Listening to everything that Faith Rumph has been through, it’s hard to believe — or maybe it’s just painful to acknowledge — that she is only 17.
Born in Billings, she was removed from her biological parents at the age of 2, “because basically they were not fit to be parents,” she said. Faith and her then-newborn sister lived with one family until Faith was 4, when Faith was adopted by Mark and Cindy Rumph.
She admits she was a difficult child, subject to dramatic mood swings and temper tantrums. Faith said she was drinking alcohol and smoking pot by the time she was 13, about the same time she started harming herself, leaving cutting scars that are still visible on her legs and wrists. Once she tried to kill herself.
She was raped several times by boys she knew, she said, and one time at party she passed out from drugs and booze and was raped again. Or so her friends told her; she said she had no recollection of it. She started doing harder drugs, including heroin, though she says she never did use meth.
In light of all that, she may seem an odd emissary of hope, but that’s what she is these days, and why she was asked by Youth Dynamics Inc. to make a short video about her experiences and to encourage other young people to seek help.
You can learn more about Youth Dynamics by clicking here. To reach any Youth Dynamics office in the state, call 877-458-7022.
In the video, Faith compares mental illness to being in a swimming pool, underwater, where people can’t hear what you’re saying and you feel completely isolated and alone. She asks people to listen and to try to understand that mental illness is like any other illness in some respects.
“It would be no different than if you broke your leg,” she says in the video. “You’d want people to be compassionate and understanding.”
She has Youth Dynamics to thank for starting her on the road to recovery. She had gotten some help before, she said, from the Billings Clinic Psychiatric Center and the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch’s Billings office in the old Garfield School.
But it was Youth Dynamics that gave her intensive help and for the first time led her to understand her mental illness, which included a diagnosis of bipolar disorder with extreme anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. She spent 10 months at Alternative Youth Adventures, a therapeutic group home and day treatment program in Boulder, Mont., run by Youth Dynamics.
Cindy Rumph, Faith’s adoptive mother, said it was Faith who made the decision to go to AYA, but she wasn’t very happy with her decision at first.
“She waited it out for a couple months, thinking I would come get her,” she said. “Faith finally got in her head to get more active and take part up there.”
The program in Boulder offered a mix of regular schooling with therapy and substance abuse counseling, mental-health services and outdoor adventures. She was able to spend a few weekends back home in Billings, but otherwise she was in Boulder for 10 months.
Through it all, she said, Cindy never gave up on her.
“I’m so lucky I have a mom like I do,” she said.
In fact, she added, one reason she quit an addictions program she was part of in Billings was that she couldn’t stand listening to the other kids constantly complaining about how difficult their lives were, even though they had two parents who loved them and took care of them, and then “just threw it all away.”
Life at AYA in Boulder was “rough,” Faith said, because she was forced to be accountable, forced to admit her problems and to try doing something about them. She was headstrong and resentful, at least at first, but in time, she said, “I learned to listen to adults who I absolutely hated.”
Since her return to Billings last January, she said, she has been attending the Career Center and studying at night, trying to keep on track.
“Basically, the reason I’m doing well is I’m so frickin’ lazy,” she said, laughing. She explained that AYA was too much work, so only by staying sober and dealing with her mental illness can she make sure she doesn’t have to go through that again.
She said her experiences in Boulder also made her realize that “I’ve got to get through all this. I can’t keep blowing my life away. I can’t keep being so ungrateful for my life.”
Most of her treatment was paid for by Medicaid, though her mother said she had to pay for Faith’s room and board in Boulder and is still paying off those bills.
Faith’s case manager is Kristin Bauwens, who has spent 17 years in the mental health field. She said she is basically Faith’s “broker,” making sure she connects with the doctors, programs and educational services she needs.
“Once everything’s in place, we sit back and monitor it,” she said.
Youth Dynamics has also helped Cindy learn how to better manage her daughter’s struggles with mental illness, visiting their home once a month to check up on things and provide any help that’s needed.
As for the Youth Dynamics video, which has gotten almost 50,000 views since it was released at the start of the school year, Faith said, “it was weird at first. I did not enjoy being involved in it.” But in time she was glad she got involved. She said it helped make her more upfront with her peers, more willing to give them advice.
If she knows people well and recognizes they need help, she said, she’ll tell them that dealing with the problem is the only way to get better, and she urges them to talk it over with a doctor, a therapist, a parent or a guardian. Don’t self-diagnose, she said, and don’t self-medicate.
She can take pride in a long stretch of sobriety, and she said this is the first school year that she hasn’t had to be hospitalized for one reason or another.
“Not yet,” she said. “Knock on wood.”
Faith is looking forward to graduating from high school this spring and then becoming a cosmetologist and a nail technician, maybe moving to California, where her mother has relatives.
Her mother doesn’t pretend everything is perfect now, but she said she and her daughter have both been taught how to communicate better, how to deal with problems without screaming or fighting, how to compromise.
“There’s always going to struggles,” Cindy said, “but it’s way better than it was before.”