Four years after graduating from Skyland Trail, Tara shares how the skills she learned helped her establish independence and thrive.
This spring of 2018, Arts in the Garden gave me the perfect excuse to drive to Atlanta for the weekend. It was wonderful to see my amazing staff again, as well as several fellow clients with whom I shared my journey of two months at Skyland Trail. That is when my recovery from depression began.
Recovery is frightening.
I had been so desperate. A perfect storm of menopause, job loss and a toxic relationship caused a major depressive episode with extraordinary anxiety, and I went spiraling down until I hit bottom in January 2014. Something had to change, and Skyland changed it. I arrived in Atlanta in the midst of its worst ice storm in history, with my cold hands shoved in my pockets and my head hanging. I had no idea what I was doing there. I was terrified.
Recovery is confounding.
Within the first two days, clients and staff had me standing up straight and interacting, even smiling, talking, and eating again. How could I have missed this kind of miracle in my life? Why didn’t I find it sooner? What would it take to make it work, to make it last?
Recovery can be so rewarding.
The groups began to challenge my tormented brain. Individual therapy validated and comforted me as I struggled to make sense of each day. EVERY staff person knew my name, and little did I know that they kept in very close contact with one another to track EVERY client’s progress. The Skyland magic began to weave in and out of my consciousness. I learned to meditate; I played piano again, did yoga, went on expeditions, and challenged myself to go to Starbucks on my own. You have no idea what a huge thing that was for someone who was too scared to shower without someone in the bathroom with me.
Recovery means learning.
I gained tools I had never before had at Skyland Trail. The friendships I made were like any others: some for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. I absorbed and I shared. I cried, and I smiled. I hugged and I was held. When I graduated, Jeff accompanied me on guitar as I sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the perfect expression of gratitude to those on whom I counted to help me on that precious path to recovery.
Recovery is a lifelong commitment.
I’ve regained my life. I live on my own for the first time ever, accounting to no one but my dogs. I’m active in 12 Step Programs which support and sustain me, regularly attend Mass, work part time in mental health, and have developed my own podcast and Facebook LIVEcast. I have begun again to thrive, not survive.
Nothing is perfect. Mornings are still hard, and it takes until midday until I feel like myself. I know what to do, though: distress tolerance learned in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy carries me through the hard times. And that’s the point. Get through the hard times, and relish the good ones.
Envision your own success, won’t you? Reach out and start your new life, today. Rejoin the world. Do you believe your life can never be better, your future can never be brighter? Think again, my friend. Look at me.
Recovery IS Skyland Trail.
The Hopelessness That Turned Into Hope
Tara B. reflects on her experience at Skyland Trail
I really was ready to die. Skyland Trail saved my life, plain and simple. I had suffered from depression and anxiety for over a year since losing three jobs in a row through no fault of my own…and hit bottom in December 2013. I finally was properly diagnosed and put on the right medications by a psychiatrist, not by the nurse practitioners and internal medicine specialists who had me on the wrong meds for several years.
Once my meds were adjusted and became therapeutic, I knew I had to take a step to overcome my dependence on others to take care of me, along with all the phobias that come with depression. I had several recommendations for Skyland Trail, but made the mistake of trying another facility first. It was a nightmare. They took me off all my meds (albeit the wrong ones for me) cold turkey and sent me into a spiral the likes of which I had never experienced. I felt trapped there, stuck in a medical facility where I was to remain for a week before being transferred to a house. Everyone else there was in various stages of alcohol and drug rehabilitation, and watching their suffering as they detoxed depressed me even more. The food was terrible, the sleep disturbed by noisy staff, the environment sterile and frightening. I left after four days, miserable and worse than when I entered.
A month later, I was at Skyland, and what a difference it was. Helpful and encouraging staff who knew me by name from the first day, a safe and welcoming environment, lovely location, well-prepared, much better food on campus, comfortable housing within a short distance of the campus, lovely apartments, great roommate assignments…such a change from the lonely, disinterested, medical feel of the first place.
The most important change was the clinical staff, who kept me on the meds that were working for me, and met with me weekly to ascertain they were continuing to work appropriately. I had proper therapeutic counseling weekly, and spent six wonderful hours a day in classes learning, among other topics, about Codependence, Self Esteem, Anxiety Management, Meditation, and most important, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, the tools of which I will utilize the rest of my life.
We had outings, social opportunities, cooked in our houses, learned to even play together in the new world that was appearing before our very eyes…I made many strong relationships, the bonding of which is to be expected under the circumstances. Several of those will continue throughout my life.
I would caution anyone entering a long term residential treatment facility to be ready to do it and commit to it fully. It’s a hard road to recovery no matter what your diagnosis.
I unequivocally recommend Skyland Trail. I absolutely was terrified going in, but by the end of the first few days, I loved it and embraced the program. By the end of my eight weeks, I didn’t want to leave. Moving out of the “bubble” was a challenge, and I am happily reintegrated into my life with my family and new jobs, renewing friendships I had put on hold while I was so sick, and a newfound love of life, my long-suffering partner, and my dogs. Everyone who greets me says, “My Tara’s back!” Please visit the campus and speak to the staff about the issues you’re facing. I know you won’t regret it, and if you decide to enter the program, it will change your life. It did mine.