Sending my daughter to a Wilderness Therapy Program was probably the most difficult decision I’ve had to make as a parent. My wife and I agonized over it for weeks, but in the end, it seemed like a better approach than a treatment center. She loves the outdoors, camping, and hiking; however, we just hoped she would still like it after she was forced (voluntarily, sorta) to do it for the better part of three months. Most of the reviews for every place we looked into were terrible, describing cruelty and abuse; however, we soon learned that we need to take into account the frame of mind the person writing the review was in when they penned the missive. She was enrolled in this program from March 25, 2022 until June 22, 2022. We spent one day in Durango (Thursday, the 23rd), and she started her eating disorder program on Friday, June 24, 2022.
I had a panic attack on the flight from Durango to Denver which manifested itself in debilitating vertigo. I sweat through my clothes and threw up the bag of potato chips and shot of Jameson’s I had for lunch and continued to vomit until I was completely exhausted from hydration and wretching. The two nurses sitting behind me thought I was having a heart attack; the paramedics in Denver thought I was abusing my Zoloft lol… It was much worse than both of those.
During those three months, we saw her in person once, right around her birthday in May, and spoke to her on the phone twice. The main means of communication with children “in the field” are letters, written weekly, shared with the therapist by email on Sunday, and delivered to the students on Wednesday, for which students exchange a handwritten response to the previous week’s letter. That letter is scanned into a digital copy and then delivered to us via a secure portal on the website. It’s a process for a reason, though. You have to sit with the things the other person wrote, evaluate how you feel, and respond thoughtfully. It paves the way for some very positive, complex communication.
Over this time, my wife and I got to work on strengthening communication in our family. We scheduled weekly time with a family therapist and in our sessions, we worked on resolving conflict by communicating our feelings in open and honest ways. The other three kids went without complaint, and they actually made the effort to improve communication on their part. The way that looks is through “I feel” statements. That sounds like elementary psychology 101, but sometimes you have to start from the beginning and go through all of the motions to get back into the groove.