as teendom and not a mental illness.. and 6 yr old on ritalin due to not being able to sit perfectly still for an 8 hr school day. I dont know about you, but Id hate to see a 6 yr old natural zombie that could sit that long in silence so as not to bother the teacher.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 08:52 PM
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reply to post by liveandlearn
 


Thank you for sharing - you should talk to my mom about guilt. But then I guess every mom has their version, no? We do the best we can... What's happened to your son since? Your story sounds either like a typical childhood friend, an early indicator of psychosis or...an alien visitation... ??? I don't mean to make light if it appears that way and no need to share further if you choose not. Your son's story sounds very interesting on several levels....

Getting help. Well what does that mean, given what I experienced. As I said in my post I was 14 at the time. I am now 38. There have been other hospitals (in my teens), other therapists and meds (in my 20's), other psychiatrists and still more meds (in my 30's), and a whole lot of reading and introspection in between. Right now I'm done with the meds and choose to fight with reading and introspection when I'm able, and some less helpful ways when I'm not.

I've learned not every pain needs a medication or a doctor. Sometimes you have to ride that wave alone and learn acceptance. Of yourself first, of others second, and of the unanswerable questions of life when you can.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 09:07 PM
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reply to post by Advantage
 


Money makes the world go round, doesn't it? When did we lose our compassion for people? When did we lose our decency? We will never cure any disease because there is no profit in curing it and besides we are too busy creating cures for new ailments no one knew they had....

Oh Prozac... let me count the ways... When I was on Prozac I became seriously suicidal and almost died from the attempt. When I was on Prozac I plotted to kill my mother. I was 16 and while I was suicidally plotting I had this strange sense that I didn't know exactly why I wanted to do these things but couldn't help myself. This was before they came out with all their label warnings and examples of bizarre behavior. I was one of the early "adopters." You can thank me, in part, for those labels.

My step-daughter is on Ritalin. It has been awful. I know what it's doing to her brain at the same time I see the positive changes (of convenience mostly - let's reign in that crappy behavior!) while I'm forced to sit back and not have an opinion because I am a step parent, and step parents have no say.

The schools push these drugs. They are convenience drugs and they are harmful. Do not believe what they say. Find another solution.



posted on Oct, 1 2012 @ 09:19 PM
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reply to post by otherpotato
 

ABSOLUTELY.

Welcome "Newbie".
Im very glad to have met you.. and truly enjoy your perspective. Stick around.. youll find many many like minds here.





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