Pacific Quest Gave Me a Place to Process my Grief

Here is a testimonial written by a student, reflecting on her 1 year anniversary since graduating from Pacific Quest.

Pacific Quest was hands down one of the most pivotal experiences of my life. I entered PQ as a scared teen who was neck deep in avoidance and believed the prospect of long term recovery to be impossible. And I left still very scared, but willing to enter the next stage of my life with an open mind and heart. That change occurred because in a few months, PQ had allowed me to work hard at overcoming trauma, mending and creating relationships, starting to feel happy again, and becoming as prepared as possible for my next step.

When I arrived at PQ, I had been in and out of treatment for the past few years and believed that the cycle wouldn’t come to a close any time soon. That belief didn’t falter right away either. At first, I spent my days writing countless letters and lists of why I should leave, expressing those opinions to anyone who would listen, resorting to self destructive behaviors, and counting the number of days I could stand to stay at PQ. I specifically remember telling myself, “I’ll be long gone by Halloween.” At the time, Halloween was almost two months away and I was determined to, through persuasion and continuation of negative behaviors, be sent to another program before then.

That prediction proved to be very wrong. My halloween was spent at PQ, in Huli Ka’e (a really amazing rite of passage) enjoying hanging out with other students and guides and celebrating the holiday in our own way.

What changed? The most apparent change that comes to mind took place on September 9th. I hadn’t been at PQ long at that point and woke up that day maintaining the belief that I did not belong there. Sure, PQ had helped others, but I thought I was different. In my mind, everyone that believed it would help me was wrong. I was the only one who knew what was best. But around lunch time that day, one of the supervisors came to talk to me and ended up changing my perspective forever. I hadn’t eaten much for a while, and was set on not eating my lunch. But that supervisor sat down with me and we talked. Mostly about rock climbing, which we shared a mutual love for, though she also was very honest with me about the negative behaviors that I was doing, and what would happen if I keep doing them. Through that conversation, she somehow she got me to eat a bite of my meal, and another, and another, until I had eaten half of it! That may not seem like a big deal, but to me it was monumental. She aided me in breaking down a wall of disordered eating that had developed through years of fortification.

After that meal, my mindset changed. My choices started to become clear. For the past few years I had believed that once I became reliant upon a self destructive behavior, it was out of my control. But I realized on September 9th that that was far from the case. My urges neither control me or comprise who I am. I do. That day, I decided to give PQ a chance. And that willingness carried me through the next through months and allowed me to, in time, have a lot of faith in the help of PQ and the people there.

Pacific Quest was a necessary whirlwind of emotions. At times, I felt a deeper sadness and anger than I had ever experienced. But I am so, so incredibly grateful that I had a place to feel those emotions. When I was 12, I lost someone really close to me. And after years of halfheartedly attempting to process that loss, PQ gave me a place to dive into it. Before long, sand play therapy, ripping out weeds, and a long term project of transplanting a tree became a few of my go to ways of letting out my emotions. And it really, really worked. However, another huge factor in dealing with my emotions was talking with guides. Almost every day I would sit down with a guide, vent to them, and maybe pull out some weeds in the process. And I am forever grateful to all of those guides for listening to me.

Though there were some tough times, I also felt some of the most genuine feelings of happiness, peace, and freedom in years. Whether it was sitting around a fire and looking up at stars, going to the market, painting, playing bucket ball, graduating to another stage of the program, seeing my dad, going to the ocean, just sitting in my hale, or numerous other things, the happiness I often felt was inexplicable. One memory that sticks out is my first time playing bucket ball. Prior to PQ, I hated sports. But that day, I remember running across the grass with the biggest smile on my face, feeling surprised at the happiness I felt from not a movie or tv show, but from myself. I was just so happy to be outside, feeling comfortable in my body, not isolating myself but hanging out with others. Another thing that I gained a lot of peace from was gardening. Prior to PQ, gardening was just something that my grandma did and I had no interest in taking part in. But in those few months, I learned so much about various plants, from taro to sleepy grass (my personal favorite). I really grew to love some of my plants, and taking care of them grounded me. I even continued to garden at the next program I went to. PQ was by no means a walk in the park, but in those few months I experienced things from such a beautiful, close up perspective that I never really had before.

As I write this, today is my one year anniversary of leaving Pacific Quest. A year ago right now I was probably sitting in my hale impatient to leave, so grateful for the past few months, but feeling a confusing mix of excitement and fear for my next step. And right now, I’m sitting in study hall, slightly overwhelmed that I have a quiz in a few hours, but very, very happy. I regularly go to school and have a solid group of friends for the first time in my life. My relationship with my family and myself is pretty great. And I even have my first art exhibit in a few months! My life isn’t perfect by any means. I still have hard days, get occasional urges, feel mad at my dad, and so on. But things are better than I ever could’ve imagined. And I truly do not believe this change to be possible without the help of PQ.

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