I’ve been in treatment for a total of two, long, excruciating years. Well, almost, despite a brief stint of running away and being homeless, but that will come later. I was sixteen when I set off for treatment. I was unstable, suicidal and a danger to myself and those around me. My entire life had been building up to that point. My adoption, abandonments, and trauma all aligned to create the perfect storm. My erratic emotions, personality disorder, and self harm tendencies left my life in a constant state of inconsistency. I needed a change.
“My erratic emotions, personality disorder, and self harm tendencies left my life in a constant state of inconsistency. I needed a change.”
I left for adolescent treatment in October, 2015. I flew from New York to Oregon to attend a wilderness program. Wilderness is an intervention and is not sufficient as treatment on its own. I went more or less willingly, under the concord that I needed help. Wilderness helped me to believe that I could take control of my life. It was something I hadn't believed since I was elementary age. I was there for a week short of four months. I was then directly transferred to an adolescent residential treatment center in Salt Lake City, UT.
Adolescent treatment tends to be more behavioral based, and focuses on reforming the existing mal adaptive coping strategies and replacing them with healthier ones. While emotional therapy is a piece of it, conditioning acceptable behavior is the focal point. I had a hard time adjusting to the social norms of the new state I was in, and of the beliefs that my treatment team held. I spent the first seven months rebelling, and outwardly defying the staff, girls and program. Eventually after lots of reflecting I was able to open up and begin my recovery. My time in adolescent treatment can be summed up as difficult yet eye opening. I was able to cut most of my physical negative coping skills and adopt new, healthier, ones. I examined what led me into treatment, and touched on what fueled those negative behaviors and beliefs.
Fourteen months later, I was looking at graduation and what my transition plans would entail. I assumed I was healthy enough to go back to New York and apply to college. My therapist, educational consultant, and parents did not. They all agreed that I needed to continue my work at an adult treatment center. After lots of disagreeing, I realized that they weren't going to budge. I was planned for a home visit soon, and made up my mind that I was going to walk, or as they’d come to put it, run away. I was eighteen. No one could stop me.
“I spent two months on the streets of NY. I lived in two different homeless shelters throughout that time. I spent most of my days planning around how I would get food.”
I spent two months on the streets of NY. I lived in two different homeless shelters throughout that time. I spent most of my days planning around how I would get food. I tried to make money, but with no work experience or cell phone, I wasn't a highly desired candidate. I used drugs and made poor decisions on them. I watched my life quickly turn back into the degrading mess that it used to be. I made friends who also lived on the streets, most of them not very conducive to my emotional health and sobriety. I let my life fall back into old bad patterns and spent time with people who treated me like nothing, something I had come to believe about myself.
Throughout this time, I had minimal contact with my parents. They were worried about me, but were letting me make this choice, hoping I would come around. After a few months, they asked me if I would be willing to meet with my educational consultant, and eventually if I would be willing to reconsider adult treatment. I eventually agreed to both. I realized that while I wasn't sinking, I wasn’t exactly swimming. I admitted that I needed more help and support, and a plan of how I was going to live in New York. I had to let go of my ego. I felt stupid for “caving in,” and at first I viewed it as a weakness or a loss. I had run away to escape adult treatment, and now three months later I was about to find myself exactly where I hadn't wanted to be in the first place. While this was true, I was able to dialectically acknowledge that I wanted to be here to get more help.
Arriving at Fulshear was a very pleasant surprise. I spent the first week wondering if I had come to the right place, or accidentally been dropped off at summer camp. The freedom and the automatic trust from the program surprised me, as I had come to demonize all treatment programs as repressive and constraining. My time living on the streets had inadvertently helped me prepare to come back into treatment. I saw first handedly that I needed more support, and then was given the opportunity to get some. If I would have come straight from adolescent treatment, I wouldn’t have been ready to work. I would have been resentful with my parents, educational consultant and therapists, and slowed my process here. I would have signed myself out.
“I strongly believe that everyone goes through their own process in accepting or rejecting treatment.”
“Fulshear wants to meet you exactly where you are. ”
I strongly believe that everyone goes through their own process in accepting or rejecting treatment. I know that my journey would have been completely different if I decided to stay in adolescent treatment and come straight to Fulshear. I needed to have my detour. There is not one straight cut path to success and success looks different for everyone. The good thing? Fulshear wants to meet you exactly where you are.