May 30, 2012
It has been just over a week since we have returned from our visit to Fulshear Ranch Academy and I am still in a state of both exhilaration and exhaustion. We arrived at Fulshear at around five o’clock on Sunday evening with our daughter’s requested meal of McDonald’s in hand. She was waiting for us and there was an exchange of lots of warm hugs and kisses. It had been just under six weeks since we had last seen her but it seemed like an eternity to me. Without exaggeration she already looked different to me. Her eyes were clear and her skin was glowing (partially from the heat). Seriously, it was amazing how much healthier her appearance was once the drugs were out of her body. She was extremely proud that she was almost 60 days sober and that she was working so hard in therapy. She has developed a very close rapport with her therapist, who she thinks is the bomb, as do we, and I would give Nicole major kudos for our daughter’s strong connection with her. Emily was anxious to introduce us to the other girls and to show us Gabby the horse. The visit was short since they were getting ready to go off to the A.A. meeting at 7 but we knew we would get to spend some more time the next day.
Monday morning we showed up at the Fulshear offices for a very full day of meetings. We met the entire staff and got an overview on how the program worked. We then saw a video called “12-Year Old Self” which was a compilation of different alumni taking a retrospective look at all they had been through since they were twelve and where they were today. I found it to be very poignant and only hope that our daughter gets to watch it sometime soon- I think it will give her hope and inspiration on where she is hopefully heading.
We then heard from the psychiatrist, Dr. Norma Clarke, who we found to be bright, direct, and with a good sense of humor and perspective. It gave me much reassurance that the person doling out the medication plans is so caring and so level headed and I really enjoyed listening to her speak.
After a short break we returned to hear some extensive information on education and medication and developmental milestones. Though I had read up on a lot of what was being discussed I got a lot out of what was said as it related directly to my daughter and made me look at certain issues in a slightly different light. It was also extremely helpful throughout the day to be able to hear other parents’ comments and questions. It certainly made me feel not as alone and unique in my situation. It also gave me hope that quite possibly there was light at the end of the tunnel.
We then broke for lunch and afterwards we got to listen to a recent graduate, Sophia, who was amazing. She is twenty-three years old, had gotten into one of the top colleges in the country and blew off her education not once, but twice, before she arrived at Fulshear. She was suffering from depression, low self-worth, and substance abuse, similar to my daughter’s issues when she arrived at Fulshear. After working very hard through all of her issues she is, today, living on her own and has a very responsible job with a prominent cosmetics company and plans to pursue this as her chosen career. Her talk gave me so many things to think about and so much hope for our daughter. I was so impressed by Zanda’s courage and comfort level in addressing a room full of parents on all she had been through and how positive she is about her life and her future. I was also so encouraged by her sharing that her closeness to her family has been regained as well.
We then heard from three different therapists on different diagnoses- BPD, Addiction, and Trauma. Since I feel that my daughter has all three of these I listened with very focused attention and got a lot out of what was said. I had read lots of materials in the past on these diagnoses but got so much out of the lectures because I was able to focus on how they pertained to my daughter and what hope of cure or progress could be in store. Most importantly to me was the sharing of feelings with the other parents in the room. Our daughters have been getting lots of support in being at Fulshear with other girls they could relate to and now it was our turn to bond with other parents who had been through some of the same “trauma” we had.
It was a very full day and we ran a little late so my husband and I hightailed it to the two different fast food places our daughter had requested food from. That night she was a bit more settled down and we were able to have some meaningful, but brief, conversation over our meal. We then had our family therapy session with our daughter and with Nicole. Though it was a little uncomfortable, we had been asked to come prepared to talk about a specific topic and my husband and I both had written out something that we then read. Our daughter never likes when we have “invaded her space” and horned in on HER session , but Nicole did a fantastic job of keeping her focused and “present” in the conversation. We left the ranch that night feeling so comfortable that Emily was definitely at the right place, and in the right therapist’s hands.
The next day was perhaps my favorite part of the itinerary. We did equine therapy exercises as an active hands-on experience of what our daughters do on a regular basis. We were split into three groups, going around in a circle shouting our numbers: 1, 2, or 3 similar to what we did in elementary school for kickball. We were then given very broad directions on a slip of paper as to what our group assignment was to be. If we asked any questions, we were told to use our own interpretation for the assignment. It sounded so easy, but in reality it is a lot harder to make a horse do something you want him to do than you would think- especially without the use of hay or of carrots. After we went through the exercises we sat back in our circle and “processed” what we had learned both about our inner workings, our interactions with others when asked to do teamwork, and how we handle situations in the world around us. It definitely gave me some insights and respect for others in the group and certainly tremendous respect for what our daughters were doing on a daily basis.
Unfortunately we had to leave for the airport at that point so we missed the barbeque lunch and the seminar given by Daniel and Gayle on “Reconnecting with Families and Adult Parenting”, something I could really use help with. However, we were given the handout and we hope to come back for the next parenting session in September. We spent a little more time with our daughter and she toured us through her living quarters. It was a great setting to live in, certainly better than any college dorm we’ve seen, and the environment gave us a sense of strong community living. We saw some “artwork” projects our daughter had done. Particularly impressive was a set of three posters she made, cutting and pasting words from magazines. One was for where she was emotionally in the past, one for where she is presently, and one of where she hopes to be in the future. We loved what we were seeing there- so much growth and perception of self in six short weeks. We shared a tearful good-bye and were on our way. Though it was hard to leave Emily, we both felt so positive about her environment, the wonderful staff at Fulshear, and the strides she had made so far.
*Photos are general photos from the parent weekend and are not connected to the author.