Alaina D.

Alaina D., a graduate of the Skyland Trail adult residential psychiatric treatment program.

I got (to Skyland Trail) after a pretty extensive hospital stay. I was not looking forward to doing anything or being here at all. And that actually changed quite quickly because of the people that I met here, the staff that’s here, and also the groups.

Before I didn’t have any sort of goals or life-worth-living plans or anything. I had let a lot of people decide my path and let a lot of people decide what I should do day to day, and I didn’t really know who I was as a person. Coming here I went to different classes and figured out what my values and my morals are and how to stand up for myself and figure out things that are important to me as a person and something that kind of feeds my soul. And it was a life-changing experience to be here.

I think the most important thing about being here was the fact that every person I had met here has been so validating and so supportive. They take time out of their day to talk to you. They take time out of their day to figure out ways to help you and to figure out how they can best lead you in this treatment.

My therapist and I did not start off on the best foot. I was, like I said, not really excited to be here, but she also leads the radical openness group, and I am someone who definitely needed that. Because I didn’t control my life before, I started grasping at everything I could control. And it became where I was masking my emotions and not showing anybody who I really was. And she would not let me do that.

Having someone sit you down and be like, “Okay well this is what you have to do. You have to actually be honest with yourself.” It was definitely hard. I’m going to be doing a workshop outside of Skyland Trail after to continue my work in radical openness because it has been so helpful for me.

What we do day to day is teach ourselves how to interact with other people without being so strict with ourselves. Having friendships where the balance is even, where you’re not taking on too much or not expecting too much out of somebody. Giving yourself that grace where you can be open and honest with yourself and recognize faults but also recognize when you are trying your best and giving yourself that kind of leeway to learn from people and your own experiences.

I never used to give myself grace about anything, so this class really was one of my favorites. And I hated it when I started. I really really love it now. It has been transformative. Not only has my primary counselor been so helpful, but I have so much to thank for the certified peer specialists at Skyland Trail as well.

When they’ve had their own experiences that they can relate to you, it makes you feel so much less alone. Depression is so isolating that when you talk to somebody who has a similar experience to you, or even someone who’s just gone through something, you feel like, ‘Okay well they got through this, so can I.’ That is so important to someone who has been so isolated.

And one of them, Tera Carter, the Skyland Trail adult alumni program coordinator, told me this saying: protect yourself like a pit bull. I was putting everyone else first and that’s not what I needed to do. I needed to put myself first in these situations. I’ve thought about that almost every single day when I’m making decisions. ‘What would my pit bull do?’

There’s also peer specialist Robb Andersen. He circles the campus looking for people to help, and the first week I was here I kind of avoided him. I didn’t want him to stop me and ask me how I’m feeling and now I’m like, “Robb!!!” He is one of those people who changes your mood when he talks to you because he’s just so open and accepting, but I also feel like that with every person who leads these groups and all these people who work here. Even the staff that works in the cafeteria, everyone is so kind. They take time out of their days to ask you about things.

At transitional housing, I was really worried about going there because I was in this little bubble at the South campus where I had a woman who worked there named Danielle that I saw as a mother, and I didn’t want to leave there and her. I went to Transitional where it’s more flexible and you have to take care of yourself, and I went there and I realized, “Well, it’s not that hard. I’ve learned these skills here now, I know how to take care of myself, and I know how to prioritize what I need to get done.” I was so scared for about a day, then once I was there, I felt confident in myself for the first time in a very long time.

This program is something that I’m going to recommend to anyone who ever wants to ask me about it. Because genuinely, I have been depressed my entire life, and it’s been untreated.

I know that if I ever feel the way I did when I was at my lowest again, I have these skills that I can use and a support system that I can fall back on. I know how to ask for what I need now. I can’t really talk enough about how important Skyland Trail is to me, and how thankful I am.

When I first got here, I was really worried because I had spent around 30 days in a hospital, and I was unsure of how I was going to pay for Skyland Trail. I remember crying to a staff member about it. And they said, “We’re going to talk to financial aid, and we’re going to figure something out.”

If financial aid wasn’t an option, I don’t know what I would have done. When I left the hospital, I was still feeling miserable. I wasn’t anywhere close to being where I am now. Thanks to the generosity of the financial aid committee. I really can’t express my gratitude enough.

This program is something that I can say is life-changing and life-motivating. And if I wasn’t granted the ability to live at transitional and be here and go to all these classes, I don’t know where I would be today, honestly.