What Led Me To Evoke & My Experience There
Beginning in the eighth grade I lived in the spurious bubble of my own mind. I based my priorities on my desire for acceptance from peers. This led to a dangerous lifestyle, and on August 23rd, 2015, my life changed forever. I was sent to Evoke's Wilderness Therapy program in Santa Clara, Utah. Before jumping into this incredible experience, I need to explain what led me here.
At the end of my sophomore year of high school, I developed an eating disorder. My mind teemed with the thoughts that I wasn’t thin, pretty, or successful enough to be liked. I relied so much on other’s perceptions of me that I lost my true identity. I went through my junior year of high school with a very active eating disorder. My fear of rejection is what led to my eating disorder being my new coping skill for hard emotions. I was sent to an eating disorder treatment center at the end of my junior year, and the eating disorder began to fade. However, once this was taken from me, I began to rely on drugs, specifically, marijuana. I spent the summer smoking marijuana whenever I was with my friends, which was the majority of my time. I masked the fact that it was to cope with sadness, and not just "for fun" like they were using. In my mind, if enough people liked me, then I would love myself. This created a downward spiral of self-destruction. My parents felt helpless in regards to my behaviors, and made the very difficult decision to send me to Utah.
Being in the middle of the desert for twelve weeks was not my ideal senior year, but the outcome was worth every moment endured. This program changed my life in many aspects. I learned how to express my emotions. This may sound like the simplest of tasks, but the reason I ended up there in the first place was because of my lack of communication about my feelings. I also learned how to give someone constructive feedback when I am uncomfortable with something that they may have said to me or another person. With this process, I became more confident in standing up for myself. It helped me develop independence as well as compassion for others learning how to use the same skill.
Though our emotional healing was important, this program was not always about our feelings. We acquired extreme survival skills as well. In the wilderness, I was left with nothing but the clothes on my back and certain program materials. This taught me how to survive with the bare minimum that I could have. I learned how strong my body is as I worked the program. Wilderness also provided me with a new perspective on the little things in life. I gained extreme gratitude towards family, friends, and even just sleeping in a warm bed. The staff taught me how to start a fire using the bow-drill method, which required a great quantity of determination and patience. The skills I built were practiced daily in many different aspects.
The key point of my experience is that I learned who I truly am. I no longer am the insecure and fearful little girl that I was. The wilderness taught me that my true persona is someone who’s optimistic, determined, compassionate, and loving. I began to love myself again, and I learned how to forgive the people who harmed me in the past. The true (me) is caring towards all people and does not need the acceptance from others to be happy. Thanks to Evoke, I have learned that I am a beautiful human being, and that I don't need to hide behind the facade that displayed an angry and careless young woman.
People have frequently asked me, "Do you regret the past so that you wouldn't have ended up there?" I surprise them by saying no. I explain that without this experience, I would still be unhappy and lost. Being out there brought me back into reality. It provided me with a newfound hope and wisdom. The wilderness led me to genuine serenity, and that is something I wouldn't trade for anything.