Life is good

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It was as if a spaceship had come down to Earth, and abducted my real daughter, and replaced her with this one.

Hello, I am Kelly. My daughter is Katy, and she came to New Haven in November of 2012. She was 14 years old. I want to focus less on her journey story. All of us families have a story. That story is sad and heartbreaking. I don’t mean to discount anyone’s journey story, but we’ve heard them all. I want to focus on her New Haven story. And rather, explain how the people and events at New Haven have touched our lives.

Our family had spent nearly a year of failed treatment, after failed treatment, after failed treatment. My husband and I had resulted to the fact that our firstborn daughter was forever broken. Our dreams of her going to college were over; becoming a productive member of society were gone. There was no way a child like this would ever amount to anything but problems in this world. If she actually lived, we would be forever dealing with her issues. We would be forever taking care of her. It was as if a spaceship had come down to Earth, and abducted my real daughter, and replaced her with this one. One that was not mine. One that was broken. This was not the child I had given birth to.

I could no longer care for my own daughter.

My search, or what I like to refer to as my “fate”, actually led me to David Mayeski in September of 2012. David would then become my admissions counselor at New Haven. Katy had been in several failed treatments, and now she was in stabilization for her third time. They were getting ready to release her from stabilization in a few days, and somehow I knew I was ready to let her go. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, I just knew there was no way I could bring her home. I had finally resulted to the fact that I could no longer care for my own daughter.

I must have driven David nuts for those first two weeks. I was comparing New Haven to two other programs. (What was funny is that I actually found out later that David used to work at one of the other programs I was comparing New Haven to. He never had one single bad thing to say about it. I would learn later, from the New Haven values program, that that was integrity.) Anyway, I would call one program to ask a tough question, and I felt I had received a good answer. Then, I would ask the same question of David. I would make them more difficult each time, hoping David would not have the best answer. But somehow, he always did.

Then I knew I had to see this place. He was making it seem like it was just too good to be true. I thought, “There is just no way this guy is telling the truth.” At that time there was a six week waiting period, so I had plenty of time to torture David. We were lucky enough to move her back to a failed treatment center, just as a holding cell until we were able to get her here. So since I had time to decide, I dropped in for a visit. I literally and purposefully emailed David mid-afternoon and told him I was coming tomorrow morning. Surprisingly enough his response was, “Okay! I’ll see you then!” I thought for sure I had him. I knew if I looked long and hard enough I would find a reason why I should not send my daughter to New Haven. Trust me, I was looking for it.

I can’t believe how many people cared enough to take time for me that day.

I arrived in Salt Lake and drove to North Campus [Saratoga Springs] feeling super skeptical. David met me in the parking lot and hugged me and I was stunned. I thought, “Why are you hugging me? I don’t even know you.” I followed him to the front door, he turned the knob, and he opened it. You have no idea how weird that was. It just wasn’t right. What is wrong with these people? No ID’s, no door locks, no key cards. No one even checked my drivers license. And all these girls were super excited to see Dave. They were high fiving him, they were waving at him, they were talking to him. “I get it now. It was all planned. Wow. It’s actually like Stepford Wives here. He is really putting on a good show.”

As I look back, I can’t believe how many people cared enough to take time for me that day. I think back about how selfish I was just to pop in the way that I did. I want to add that the campus was getting ready to leave for their annual Moab camping trip the very next day. Needless to say, everyone was busy, and no one seemed to care one single bit that I had interrupted their preparations.

I met with Karen—she showed me the sand room. She went into detail about rec therapy. I didn’t really understand most of it, but it seemed good enough and she was really nice. I met with Matt and Nevin together. They listened to my long, sad story. They never rushed me, they never interrupted me. And then in a single instant, Nevin validated me. I didn’t know what validation meant then, but I do now. “So if I understand you, Kelly, Katy’s life is death and suffering. When she chooses not to suffer anymore, she chooses death. Is that right?”

Oh my gosh. He was right. “Okay,” I thought. “He was right, but I am bound to find something bad soon.”

Then we went to lunch. Lisa was cooking in the kitchen. All the girls, all the staff came to receive their food and sat at this huge long table, together. They laughed, they told stories, they were loud, they were happy. It was like a family. Then it dawned on me… where was the cafeteria? After they eat, do they lock the bathroom doors? Does someone watch them? “You must not have a girl with an eating disorder.” I thought, “Yep, that’s it. I think I found the reason why I should not send Katy here.” But I’m not gonna bore you with David’s answers to these questions, because again, David had all the right things to say. I thought these were good enough questions to trip him up this time, but oh no. “This guy is good.”

Then the final straw. David said I could speak with some of the girls. “Okay, I know how this is going to go. He’s going to hand pick the girls he wants me to talk to.”

Wrong again. He said, “Girls! I have a mom here, would you like to talk to her?” I’m pretty sure almost every girl wanted to share with me that day. He said I could choose any five. “But, then he is going to sit with us so the girls know what to say, right?” Wrong. I got to sit alone with them. They were all different. They were on New Haven’s levels 2 through 5. They were insightful, honest, trustworthy, and every single one was grateful to be there. They were glad their parents had brought them there. This was the moment you would think I knew this was real. But no. I thought, “How are these people brainwashing these girls?”

This was clearly 100% different than any program I had experienced. This was more like a family. I was used to more like jail. So really, at this point, it was a crap chute for me. What did I have to lose? Nothing really, because we had nothing.

I sat in that first parent group and a fog finally seemed to lift. As we all went around the room telling our stories, I realized for the first time ever I was not alone.

November 19th was our big day. That was the absolute hardest day of my life. The holidays that year were hard. My 14-year-old daughter did not spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with her family. I still don’t know how I survived that year.

Then January came—our first parent weekend. I sat in that first parent group and a fog finally seemed to lift. As we all went around the room telling our stories, I realized for the first time ever I was not alone. I broke down and I said loudly, “I will not bury my daughter.”

It really came out of nowhere. It was from a very deep place I had yet to open. But there it was—I was ready to make this happen. I was committed. I am still famous in that group to this day. I still get parents from that group reminding me of that statement, and how I inspired them, and how I moved them. I now understand that I had to place my faith and trust in New Haven. Even when I may not agree with something, I had to step back, not question why, and just “do”. New Haven knows what to do. They’re the experts. I, clearly, was not. Maybe it’s okay I don’t know what’s best for my daughter. Yep, you know what, that is okay. I have learned that.

As anyone’s journey, it took it’s ups and downs throughout that year, but it was truly an amazing ride. Whenever we came to New Haven, we always felt loved as parents, and we could tell our daughter was very well-cared for. But anyone could feed her and make sure she had clothes. She was loved here. It was clear she was starting to love other people, too. We watched Katy grow over the months and into a confident, loving, appreciative girl. We saw her trust in us as parents. One day, during a family therapy call, she said to me, “Mom, I know no matter what is going on, or how bad I hurt you, you always manage to kiss me goodnight. I want you to know that I notice that. I know now that you love me no matter what.”

New Haven taught my daughter how to love herself.

When I speak to prospective families, I always think it’s important to tell them the good and the bad. I start with the bad. My one regret is that I was not ready sooner. But I feel that New Haven came into our lives at precisely the right time. Because anytime sooner, I was not ready. I was not ready to send her away. I was not ready to admit I could no longer care for her. If I had been ready sooner, maybe I would have found New Haven sooner. But in the end, everything happens for a reason; I do believe that. I had to love her enough to let her go.

The good is what is different about New Haven. Why did New Haven work for us? I can put that fairly simply: New Haven taught my daughter how to love herself. When she learned how to love herself, then she understood that other people loved her, too. When she knew other people loved her, then she saw that life was worth living. No matter how bad her past was, that would no longer matter. Because she was a great person, and now she knows it.

I did not bury my daughter. I thank New Haven for that, and I thank every person at New Haven for that.

She can overcome fear, she loves herself, she is worthy of that love of herself, and from all of us. New Haven did that. Every single person at New Haven did that. I wish I could name them all. Everyone who hugged us, everyone who spoke to us, everyone who supported our family and Katy. There are too many. Our lives were touched, our lives were changed. Our daughter was saved because of New Haven, and every person at New Haven.

I did not bury my daughter. I thank New Haven for that, and I thank every person at New Haven for that.

Now I get to brag a bit about Katy. She is now a senior in high school, and this year she will be 18. She has received academic scholarships from every college in our state. Some have given her full rides. She is excited, and we are excited, that she will be going to college. She is smart, confident, amazing, loving, kind, responsible, and she is a leader. She loves herself, and is worthy of receiving love from others. She truly is an amazing woman. Katy is my hero.

I honestly would not change a single thing about her. I am so proud of her. I also would not change a single thing about what happened. Our journey made us who we are. It made us humble, it made us grateful, and it made us all better.

New Haven found her.

So the great news is: the aliens returned my daughter. The one we lost, the one we knew we had, the one we started with. New Haven just had to look for her, and New Haven found her. People ask us how we are now, and as Brad, our therapist, would say: “Life is good”.