After years of frustration, set-backs, and the nagging feeling that her diagnosis and treatment just weren’t right, The Retreat was truly an answer to a prayer. I cannot begin to tell you what a relief it is to finally feel as though the diagnosis makes sense and that the medications are working without turning her into a zombie. She was in such bad shape when you got her, it was amazing to me to see the changes in her as a result of her time at The Retreat. She is more talkative and self-aware, is becoming more proactive and involved in her treatment, and is developing a knowledge and understanding of what her trauma diagnosis means. We both appreciate that The Retreat has put her at the beginning of a long path toward wellness and the ability to live a fulfilling life. But without The Retreat, she would be lost in the woods and not on any path at all.
She may not have appeared to be taking in much during her stay at The Retreat, and I truly wish that we’d heard about your facility months before we did. However, she took in a lot more than she may have registered and has spoken with me very insightfully about what she gained at The Retreat. Most importantly, she has remarked several times about how attentive and caring everyone was. She couldn’t begin to heal without first believing that she was worthy of good care and attention... It is a real testament to The Retreat that she ended up not only believing that she was worthy of good care and attention, but now advocates for it. She has been willing to trust her new treatment team at home very quickly as a result of the trust that you were eventually able to restore in her. I have been so very grateful for The Retreat and Sheppard Pratt. So thank you for giving me a grateful heart.
When I arrived for admission, I was extremely anxious and full of doubt. I was hesitant to even begin the admission paperwork, if not for the encouragement of a family member who accompanied me I don’t think I could have found the strength to stay. Looking back now, I realize how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to stay at both The Retreat and Ruxton House. The Retreat was the healing environment that I so desperately needed to break the intense cycle of anxiety and depression that gripped me so tightly for YEARS prior to my admission. When I reflect back now, six months after my discharge, I can say I am honestly living a life worth living!
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 provided a 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.
Dear Dr. Ross, Lois, and Karen- I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am to you for creating such an amazing, healing environment at The Retreat. I have benefitted from my time here so much, and I am thankful that I can return as an outpatient to continue my work. I feel that I gained something from every aspect of the program, and it has helped me form a new foundation for my life going forward. The care and compassion of everyone who works here has touched me deeply, and I am so grateful to everyone for helping me start to have more compassion for myself. Many, Many Thanks.
I can say truthfully and without hesitation that this special place has saved my life. Before coming here, my life was something that I wanted to bring to a permanent end and I had acted on that idea more than once. Before coming here, I was a lonely, misdiagnosed and even psychotic man. During my four months here, I have learned so much about myself and other people. I learned and felt so much love and compassion here that I can't even begin to describe it in detail. Everyone that I have met in this program has proven themselves to be resilient, compassionate and kind. As I begin to start my journey back to the reality and trials of the outside world, I think of all the men and women that I have met through the various inpatient hospitals and the program at Sheppard Pratt. I truly believe that every day that people can stay here, they gain a small piece of knowledge and power. It was because of you that I can stand on my own two feet again and face the world with confidence. I will continue to struggle with my illness as most people here will but because of you we will stand the best chance. Thank you.