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“A Brand New Life”—One Student’s Brave Journey… A Journal by Caite

Posted by Evoke Therapy Programs on February 03, 2014

My Journey: Second Nature Entrada

October 22, 2012- December 18, 2012

My journey at Second Nature Entrada is one I will never forget. It was the start of the rest of my life. The feelings and emotions I had before entering the wilderness were ones I never thought would change. Feelings of emptiness, heavy sadness, hopelessness, and anger swirled in my body as I boarded the plane to go to Utah. I remember feeling anxious and overwhelmed, not knowing what to expect and not knowing what I had just signed myself up for. At this point I felt this program was my last shot at living, feeling like if it didn’t “work” I was destined to committing suicide. I held my breath, my heart beating out of my chest… I got off the plane, ready or not– my journey begins.

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October 22, 2012

(First Night in the Wilderness)

As tired as I was, I couldn’t sleep. The wind sucked but as I laid down to close my eyes all I could think about was my life. Where am I even supposed to start? I miss my dad. All I can seem to think about is why am I so fucked up? Why am I here? I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, but why? Why did everything happen? That seems to be my biggest hang-up. And who am I? Maybe I haven’t figured it out because I’m afraid of what the answer might be. Everyone is really nice. It’s weird being an “outsider” I wish I could be more involved but I know everything moves at it’s one pace and I’m in earth phase. So I get to sit here and reflect on my self and what brought me here. The three BIG things I want to work on while I’m here:

    1. ME
    2. Accepting grief/loss
    3. Figuring out who I am

It’s weird though, I’m really emotional. Just sitting here, reflecting, recognizing all the emotions and feelings I’ve buried over the years… I feel vulnerable. A feeling I’ve been trying for as long as I can remember to avoid. Even though I’m not “involved” right now I can feel all these kids emotions. It’s weird, but it makes me feel like I’m not alone… FINALLY.

I hope I sleep better tonight. I hope the wind stops. I miss home a lot, but I finally feel like I’m where I need to be. I’m sad that everything I’ve been through has to lead me to this, but thankful that I’ve been given this opportunity to get better… but then again, what if I don’t get better?

The days went by and I joined the group and began digging deep inside myself, processing the emotions, situations, and experiences in my life that I tried so hard to avoid for so long. I processed my dads’ death, from the very start to the very end. I processed my own feelings around it, learning not to judge my emotions but to recognize them, feel them, and allow them to pass. I struggled with my self-harm out there, I had allowed that to become my outlet until I learned other ways to cope and manage my emotions. I had to learn to reframe my thinking by practicing reframing my thoughts, replacing my “twisted thinking” with positive affirmations.

Each week I met with my therapist who would give me assignments to work on for the week. I worked out of a grief/loss book, I had to process what has changed in my life and what I needed to accept, I processed my self-harm addiction- why I acted out in that way and how I could replace that addiction with safe coping skills. I worked a lot on my twisted thinking and I had an opportunity to lead a group on it, which was a step in me building self-confidence. The weeks passed and I continued to work on the things I needed the most help with: Rebuilding my self-esteem, safe coping skills and establishing healthy relationships. I thought I would only be able to do these things through my assignments but I learned quickly that by doing the things that were asked of me; busting, crushing and sifting, building my shelter, hiking, etc. that each day I started improving mentally, emotionally and physically.

Hiking and busting were two of the most difficult tasks I faced out in the wilderness. At the time not understanding how they could possibly help me, how they could possibly relate to my life and what I was going through, and now finally realizing that it wasn’t about the act of hiking or the act of busting, but instead, it was the lessons I learned from each one:

Hiking: I hated hiking. Carrying that pack on my back and hiking up and down mountains was something I dreaded for quite some time. I was sore, exhausted and I wanted to quit every time. There was no quitting, there was no stopping, and in the midst of one of our hikes, I had a breakthrough. I realized I could relate these hikes to my life. Carrying the pack was like carrying around all of the emotional baggage each and every day. Hiking uphill, wanting to quit and wanting to scream was exactly like the life I had been living. In life, I always wanted to quit, but I kept climbing, I kept hiking and every time I got to the top I felt overwhelmed with this sense of accomplishment. Every time I completed a hike I felt that same feeling and each time we hiked my self-confidence increased, as well as my inner strength.

Busting: Another thing I hated. When would I ever use this in the real world? That’s why we have lighters and matches right? Busting was mandatory every day. I would get angry and fed up whenever I couldn’t bust a flame, however, through these experiences I learned the definition of perseverance. Don’t give up, no matter how tired you may be, no matter how angry or fed up you may feel… don’t give up because if you keep at it, you will succeed. I didn’t give up; I succeeded.

As the days passed my mentality began to change. I became grateful for my time at Second Nature and I felt incredibly blessed to have such an amazing opportunity to not only work on myself but to hopefully work hard enough to live a much more fulfilling life once I got home. The months passed, and before I knew it, it was December.

My “Spiritual Experience” came when we were on our “solos.” I was off in a small area by myself, not able to talk to anyone for 3 days. I had to sit with myself, reflect, remember, and really feel for the first time. There was a moment when I was sitting upon a hill looking out at the sunset; for the first time in my life, I felt a wave a total contentment and peace wash over me. I could sit with myself in complete silence and be 100% comfortable. No distractions, no people, just me, and I finally felt “alive.” We were given the assignment to write a “Mandala” (parts of self). At first, I found this assignment extremely difficult because we had to write the parts of ourselves that we were before entering into Second Nature. I had to swallow some pretty big “chunks” of truth about myself that I refused to face before. We then had to identify the parts of ourselves we thought we were at the present moment and then identify the parts of ourselves we wanted to become in the future. This is where my emotions and my mentality began to shift. I looked at my long lists—past, present, future—and for the first time felt hopeful. I realized looking at my past and present that I was no longer the person I was before entering Second Nature. Although there were parts of myself that I still needed to improve I began to forgive myself for my past, for my actions and behaviors. I knew that I didn’t have to be that person anymore and in that moment I made a commitment to myself to work hard every day to be the best version of myself.

Part 2 of my Mandala assignment required me to journal about my experience on the solo and writing my Mandala:

December 12, 2012

(Mandala- Part 2- Journaling)

During my Mandala assignment, a number of emotions came up for me. For starters, during the “before 2NE” I had a lot of regrets, shame, and confusion come up. It wasn’t until I started to acknowledge the parts of myself during that time did I begin to feel the negative emotions that came along with them. It was confusing to me because I didn’t understand for the life of me how I became such a monster so fast. I have a lot of regrets based on my actions and decisions’ but I am proud of myself for being honest and not trying to portray myself in a more positive light. In any of the parts, I did not once justify it by saying “it was because of this, or that…” although it would have been extremely to do so and I am proud of myself for being so honest- BIG STEP! It was hard for me to identify these parts of me because they all played into my self-hatred for so long; however, I didn’t dwell on it like I would’ve done in the past. I acknowledged them as the person I used to be, recognizing that I am no longer that person and that was a pretty cool feeling.

When I moved onto the “right now” I found myself filled with pride and accomplishment. I realized how far I had really come, and also how hard it was for me to get here. I’ve become very aware of myself and that is extremely new for me. I am proud that I am now able to recognize the positive qualities about myself and not get so hung up about the negative. I am able to accept them both. I also found that I am now giving myself credit for all of my hard work- HUGE STEP! It is becoming more natural and comfortable for me to be positive because, in all reality, there’s a lot to be positive and happy about. It is a pretty incredible feeling getting to figure that out! During this part I also found myself really describing who I am- something I’ve never been able to do, and that alone to me shows tremendous progress and growth. I feel very lucky. Lastly, I found myself feeling very humbled. This experience at 2NE has given me a second chance at life. The beauty I get to witness every day out here, the simplicity of just living is truly amazing. I feel extremely grateful for my opportunity to be here and I genuinely feel as though I have made the most out of it.

Lastly, when doing the “where I want to be” part I found myself feeling very motivated and driven. I recognize in all the parts of me that I have a ways to go, however, I also recognize that I have everything it takes to get there. Once again, I feel thankful and blessed for my opportunity to not only be here but also, for the opportunity I’ve been given to actually take a step back and look at myself in a new light, from a new perspective. Here I thought there was so much more bad in me then there was good when in fact, it’s the other way around.

Through this assignment, I was able to set realistic goals for myself. It gives me the challenge to continue growing as a person. I am excited to see how far I can really go! I loved this experience of being on my own for my “solo.” This alone changed my life and I am more than ready to make these next 17 days count!!!

I returned to the group with new confidence, determined to make the last two and a half weeks I had left out in the wilderness count. I challenged myself on everything, busting, hiking, and becoming more of a leader. I began to realize that I have a lot to offer others and that I must lead by example. That is exactly what I did for those next 17 days and before I knew it, I was sitting across from Lauren on December 17, 2012, having my last therapy session because I was leaving the next day. We talked about my fears of returning home and reviewed all I had learned at Second Nature to overcome them. I left that session feeling confident and reassured, for I knew that although going home wouldn’t be easy, I had everything it took to continue moving forward- one step at a time.

As I laid my head down that night, wrapped up in my sleeping bag, for the last time in the wilderness I began thanking God for my time at Second Nature, for the staff there, for my family and friends who continued to support me and most importantly, for my life. I said my prayers and began talking to my Dad and my best friend. I thanked them for watching over me every step of the way and right before I closed my eyes I saw 2 shootings stars fly through sky. I smiled knowing it was them and I fell asleep, completely content and overwhelmingly grateful, for I knew, tomorrow was the start of a brand new life.

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