“It was really terrible,” the affable, artistic teenager Ruth* said of her life before she came to Lutherwood. “I was in a cycle. I would be okay, then I would struggle, then I would crash. I would self-harm multiple times a week and consider taking my life once or twice a month. I must have had 10 admissions to hospital.” She describes having a lot of bottled up anger, panic attacks, being really sad and endlessly worrying about her friends, family and life. “It was irrational,” she reflected.
Ruth spent a few months in Lutherwood’s mental health day treatment school program. “I had a really good feeling about participating,” she recalled. “There were people there for me, always helping me. But the transition back to my community school was difficult; my supports were gone, and I went back into the anxiety and selfharm cycle.”
When Ruth’s parents introduced the idea of attending Lutherwood’s more intensive residential program, “No way I was going to leave my dog that long; no way!” she said conclusively. “But mom and dad didn’t know what else to do. I had been in hospital again. They wrote me a 5-page letter explaining why… it was really difficult to read.”
"Instead of turning to self harm, I would sit in my anxiety and feel it, to build awareness and resilience." — Ruth
In September, she started the Woodlands residential program. “I didn’t like it at first, but I got more comfortable over time as there was always someone there to help me. We did some really intense DBT work [dialectical behavior therapy provides skills to manage painful emotions]. It is really personal, so I could relate it to my specific troubles. I found the Ride the Wave skill so helpful. Instead of turning to self-harm to avoid the pain, I would sit in my anxiety and let myself feel it to build awareness and resilience.”
Graduating from Woodlands, Ruth had a lot of questions. “This was not a good thing! Can I manage on my own without supports? Was I too attached to treatment? Would I go back to my old habits?” she recalled.
Today, Ruth is more confident in her skills and strategies. “I play the guitar and piano, sing and write my own songs.” And as for her future, “I know what I want in life. I want to be a Music Therapist or Child and Youth Worker, and to work at Lutherwood’s Benjamin Road [Children’s Mental Health Centre]. I miss the incredible staff there. I have seen them a few times; it always warms my heart. They had such a big impact on my life.”
*Ruth is a pseudonym to protect her privacy.