"Survivor": The Personal Story of One Boot Camp Graduate

February 1, 2002
By a 'boot camp' graduate

I am a survivor of one of these teen 'Boot Camps' and graduated in 1990. I was a fourteen-year-old kid who was thrown into this school, even though I had never before been away from home for more then two weeks.

My school wanted students to be leaders and if you were not a leader in their eyes, you were looked down upon and often humiliated. I am not a leader and because of this I was looked down upon. Many times I was humiliated in front of the whole group because I was not a leader. Ok, I know that I am not a leader, but have no problem living my life as an average Joe. However, if you lived your life as an average Joe there, you failed and were shunned.

I suffer from emotional disorders and now take medication to help me live a normal life. But while at 'boot camp' I was unable to access such medicine. They spoke down about the need for such medication and this prevented me from starting medical treatment concerning my condition for some time. Since then my life has changed incredibly and positively as a result of prescribed medication.

I am surprised that no one died at the school. There was never a nurse or actual real doctor on call. One student had a ruptured appendix and almost didn't get treatment on time. They blamed his stomach pain on a lack of 'dealing with feelings.' I had a close call too. One morning I woke up with a fever and a sore throat. I asked to see a doctor, but was told that I should just gargle with warm salt water. Two days later I could not swallow. They finally let me see a doctor and it turned out that I had Tonsillitis. I got a shot, a dose of antibiotics, and was told to get bed rest. It was a dangerous situation, which could have ended far worse than it did.

The part that I hated the most and now feel has most affected my life were the school's 'raps.' Raps were a like some group therapy session, except this was often where people went to talk if they were upset or mad. And if they were mad at you, you might be the focus of such a session. Can you imagine ten different people yelling at you at the same time. My head would spin and I could not really digest what was being said. Waiting for raps caused me severe anxiety. Many times I would sweat, shake or get stomach cramps. Of course they would explain this as me not 'dealing with my feelings.' Even after many years I still suffer from something like Post Traumatic Syndrome. I often walk on egg shells around others and go out of my way to avoid making anyone mad. I am still afraid someone will yell at me. This has meant frequently not standing up for myself and what I believe is right.

I am openly talking about all this, because others shouldn't have to suffer the way I once did and deal with the effects later like I still do.

Copyright © 2002 Rick Ross.

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