Life before Fulshear was agonizing. My family was a war zone during that time. Each of my relationships was broken. I despised my mom. I couldn’t hear her voice or read her texts without anger spiking. With my dad, I was anxious and nervous and scared to talk to him. I feared him and his responses. I couldn’t be fully open with my sister because I didn’t want to burden her, and I thought my brother didn’t want to hear it.
Nothing was going right and I felt stuck in a pit. I was failing college and withdrew because I had no motivation. I did want to graduate and I wanted to learn, but at the end of the day, something trapped me. It was the most infuriating internal war that I’ve ever gone through.
I reached my breaking point on July 5th, 2016. All I really remember was being in my room thinking, “I’m done. I can’t do this.” And it wasn’t even that I couldn’t, but I didn’t want to do it anymore. I thought that other people could do it, but I wasn’t strong enough to, like I was the exception and life just wasn’t going to work out for me.
After I hit my breaking point I went to the psych unit voluntarily. While I was there, I had a flash of hope. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, I didn’t even know what was going to happen. But I knew I needed and wanted change. I knew I could do it, but I needed help.
"Nothing was going right and I felt stuck in a pit... It was the most infuriating internal war that I’ve ever gone through."
My parents got an educational consultant and we started looking at places that would be best for me. I experienced a traumatic event earlier that spring, and I had been diagnosed with PTSD. The event involved a man, and I wanted to go to a co-ed place to learn how to resocialize with both sexes. Everyone else told me they thought I’d benefit from an all women’s treatment center, but I thought it would be too much drama. But deep down I knew that would be best for me.
I had a short list of all women’s treatment programs that I was looking at, and I had phone interviews with two of them. There was one in Chicago, and Fulshear. I had the interview with Chicago first. It felt really rigid; I felt like a patient. It seemed like they would help me, but in a very professional, impersonal way and I didn’t really like that. Right before I got on my interview with Fulshear, I was worried that if this didn’t work out either, I would feel stuck again and be back at square one.
But when Helaine picked up the phone to start our interview, she answered with “Hello, love!” I instantly felt like I was at home. I felt relaxed and unjudged. I would say something negative about myself, but Helaine would still treat me as if I was this amazing human being. I got off that phone call smiling ear to ear—my cheeks hurt!
"I instantly felt like I was at home. I felt relaxed and unjudged."
I chose Fulshear and was frustrated to find out they had a two week wait. Helaine explained that clients were finishing up their program and Fulshear didn’t want to rush them. Hearing that became really meaningful to me. It showed that they weren’t just trying to solve case files. They were helping clients and not rushing them or doing it for the profit. It was heartwarming.
By choosing an all women program, I felt safe and comfortable in my own skin. It took off a lot of pressure for me. First off, with PTSD, it eliminated a lot of my triggers. Second, I’ve always been very self-conscious and had low self-esteem. I would beat myself up about my appearance, especially in front of males. Being with women eliminated a portion of that, but still allowed me to work on it.
At the end of the day, I would say that Fulshear’s all women program was the best environment I could have been in. It was dramatic. But there would have been drama if there were boys there, too. Drama was used as lessons or experiences to aid my treatment. I thought that was peculiar. I never thought that a friendship or a feud with another client could help me learn and grow therapeutically. I had always separated or compartmentalized relationships and therapy, and at Fulshear they were integrated together; everything was a learning experience. I don’t think I would have had the same result at a co-ed program that I had at a women’s program.
"At the end of the day, I would say that Fulshear’s all women program was the best environment I could have been in."
The beginning of Fulshear was hard. It was one of the weirdest transitions of my life, also the most honest one. No one really tells you what it’s going to be like. And I soon learned, going through it, that no one can. It’s different for every single person. I feel like not knowing was an advantage. It set me up to have no expectations; I was able to go through the program raw. It was definitely a stumble, and I was afraid, of course. My parents and siblings were also really scared. They wanted me to get better, which I think was one of the last commonalities we had holding us together—we all wanted me to get better, whatever that meant.
When I first got to Fulshear I had a male therapist. I didn’t feel comfortable with that and I was immediately able to switch. Fulshear was understanding and accommodating. I switched to Michelle, and she is awesome. My journey with Michelle by my side is a highlight from my time at Fulshear. She challenged me, supported me, laughed at me, laughed with me, cried with me, let me cry. It just felt like a genuine bond and you don’t get that with every therapist. Sometimes it really is just, “How are you feeling?” and “How does that make you feel?” But it was way beyond that with Michelle.
My journey through Fulshear had several peaks and plummets. During my first session of equine therapy I got so upset out of nowhere. Our group was talking and I ran out to the grass, and then realized I had nowhere to go. So I plopped down and cried right there on the grass, and soon after I saw feet coming toward me. A staff asked if I was okay, but I wasn’t present; I was completely out of my mind. She taught me my first coping skill then, and it was using my senses. She asked me some basic questions like, “What are five things you see? What are five things you hear?” and it worked! I still use that skill when I’m nervous or upset. It was really cool that it happened so early on.
"I still use that skill when I’m nervous or upset."
I had never felt close to horses before, but when I went back to equine therapy the next time, I immediately fell in love with one of the horses. I had a complete friend crush on “Doc” who’s this tall, dark, and handsome horse there. He was my main squeeze, my best friend, and he became a huge part of my time at the ranch. We watched a sunset together one time and he leaned on me and I fell over. He looked at me, and I was just like, “Well, thank you.” But I loved that he was so comfortable around me that he could fall asleep while we were watching the sunset. He was one of my favorite parts of Fulshear.
Toward the middle of my journey at Fulshear I learned that I’m not trying to stop what I have, what I struggle with, and who I am. As we learn in the attachment model (which I love), the goal is not trying to get rid of it, but learning to deal with it and function in life. That made me feel really accepted and comfortable, like I could fit into this world. I wasn’t extremely unique, I just didn’t have the tools to function like the next person.
I hit a huge low when I got to the apartments. My first two weeks there I was either crying, on the verge of crying, or thinking about crying. It was miserable. I was just so uncomfortable. I was scared; it felt so real. I wanted to do well so badly, but I was in this new place and I didn’t know if I would. Plus, all my friends were back at the ranch.
"Toward the middle of my journey at Fulshear I learned that I’m not trying to stop what I have, what I struggle with, and who I am."
But after those two weeks I stopped crying all the time. I made friends. I got a job and I loved it. I had a child care position, and I love kids. I want to teach, so it felt relevant to me. Unfortunately one of my coworkers was a disaster, but Fulshear helped me to navigate conflicts, set healthy boundaries, and stand up for myself in an appropriate way.
I always thought my family was a side factor and I was the thing that needed to be worked on. But Fulshear focuses on families, and I realized a lot of my individual behaviors were based on my family system. Through family sessions—grueling ones, embarrassing ones, happy ones—I feel like I’ve regained my family. I have never been closer to my dad than I am now. I don’t fear him anymore, I can talk to him about almost anything.
"Fulshear helped me to navigate conflicts, set healthy boundaries, and stand up for myself in an appropriate way."
With my sister, I don’t feel like I’m the mentally ill patient and she’s the person that I’m trying not to burden. We can tell each other the hard stuff without feeling like we’re harming each other. It’s healthy. My brother cares. He’ll call me once in a while, which just means the world to me because my brother’s not very good at communication. My mom and I have worked hard. We’ve set boundaries and we can talk calmly. Her voice doesn’t make me want to scream anymore, which I think is really cool. Of course, I can’t leave out my two dogs. We’ve always had a healthy relationship.
Fulshear will always be a part of the journey for me and my family. My journey hasn’t concluded, I’m still on it. My family still says it’s incredible to watch me and they’re so grateful for Fulshear.
Fulshear let me change myself. There’s not a day that I want to quit anymore. It gets hard, believe me, but it’s not impossible. I know that life is messy and bad things will happen, but I’m not over here on Victim Island. I’m capable and I can do it. I feel like a healthier, stronger, more influential version of myself. I’m still myself, but a better version of myself.
Committing to every single part of the program is what allowed me to succeed. I’m forever thankful for Fulshear. I never knew it would pop into my life, but now I could never imagine life without it.
"I’m capable and I can do it. I feel like a healthier, stronger, more influential version of myself. I’m still myself, but a better version of myself. Committing to every single part of the program is what allowed me to succeed. "