Helaine and Tanya asked me to just talk with you about my experience at Fulshear and how much it has helped me and benefited me. I'm extremely grateful for it even though I kind of came in here kicking and screaming at first. I really don't know where I would be without Fulshear in all honesty.
Life Before Fulshear
So my parents and I were not getting along. In the six months prior to Fulshear, I was really angry. I have intermittent rage syndrome, so I would get really angry and have a lot of blackout rage episodes. I was a very bitter and angry person and wasn't taking my medication regularly. I wasn't really engaged in therapy; if anything I was refusing help. My parents couldn't reach me and there was a lot of family conflict. I felt really alone. I'm in the chemical dependency program here [at Fulshear] and I was smoking a lot of pot, mostly for self medicating. I think I was just so far gone that I couldn't even help myself. My view of reality was so distorted that I didn't even know that I needed help.
I graduated high school in May of 2016, and shortly after my parents had kind of had enough of me. We weren't really speaking, it was really rough. Just my terms with my family were not good. My parents kind of pretended that everything was okay, but in reality, it wasn't. So in late June my parents told me I was going to a wilderness therapy program. I went to Evoke Therapy Program (a branch of Second Nature) and oh, wow, did I go in kicking and screaming. Wilderness was a wake-up call. It did help and it saved my life. I spent three months there and then my parents told me that I was going to an aftercare program. I was really disappointed because I was under the impression that I would be starting my freshman year in January of 2017 at a university I was going to. I was very upset.
“I was really angry. I have intermittent rage syndrome, so I would get really angry and have a lot of blackout rage episodes.”
Why Did You Choose to Come to Fulshear?
It was pretty much [an ultimatum]. It was like, "You can either go to Fulshear and we're going to financially support you, or if you decide not to go to Fulshear, we're not going to financially support you." It was pretty simple. I know that a lot of girls have the same situation as me here, but that was really hard to hear because I was really angry. That was pretty much why I chose to come. I kind of knew going into that first call with Helaine that I'm going to have to go here. I kind of have no choice in it. I don't really blame my parents for holding that boundary, because they wanted to push me in the right direction and they did an awesome job with it. But I was extremely angry, which definitely held me back for my first month there at the ranch. I think that having only one option was helpful. My parents said, "This is what is happening, you're going to go here." I'm really glad that Fulshear was the only option.
Learning More About Fulshear
When I was at wilderness I was frightened and I felt really powerless over my life. I got on the phone with Helaine and I had a ton of questions--I was ready to roast her. I got on the phone with Helaine and I was not in a good mood. I was very cold towards her and she was nothing but understanding. I asked her all these questions like, "Do I have to wear a uniform? What are my freedoms there? What is everyone like at Fulshear?" And Helaine gave me really, really good answers and I was so surprised. By the end of the call I told Helaine, "You know, I really can't help but like you!"
Coming to Fulshear
I left wilderness and came to Fulshear a few days later, and it was really hard. I was placed in an environment that is obviously disorienting when you're coming out of a wilderness therapy program. I struggled my first few weeks because I was just in denial. I said, "Wilderness fixed me; I don't need any help and I don't need to be here." And this went on for a good month. This was hard because I wasn't building connections on the ranch and that was my own fault. I was like, "Everybody's crazy here and I'm fine." I was very wrong. It wasn't until my second treatment team where treatment team got really real with me and said, "Listen, like this is it." I had a good process group about how I was feeling and how powerless I felt and my insecurities about myself. Ever since then, I never looked back and I have made some amazing friends here. But the beginning was really hard.
“I really have been able to recognize my worth.”
You're the only one who can progress in your treatment. People can help you, but it's really up to you and that's something I've really learned throughout my treatment journey--it's all on you. You can choose if you want to sit there and do nothing or if you actually want to get better. My parents always say to me, "We sent you to treatment because we want you to be the best version of yourself." Fulshear has really helped me with that. I really have been able to recognize my worth. The whole core meaning and core issue concept was very, very helpful.
What Have Been Your Favorite Aspects of Fulshear?
I love the staff, they're so personable. I consider the staff somewhat friends of mine. They do relate to you. I've learned a lot about people and different types of people. I've felt like I've become a more accepting and empathetic person toward people that are different than me. I love talking with the staff even though they might be a few years older than me. I've learned a lot from the staff because they do give you hard feedback and they do give you advice. I think that some staff here have given me the best advice ever and I've carried that throughout my treatment.
“I think that some staff here have given me the best advice ever and I’ve carried that throughout my treatment.”
The therapists are just amazing. My therapist, Michelle Mitchell is...I don't know where I would be without her. The relationship that Michelle has built with me, I know is very important to her. And I really value having a relationship with my therapist because I haven't had that before. She asks me about my life, how I'm doing, and I've gotten to know her. That makes it easier because there is a lot of trust that goes into that. And I know a lot of the girls here feel the same way about their therapists.
Something that I loved about the ranch, even though a lot of people don't like it, is that they do limit your phone and email time. I know that if I had an excessive amount of phone and email time it would probably have slowed my treatment. Isolating yourself [from electronics] while you're at the ranch is very important. You literally have to focus on yourself and that was very beneficial to me. Even though it was frustrating at times, I really did like limited phone and email time, because I could connect with the girls who I was with at the ranch who happened to be some of my best friends. At the end of my stay, I would deny phone and email time just so I could hang out with my friends.
“It's made me realize that this is like real life, and I want my life to be healthy.”
I really do like the way the apartments are. I think the groups are more laid back, but they're also very helpful. Everybody has their stuff together and people are more high-functioning. It's made me realize that this is like real life, and I want my life to be healthy. The Ranch isn't like real life. You're there and want your life to be healthy, but when you get to the apartments it's hard to apply all the skills you've learned at the ranch. I think that really motivated me because I just want my life to be better. I don't want to go back to my old ways because I know I wasn't happy. I do like how the apartments are run. The freedom was a little overwhelming at first, but it's been really great. I'm fully integrated into the community, I feel much more comfortable in my apartment, and around staff too.
And of course, being with my friends I've made at Fulshear is one of my favorite things.
What Have Been the Greatest Lessons You've Learned at Fulshear?
One of my treatment goals is locus of control. I had an outward locus of control which means I always thought, “Why is everything happening to me?” So, zero accountability and I have gotten so much better at that.
I guess that my core issue is that I’m powerless and my core meaning is that I’m powerful. I think that not having those feelings of powerlessness—they are very limited, they [still] come up a little bit—but I feel like I have more of a clear head. And I can take accountability for my actions. I can have a conversation with my parents now without it breaking out into a huge fight. That’s really powerful for me because I know I’ve worked really hard to improve my relationship with my parents.
Emotionally regulating has been super liberating for me. That’s been a big part of my treatment. And it’s nice to know that I have the ability to control myself and know that I can take accountability for my behaviors. Being able to tell myself, “You need to emotionally regulate and you can do this” is really helpful and powerful.
“It’s nice to know that I have the ability to control myself and knowing that I can take accountability for my behaviors.”
And knowing that I am capable, because I treated myself like I was incapable for a very long time. I have more self-confidence about it. I really do care and love myself and did not have that before Fulshear. I considered myself a total failure. I would think, “Well, I didn’t go to college this year and this totally sucks.” And knowing that I have more self-confidence and [realizing] that I am important and that life is worth living has made life so much better. It’s really powerful.
Someone told me to use my powers for good like a Jedi Knight. Dr. Clarke, the psychiatrist here told me, “Your powerful feelings, you don’t really know how to harness it.” Learning how to harness my powerful feelings in appropriate ways has been very helpful.
I guess it’s been mostly through my individual therapy that I’ve gained the feelings of being powerful. I’ve accepted that I do have control over my emotions. Having control over most things in my life and realizing I can make decisions for myself has been awesome.
Another thing I’ve been working on is letting go of things. That’s powerful in and of itself. You have the ability to let things go that are out of your control. “To accept the things you cannot change” has been really big to me.
What Would You Tell Yourself Before Coming to Fulshear?
“[I would tell myself] a lot of this has been scary and you feel like your parents are backing you into a corner. It’s not fair. I’m not going to lie to you; it’s going to be very hard. If you decide to go through with Fulshear, it’s probably going to be the best option for you. It’s going to be hard, but you’re not alone in this. Your parents want the best for you. This is going to be beneficial for you in the long run. After your call with Helaine, I’m sure you’re going to feel a lot better about this. I would also probably say to myself that this is only one year of your life and this one year is going to be extremely beneficial. Once again, I really understand how hard this is and that you’re struggling and that you’re very angry. But your anger is just going to hold you back. I can promise that Fulshear will do wonders for you, mom, and dad. They will really show you that you are not the identified patient in your family. There is stuff that mom and dad have done to play into this. And Fulshear does an amazing job with that. I can guarantee you that not everybody is crazy over there. You will make some of the best friends that you have ever made in your entire life. You’re going to be happier.” I would conclude the letter with, “I can guarantee that you’re going to be happier.”
“I would probably also tell myself that this is only one year of your life and this one year is going to be extremely beneficial to the outcome of your life. ”
What Do You Wish Your Parents Had Known Prior to Coming to Fulshear?
I wish they had known that treatment does take time. My parents were under the impression that I would be at Fulshear for three or four months. These things take time and you can’t rush it. That is something I really wish they had known.
Something that I also wish they had known was the amount of family therapy. I wish they had known that the family therapy makes a huge difference in the treatment. My parents were a little bit wary of family therapy at first. My dad is very stubborn and I wish they had been a little bit more open minded to that. If I could tell them that back in the past, I think it would have benefited them a lot regarding our progress and my progress as well. Especially that these things take time, cause my parents were like, one and done and off to the next thing. That is a pattern that I’ve also had to break which contributes to my bad future tripping, which is something I’m working on. But those are the two main things I would tell my parents.
What Does the Future Look Like for You?
After I graduate from Fulshear I plan to go to either Miami University in Ohio (I’m from Cleveland), or I would love to go to University of Cincinnati or University of Dayton. I really want to go to school, that’s been extremely important to me. It’s something I don’t want to miss out on.
“I want to be a lawyer.”
I think that [I’ll spend] the next few years of my life being sober and being happy. Being really committed to my education and knowing what I want in life is my ideal vision for the next few years. And keeping healthy friends is a big thing for me. Making sure that I have healthy relationships with people is huge. I think consistently taking care of myself and giving myself a break and not being so hard on myself is something I really hope to maintain. I really want to go to law school as well. I really want to be a lawyer.
Those are my ideal plans for the next few years. I do think I need to continue going to therapy until I find [it unnecessary]. Treatment doesn’t really have an ending in my opinion. You can always improve on yourself. I really do want to live my life knowing that I am the best version of myself. You will always have rough days, but I want the majority of my days to be good days. I’m really looking forward to better days. I just want that more than anything and I know that my parents want the same thing for me, which is really really comforting. They’ve been really supportive.
What Questions Do You Recommend People Ask When Considering Fulshear?
- I think it's really important to know that the treatment is very individualized. You should ask about who is on your treatment team and how it works. I would have asked Helaine to go more in depth about the treatment team process.
- Ask about the everyday schedule of the ranch.
- I would have asked what types of groups there are.
- Ask what we do for fun on the ranch. The activities were really helpful for me to build connections
- Ask how long the stay was at the ranch. I heard three months and I kind of freaked out. It's important to know how long the average stay is so you can get a clear head about what you're going into.
- Ask about the apartments, where they are, how close they are to Houston, what's it like over there. Review that it's a lot less supervised over there, but the staff are ready to support you. By the time you're at the apartments, you're really healthy, fully functioning and ready to integrate back into real life. It's something I would have asked Helaine to go more in depth into, because I've had a more difficult time with the transition [to the apartments] because I underestimated the amount of freedom we have here.
- I would have asked how the family therapy works. I know that the family therapy has been a huge piece for my treatment. It has just benefited me. [Ask] how often you have family sessions. How it works.
- I would ask more logistics about what the treatment process at Fulshear is like. It was a relief to know how individualized it is, but it is also good to know the restriction that you do have at the ranch. I was a little surprised at the amount of restrictions we had there.
“I think it's really important to know that the treatment is very individualized. You should ask about who is on your treatment team and how it works.”
“Ask what we do for fun on the ranch. The activities were really helpful for me to build connections.”