By Gordon Corsetti, Skyland Trail Graduate
You feel unmoored.
Like a sailor getting off their boat following a long tour, your sea legs are strong, yet acclimating to walking on the solid ground takes a measure of doing.
You spent 90 days in a CBT or DBT treatment program at Skyland Trail. Perhaps you were in the dual-diagnosis treatment program with a co-occurring substance use disorder. Surrounded by teams of professionals and encouraged by peers, Skyland Trail turns into an incredibly tight-knit environment where everyone supports everyone.
Also, and perhaps more importantly, Skyland Trail has a routine. Group therapy classes in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, followed by CORE group sessions, wrapping up with other educational lessons or therapeutic interventions. Walking through the gardens is peaceful, checking in with how you feel at the start of every session becomes comforting, and weekly meetings with your therapist and psychiatrist all provide a stable rock of expectations to build new skills in an environment that is purposefully as stress-free as possible.
Then you graduate, and it’s back to real life.
It was a jarring experience to wake up on a Monday morning and drive to my job instead of to Skyland Trail. I went from sitting in a circle with a bunch of my friends talking about how we felt, to sitting with my co-workers and discussing how to get me plugged into active projects. Sure I was asked, “How are you,” but it was the usual small-talk greeting you get at work, not the, “How are you really,” that is asked at Skyland Trail. This makes sense because at work my purpose is to make work happen, but at Skyland Trail, my purpose was to work on myself.
I did not have a seamless transition to my “normal” life. I’m not sure anyone does, which is why I am still grateful to have the Alumni Program’s weekly support group available to me each Thursday evening. I don’t join all the calls, but if I’ve had an especially hard week then I budget time to reconnect with people that get what I’m going through.
I’ve found that the toughest part of graduating is other people and their expectations or delusions. Some folks may not believe that you needed to be in treatment. Others may think you’re cured of whatever preceded your stay at such an intensive facility. When I run across those opinions I remind myself what I learned in multiple group sessions: I can choose how to respond to external stimuli. My opinion about myself is the one that matters, and I don’t require anyone else’s validation or permission to do what I must do for my health.
It will get better. Skyland Trail has been there for me after graduation, and so have the friends I made during my treatment. It’ll take time to integrate all you’ve learned into your real life, and it is possible.
Remember, there are a whole bunch of people rooting for you!
This post was penned by Gordon Corsetti. Gordon, a Skyland Trail alumnus, is an author, public speaker, and advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness; writing regularly on his website mentallyagile.com. He collected various tools in the pursuit of his permanent recovery from depression and anxiety. Gordon writes about philosophy, and different modes of thought that he experiments with to refine his perspective on life. He speaks to the uniquely human ability to change our minds and shows how to use tools to accomplish that change.