Lauren M: A Journey to Healing

“Skyland Trail has not only changed the trajectory of my life but has given me the tools to build a life worth living.”

Lauren M.

Starting My Journey

Starting my journey toward better mental health was like trying to unravel a complex web of experiences and emotions. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment that triggered everything, but I knew that my traumatic childhood had cast a long shadow over my life. From a young age, I grappled with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which left me paralyzed with fear at times.

My home life was far from stable. The chaos and constant turmoil became a breeding ground for negative core beliefs, leaving me with the profound sense that the world wasn’t a safe place.

My high school years were marked by self-harm, hospitalizations, and lost friendships. When I entered college, things took a more serious turn. My obsessive-compulsive tendencies mixed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits led to an unhealthy attachment with a peer, resulting in a no-contact order and mounting stress. Hospitalizations became a recurring theme in my life, and I struggled with disordered eating and purging tendencies.

The Turning Point: Finding Hope at Skyland Trail

Fast-forward to my sophomore year in college, I was spiraling into a mental health crisis. I dropped out of college impulsively, shortly after a hospitalization. My therapist at the time couldn’t continue seeing me until I sought out a higher level of care. I found myself unhoused and unemployed, grappling with self-harm, financial stress, and suicidal thoughts.

In the midst of this chaos, a shooting at my home church further shook my world. After returning to my mother’s house, impulsive behaviors and suicidal thoughts continued to haunt me.

At Skyland Trail, I embarked on a journey of healing that focused on several key areas:

Healthy Challenge Curriculum: The program’s wellness and exercise classes, along with weekly sessions with a dietitian, helped me confront the shame surrounding food and address my disordered eating habits.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Skills: Through DBT, I acquired effective tools to manage my emotions and maladaptive behaviors. While I still have difficult days, these skills have made a significant difference in my life.

Comprehensive Psychiatric Testing: Skyland Trail provided comprehensive psychiatric testing, leading to a clearer diagnosis and a more effective psychotherapy plan and medication regimen.

Medication Management: My psychiatrist at Skyland Trail worked tirelessly to stabilize my medication, ensuring it met my specific needs. This process, though challenging, was crucial for my recovery.

A Bright Future Ahead

I have plans for a brighter future after my graduation from Skyland Trail. I intend to work full-time to pay off debts and student loans. With improved coping skills, I am confident in my ability to succeed in the workplace.

Skyland Trail adult residential treatment program graduate Lauren stands in garden smiling

Returning home no longer fills me with dread. Family therapy at Skyland has equipped me with the skills to navigate this environment more effectively. I’m actively applying to colleges for the spring semester, with dreams of majoring in child and family studies and becoming a child-life specialist.

After receiving feedback on my psychiatric testing results, which diagnosed me with an unspecified post-traumatic disorder, OCD, BPD, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and Bipolar I, my mother raised her hand and asked, with all of these diagnoses, if I could still be able to live a fully independent, successful, happy life. I will never forget the response from Carlyle Bruce, PhD, the adult family therapist at Skyland Trail He enthusiastically responded by saying, “Not only yes. But yes!”

Change is undoubtedly scary, but through my journey at Skyland Trail, I’ve learned that it’s possible to embrace change, let go of unhealthy attachments, and become a more complete, happier, and healthier version of myself. Skyland Trail has not only changed the trajectory of my life but has given me the tools to build a life worth living.

I owe my gratitude to the program and the financial aid that made it possible for me to find hope, healing, and a path toward a brighter future.

Lauren originally spoke to the Skyland Trail Financial Aid Committee about the impact of receiving financial aid while in treatment. Through the generosity of Skyland Trail donors and friends, the Mark C. West Financial Aid program helps clients and families who meet need-based financial criteria complete treatment.