The True Story of One Retreat Resident

March 20, 2013 —
I arrived at the Retreat March 8, 2011 after attempting suicide 19 days earlier. Though the attempt was not planned, I had been fantasizing about various methods and scenarios for three years. I also imagined relief from pervasive, persistent, and deeply held pain for which I had no explanation. I certainly did not believe I had valid reasons for my enduring feelings of suffering and often admonished myself for my lack of courage to take action and follow through with a suicide plan.

Not only was a shocked I lived through what I assumed was a more than lethal dose of pills, I was vastly confused when my [then] psychiatrist told me I needed a more stepped up level of care. I asked, “You mean see you more than once a week?” “No”, he replied, “a place where you can go and take a time out from life.” Something about this particular statement made sense to me. A time out from life.

I started researching various treatment facilities recommended by friends/colleagues yet nothing seemed to click; I started feeling better as time passed and the whole idea started losing its appeal. If I was going to take a time out, I was seeking something stimulating, interesting, and intense. Later, he phoned to let me know a colleague had suggested a unique facility called the Retreat at Sheppard Pratt near Baltimore. I immediately investigated the Retreat on-line and became very intrigued; private and small unit, a plethora of therapeutic modalities,multiple weekly one-on-one sessions with clinicians, ample groups, and psycho-education.

I both called and e-mailed Lois. Jessica, my first contact with the Retreat as Lois was out of town, was kind and helpful. She patiently and thoroughly answered my questions and informed me Lois would contact me as soon as she returned. When Lois and I talked for the first time, I was blown away by the profoundly distinctive difference speaking with her as opposed to my previous contact experiences with other facilities and instinctively felt I had found the right place. I greatly appreciated the careful selection process she spoke of when she, Karen, and Dr. Ross considered various candidates for the Retreat. Her attentive listening and obvious knowledge-base with various therapeutic presentations helped foster a sense of secure connection. She was professional and human…a trait running deeply through the core of the Retreat and the extraordinary people who work there.

I have limited experience with other treatment facilities, yet those experiences did not leave a remarkable impression on me. Comparably, the Retreat is in a league of its own. The qualities I found most healing: I was treated with respect, dignity, warmth, appropriate concern, and in a non-pathological manner. I was honored as an intelligent and unique individual and was given space to be myself. The Retreat’s environment of vast integrity, welcoming, care, and patience provideda truly rich holistic opportunity for internal exploration in conjunction with trust-worthy relationships. These factors transform a clinical milieu into a safe container illuminating my passionately held experience of the Retreat as a touchstone for therapeutic excellence and my personal “home.”

My deeply formed roots with the Retreat have generated continual healing through many introspective pathways; I have learned to trust my innate wisdom, I have learned to both tolerate and modulate emotional experiences, and I have learned what a trusting/trust-worthy relationship actually feels like. I have learned to self-advocate and to set consistent boundaries with others. However, the one factor standing out most prominently is I have learned to consistently practice leaning into discomfort. This skill has exponentially promoted my courage to speak and share authentic feelings and thoughts with myself and others. I have the capacity to choose to be myself regardless of how another might perceive, react, or interpret my actions or very being. I have the ability to let people know how I feel about them without worries of abandonment. I have learned that NOT sharing authentic feelings is an act of self-abandonment. From this perspective, I have been able to reclaim parts of myself with compassion and acceptance.

I would be remiss without sharing my current understanding of my suicide attempt. I came to realize the immense intelligence embedded in that decision. I could not and would not bear the weight of my pain and suffering any longer and refused to continue surviving life as a way of living. Therefore, suicide reframed as death and transformation of self was a necessary experience. My choice was both fatal and not-fatal; the part of me and my life no longer effectively functioning gave birth to a self with infinite possibilities.

Retrospectively and in all actuality, it was my spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical intelligence that brought me to the Retreat. The love fostered and nurtured though my connections there have helped sustain the very essence of my desire to live a life of genuine integrity and beauty. My feelings of love and gratitude produce tears for which there are no words.