“When you know who you are; when your mission is clear and you burn with
the inner fire of unbreakable will; no cold can touch your heart; no deluge
can dampen your purpose. You know that you are alive.”
– Chief Seattle, Duwamish
I was looking through my recent blog posts and realized that I had not yet written about a place I went to visit last summer/fall 2017. There are some situations in life when/where it happens you have to just be quite and let it soak in. Sometimes just looking at how situations came to be can unlock a little patch of “surrendering to the process.”
I believe wholeheartedly that there’s something about how the stars are lining up in my life. I don’t have those answers yet but they’re out there somewhere. In March 2017, I was pretty hopeless in most areas of my life. Out of the blue I get a call from someone who still completely amazes me with her compassion and patience. I had found my new coach finally. Tears streamed down my face as I call my wife Melody to let her know what had just happened. The challenge would be for Mel and I, as a couple, to figure out what was best for our family as a whole. I had my eye set on one thing as my goal and that was the day I could begin this arduous work with someone already proven trustworthy.
We already had planned a trip to Walt Disney world in Orlando, FL with our boys obviously not knowing what the coming months would bring. Anyway, the boys and Mel enjoyed the trip. I just realized how bad things had gotten and was continuing to decline. Our boys were entitled to have some genuine fun that normally they couldn’t do around me because of PTSD symptoms. While at Disney World I enjoyed seeing our boys and Mel with smiles on their faces. For me having so many issues with social situations the trip was torture. The amount of people and no private space had me wanting to just randomly bite people for no reason. Then somewhere on the inside I heard…”Orange is not a good color for you! And you won’t like the flip flops!!!!” Not conventional grounding method but it worked. The fireworks shows, though beautiful, had me running for cover. But I do love my family.
Mel’s grandmother passed away which meant we would be staying very close to the city where I grew up. It doesn’t matter the situation. That area of the country is just not safe for me to be hanging out in. But It was a death in the family and loyalty to our friends and family are stronger than anything we have individually, as a couple or as a family. We eventually made it back to Albuquerque. And things went from bad to worse.
I ended up returning to a trauma unit where I would meet more close friends referred to as my “battle buddies.” This stay was quite difficult to say the least. Things were much different and I left there completely defeated. Just months before I caught wind that someone cared which left me very curious say the least. The only thing I’ve never been surprised by is in the fact that change is constantly happening. This situation was absolutely no different. I licked my wounds all the way back to Albuquerque to my awaiting room where I keep all of my secrets. It was sort of my prison within my own prison.
Someone did mention about this place out in Tioga, TX called Healing Springs Ranch. The last thing I wanted to talk about was more treatment. I was exhausted and felt beat up. My recent trauma unit stay reaffirmed to me that professionals were just dangerous no matter how they put a nice spin on things. And I hated them all. No one would have another shot at me like that was how hurt I felt. I was so miserable and wanted a way out. I wanted help but feared it to my core. Again, I was told to call them and check it out.
I wanted the opportunity to go and try another open campus facility, at some point, because those were where I was most comfortable. I just didn’t want to go right then. Being on a locked unit never helps me or anyone else. But what I was about to walk into was something I was never prepared to experience. I was told who my inpatient therapist would be. I had already known her from previous visits to other facilities and knew that she was gentle so having that knowledge really helped me to settle. Here I was about to trust someone to mess with my “system” again and I wouldn’t be able to leave for awhile. And there was only minimal trust to start with.
My wife dropped me and my belongings off after getting checked in. I was told to enjoy that last Diet Coke for a while. I froze. What in the hell did he just say?!!!! I instantly felt death near. I knew that coffee was not even a remote possibility for me. Caffeine, Caffeine where shall I find thee? I was truly starting to panic. OMG….what have I just agreed to? I was trying to keep the fear buried and plenty of smiles and laughter on the outside.
I soon took that long ride, on the golf cart, to the main building known as the Bunk House. I was beyond terrified and my inside guys were assessing everything we saw, heard and smelled. We passed the field of cows I would learn to love and talk to every morning on daily walks. There were a couple I would name T-Bone and Rib eye. I know I should have a conscious about their names but I don’t. And the golf cart would be parked by cows that had this exact conversation go on right before their eyes.
Friend: Dana those are those different cows called Yams!
Me: I can assure you that those are not yams.
Friend: Dana yes they are I know what I’m talking about. Those are YAMS!!!
Me: Oh for the love of God and the Holy Angels! That is not a potato! A yam is what you have on Thanksgiving! If that is a yam then that potato has four legs and a tail while also saying…MOOOOOOO! A YAK! A YAK is what you’re thinking about and that is not a Yak either! That’s just a messed up looking cow! We laughed then and still today about how funny that brief moment in time unfolded.
When the doors opened and I began the incline on the floor to the nurses’ office I was greeted by a few people welcoming me to Healing Springs Ranch. Omg…they’re a cult! They have a following of people that claim that they care and are happy. I saw who would be my therapist and instantly I thought…Damn I feel bad for you already.
Everyone was so incredibly caring and you just somehow knew that this place was special. It was just different in a loving kind of way. In my illustrious career of dealing with treatment centers and stabilization units I had never found this much compassion in one place. This is a place far from a locked unit. They loved without conditions. This has always been a foreign concept for me because from several abusers “love” had conditions. So accepting this love was going to be a challenge and it was the majority of the time.
Very slowly but surely I would begin to settle in with this new community. This place whatever its magical powers was loving me and I began to melt. No one saw this right off but both me and my alters felt it instantly. I’m a difficult patient in the best of circumstances. But apparently The universe knew what it took to make me crumble……COMPASSION. I was still a very angry and scared person under all the smiles and laughter. They had already found my weakness.
And you seem to know that the relationship is going to be interesting when one of the first people you see you say, “Hey 13 is that you?!” Calling someone, who would turn out to be one of my closest friends, one of your alters’ names can be incredibly funny. I’ll be honest that an argument between a 10 year-old and a 13 year-old can be awfully flamboyant. But put them both in adult bodies and that could be sent to the comedy show of your choosing. However, The awesome look at nature and it’s scary and comforting critters it hides seemed to be medicine for my soul.
Charlie the Squirrel seemed to take the place of the Angry Birds in Albuquerque. My personal encounters involves said tree rodent. Oh Mr. Sandy cheeks decided that I needed a little more confusion and proceeded to bark at me machine gun style. With my very well developed hyper startle response, Charlie might as well have been sitting on my face and chewing on it. All I could think to say was, “It jumped out from the bushes and almost killed me!” Really he just scared the shit out of me from about 10 feet away in a tree. Then I scared the shit out of the people walking with me. We still laugh about it all.
Life had become routine which I loved. At night after most of the day staff left for the evening and we had all gotten our night meds and snacks people would head down to their rooms either for a shower and/or bed. But there were also members of our tribe that enjoyed that 30 minute time period of sitting on the porch with the slight breeze and just decompress from all of the day’s activities. The night wildlife was front and center. If you were brave enough to listen to some of the conversations we would have you would realize that there was an amazing amount of healing that went on. There started out with about 4 people, including myself, who took full advantage of hanging out with this new family. By the time it was my graduation, there were usually over 10 people at night.
I was usually telling some kind of funny story or just getting tickled about the day’s activities. There were stories about Miss Betty and the Mr. Bitchy. Many also know about my Ozzy Osborne impression shouting “SHARON!!!!!!” Any issues between me and Charlie the Squirrel had to be told. Funny stories from being an EMT. Or the funny things about being a lesbian mom raising little boys. On a more somber note someone might bring a guitar to the patio and we would sing.
These other clients and staff were hearing details, ugly details of my past and they still loved me. They were getting to know my alters almost as well as my own spouse. The work we all did was hard to say the very least. Walking in their doors with all of my therapy baggage at the forefront assured me just starting on trust again. But my family members who were also working on their individual issues were also there. After many years of Melody and I flying solo through this life of Dissociative Identity Disorder, I can only wish that the facility had been there much sooner. Finally I had found a place that would take the time to get to know someone beyond the adolescente.
There were times when the work we had done during the day time just managed to leave the mark on someone’s face that said, “I need a friend who understands and to be able to let the tears fall where they may without the fear or feeling of judgment.” Healing with your peers with no parameters to interfere was total freedom.
At HSR, I found my tribe. I found a whole host of “safe people” that I never knew existed. All of the amenities are just a bonus with the total experience. The food is prepared by one of the finest chefs on my list. The staff packs a lot of knowledge about both addiction and mental health disorders. Their passion for what they do can be seen many miles away…like Albuquerque. But what you’ll experience as a whole is beautiful. I didn’t leave there with a lot of answers. But I left there knowing and believing that all people aren’t dangerous and that was just what I needed. Because “those people” and the alumni are who I call….FAMILY.
These are just a few of the reasons that Healing Springs Ranch is where I found my forever home with a brand new, handpicked by the universe, group of likewise compassion and passion for life kind of family. I learned at “The Ranch” that even clowns need to make time for tears. And that not everyone is put on this earth to hurt me. As for my alters and I, well let’s just say that the process of “being loving” with our tone to each other is still moving forward just at a snail’s pace. And I did get to move closer to my HSR family. As difficult of a process as it’s been not moving here with Melody and the boys, I’m in the arms of members of that same family. I finally made it here about 2 months ago and I walked into those loving arms of people that I met hear. They understand without explanation but with humor when I say that I’m one of those people who are buy 1 get 15 free.
“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I
guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”
– Robin Williams