In reflecting on my program at Ironwood so far, I realized that I’ve adapted to difficult circumstances and grown more comfortable voicing my experiences through therapy. I’ve strengthened my ability to write insightfully and intuitively in both my personal self-analysis and when gaining understanding of others’ perspectives. I’ve practiced stepping away from overwhelming situations when necessary. And I’ve learned how to effectively lead my peers with confidence without being controlling. All of these skills have allowed me to excel in the program and I trust they will continue to benefit my progress as well.
When I first arrived at Ironwood, I was very closed off from my peers and the staff. I stayed very private and internal, which admittedly, I still have a tendency towards. However, the extent of it was dramatically heightening my depression and damaging my social interactions. Over time, I’ve grown more comfortable and felt safer communicating with staff, which has allowed me meaningful conversations and connection. My relationships with peers have also developed positively as we were able to relate our similarities, support each other, and strengthen our community. Now I feel confident socializing and working with others and have a positive role in my group as a role model and experienced resident.
Beyond improving my connections, Ironwood has been a space where I was able to learn numerous things about myself through therapy and daily experiences. I’ve demonstrated determination in my avocation and strength in my moral convictions. There’s a maturity in respectful confrontation that I knew myself capable of and am proud to have proven to myself. But it required learning that confrontation isn’t always aggressive and sometimes requires democratic persistence. I had to convince myself that different methods of communication can be just as strong and persuasive, at times moreso. This avocation regarding everything from group arrangements to family therapy, to progress in my program has enabled me to affect change and effectively communicate. Most of all, this lesson taught me that my independence is one of my core strengths, but it can put me at odds with others, and therefore requires tactful expressions of self-sufficiency.
Ironwood has also showed me the extent of my own difficulty with vulnerability. My background makes it difficult for me to open up with others, but I’m starting to see its benefits. Being truly honest even with uncomfortable topics has deepened my relationships, made my therapy more meaningful, earned the respect of others, and made it easier to ask for help when I needed it. This newfound help led me to realize that while my weariness of and skepticism towards assistance can be beneficial in keeping me safe – it also makes me more burdened and isolated. So that, to an extent, trusting good intentions and giving people a chance is vital to healthy interactions and improves my quality of life. Above all, I’ve learned that I need new experiences and challenges, or I become bored and restless. Often, my greatest setbacks were simply losing hope from the lack of personal responsibility and autonomy I needed to feel motivated. However, I also learned how to twist this into a drive to acquire change by moving forward in my program. Instead of becoming stagnant, I was able to utilize my restlessness for my own benefit – one of the greatest advantages I have taken from my program thus far.
Ironwood has also come with many personal difficulties I was able to work through. Having patience without becoming apathetic was hard for me, as the slow structure of scheduling could be demotivating. Nevertheless, this patience worked out for me in the end looking back at how far I’ve made it in my program. The daily work was also difficult, as all the chores, schooling, groups and activities made it seem impossible to ever rest. But with experience, I’ve moved past the burnout and become accustomed to the work. This has been vital in moving past my mental blocks and becoming more internally driven. Now, I look forward to the challenge of harder work rather than dreading it. Overcoming the, at times, degrading feeling of living in a residential home was particularly challenging for me. Sometimes the strict rules could feel insulting. It put me on guard and made me defensive towards the juxtaposition between how I view myself and how the program views me. In spite of this, I have developed a pride in myself and dignity in my actions regardless of the behaviors of others. It was a brutal, unintentional lesson but a natural consequence, and perhaps one of my most important takeaways for the long-term: to have certainty in my worth and identity regardless of circumstance. The final hardship was simply working within the confines of a program to deal with individual issues such as my unique family situation and future plans. However, the skills I developed like communication, advocation, and self-expression have enabled me to start working through complex problems such as these.
Regardless of the internal and external difficulties I’ve faced at Ironwood, I was able to overcome them all while developing new perspectives and abilities. I now want to expand these skills and approach new ones which will allow for increasing opportunities. I want to strengthen my work ethic, so I’m more prepared for potential careers and college programs in the future. I also want to strengthen my trust in other people, so I can broaden my support network and allow myself to rely on a few others. This ability will better me as a friend and as a leader as well as positively impact the communities around me. It’ll also support my goals of improving how I function in group dynamics, so that I’m better able to support my peers through their struggles and goals. I also want to be able to participate more thoroughly in therapy.
I look forward to debating personal philosophies, developing a greater understanding of my experiences, working through my past, and planning for the future with my therapist. I want to start practical preparations for the future to assure a secure situation and set the groundwork for successful living, inside and outside of Ironwood.
Overall, I am thrilled to have gained so many impactful experiences and discussions. I’m excited for the challenges ahead and ready for greater expectations and responsibilities. I’m thankful for all the staff who have helped me work through my struggles and celebrate my accomplishments, and I appreciate my peers for supporting me and providing an environment to relax and have fun when we all really needed it.