Ever since getting out of residential treatment at Rogers Behavioral Health in early January 2020, I’ve avoided writing about it. I was there for two months, getting the help I needed for my OCD. It was both the best and worst time of my life. I was challenging my OCD’s core fears, and I also connected with the other people who were there on a deeper level.
I avoided writing about it because it was so impactful, I know words won’t be able to fully describe it. When I first got there, I did a lot of talking to different people explaining all of the aspects of my OCD. Almost immediately there was a time limit placed on how long I could do schoolwork. I only got three hours each day, which was extremely stressful. It took weeks before my anxiety about it finally went down and I realized that I’d still be able to go to college. I was also given a glass of water to drink every hour, so that I’d finally be drinking the amount of fluids my body needs.
Another smart thing they did was take away my school notebooks, so I would have to ask for them and couldn’t keep them in my room. It prevented me from studying instead of sleeping at night. I also had bans to track how many times I would submit to or resist each day. I believe they were apologizing, rereading/rewriting, reassurance seeking, avoidance, and some others that I no longer remember.
During the week there was a lot of structure. We had time for school, art therapy, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy, where we would do exposures and meet with our behavioral specialist [BS]), ET (experiential therapy, it consisted of activities to promote teamwork, reflection, and sometimes involving physical activity), group time (sort of a support group), and some free time in the evening.
Personally I struggled a lot with art therapy and ET. Art therapy involved a lot of choices, and in my state of heightened anxiety regarding the lack of school time, most days I didn’t end up making any art and just sort of sat there and stressed. Experiential therapy was a lot more fun but some days it challenged my fear of sweating. What I did enjoy about it was that each day was different. There were two gyms, and there was some climbing walls and challenges. We also played some games/sports. If weather was nice, we would sometimes drive to a hiking trail and do things there. For many people ET was their favorite part of treatment.
Over the course of my time there I did a lot of exposures. Some of the more memorable ones are eating chocolate/drinking chocolate milk (one of my peers would throw me the milk in the cafeteria each day without fail to make sure I didn’t avoid it), trying a caffeinated beverage, coloring in a swear word coloring book, saying curse words to staff, breaking minor rules, and the hardest one was getting cut off from school all together. The last few weeks I wasn’t allowed to do any school work (I only needed one class to graduate and I still had a semester of school left), despite my protesting. I thought the world was ending, but I made it through.
Sometimes on Friday and Saturday evenings there would be outings if there was enough staff. Some people would be chosen based on recommendations/how we did that week in treatment so we could get off the unit. We would get ice cream, go to a bookstore, go bowling, etc. There were also outings during the week intending for exposures. Those destinations were a school, mall, grocery store, or anything that would make an exposure for a few people. I remember going to the mall as an exposure because people there would see that I wasn’t at school and I was absolutely terrified. I just walked around looking at different things until it was time to go.
By far the best part of residential treatment for me was the support from the other teens who were there. We would give each other encouragement to resist compulsions. I definitely had a habit of trying to avoid my hourly water, and some of the other teens took it upon themselves to remind me every hour that I needed some more water. Everyone there was at a very low point in life, and it brought us together. With all the time we’d spent together, we could tell when someone was doing a compulsion and would call them out. Seeing everyone else face their fears definitely made me feel less alone, and more willing to push myself to challenge my OCD.