The Case of Estelle Estelle is a 19-year-old Hispanic woman who was raised in Puerto Rico but came to the United States as a 14-year-old. She was raised as a Catholic and remains very devout, attending church on a regular basis and observing all of the holidays. She is 5‟5” tall, weighs 148 pounds, and is pleased with how she looks. Estelle wore slacks, high-heeled shoes, and a long-sleeved shirt to her first visit. This was typical attire for her no matter what the weather. Estelle made fair eye contact and seemed very intense during the sessions.
She rarely smiled and seemed on the verge of tears at times but she never really cried during the sessions. She wore a fair amount of eye shadow and lipstick and carried a CD player. She spoke with a slight accent and sat with a defensive posture throughout the earlier sessions. Estelle is a freshman at a community college and has no idea what to major in or what to do with her life. She presently works at a hair salon. Estelle described her reasons for coming to the clinic. “It was a bad day at the salon. My boss yelled at me because a color treatment went bad on a regular. Somehow I used the wrong mix and it came out too reddish. I was yelled at and sent home for the rest of the day. Of course, my dad happened to come home early and he found me and yelled at me, and asked if I was fired. I mouthed off at him and was sent to my room with no dinner.
My mom as usual sided with him and further grounded me for the weekend. Can you believe stuff like this for a 19-year old? Anyway, I decided not to go in the next day so I stayed home and did a lot of thinking. I was tired of the abuse, tired of not finding the right guy, tired of my life. Do you know how they say I was sick and tired of being sick and tired of all of this cr**? I was.” Estelle then decided to do something about these feelings. In the past, she cut herself on her arms and legs but had no intention of doing major damage or of taking her life. This time she wanted to do something more dramatic. “I wanted to do something but I was not sure if I wanted to kill myself. I figured if I really hurt myself the pain would vanish and my family would finally apologize for the way they treat me. So I went to the kitchen and found some Drano. I swallowed it and it did hurt like nobody‟s business. I freaked out and called 911 immediately since I realized something was really wrong here. They arrived quickly with an ambulance and took me to the hospital to pump my stomach.” The paramedics told Estelle not to make herself vomit. Drano, if vomited back up, could cause as much damage coming up as it did going down. Her parents arrived at the hospital and were beside themselves with worry and remorse. Estelle told us this was the first time she saw her father crying.
“For once they had nothing mean to say to me. My dad wanted to know what went wrong and how, and what they could do to fix it.” The hospital kept her for a longer period of time, made a complete evaluation, and placed her in group and individual therapy. “I told work I was sick and would be out for a while and they understood completely. The incident of my messing up a client‟s color was not mentioned. It was wild. All of a sudden everyone could‟t be nicer to me and they felt sorry for me.” Once Estelle was discharged she went home and returned to work Estelle has two older sisters, 24 and 21, and one older brother, 27. Estelle is the youngest. “I‟m often treated as the baby. Everyone always watches out for me.” Her mother recently returned to work as a secretary for a large company; her father has worked for the past 5 years as a superintendent in a large apartment building.
Estelle still lives at home; her other siblings are all out of the house. “But you need to know that they all live very close to my family and to me, no more than 20 minutes away. We believe in being close, sometimes too close.” Estelle had an unremarkable childhood, reaching all of her developmental milestones at age-appropriate times. She had her first sexual experience at age 16 with a man who was 10 years older. “I made a mistake and realize it now. It‟s okay to have sex when you love someone even if you are not married to him. He never loved me; he lied to me to get me into bed. I felt like a jerk.” In school, Estelle‟s grades ranged from C+ to B-. She graduated with a C+ average “because I have this tendency to think in Spanish while I‟m trying to speak English, and I get confused. My writing is not good. We also do not speak English at home. But that‟s not really an excuse.
I was not the best student. I didn’t take school seriously.” She could not decide whether to go on to college or not, but her family convinced her to go. Her siblings were all either employed or home taking care of their children, but none of them had a college degree. Estelle “would be the first; I also was not really ready to go out and work full time right now.” Estelle eventually took a job in a hair salon. “I do nails and hair. I went to beauty school and I‟m a trained beautician so they let me do the cutting and coloring. It‟s actually a lot of fun and I made some contacts through the shop. For example, there was Harry…..”
Harry was an agent for a local modeling company who told Estelle that she had “the look” to be a professional model. She signed a limited contract and did some work for local newspapers and advertising circulars. Harry promised that she would graduate to bigger and better things. Whether or not this was true, Estelle finally felt good bout herself and decided that she was good enough to get a college degree. “I never really liked myself.
My dad would always tell me I was nothing, and that I would not amount to anything, that I would end up pregnant at a young age because I didn’t take school seriously. No, he never really beat me. He hit me a few times but he always apologized afterward for that. He was just mean to me, verbally abusive, and that really hurt. No matter what I did I could never win with him. After hearing this cr** for so many months I just snapped.” Thus, at age 14 Estelle cut her wrists and arms repeatedly and waited in the bathroom for her parents to come home that evening. When they arrived “Wooo, were they