I Read It. And You Should Too.

All of it. Cover to cover. Uninterrupted. Just like I wanted to.

It was, for me, a rather powerful read. So powerful, that I had to stop in-between chapters to regain strength before I could continue. I can’t tell the difference…I can’t tell you if it was her words that were so powerful, or if it was the memories that the book evoked, which just made the book seem so powerful.

I didn’t have the big dramatic crying breakdown like I expected. Instead, I simply collapsed, and slept in-between chapters. It took me two days to read a 245-page book. Normally, I can read 245 pages in a few hours.

I thought I would feel differently after reading the book. I thought I would feel some sort of fullness, like after a really good meal. I wanted to feel wholly and completely satisfied after finishing the book. However, I am left feeling incredibly heavy, and just plain sad.

I haven’t thought about the reasons I was sent to Cascade, in a very long time. I don’t like to remember the reasons.

I haven’t thought about that rock at the gated entrance for almost 15 years. The descriptions in the book brought that rock, the dormitory bathrooms, digging ditches, endless nights on dishes, smoosh piles, bans, the intensity of rap / forum sessions, my ‘little girl inside’ and a deluge of good and bad memories back to life… which are all now running (alive and well) inside my head…with an enormous force.

I was especially taken with the chapters where she focused on a few of the many ‘workshops’ that we endured during our two-three year stay(s). I suspect, I will be spending the next few days going over the details of my own workshop(s).

I am glad to say that Alison Weaver, author of Gone To The Crazies, did not give The Cascade School a scathing indictment. She appears to be on the fence, like most of us who attended, as to weather or not the school did more harm then help.

[May I suggest demand, all of the other Cascadian’s to read the book before posting a review on Amazon].

Weather you attended the school or not, it’s a pretty good read. But, I am not sure if people that did not attend Cascade will fully appreciate the book. She left out a lot of detail. There are a lot of holes in the book. On the other hand, she definitely scratched the surface; enough so that I wonder what other ‘Cascadian’s’ will be publishing their own books, about their personal experiences. Maybe one day I will be one of them?

Much like Alison, I went bat.shit.crazy after my stay at Cascade. She is absolutely correct in her statement, the school left us ill prepared for real life. When you are living in such an isolated environment for so long, you become a product of that very environment. Going back to the real world was nothing short of culture shock. The place you once loathed, became the very place you longed to stay.

I often wonder why or how I made it through this life of mine, alive. I think it is in part, because Cascade drew a very clear line for me, one that I refused to cross, even at my worst downward spiral of self-destruction, Even when I was at my-rock-bottom-personal-hell (age28) while looking at my own unrecognizable reflection in the dressing room of a go-go bar, I vaguely remembered the little girl Cascade had given back to me. I haven’t talked to her, or thought of her, let alone taken care of her in a very long time.

Currently missing everyone I attended Cascade with.

About Meleah

Mother. Writer. Television Junkie. Pajama Jean Enthusiast.
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32 Responses to I Read It. And You Should Too.

  1. someGirl says:

    Oh Meleah…. And good god I can relate to that sense of being ill-equipped and being lost after being sheltered away…You just want to run back and immerse yourself in the life you had before, no matter what it entailed, because it was a life you knew well…..I send hugs your way. Wish there were more words I could write to take the heaviness away 🙂

  2. Meleah says:

    Thank you so much. You words mean more to me than I am able to express right now.

  3. Random Magus says:

    I was reading the description of the book through your link, will buy it if available here.
    No one but you, or people who went to the same school, can ever know what it must have been like but we can root for you. And wish you the best on writing your book.
    I used to be in a convent but it was a day school so got to go home after class. We had classes where we were taught how to sit, how to walk and of course character building classes where our Irish nuns used to talk to us about virtue and the like. When we went to college it was an entirely different world.

  4. Meleah says:

    Thanks Random, I hope you can buy it. It is a good read. You will understand the shock value in changing worlds as you experienced such drastic educational systems too.

  5. jennifer says:

    I wish I had the words right now for YOU…
    I know how hard that time in YOUR life was…I wish I could have been there to love YOU, and be YOUR friend…

    I look forward to reading YOUR personal journey past that rock, and out to society…
    I am your biggest fan and I love you, and everything about you.

    your my favorite writer, and I love you always.

    your great.

    I’m ssorry its haunting.

  6. jennifer says:

    & draining

  7. paisley says:

    i have no idea what your school was like but i had a friend in jr. high and then again in high school that got sent to a school like that that was just over the hill from where i live now…. they like shaved their heads and all kinds of crazy stuff… i know when she came back,,, she picked up right where she left off.. she wasn’t really different… but she was equally as crazy as she was before she went….i don’t know what was going on in her head tho….it was called synanon, i don’t know how you spell it…

    those should have been the best years of our lives … i don’t know how some of us ended up with them being the most fucked up… but school or no school i sure did…

    go with it,,, somehow the less you fight things,, the easier they are to blend in… they never go away… which is why i am having such a hard time with the whole forgiveness thing… but they seem to blend better…. i don’t know… i’m to tired to be philosophical right this moment… but i wanted to make sure you knew i was thinking about you….i’m here if you need anything….

  8. I wish I could lighten your load a little, darling.

    I have a morbid fascination with this institution of Cascade and long to know more of it. I will endeavour to get my hands on a copy of this book.

    I wish I’d known you at 28, darling girl. I would have dragged you out of that sordid existence and into the comfort of my world, where you belong. xxxxx

  9. Dazd says:

    I am proud of you Meleah for having the courage to finish the book. You should be an inspiration to all Cascadians.

  10. Devin says:

    Dont mean to sound ignorant, but what excatly is the school? Im sure I can google it, but if you could briefly describe it Im sure it would be better from someone who attended. I love your writing style by the way. I get drawn in and feel everything you say.

  11. Meleah says:

    Jennifer… I know you love me just as much as anyone in my family … thanks for your undying support when it comes to my writing, and cheering on all of my dreams, here and in our real lives.


    Paisley: My school was based on the Synanon concepts and beliefs created by Charles “Chuck” Dederich Sr…..I cant believe you know someone who went THERE…poor girl!! Some of the Synanon students created the school Cedu, then Cedu students created Cascade.


    Minks: It is one of my new lifetime goals to someday be where you are in the comfort of your world as I do believe I will feel I belong there. xxxxoooo


    Dazd: I’m so exhausted. I’m just sitting here with a multitude of images crashing into one another. My head hurts, I feel fuzzy, and dizzy. I feel oddly comfortable in the numbness of it all. I think if I could just cry I would feel some relief would come my way. I just don’t think it has all HIT me just yet. It all seems too surreal. (I’m sure at some point tomorrow I will break… I just hope it’s not in the middle of my office).


    Devin: “I love your writing style by the way. I get drawn in and feel everything you say.”…..What am amazing compliment. Thank you. The school is a VERY LONG STORY, one I have avoided writing about, talking about or thinking about in many many years. Until this book was put in front of my face, and I HAD TO READ IT. I doubt you will be able to Google much of any information on the school, as it was closed down a few years back. All of our school records have been long since stashed to some undisclosed location, somewhere that no of the “survivors” have been able to obtain. I will be more than happy to share some of my experienence. Although I’m sure none of which will make any sense, and as I have stated before, its hardly believable.

    But I will do my best. Maybe I’ll send you an email in a few days or maybe even write a post … when I can clear my foggy head, and complete coheirent sentences again.

  12. Olly, says:


  13. Devin says:

    sounds like a plan. Is this book worth a read to someone like myself or is it something mainly for other Cascadians?

  14. Meleah says:

    Devin: READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. She really does cover the basics. (the dishes, bans, families, punishments …..and she touches lightly, but just enough on 3 (out of the 7) “workshops” we had to go through during the length of our stay) You can get somewhat of a clear picture as to some of the things I went through. This book is not just for Cascadian’s. I just think it will affect us differently than those who did not attend.

    BTW: Thank you again, for your kind words, and your genuine curiosity.

    I think one of the reasons I am so drawn to you, aside from the extreme hotness that is all you, is your ability to have taken your shitty past and turned it into some of the most brilliant and humors posts. I understand that you didn’t have it all that easy either (with all the moving, various step fathers, being raised by a single mother and a few of the other clues I picked up on in your posts.) I wish I could find a way to make light of some of my own circumstances. Maybe one day I will, or at least I hope to find someone that I could share all of this with, and let THEM make light , find the humor, and make jokes about my shitty past for me.

    All this heavy heavy heavy stuff is weighing me the fuck down! I need to laugh and right quick!

    PS: The long and short of it…(a detailed email to follow but it will just take me a FEW DAYS to construct). If you could combine the discipline of a military school (scrubbing toilets, pots and pans, while running in place and checked of by white gloves-simply for saying the name of an “unacceptable” music band / or for even quoting an “unacceptable” music lyric) with the intensity of whacked therapy (provided by “conselors” none of which had MD’s or PhD’s) the kind of insanity that only a mental institute could deliver, (rap sessions were 3 hours a day EVERYDAY full of screaming indictments, vomiting, bloody noses, chair throwing)…and you multiplied that quick description by about (oh lets say) 17 billion, then you have the basic outline to the makings of Cascade….


    PSS: I am also curios to see what you think of the first chapter of my NON-CASCADE book… the book that followed my life AFTER I “Graduated.”

    link is HERE

  15. leslie says:

    Hey chica. Have not received my copy yet, but as soon as I do, I’m reading then calling to compare notes. 🙂 hugs!

  16. Jodi says:

    Wow…just reading this and you touched on subjects that may have been dormant, I could just feel it. I will check out the book, as I am curious.
    Maybe this will be your catalyst to brainstorm and place those hidden words that you have bounced around…

  17. Becky says:

    Wow–being new on the blog I was not aware of what made the intelligent neo-punk Jersey Girl I have enjoyed. I will read this book. What strikes me about your review and recollection is that you are not doing a savage indictment nor a warm embrace–but an existential acceptance.

    Yeah–an intelligent girl.


  18. Meleah says:

    AWW… Thanks! Becky.

  19. Monica says:

    Hello Meleah! So was she there when we were? What year would/did she graduate? The name is familiar but I cannot remember a face to go with it… Heck, I can’t even remember the names of two of the 5 girls I shared a house with my jr year of college…


  20. Meleah says:

    MO! She went to Cascade after US (around 94-96) but she did freak out on some people in the Cascade Survivors group, maybe why you know the name… she was once a dorm head just like the two of us…(way back when I woke you up with that damn Beatles blaring every morning!)

    “I can’t even remember the names of two of the 5 girls I shared a house with my jr year of college…” ha ha ha ha xxxx

    My god, I LOVE YOU (and MISS you!)


  21. Meleah says:

    EMAILS from a beloved friends “Cascadians”

    “I think there were definitely cultish elements of cascade, without a doubt. So much of their program was textbook cult brainwashing. FM”

    “Wow, I don’t know how I feel about the word cult and high school when it comes to Cascade. I need to reflect, read the book, and ponder. I have conflicted emotions flowing right now. Cult? No. Just a place that made it safe to visit the dark side, but didn’t prep us for re entry to the world. HP”

  22. Sarah-Beara-Sunshine says:

    Wow. Ok, what to say. I have to get the book. I cant even EXPLAIN Cascade to people, nor do I even attempt to because let’s face it- the shit was just beyond bizarre. You can only scratch the surface and no matter how many pages someone writes they will still leave out an ENORMOUS amount of information. I dont know the author…. although as Monica said the name sounds familiar.
    Im blown away. Are we now children who were simply the product of a cult?? I mean of course some stuff was just SHADY but I look at it as a bleep in my life. It did give me tools to pull myself out of the depths of hell that I refer to as my early 20’s but man…… it left us all so inept to deal with the REAL world. Leaving there and being thrown back into public high school….
    Ok, I could go on and on. Im ordering the book.
    If ANYTHING, I will ALWAYS be blessed to have had you, Leslie, Flint, Alan my Spida girls, etc etc…..so for all the friends/family I made there I am grateful.
    Love you big sis……

  23. Lis says:

    Wow Mel, I think I’ll have to hunt down this book. Hugs for you for finishing it.

    Random Magus, that sounds just like my school. I went to a convent too.

  24. Ricardo says:

    You made it. You’re here. You’re here to stay. All of these ups and downs can be used for something positive. Besides, having been through the ringer myself, you know that you are a lot stronger than the average person. If not, you wouldn’t be here. It says a lot about you.

  25. Marc says:

    Hey M,
    Been dying to read the book since I saw the post about it. Your review makes me want to read it even more. I know that everyone had their own experience there and some better and some worse than others. I know that the kids that were there after me seem to have had a harder time with it, so very curious to see read the book.
    She is going to be doing a book signing in the city on Thursday night at 7pm, any chance you can come in and meet me for it?

    Keep up the posts and blogs, so jealous of the way you can put your feelings into words, its such a gift.

    Still bummed we didnt get to see Les Mis, it’s still running, can you find time to go?

  26. Meleah says:

    GET OUT!

    (toad-ily read the book dood)

    Marcus…. If I can get off from work Friday, and ask /beg/plead/whine/kick/scream… (very politely) for my mom ad dad to baby sit Thursday night… I am IN.

    Holy shit.

    (I have missed you.)

    OOOOOOh how I missed going to Les Mis with you too! That was back when I was first diagnosied and sick as hell with damn Crohn’s. But, I am happy to report, Its’ been almost 8 weeks and I haven’t been sick once! (woot)

    OMG…. I am sending you an email in the morning



  27. HollyGL says:

    Mereb, Though I could never understand fully your experiences there, I can relate to feeling ill prepared for “life” after certain long standing experiences. You have such a bright and courageous spirit. …and what a precious little girl you were! 🙂

  28. kellypea says:

    Meleah, I may have to break my promise and get another book. I understand the effort it took to read it, to have to think about it, and to write this. Each time you do, I hope it gets easier, and builds your strength to think about it all.

    One of my favorite students, a brilliant girl, was shipped off to a place in her sophomore year. She wrote to me a few times and asked me to respond letting me know I’d have to send my responses to her parents, first, so they could screen her mail. She came back to visit me before she graduated looking gorgeous and, well, different. I think of her often, and wonder how she is.

  29. Meleah says:

    Thank you for the support KellyPea, I clearly need it right now.

  30. JENNIFER says:

    i love your imagine picture and i love baby meleah

  31. thessaly says:

    reading the book dredged up a whole lotta stuff for me too. Stuff I guess I wish could have stayed buried. I just happened to chance upon it at Barns and Nobel…… I hadnt thought much about my time at Cascade since I left ( I turned 18 after one year and got the Hell out as fast as I could) back in 1988. It had clearly changed alot between my time there and Alisons…… there were no meds there when I was there. Suddenly though I find myself wondering about all those in my peer group ( thats what we called “families” early on) I left behind. I went absolutely batshit insane also in the years following my leaving. I was what Michael Algood refferred to as “a very tough nut to crack”

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