TRAILS Carolina Thanksgiving
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TRAILS Carolina Thanksgiving

These 87 days of treatment were my some of my darkest, but also my brightest.

TRAILS Carolina Thanksgiving

Eighty-seven days in Bravo, eighty-seven days with brothers I never knew I had, eighty-seven days with some of the worst and best people I have ever met. These days were my some of my darkest, but also my brightest. I spent these eighty-seven days at Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program in the woods of North Carolina. Wilderness Therapy is somewhat of a new idea, but proven to be effective in treating a wide variety of things from classic mental illnesses to behavioral issues and everything in between. The idea is through deprivation of basic needs, mixed with isolation and physical suffering we learn new coping methods and discover what we're truly capable of. I had been “away” for roughly a month and a half before being sent to TRAILS, and wasn't getting better. Most of my thoughts revolved around suicide, I had already attempted multiple times in the past few years, and I think in hindsight I scarred my treatment team with my self destructiveness and suicidally.

The solution? Wilderness therapy. I was sent for my treatment early in the morning with my dad. After a short flight my dad checked me in me at Trails. It felt like a blur; one moment I was in a hospital in Massachusetts, the next moment I was in North Carolina and my dad was gone. I was being told the regulations of what would be my new home for approximately the next 3 months. The first thing I learned was we had to talk to someone while using the bathroom, I later learned that this was to keep us from running away. A boy had managed to escape into the National Forest the previous year and died of hypothermia after breaking his hip. I was given a backpack filled with gear and we hiked out to my group. When I arrived I met my new family for the next eighty-seven days. We made a circle, and gave our name and why we were there in our makeshift camp. Everybody looked dirty and beaten down, even the instructors to some degree seemed rough and tumble.

I feel like this description sums up my first few weeks: confusion, intimidation, and fear. I met my therapist and we made a deal: if I worked hard I could leave by Thanksgiving and be with my family. This was the start of (to put in diplomatically) an interesting relationship between me and my therapist. Although the first few weeks passed by fast, roughly a week in it hit me where I was, what it meant, and how how far I had come to end up in a place like this with kids like that. My self destructiveness hit, and I began to do everything I could to escape my reality, crying hysterically, cutting myself with rocks and restricting. After begging my therapist to talk to my parents, or at the very least send me back to my old treatment program, she calmly told me that I had “fallen off my horse” and this was the place to tame it and then ride it out.

In response I decided I was going to hang myself in my sleep, but security was tight and she put me on “safety” which meant that I had to be within arms reach of staff at all times, patted down every time I wanted to use the bathroom, and sleep in-between staff members. But as all this was happening I was growing, and without my usual coping methods I had to deal in other ways. I felt in some ways my suffering was sacred, transforming me into the kind of person I wanted to be. I picked myself up, brushed myself off and at that single moment I decided I was going to use all my strength to become the person I wanted to be. I started to bond with the other boys in the group, and they were the closest thing I had to family at the time. We fought, and even at times we hated each other, but when things got cold we all huddled around the fire . In those moments of commonality we respected each other.

So I see at this point of deciding to do the work, my time really began there. Although it didn’t get easier, I decided I was gonna get through it. I guess you could say I found hope. Thanksgiving seemed to creep closer and closer, group dynamics seemed to come like a wave, everybody would be super vocal about their love for their fellow brothers and then almost overnight they would change and vocalize their hate for one another. I decided to stay out of group dynamics as much as I could, not in an isolating way, but more of a way that allowed me connect with everyone without taking sides. As Thanksgiving approached, the more it seemed that I would not be home for it; which slashed my hope in half. I was putting up with everything because I believed I would be gone soon, all the rules, the constant surveillance, fights with each other and staff and the physical discomfort that came with living in the woods for three months.

My graduation was coming soon, but it didn’t seem soon enough. Rumors spread through the group that we were gonna eat a real Thanksgiving meal! We had been eating dehydrated food for roughly two and a half months before this meal. The day came and we were at base camp, they let us into the graduation building (which they rarely did) and we saw a real Thanksgiving meal. I remember at the time I felt this overwhelming feeling of love for my brothers in Bravo, knowing that they were the closest thing I had to family at the moment. We went around before we ate, to say what were we're thankful for and when it finally came to me I said I was thankful for this program and the people in it.

It wasn't that my hate for the place stopped; it was that I was able to hate it and also be grateful for it at the same time. A lot of things in my life are like this: receiving treatment was one of the greatest things to happen in my life and while I am tremendously grateful for it, doesn't mean I have to like it. Dichotomies exist in most aspects of our life, and when we develop physiological flexibility we can start to see these dichotomies in our own lives. When one begins to see two things that conflict each other and then at the same time accept the conflict, we can begin to see different perspectives and understandings of the world around us. This year I'm just happy to be celebrating Thanksgiving with my real family, away from treatment. Even if it's away from me physically, those years of my life will always be part of me mentally. I'm OK with this, I've accepted this, and with that comes an understanding that the future is tied with the past. Neither of those things will ever define me.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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