Cascade YDC lock down unit, was on this unit for over two and a half years, almost three. The longest any girl has been on this unit, to my knowledge. Tammy 2019
I was transferred to my new permanent dwelling, A place called “Youth Development Center” in Edmonton Alberta. It was called “YDC” for short and that is probably how I will refer to it in this next segment. There were four units in YDC, the Girls units were called Cascade, which was the girls lock-down unit, will explain what that means in a bit. and what was called an Open-Unit,named Lowpine. The girls were given more freedom after being in the open unit for a while. It was not as secure as the lock down unit. Most Of my time was spent in the Lock down unit. I was still 12 when when I went to the Lock down unit, I turned 13 in YDC , we did not Celebrate birthdays at YDC. you will understand why in a bit
The Lock down unit I was on only had six rooms, and we did not share a room with any one. We were put into our own dorm and that was it. It was very much a lock down, we didn’t even go outside, They just did not have the staff to take us. We did have a big window though so were able to look outside. I didn’t like looking outside, it looked to big to me. I was very rapidly becoming institutionalized, which would affect and effect me for the rest of my life. We would eat our meals in our rooms, we were segregated from the other inmates who were in open units, so we only pretty much had interaction with a very small group of people.
I was put on various medications, which kept me so docile I would actually fall asleep in the middle of talking. My mouth was perpetually dry, and I could never get enough water to drink. I really had no idea why they put me on all theses medications since I was already a timid and withdrawn child, it made absolutely no sense! I know I was on a lot as one time the worker assigned to me freaked out and made the mistake of saying out loud”OMG we forgot to take her off the old medication and have been giving her new ones at the same time! She has been taking them all at the same time!” I asked her how many she told me over the course of the day I was taking 26 different types of medication! That is what the worker assigned to me said to another worker, I overheard her.
My brain felt shut off all the time, like my body was just moving of its own accord, with out any interaction from my brain. It was awful! My thoughts, if I had any, were so slow to come that I didn’t bother talking. Then there were times I would talk with rapid fire, just to get the thoughts out before my head exploded. At least it felt like it was going to explode. I honestly believe that some one was experimenting on me, and this would become even more true when I went to the open unit, and started seeing the psychiatrist associated with YDC. it was this psychiatrist that had been treating me ever since I went to YDC. This medicating with different medication went on for years. From shortly after I arrived till the day I left. They even diagnosed me as schizophrenic at one point, because the medication was giving me auditory and visual hallucinations.
At that time treatment for JD’s was medication. There was no talk therapy, or counselling when I was in lock up. I was just kept isolated in this block called Cascade. I didn’t really mind, I was so medicated and out of it, I really did not want to be around people any way. On the wall they had a board with all the things they observed during the day and you either got a star or an X. Things like Hygiene, interaction with others, attitude, Decorum ecetra. I can’t remember all that was on there but I think there was like eight different things they would evaluate during their shift. Apparently I was having difficulty meeting their standards, because they had to have a special evaluation system for me with 1 being very good and 3 being very bad.
I didn’t like being different from the others. It made me very uncomfortable as, that board was in the hall were all the Cascade inmates could see it. I felt ashamed. Being different was never a good thing, and I do not recall being a troublesome child, I think it was part of the experiment to see how I would react to being singled out. It was not to end up well for any one! The more they experimented and tried to single me out, the more my brain was switching off. I was going into survival mode, and was almost becoming feral. Scary as hell. Is this what they wanted? I do not know, but this is what was happening. I was changing from a quiet, timid girl into a feral child. I did not have any one touch me, hug or any kind of touching at all, it wasn’t allowed. The only time they touched me is when they restrained me and put me into solitaire, I will talk about that in a bit as that happened on the open unit, not the closed unit I was currently on.
Time just became one day meshing into another, if you were to ask me what day it was, I would not have been able to tell you.To this day I have trouble retaining dates, and have to look on my phone constantly to see what day it is, if I even care to know.Time for me is the seasons. Winter it is time to sleep , fall is time to get ready to sleep, spring is time to plan and start waking up, and summer is time to have fun and wake up all the way. That was my time, and how I lived my life. I am also nocturnal, as I spend all my time alone for the most part, and night time is when I come awake. I guess I am like that great Owl, always living in the night… I spent almost three years in Cascade, I would have to count back to remember, but it was a long time indeed.
All that Time I was on a lot of medication, and very drug out. Most of the teens that came to lock up were on the open unit with a matter of a few months, for me I was on the Secure unit for years. I really could not understand why?! I felt that I was being punished because I told on those men that had sexually abused me…what other answer could there be, I must be bad for doing that therefore I was being punished. Maybe I was being punished because I told that man that “If you ever touch my little sisters and brother I will find you and I will kill you!” The look in his eyes was one of pure terror, but I had been abused so badly that rage had to be stuffed down. Maybe that was why people were scared of me? I don’t think so, I wasn’t willfully mean. If I did act out it was simply a mode of survival, not maliciousness.
One saving Grace, all the workers on the closed unit were Women, and the men from the boys unit were never called to Cascade, there was nothing that the female workers could not handle, so I was saved from having to interact with men. The other girls for the most part stayed away from me, even though they were bigger, I think they were afraid of me. I do not know why, I had no intention or desire to hurt them, I just wanted to learn what it was to be a girl from them. I would watch them put on their make up and do their hair. I observed how they dressed, these were things I never learned from my mom, I learned from girls who were junkies and prostitutes.
There was a radio built into the wall, one Chanel as it went through the whole institution to all the units. I had that music on constantly when I was up, thankfully the other girls didn’t seem to mind, at least they never said anything to me. If I was in the common room the radio was on and TV was off, that was just the way it was. Because I had been on that unit for so long, maybe they thought I was the boss. Or maybe they were just scared of the ticking time bomb I was… I don’t know. I really felt nothing either way after a while, I was totally numbed out. That is not a safe thing to do to a child that has been traumatized so mercilessly. I mean really make it so they have no empathy, no worry no conscience? They really must have been experimenting on me! I wanted to get out, and asked my worker how long I was going to be there in that institution, she looked at me and just said bluntly till you are 21 years old. I was about 14 years old when I asked her, and another year and a half was to go by. We can legally keep you till you are 21 years old. I was floored, I was going to be institutionalized for ten years?! What did I do! Would I even survive it, and would it matter? My mom had cut off all contact with me, and would not allow my siblings to see me. By the time Tyra was old enough to come see me I may be a vegetable from all the drugs or dead by suicide.
You may be still wondering why they didn’t celebrate birthdays in the locked unit. We didn’t even have calendars in the locked unit. The days just passed into one day into another, the only reason I know how long I was there is because it is documented, and I seen the dates. I think they thought it best if we didn’t consciously recognize the passage of time, maybe it made us more manageable I do not know. It was a strange time, and a strange place.
I had a friend in YDC lock up her name was Sandra. She was 12 years old, and was a very odd child, but then I guess I was too. However, she would self mutilate, and that bothered me, as I did not self mutilate. She got mad at me once, because she told me she was going to swallow tacks. How she got the tacks I don’t know as we were not allowed stuff like that. I told her no, and tried to convince her not to do it. However, she insisted that she was going to do it! I was frantic, she would not let me take them away from her, so I told my worker and the staff restrained her and took all the tacks and anything else that could be dangerous to her from her room. she asked me”why did you tell on me”, she was so mad at me. “I told her because you are my only friend and I love you”. she forgave me after that I loved that sad little girl so much, I took her under my wing, at least she wasn’t scared of me, and accepted me for who I was.
Sometimes the open units would go on field trips and leave the institution. I liked those times, because our unit would go down to the swimming pool and have some fun. One time when Sandra and I along with the other girls were in the pool. The boys from the lock up units were allowed in the pool with us and sometimes the boys and girls would be masturbating each other. I never did that, I didn’t want to. I saw Sandra face down jerking in the water. She had epilepsy. At first I thought she was playing a game, then it dawned on me what was happening! To my horror! I quickly swam to her and turned her over yelling “STAFF! STAFF! that what we called the workers. I saved my friends life not once, but twice, I miss her so much. the staff quickly did something to her, and she was taken to the hospital, she was having a Grand Mal Seizure. She was taken to a different facility and boy did she fight, she wanted us to run away together, of course I would have but I wouldn’t even have made it out the door. The only time I was not in arms length of a staff member was when I was sleeping. I never saw her again, I hope she had a good and happy life..
The next piece will be a sharing of when I went to the girls open unit: Lopine