Living with Evil

I get to work with a lot of kinds of crazy. There was the egomaniac — and possible sociopath — who tried to kill someone. There was girl who was quite proud that no matter what her mother beat her with — extension cords, curling irons, sticks… — she was “tougher than that bitch.” There was the group that killed with sticks. The group that… Look, I get a lot of crazy. Some of it’s obviously passed down through parenting or maybe surface genetics. (You meet the parents and don’t even need them to tell you which kid is theirs…) Some of it’s neighborhood or pop culture. (My favorite are the gang members from the corn field.) Some of it’s disturbing and sad. (Teenagers who purposefully date middle-aged men or molest little neighbor kids or cousins or… Well, that’s usually learned behavior on some level.)

Sometimes, it hits you out of nowhere, seemingly, and feels like you walked onto a movie set instead of into your classroom. I mean, that utter lack of empathy, that obvious flouting of the rules even when it nets you bullet scars, dog bites, or being lifted by five people like a wild zoo animal and removed to a much-smaller room where you get no shoes and maybe no bed… That look of the eye that makes you wonder if there’s really a person in there after all — and this is coming from someone who knows, in layman’s terms anyway, crazy.

There’s you-ain’t-right crazy and there’s scary crazy.

Conduct disorder (CD) kids fall into that second category. So do the psycho/sociopaths. There’s an old episode of Law & Order (I can’t even believe I know this, either) where Dr. Elizabeth Olivet (Carolyn McCormick) tells the attorneys that “Conduct disorder is the worst psychiatric diagnosis in pediatrics. Parents say it’s like living with a terrorist.” It’s possible they got the idea from this message board, or the message board got the idea from the show because there’s a similarity in phrasing. Either way, they’re right.

Amy Spano (buy her work)”]

I lived, for a while, with a foster kid who was “borderline CD.” The docs had diagnosed said kid with “ODD” or oppositional defiant disorder,” but weren’t quite ready to commit to CD. It’s possible the psychiatrists just didn’t get enough information because, since the kid was in foster care, [insert gender-neutral name like Chris here] didn’t stick around long enough — and didn’t tell the truth often enough — for the docs to come to a proper decision. Since “Chris” also seemed to revert to childhood (like the 7-10 age-range) when it suited Chris’s purposes, people were doubly at a loss to figure out the true problem. Chris claimed all sorts of abuse, but was vague on the details. (This is a bit of a red flag. Kids who tell you they’ve been abused are either proud of it in a “so what, what are you gonna do to me, I survived this” kind of way; are somewhat shy and reserved; or act as though it’s normal and imitate. Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor & I don’t play one on TV; I just get to see a lot of different kinds of messed up all day & I tend to group them so I know what I’m dealing with.) Chris also claimed things happened when I know they didn’t because I was there. Chris was very careful to only claim magic events when there was only one other witness present so it became a “you don’t trust me?” scenario with tears. Crazy people can be smart this way.

Chris had younger social skills and mostly hung out with younger kids, except for a few other stunted delinquents who either couldn’t make it academically or socially and found it easier to impress the younger set. (You know a lot of high school freshmen wanting to hang with first-time seventh graders?) One woman thought Chris was “borderline personality disorder” but “can’t really say for sure until [Chris] is an adult.” Oh fun.

The bottom line was that coming “home” felt like going to war. Going to work (to deal with children who allegedly rob old ladies and may or may not run from the police and set people on fire) seemed like a break from the crazy. After Chris left a hamster in the closet and let the poor thing die of dehydration, Hubby was a wreck. He’d had pets since he was around ten (and his parents had pets even before that) and he knew they needed care so he didn’t have any idea a teenager could let an animal die from neglect or abuse. I, honestly, should have known better, but I was dealing with shuttling Chris from appointment (where the doctor was told some choice obscenities) to appointment (where the therapist was lied to and indulged in nonsense) and feeling a bit psychologically battered from daily abuse. Additionally, Chris’s room smelled… like decaying gym clothes on a corpse because Chris wasn’t a fan of bathing or washing clothes or putting away clothes we’d washed or removing garbage from said room or putting anything away… The path from the door to the hamster was a bit like a video game with lava pits. (I realize this is no defense for hamster murder, but it’s the best I have. For the record, all three cats are healthy, relatively happy, and even get insulin shots when needed.)

Foster care can be a great thing for kids who want a second chance to the life they were supposed to have. Foster care can be a nightmare if the proper supports aren’t in place for a kid whose previous [let’s go with more than ten] prior placements failed due to his or her psychological malfunctions.