Learning to be Vulnerable

Shelterwood was about learning to be vulnerable

I went to Shelterwood because of a suicide attempt, a pill addiction, and self-harm. I started cutting when I was thirteen years old. It was also around this time that I was in a relationship with a boy who was very verbally and emotionally abusive. My junior year in high school was when life began to get really messy. I was still consumed by my depression and it got to where I was having suicidal thoughts. I’ve always been one to put on a mask and bottle up my emotions. In addition to that, I’ve also always been an achiever. My greatest strength became my greatest weakness. I wanted to be perfect and be the best, but obviously perfection is not something I could ever achieve.

In addition to this, the church I’d attended since I was a little girl was crumbling from the inside out. It was a major source of anxiety. Church is where people go for comfort, love, support and safety. My church felt anything but safe, and I definitely did not feel loved, supported, or comforted. If I couldn’t even feel safe in church, how was I supposed to feel safe anywhere else? I literally felt like I had no one. I then began taking pills as a way to escape. They got me away from reality, even if it was only temporary. At this point, my dance team was the only thing keeping me going. It was a great distraction and time consuming and I genuinely loved it. However, one day in practice, I hurt my neck so badly it took me out for the rest of the season.

I had rotated three vertebrae completely to the side, and had they gone any further, I would have broken my neck. I ended up in a neck brace and was out for the rest of the season. I was devastated. Being at an all-time low, I attempted suicide by overdose. After a few stays at a psychiatric hospital, I decided I needed more intensive help. This is when I came to Shelterwood.

I arrived at Shelterwood on June, 1, 2011. My experience at Shelterwood was quite an adventure to say the least. For me, it was all about taking risks, stepping out of my comfort zone, being put in awkward situations, and learning to be vulnerable. With a lot of tears, perseverance, and determination, I made it to the final stage and received my graduation date: December 19, 2011.

However, I confessed to lying about the success of my home visits. I was still secretively engaging in some destructive behaviors but just put on a mask when I came back. Just five days before I was supposed to graduate, I got my graduation taken away. In my world, this was devastating. I had failed the program. If I couldn’t finish perfectly, I didn’t want to finish at all and just wanted to quit and go home. I went through a period where I lacked motivation to do anything and backslid a little. My breakthrough came when I finally realized that I didn’t need to graduate on time in order for it to be a success. Getting to that realization couldn’t have happened without support from the other teens and program mentors. I would say that I learned more in the last two and a half months of my stay at Shelterwood than I did in the first six months. And finally, on February 27, 2012, I graduated.

Life after Shelterwood has still had its challenges, but I’m now able to use and apply many of the coping skills and strategies I learned in my time at Shelterwood.  It was not until after graduating that I could see the full impact that Shelterwood had had on my life. I will forever be thankful for my time at Shelterwood and how they always helped point me back to Jesus.

Lauren H.