Ironwood Maine Web Update

“Ambition is the fuel of achievement.”

Joseph Epstein

Graduating from Ironwood:

​If you were asked to imagine the feeling of graduating from Ironwood, what would you think of? Would you feel accomplished? Ecstatic? Maybe bittersweet? Those are only a few of the emotions that run through an Ironwood resident’s head, when they are graduating from the program. As I am personally preparing for my graduation, I have experienced, firsthand, the ups and downs of what it is like on the home stretch of treatment and in this weekly update, I am going to talk about life at Ironwood right before graduation.

​Typically, Ironwood residents will be told their graduation two weeks prior, by their therapist and family. Then, the residents will have to practice self-control to keep their date a secret until they can share it with their peers one week before the ceremony. In this one-week block, it is difficult for us to keep this information private. We’ve been together with our peers for at least 10 months, so not being able to tell our friends is extremely hard. Once that day comes, however, the graduating resident can make a poster that says their graduation day and time. They can hang their poster up in the farmhouse dining room or living room so that all staff and peers can see it. The week before graduation, residents will usually get very antsy and impatient. For me, it was hard to stay in the present moment and not focus on going home. As a result, your child will probably have to work extra hard to focus on their chores, school work, peer/staff interactions, and daily life. In addition, they must schedule a meeting with Ironwood’s Inventory Coordinator to look through their inventory and decide to either donate, throw away, or keep the items inside. Also, they are required to complete a graduation speech that they will read at the end of their upcoming ceremony.  Their peers will design the cover for a memorable scrapbook, given to the graduate at the ceremony. All Farmhouse residents will each make their own scrapbook page with pictures of the graduate to be placed in the scrapbook. It is a memorable keepsake that will help your child remember the amazing memories they have made while at Ironwood!

​In the few days leading up to the actual ceremony, residents are urged to make every moment with their staff and peers count. It becomes difficult to be patient in the last few days and not rush through things. I have personally experienced moments where I just zone out and focus on the task at hand. This is why it is good to encourage your child to use the skills that he or she has learned here and to practice them daily. Strategies to stay in the moment include DBT skills, exercising, breathing techniques, cleaning and taking some alone time. Taking alone time will help your child collect their thoughts, hone in their wandering mind, and focus on the present moment. I know that it will certainly be a struggle to implement these strategies, but if your child is preparing to go home, they are able to recognize when they are not in the moment and how they can come back to the present. 

​As I am preparing to graduate, I can offer Ironwood parents a couple of tips on how to guide your child through this process and to help them be the strongest they can be during the last leg of their program. I strongly recommend that you try to empathize with your child; ask them how they are feeling, if they might be nervous or anxious? Talk to them about their day and what is going on in their life at the exact moment. I recommend not talking about it too much as this will prevent them from staying in the moment entirely. I also strongly encourage parents to lean on their Ironwood therapist, for support in the last few days of the child’s program. Your Ironwood therapist will have all the details for how the ceremony will play out as well as discharge plans, Home Contract information, around the day and timing of the ceremony. It is also good to rely on them for help if you feel worried, nervous, or stressed. These are all normal feelings that Ironwood parents go through when their child is graduating. You are not alone in how you feel!

​I hope that this explanation helps you to learn more about the graduation process and your child’s emotions. Just remember: anyone can graduate Ironwood with effort and resilience! 😊

I have to admit that it’s uplifting to see an Ironwood teen offering guidance and support to parents (strangers actually) who are not as current on the inner workings of our program.  This is her knowledge after all and why not give it freely, if others might benefit in their own personal journeys and experiences.  She is sharing the importance for you to understand how hard an Ironwood resident is working to better their lives…that the closure process is emotional and even sad…and that there is great value in your support (but not too much!).  Quite wise for a person of this many years.

We are sending this family a huge virtual hug of congratulations and we want all other parents back home to know that you too, are moving in this direction of completion. Time flies, especially when you look back on it.  Have a nice weekend and take extra good care of one another.