The Journey You Start After 'Graduating' From Treatment


Today was technically my last day in treatment, at least for now (and hopefully for a long time or ever). I have spent the past three months meeting weekly with my personal counselor and my psychiatrist, five days a week for countless hours, sitting in groups both learning and processing issues that come with living with diagnosed anxiety and major depressive disorder.

Now, my real journey is about to begin. I feel like I have been a hiker preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail. I have not actually set off on the trip. I’ve been spending a lot of time at REI talking to experts, gathering my tools and learning skills to help me manage the rough terrain. Tomorrow, after attending the small graduation during the weekly community meeting (not a “real” graduation, but definitely sounds better than a discharge ceremony), I feel like I’m being dropped off at Springer Mountain, the common southern start for the 2,190 mile hike to Maine. A journey, which will not only take a while, but may have setbacks and will definitely have ups and downs. Just like my recovery.

Just like it’s important for the clients themselves finishing a program to understand, I think it’s also important for those around them to realize that returning to “regular” life does not mean one is recovered. I know I will be on shaky legs when I get back to my regularly scheduled programming. If I take it too fast (to continue with my hiking analogy), then I won’t be able to go the distance.

I have realized I will need to pace myself, ask for others to accompany me to make the trip less lonely and be gentle with myself. I have the skills and tools necessary to start. I have to remember to use them when needed. Using the advice and guidance of people who have completed the hike before me and continuing to consult professionals, I plan to put everything into this experience.

Just like most hikers (I would assume), I am excited and anxious to see how it all goes. When I get to the end, I know I will most probably have to continue the hard work to stay in shape in case I have more mountains to climb in the future!

It is with many mixed emotions that I am preparing to say goodbye to many of the people who I have spent so much time with recently. It is such an amazing experience to change and grow alongside so many other people doing the same thing. I have learned more than I could ever express. I am so grateful that programs such as this exist and that I had the opportunity to attend it.

Tomorrow, I will stand in front of my peers and the staff, and I will actually deliver a short speech. (Yes, I wrote it out!) Then, I am going to start my hike! I will start with an afternoon visit with my new therapist to make sure that my bags are properly packed, and then, I will be returning to work bright and early Friday morning. I’ll keep you up to date on the peaks and valleys along the way!

Update: Six months later, I believe I am still making my way through North Carolina. The mountains have been incredible when I reach the top of them, seeing the view and all the possibilities. On the other hand, there are the valleys… ugh! The climb seems impossible. I lost my map and have no idea how much longer this trek will be. But I’m not giving up, yet.

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