Dark Socks

One of my favorite quotes from The Simpsons is when Lisa says, “I learned that beneath my goody two shoes are some very dark socks.”

In my early teens, I was sent to juvie for eight months for self injurious behavior. Before that, I was a bit of a goody two shoes, compulsively following most rules I was given. But one of the first things I learned from the juvenile correctional program was that some rules are made to be broken. By my third day there, I learned that I had to break the rules in order to poop.

One of the rules there was that we were required to shower every day. My first shower was prompted by someone saying, “You, shower now.” I did as I was told, and when I stepped out of the bathroom 15 minutes later, I was met by my enraged peers, closing in on me like a pack of angry dogs. By occupying the bathroom for more than ten minutes, I had apparently communicated that I’d decided I was more important than anyone else there.

The next day when it was my turn in the bathroom, I spent about five minutes on the toilet before hopping in for a quick shower. I got out, dried my head enough to put in my hearing aids, and vacated the bathroom in just under ten minutes. This time, everyone looked at me with disgust, like I had shit on my face or something. I got in trouble for being unsanitary because I had spent less than five minutes in the shower.

The day after that, I tried to poop faster, but I couldn’t. I stopped in the middle to go turn on the shower so I wouldn’t get in trouble again. When I finished on the toilet, I had just enough time to wet my hair so people would believe I’d showered. It worked. I didn’t get in trouble.

I began to see the dark socks peeking out from beneath my goody two shoes. I learned to feign showers regularly so I could poop in the toilet without getting in trouble for being selfish or unsanitary. It makes almost as much sense as sending me to juvie to punish me for punishing myself.

Raising Intensity

When I was 14 (and 15), I spent 8 months in the non-secure part of a large correctional facility. I was in a building called the “shelter.” I had been told it was a residential mental health care center, but it was the unlocked building on a prison campus. The shelter primarily housed discarded young people who hadn’t committed any crimes. It was bad there. It was a punishment-centered program, and I got punished several times a day for being hard-of-hearing and for experiencing side effects from my medications.

Twenty years later, I continue to experience PTSD symptoms from that placement multiple times every week. Sometimes it comes up in my weekly therapy. A month or so ago, my therapist told me that she thinks there are a few ways in which the Lino shelter is a little better than it was a decade ago, but they still do some really messed up stuff, such as “raising intensity.”

I came home from therapy, talking about how raising intensity is not a way to help anyone. Elysa asked about the practice, and I said, “Oh yeah, that’s when everyone stands in a circle around the accused and screams and swears at them and calls them names. Sometimes staff members even throw furniture. If you get spit on your lips from someone screaming in your face, you’re not allowed to wipe it away.” She was kind of horrified. I suppose that’s a healthier response than my learned indifference.