2011 was a hard year for my then 17 year old girl. During the winter, while working in a restaurant she was compulsively washing her hands – sometimes dozens of times a day.
In April, our family physician agreed to medicate her. She started Celexa with my approval (after much deliberation and discussion). She saw some improvement initially. But within several weeks, she was feeling depressed and hopeless, again. May long weekend, she chose to spend the weekend with her birth-father. They ended up in a fight after he called her a ‘dizzy little c*nt’ and ‘fat’. Things spiralled out of control after that.
In July, although she had told me she ‘didn’t think the meds made her feel better,’ I pushed her to continue – ‘maybe you need a little more time on the drugs.’ She was the child and I was the parent – and with doctor’s suggestion we upped the meds. She became more agitated and aggravated, instead of more contented and calm. We continued working with the mental health therapist we’d found in our small City.
Around the middle of September, I received a call from a concerned (true) friend, who said that my daughter had confided that she had been considering suicide, and had put a rope around her neck and dangled in her closet – just to see what it would feel like.
I immediately began weaning her off her medication, consulted the psychiatrist and therapist – who agreed – after all, “She must not need it.”
We pushed for more therapy and I prayed for a miracle. It was devastating to witness the depths of her self-loathing. The belief that she was so hideous, unloveable and undesirable so entrenched that she couldn’t stomach herself. There is nothing as terrifying to a parent as a child who would rather die than live.
My intuition roared. The issue was not ‘which medication will work?’ for her. It was painfully obvious to me, that was simply putting a band-aid over a spot that required major surgery. (her child hood, her beliefs about life and herself) However, as often happens in crisis mode, I second-guessed myself – often. Maybe she was bi polar or schizophrenic, and I was in denial. We consulted pyschiatry again, and he assured us his belief was a ‘major depressive episode.’
On December 2, shortly after supper, I noticed she hadn’t been up to ‘check in’ with us. I found her in bed, under the covers, a puddle of desperation and tears; absolutely broken. She said she wanted me to take her to emergency (we’d been given that advice, should she feel suicidal again). She said, “I don’t want to die, mom, but I can’t take another moment feeling like this.”
The emergency physician on call suggested she go back on Celexa. She refused. She insisted that she did not feel good on that particular drug. So, the doctor prescribed Prozac, 20 mg daily. (it is important to listen to our intuition – or our ‘gut’ – ultimately she knew. i should have trusted that.)
Within 3 days, there was an energy shift. More energy. Less depression visible on her face. After 2 weeks, I would catch her smiling from time to time. The medicine appeared to be supporting her mental health.
Even though I was content to see her on anti-depressants, I was very clear that I believed she required deep therapy to process the abuse and neglect and trauma she had suffered between the ages of 2 and 17. I knew that the majority of her mental illness was the emotional trauma of attempting to manage, understand and grow up in such dysfunction. (i also wonder if she did not suffer from PTSD)
My prayers for a miracle were answered when I began the search for a live-in treatment program that would offer the best tools and therapy for healing the damage caused by a painful childhood. Many of the programs I found were psychiatric in or out patient programs through hospitals, but the one I chose was not related to any of those.
In early December, I stumbled upon a link for the Hoffman Institute of Canada. I’d been told of the program before. In fact, I’d been told to DO the program before, by a trusted colleague and friend who had achieved transformational healing through the Hoffman Process.
The Process is an 8 day live-in program that is so in-depth and emotionally intensive, that it provides the deepest possible healing for whomever participates. The Process is tailored to her issues (based on an very detailed pre-process questionaire). I registered her. And she went. WILLINGLY. (Her despair had been so great, she was willing to do whatever was necessary to change her life. That is key.)
From January 12 to 20, 2012 my beautiful girl participated in the Process and came out — well — healed. She had felt all of her feelings, worked through her rage and perceptions and emerged from the program a fully functional, (zero anxiety, zero depression), completely confident, positive and self-LOVING young woman.
This experience confirmed for me, that which I already knew but from time to time forget: TRUE HEALING HAPPENS FROM THE INSIDE OUT.
The Hoffman Process, while the answer to my prayer, is only as good as the committment to participate in the Process and then follow up your own self-care (maintenance) using the tips, tools and supports provided.
It is important to remember – those who have healed must continue to take care of themselves. Life can be challenging. There is always the possibility of pain. And we are all at risk. But the willingness to go deeper is the first, and most important, step toward healing – and loving – yourself.
*PS – The Process proved so inspirational and healing for my girl, that I committed to attending and will go in March. I’ll very likely let you know how it all turned out.
** UPDATE June 23, 2012 – She still is enjoying lasting effects of this treatment 6 months later – contentment, joy and inner peace (no anxiety, no depression) as a result of her efforts during her Process.)
*** UPDATE July 29, 2012 – My girl weaned herself off her anti-depressents very slowly through May, June and July. She is DOING AMAZING.