Erica’s Journey: Repairing & Rebuilding Family
Before I went to Solstice, my Dad and I were pretty much like strangers, and I was fighting with my Mom all the time. I hated my life, but couldn’t talk to anyone about it.
Adapting to the Unknown of Solstice
I don’t adapt to new situations quickly, so when I first went to Solstice, it took me a couple of weeks to settle in. Being in treatment can be uncomfortable, because there’s nothing you can go back to, what you were doing before wasn’t positive or productive.
So you’re moving forward into something unknown and new. I felt like I didn’t have any other option than to change my life. I wasn’t close to my family, so it wasn’t about ‘I’m doing this for my family’. My family had been pretty broken, and my parents were divorced. I felt obligated to change because I wasn’t happy with my life, though I didn’t know how to tell anyone that before I went to Solstice.
Heart at Peace
‘The Anatomy of Peace’ and ‘Leadership and Self-Deception’ were incorporated into the work at Solstice, and that was a big thing for me. I was able to practice the Anatomy piece, and what’s known as being ‘in the box’ or ‘out of the box’. Say for example, that I’m sitting in class, and someone next to me drops a box of markers. If your heart’s at war you won’t help them, or you’ll help them just so you can look good yourself.
But if your heart’s at peace, you’ll either not help them so that they have a chance to learn for themselves, or you’ll help them simply to be useful, not just to look good. We all learned new ways to relate to people that were way better than what we’d been doing before.
The therapy work I did with TJ was really important. TJ is a great communicator, and he could say things to my Mom in Family Therapy that they wouldn’t listen to before. If I’d said those kind of things to their before I went to Solstice, she’d have blown up. But TJ knew how to say things in a way that they could understand and accept, which helped us learn new and better ways to communicate with each other.
A New Way for Family to Engage
My treatment was also about my family’s treatment, and we all needed to learn to do some things differently. My Dad and I didn’t even really have a relationship before, and everything was kind of scary when I went to Solstice. The Family Therapy meant that my Mom and Dad, and Stepmom and Stepdad also examined their behavior, and they changed too. My Mom’s fuse just got longer and longer, which was great for me.
For example, one time after I graduated, I told my Mom that I needed their to talk to my Dad about my going to live with him for a while. They started getting hot under the collar, but then we drove in silence for a few minutes. Finally, they said ‘I realize that I overreacted. You should be able to live with your Dad if you want to. I’ll talk to him about it.’ So they did, and I went to live with my Dad for two years, and we developed a good relationship, which is really important to me now.
I’m really grateful that my family did such a great job, and changed as a result of the family therapy we did. A lot of what needed to happen was not to rehash the past, it didn’t need to be revisited.
I’d been in so much family therapy that talking about the past wasn’t helpful anymore. I needed to find a way forward, especially with my Dad. We began to develop a way of being together that was much more productive as we got to know each other, which we really hadn’t before.
Erica Takes Responsibility for Herself
Today I live by myself, but I live close to my Mom and see their at least once a week, usually for a meal. I wish I saw my Dad more, but he’s moved out east. Our relationship is really good now.
My life is very different after being in treatment at Solstice. It empowered me to change and take responsibility for myself. Being able to listen to others and becoming a helpful person was a step away from my youth, and into adulthood.
A really important thing about being at Solstice was having the space to pause and decide what I really wanted out of life. I had time to think about the way I wanted to go about things. I learned to ask myself three important questions. “Is my heart at peace, am I going to grow from this experience, and will it help me expand my comfort zone? Those questions still help me make good decisions about how I live my life today.
TJ’s comments on Erica’s story
There’s a point in the program where girls and assigned female at birth like Erica go from asking ‘What do I need to change’ (which represents the potential for behavioral change), to asking ‘Why do I need to change’ which leads to a deeper process, and more long term growth.
For Erica, ‘The Anatomy of Peace’ was a big part of their looking at why they did certain things, and that became an anchor for her. The Family therapy was really important, too. There were differences in the parenting styles between the Mom and Dad, but they were both open to trying to improve the way they communicated and made decisions. They were committed to a process that would help Erica. They exercised self-restraint and were willing to put their own agendas aside in order to help Erica to heal.
When it became a family experience, it facilitated Erica’s work dramatically. Solstice provided a place with the least distracting environment possible for Erica to settle in, and consistently focus on their work. The family had confidence in Solstice, and realized that we have the resources to do this work, and do it well.
When we have parents come to tour, I want to provide them with an experience of what it’s like to work with us at Solstice. As important as using any particular therapeutic approach, is the importance of the process itself. When parents are making decisions about where to send their daughters, I hope they pay attention to the people on our staff, and are able to visualize their child and the family working with us.
Solstice is very intentional about the staff who are brought on board, particularly the clinical team, who tend to stay a long time. We’ve got the right people, and they’re in the right places on the team. We have a great deal of depth and diversity of talent, which makes for a very effective treatment team.