Thankful for Today

By Renee:

When my son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2016, I began looking for answers. They were hard to find. After extensive research, however, we discovered Skyland Trail and felt it was the right journey for our family. I must say even then, it wasn’t easy. It took a second attempt at Skyland Trail because my son discharged himself the first time, halfway through the program. Today, a year after finally completing treatment at Skyland, I am so thankful to see my son SMILE. He laughs. He is present and aware, joins in conversations and shares memories that were previously locked far away. He is making plans for his future. Today, I recognize my son.

Today, even if my son isn’t fully ready yet to accept his diagnosis, he accepts his journey. He accepts the medications that keep him stable. He sees past actions in a way that’s not skewed and realizes he was unable to manage himself in a healthy and socially appropriate way. He accepts what his experience has taught him. He wants to reconnect with his family and friends instead of isolating.

Today, he declares his goals on a daily basis. He even commits them to paper, takes action and communicates the progress he’s made to me. He’s not sitting in a dark room staring out of a window. He’s taking back the life he wants for himself. He’s taking steps each moment to get everything that he now believes he can achieve.

Today, our lives look a whole lot different. My son is applying so much from what he’s learned from his time at Skyland Trail. And my family and I have learned a lot too. In part from our participation in Skyland’s family therapy and the Family STEP program, I know I need to connect with others, plug in for my own healing, and unload. We’re not alone in whatever we’re facing. We’ve got to connect with people who are sharing our experience. When we plug in to other people, we can find a healthy balance, revitalized attitudes, and new behaviors that will help us take the next step or shrug off the unhealthy thought. And we have to unload the mental, emotional, behavioral and physical toxic things that we allow to burden us. While my son was in treatment, I called Family STEP my lifeline. What was shared by families, parents, partners, and loved ones in that safe space was a precious gift.

Today, I look for ways to give back. Growing up, we definitely weren’t rich with material wealth, but my parents taught us that there were always other people who were going through misfortune, and that we were responsible for them. They told us no matter where we were in our lives that we had a responsibility to give. I encourage people to look inside themselves and determine what asset they have in abundance. I found that I could speak and write to help lift spirits. When I am able, I give through charitable donations, like when I saw the opportunity to support the Skyland Trail art program on Giving Tuesday. The myriad of times I’ve felt lost, doing something creative has helped, and I wanted to help open that door for others as well.

I think when our eyes are open, and our minds are open, we can see the evidence that life is just a struggle. The battle is the fiercest when we choose to opt out, when we decide to hide away and pretend that we’re not affected. But, it takes connection and true community for healing to take place. When those who look like me, and you, and my son, and your daughter, and your partner, or your mom – when we suffer silently – everybody loses. Today, I fervently believe we’ve got to connect so we help each other come through this.  

This article was published in the Skyland Trail 2021 Annual Report