Therapy has played a role in my life since the beginning of middle school. Receiving treatment for all the struggles in my life, for all the pain. I learned quickly that being in therapy takes work and it takes heartache. But there comes a time where the help you originally reached out for no longer positively improves your life; the dark parts of my life kept flooding my mind and I needed a lifeboat.
I was placed in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for at-risk teens that consists of any combination of individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and medication plan, depending on your individual needs. Personally, I was to attend group four times a week, individual once a week, and to attempt to construct a med plan by the end of the program. The groups I will attend will discuss Impulse Control, Healthy Relationships, Cognitive Behavioral Thinking, and Healthy Self Esteem.
I was admitted into IOP on April 5th, 2015, and at the time, it was the worst day of my life. I was surrounded by kids that have been to juvie, kids that were unable to function normally, kids that were in gangs, kids that I would’ve never talked to. Back then I thought that I didn’t belong there, that this whole program was a mistake, and that this was pointless. I went to my first group and sat in the corner, in complete silence. I would sit on the couch, with my knees pulled to my chest, and just wait for the hour to pass. Many of the other people kept trying to talk to me and get me to feel comfortable but I had constructed this wall and didn’t allow anyone to knock it down. My first week of groups went this way.
But then I realized. These people, therapists, kids, my parents, doctors, everyone, were trying to throw me a lifeline, trying to give me the tools in life to succeed, and I was blatantly throwing it away. I felt like I was a dehydrated man, wallowing around in the desert, ignoring someone who is offering him water and a ride home in an air conditioned car; it was illogical and stupid. So I decided to work. I went to groups more willingly, with less complaining, and even started to talk in groups.
Group became my home away from home. My friends-no my family- was always there for me, to help me, to listen to me, and I could always count on seeing them every day. I looked forward to coming to the clinic. Everyday I was able to talk about my feelings, learn how to feel better, and see people who genuinely cared me; I finally got to the point that I pretty much forgot about how I didn’t want to be there in the beginning. I spent the three months in IOP until the staff decided that I didn’t need group anymore, that I was ready to spread my wings and become self sufficient.
My goodbye group was today, July 9th, 2015, and it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right saying “Hi my name is Sam…” during daily check-in for the last time, It didn’t feel right doing my last therapeutic worksheet, and It didn’t feel right saying goodbye to the people who have supported me for the past three months. Our group counselor brought me double stuffed Oreos because she knew they were my favorite, and I cried a total of five times throughout the course of the goodbyes.
I would’ve never had thought it would be that hard to leave group therapy. I expected me to get in, get better, and get out. You know, things don’t exactly always go to plan, but in this case, I was okay with it. I went from being horribly ill, friendless, and miserable, to healthier, loved, and on the incline; I might not be perfect but I am getting there.
At the end of my last group, they asked me if I had any last words and I said, “I am not a success story. I am just a story, and that’s okay.”
Please remember, you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to be a success story. You just have to be a story and that’s plenty enough.
*photo source: Samantha Slais