Monday, October 27, 2008

Tiana Finishes Wilderness Expedition

Tiana has finished a very demanding 21 day wilderness trek and we finally got to see her Saturday at the Catherine Freer base camp, about 30 miles east of Albany, Oregon They have a very nice facility there--100+ forested acres, several lakes, a nice river that runs through, several structures, etc. The weather was cool and clear. We had our group meeting with 7 kids, 4 counselors/therapists and about 10 or 11 parents.

My first impression on seeing Tiana as she walked through the door is that she looked very tired. Her face was puffy like maybe she had been crying the night before. She didn't appear to have lost much, if any, weight (I sort of thought she would). Most of the other kids seemed a lot cheerier and happy to see their parents. Not so much with Tiana. As per usual, she wouldn't make eye contact with me.

In this group setting, the kids would face their parents and were expected to tell them what they learned during the first three weeks, what goals they had for the next 30 days and what their long-term plans were for staying clean, amongst other things. They were also supposed to give a full and complete list of disclosures of their past behaviors, including things that the parents probably weren't aware of. This was a very emotional thing for most of the kids to do, but you can see the benefits to everyone concerned--the kids get a lot off their minds and are able to start with a clean slate, and the parents get their worst fears confirmed (or refuted, but mostly confirmed) and can move forward.

Tiana in no cooperated when it came to be her turn. The therapists were very understanding, as they know Tiana is shy and has difficulty communicating under the best of circumstances, but they were also firm, strongly encouraging her to engage. She would just say she wasn't ready to talk, or she just "didn't want to," and we just couldn't get her to open up. She kept insisting that everything was in her journal and that we could read about it there. Finally, after wasting almost 2 hours of the group's time, we just gave up. I think it was a good lesson to the Freer staff about what we as parents have been dealing with.

We then had about 10 minutes to spend just with Tiana and that was a very emotional time for me and her. She just seemed so lost and I had no words to help re-assure her. Whatever issues she's dealing with must just seem overwhelming. We hugged and she let me kiss her on the cheek, I told her I love her and believed in her, and with great difficulty and emotion, she said she love me too. And then she was off. She just looked so sad and distant when she walked away, but never did show any strong emotion about not coming home.

The activities they have planned for the next 4+ weeks include rock climbing, surfing and horseback riding. They'll be receiving individual and group therapy on a daily basis and will still be sleeping in tents at night. Not the ideal lifestyle for Tiana, but I hope she is able to make some progress. She needs to get her self-confidence and her self-respect back.

The capper to the whole ordeal was getting back home and reading through her journal. It was very well written, articulate and clear, but several pages had been ripped out. Obviously, the version the field staff had seen (and more or less approved) was different from what we got. There are still a lot of things that she hasn't come to grips with and I'm very concerned about what they might be. I still feel very badly that as parents, we have really failed her.

Love to all,


1 comment:

emily said...

hi my name is emily erken and i am a seventeen year old senior at ballard. i never personally knew tiana but we both knew of each other. since shes left i heard from some of her friends that she went to a wilderness program. i was immidiately interested because at fourteen and a half i went to sagewalk. not to be to cliche but it was the hardest and best experience of my life. i just wanted to put my info and would love it if you contacted me. in your last paragraph you talkabout how youve "failed as a parent". im no expert but i know these types of things dont have any blame. not the child nor the parents. i know this time is sooo hard on everyone when a family member is sent away. i hope to hear from you because that would mean a lot. 2063991772