Where do I even begin? I must admit that I sat, looking off into the distance, contemplating that very question for quite some time.
Put plain and simple: Oakendell was a turning point in my life.
And by turning point, I truly mean it.
I find it difficult to think about how Oakendell helped me because of the magnitude and breadth of their help. I can honestly say that I am who I am because of Oakendell. My saying this is not to be mistaken as they recreated me. They helped me find myself.
This is not some philosophical “psycho-babble” or whatever you would tend to call it. I really found myself at Oakendell.
Prior to Oakendell, I was a straight A student, musician, brother, and son. Whilst I looked “great on paper,” I was unhappy and I did not even know it. I was unaware of my own true emotions, thoughts, or even my body. What I mean by this is that I had never taken the time to explore myself and I wrote off sad feelings or the “heaviness” upon me as nothing. I learned that this heaviness as I have described it was depression. I never knew that I was depressed, but I would often get a feeling as if a great weight was pushing down on me. At Oakendell, I discovered this feeling to be depression and I learned to cope. I learned not to ignore these feelings or write them off but instead to accept them, feel them in their entirety, ride the emotions out and experience them as they come. But at the same time know that these feelings are simply my body’s way of communicating remembered pains of the past. I learned to honor those feelings and let them have their place in my life, yet not let them consume me. In learning to do this, I took a huge step towards finding myself.
Notice how I said “I” a lot; I did this, I learned this, and so on. While this was obviously a very personal journey, I had the biggest support group through it all. We became a family. All forty or so of us, residents and staff. We all knew what each other were going through and came to know each other in a much different sense than most people know one another. At every step of the way, I never was alone if I needed someone to dive in and pull me out of a slump or talk me out of irrational thinking.
I also must mention the remoteness of Oakendell and how it was key to my therapy. The fact that Oakendell is so far removed from most of anything forced me to look at myself. The fact that Oakendell resides on a number of acres with the vastness of the open outdoors surrounding it. How we would go for hikes on the property, chop wood for the fireplace, or simply sit on the porch and look out into the trees. It is so peaceful.
Every element of Oakendell is perfect. When I look back, I cannot help but smile. My experience at Oakendell was such a positive one. And the fact that such intensive, difficult therapy and introspection is done on a daily basis only sheds further light on the importance of the environment in which this therapy is done. That is, both the physical surroundings as well as the caring staff whom I consider family.
I invoke the saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Oakendell taught me how to fish. They did not simply check the boxes and send me on my way. They gave me the tools to continue my introspection and awareness of the world around me. They held my hand as I healed and not only helped me atone for my offense, but also explore the deeper, causal factors. I am indebted to Oakendell for what they have given me. This gift is invaluable. And one I make a point of paying forward on a daily basis.
I am proud to say that I continue to be a straight A student, musician, brother, and son. Most of all, I am proud to say that I am truly happy.