Have you ever gone through such a life-changing, horrible event that you couldn’t imagine that there was one other soul “out there” who could possibly understand what you were feeling?
Your frantic Google searches turn up seemingly endless inspiring articles that tell you how to be better parents, with a few simple, convenient tips. These articles made me want to find the authors and stab them with a pencil, (okay not really, but I was angry and jealous.) I was angry and jealous because my problems, which seemed so insurmountable to me, were discussed like they had simple solutions. What I know now, is that these problems really were tough, and that’s why I couldn’t find any real help on how to overcome them.
I was a mother and I loved my kids, but I was at the end of my rope. I did everything that I thought possible to help my son. He was loving and warm to everyone else, but the contempt and hatred he had for me was beyond “normal.” He was academically gifted, but refused to do any schoolwork without a fight. Everyone told me it was normal teen behavior, but I knew it wasn’t and just held on for the rough ride. Our problems escalated over the years and, as my son got older, more concerning behaviors emerged (substance abuse, not coming home, lying to us, etc.) We tried everything over a decade –therapy, medication, social skills groups, punishing, cheerleading, threatening, loving. No matter what we did, it didn’t work. When our concern for his physical and mental well being became an issue, we knew we were at the final stages of trying to help him. It was a desperate time which led to the heart-wrenching decision to place our child in a therapeutic wilderness program (Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness in Clayton, Georgia.) We had reached the point where we could only hope that drastically changing his environment by living in the woods for a while could straighten out our unhappy son.
Well, not only did it straighten him out, but it helped us to see more clearly, as well. We realized after ten weeks, that even more was needed. Fourteen years of habits, his and ours, couldn’t be undone that quickly. We were devastated and sobbed when the recommendation for residential care was made. After more research and painful conversations, however, we were able to select a Residential Treatment Center in Brigham City, Utah, for our firstborn child; so very far from where we lived in New Jersey.
For almost two years, we traveled this decision-making path in a haphazard and disjointed way. I often lamented that if someone could just share a general, overall framework for this process it might have been an easier journey for all of us. Unfortunately, there was no one, other than the people we were paying, who could provide us feedback, guidance, or support. In my view, there was a big piece missing in this process.
Without intentionally meaning to, I found myself filling in the missing pieces for other families. As my name started to be shared with others, I found myself talking to lots of parents from all over the country, even out of the country. These parents were seeking the same kind of advice that I had wanted and needed. I found myself educating parents on the entire wilderness therapy and residential care process and what it potentially could look like from start to finish. I understood the emotions that seemed to hit parents at the same benchmarks. I found myself holding hands, listening to tears on the phone, and being empathetic because I was in their shoes, not so long ago. The Parent Support Network was born out of a need for guidance and connection by a non-judgmental, non-therapy-affiliated person. I do not want any parent to feel like we did — alone, ashamed, and “less than” all other families, because we were the parents of “that kid.” You know what I mean.
I have walked in your soiled, messy, painful shoes, and because of that, I can identify with the discomfort that comes with it. I have created PSN so you don’t have to struggle alone as my family did.
Enjoy the pictorial documentation of our family’s journey. It’s behind us now, and that gives me hope for the future, yours and ours.