“E’s” Speech and Presentation for Promotion to Level 3
I have always loved the book, Catcher in the Rye. I know why, too, because I shared two major traits, or rather actions, that Holden participated in. Correction, make that three. I ran, stole, and most notably lied. Unlike Holden, I learned to love and care. My parents gave me a second chance, and I finally gave myself a first. I’ve learned that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and freedom is a part of that beauty. I am not trapped, as I am surrounded by limitless freedoms: growth, happiness, choice, and support. I have learned that I’m resilient and adaptable. Home comes with me wherever I go. I’ve had glory, but within that has been a lot of self-doubt. I spent my days loathing in my sorrows and avoiding others’ success. I struggled allowing myself to rest and heal. I opened old scars because it made me feel. I struggled to control my internal flame from its extremes: a dim spark that barely lit the room to a forest fire that I let run rampant. I couldn’t figure out how to be happy with others and myself. As I move through life, I want to learn how to love myself and others, not one, but both together. I want to learn how to be a better teammate, not just a team captain. I want to be able to accept defeat with ease; to be able to find new ways to push through the uncomfortable emotions that come with that defeat. Most of all I want to, and will continue, to fully to love and accept myself. Once I do, I will be unstoppable(ish). To conclude this time of opening a new chapter, I want to go back to where this all began: Holden Caulfield. At one point in my life, I would’ve said I was like him. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what I really think about that.
Parents’ Graduation Letter to their daughter, “E”
Our Dear Daughter E.,
We’re extremely proud of you always, but especially today with your Ironwood graduation. Graduating from Ironwood is an immense and exceptional victory, because the importance, meaning, and great achievement of this day is something only Ironwood families and staff could fully understand. Because the program is unique and only we, you, and the Ironwood family know of the profound challenges you have faced and overcome. Not for one day or one week, but consistently, over and over, until you have truly demonstrated the strength of character you’ll need going forward into your adult life and the kind of skills, stability, and resilience that young people dearly need for a happy future. We know it was a challenge that you didn’t ask for. Still, you put in the work and progressed until you triumphed. More than anything, you did not give-in and you completed the program, and that’s enormously meaningful and important, especially to us. You’ve even sometimes shared your own realizations of how your new-found skills are enriching you. We hope you’ll continue to realize the importance of this year more so as you grow far into the future.
In the weeks and months before you came to Ironwood, our family was in despair. We were afraid for your safety and your inability to recognize how your actions and your dreams were on a collision course. Today, we’re optimistic for you, what your future holds, and your ability to control it. There’s a health crisis going on, but the truth is, there will always be challenges, many beyond our control. Your healthy reactions, strength, and plan of action to overcome each challenge is what counts and leaves us to be mindful and grateful to enjoy the peaceful and joyful times in between. We’re optimistic that instead of despair and disfunction, our family can now exist in harmony for the most part, and that we can cling together and find strength in our love for one and other through the good and bad times.
Never let anybody tell you that you should be sad or angry or that you’re helpless or a victim or that it’s pointless to try. The reasons for all of us to feel happy and lucky and grateful and optimistic and to work to make things better vastly outweigh the negative and always will. You can still be anything and do anything you put your mind to.
Thank you to each and every one of the staff at Ironwood, who helped E. to this great day: the school staff, the barn staff, the Frye staff, the Farmhouse staff. Thank you to every one of you who saw E.’s positive qualities and made her realize them for herself. We appreciate your efforts dearly. Thank you to Wes and Sue Horton for their amazing courage and pioneering spirit to make Ironwood a cutting edge reality that exists to help families and kids like ours. Also a special thank you to the truly magical Frankie, the horse. Thank you to all the students who embraced E.’s unique qualities as part of your own journeys. It truly took a village for E. to heal and succeed.
There are no thanks enough we can express to E.’s family therapist who truly joined our family and held our hand through the rollercoaster ride that is the Ironwood journey. And as if our family function issues weren’t enough to confront, C’s unflinchingly supported us through this difficult COVID-19 year, as well as our tremendously challenging weeks when E.’s dad underwent surgery. It was an epic journey and we have such admiration and gratitude for C’s resolve, professionalism, and most of all her warm and caring nature. Thank you.
E., we’re all excited to have you back home with us before you fly the nest, go to college, and live a long and fulfilling life. We want to have our daughter back. Welcome home. We love you.
“O’s” Speech and Presentation for Promotion to Level 3
I would like to begin by thanking each individual who has guided me during my time here. Your dedication and effort has truly been significant to my journey. It would not be who I am without your help. Let’s go back about a year ago. I was 13 and trapped in a body that did not belong to me and I couldn’t care less about anything that happened to me. Risk wasn’t real in my mind even if it was, I wouldn’t have cared. I convinced myself that I was invincible, that nothing I did could affect me. Nothing phased me anymore, not even being lost in the middle of the night.
Eventually, my parents realized that they couldn’t keep me safe. So, they sent me to Ironwood. I was, to put it nicely, upset. I couldn’t believe that they would send me some place I’ve never heard of. Why should I be the one to suffer? I hid from responsibility under the mask of a victim. If I wasn’t the one in the wrong, I didn’t have to be accountable for my actions. I convinced myself that everyone was against me and that the world simply wasn’t mine to live in. This made me depressed and prevented me from being able to move forwards. I didn’t realize it, but running away from responsibility was making things way harder than they needed to be. Once I accepted my role in my problems my world opened up. Suddenly everything began to weigh less on my shoulders. I was able to see the hope for me, where none had been before. I wanted to live, I wanted to see what life had to offer. Of course, not everything was peachy afterwards. I still hated my body, I still hated my situation. Filling yourself with hate is the worst possible obstacle. Hate welcomes negativity and cynicism. It leaves a void that love once filled.
Teaching myself to love wasn’t easy. I wanted to hold onto my hatred, it was like a shield to hide behind. I pushed others away with hate, because I feared their love. The idea of being cared about scared me, because one day, they might not care anymore. If I never let them care to begin with, they couldn’t hurt me later. In letting go of hate, I learned more about who I truly was, not the fraud I paraded to protect myself. I realized that I didn’t have to limit myself to what others wanted or expected from me. I opened up more, and shared myself more with my peers. I expanded my horizons and tried new things. For example, I found out that I love nature. In the past, I had been too busy making myself miserable to see what was good in the world. My biggest discovery was that this could change. I didn’t have to always stick to one script, or limit myself to what I thought it was. I still want to work on my patience and acceptance, but I honestly never thought I’d come this far.
Level two was definitely challenging for me. I hadn’t accepted myself or Ironwood and I struggled to stay consistent. I didn’t really want to get better at first, so I didn’t put effort into the program. It was really difficult for me to focus on myself, I used my peers to cope with my situation. I was heavily dependent, and others struggles often became mine. I’m hoping to be able to improve my relationship with myself and my parents, as well as learning to love myself for who I am, not the superficial label I gave to myself. I’m really trying to work on acceptance and my ability to move on. When I arrived at Frye, I didn’t have any respect for myself, and I let myself become the clown of the group. As I learned to take myself seriously, I slid into more of a leadership role. I tried my best to be compassionate, while also maintaining expectations. At Frye, I ‘ve found emotional regulation extremely helpful. Pausing before I speak has helped me meet
expectations and patience has eased my mind. Thinking about my past self and myself now, I hardly recognize myself. I wish I could go back a year and tell that scared kid that everything will be alright. You don’t need to be afraid anymore.
Thank you for your time and support in the past 6 months, it has been beyond helpful.
“M’s” Speech and Presentation for Promotion to Level 3
My Journey before Ironwood was not a life anyone would want to live. I had been labelled by other people and their parents, that no mother or father would ever want their child to be called. I truly believed all the names people called me too. Over the last 3 ½ years I was doing everything wrong and my bad decisions and lack of care and hope for my life is what brought me to Ironwood. I am very grateful for my parents sending me to Ironwood, believe it or not. When I first arrived at Ironwood, I thought the place was an extreme and useless place. Little did I know it would be the place that would help me realize I am worth something and I do have hope for my future.
When I first joined the boy’s group, everyone accepted me with open arms and treated me with respect, which is something I value a lot. In the last four months of living and working with the Frye boys, I found a great appreciation for them all. Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of struggles, but being there has helped me take these same struggles as learning opportunities rather than misfortunes. I have learned that that I am kind, smart, hard-working, a role model, loving and a genuine good person. I have learned radical acceptance, to be open and to have a growth mindset rather than a fixed one. Frye gave me time to figure out what I want to do with my life and what my passions are. I have gained more control over my impulses and realize there are consequences to my actions. Ironwood will give me the chance to receive my high school diploma, which I never would have thought possible just a few months ago! Overall, this first part of my program helped me realize that I am worth something and that I have no reason to be hopeless. I feel that I am 100% ready for the second half of my Ironwood journey.
At the Farmhouse, I hope to work on finding the source behind my anger and sadness. Working on peer interactions and staying positive are also important personal goals. Last but not least, my greatest goal is to be able to reestablish my relationship with my family. I take full responsibility for every hardship I’ve put them through and losing their trust. I just want their trust and respect back. That is what’s most important to me, besides everlasting change in my life. Before Ironwood, I was isolated and hopeless and today, I am discovering my passions and purpose.
Thank you for all that you have done for me so far. I am grateful for everything
“R’s” Presentation for Promotion to the Farm House
Good morning. Thank you for your time and thank you for the opportunity to present.
Before coming to Ironwood, I believed that I was not enough. I struggled with the challenges of depression, suicidal thoughts, poor self-esteem and an attempt to end my life. At first, I begged not to go back into treatment. I felt like I tried it all before and going through the cycle again was pointless. Eventually, I arrived at the treatment center before Ironwood and there, I came to a difficult realization that I could have one big, last chance and unless I genuinely put effort into getting better, I wasn’t going to. So, I prepared myself. My parents and therapist were talking about Ironwood. I was discharged, I arrived at Ironwood in the fall and I was surrounded by people I didn’t know. After I said goodbye to my parents, I headed to the mini-cabin and there, my photo was taken and my Ironwood journey began.
At Frye, I overworked myself. I became invested in my program, but I also became invested in other’s programs. For a long time, I focused on everyone else. This was a way to avoid my inner struggles and pretend that I had no imperfections. But of course, like every person in this world, I have imperfections. I could barely tolerate myself. I got tied up in petty arguments and competitions, I lacked care and empathy for others, I believed I wasn’t worthy of love, I had trouble seeking support and I had trouble focusing. I had a negative mindset with cognitive distortions and it was hard for me to believe that I had a future ahead of me. Sometimes it felt that I was slowly suffocating with all the disappointment that I piled upon myself.
But I resisted. I resisted those negative thoughts and became determined to live. I said this and more during my first Family Weekend and it wasn’t for my parent’s benefit. For a very long time, I put my needs at the very bottom of my to-do list and spent my time trying to balance my parents. I truly felt responsible for their happiness and well-being. At Frye though, I was given limited distraction and really thought of myself. “What do I want?” “Who do I want to be?” I decided that who I was in the past was not the authentic self I saw within and I wanted to be who I was meant to be. The first step was coming clean and giving myself an opportunity to have a fresh start. In my Letter of Accountability, I told my parents about my lies and exaggerations and how I felt about the biggest lie I’ve ever told. I had already come clean, but I didn’t want it to just end there. I wanted to feel real closure.
Saying sorry is also a recent thing for me, as I truly learned the meanings of forgiveness, while at Frye. Both are essentially for you. To say “I’m sorry” and move on, is a gift that mends relationships and creates a positive space. Forgiveness though, has more to do with it. To forgive someone is for you to be able to let go and find peace for you and that’s one of the most important things I’ve ever learned. Another important thing I’ve learned is that I actually enjoy being me. I mentioned earlier that I could barely tolerate myself before and that’s me being totally honest. I really felt like I wasn’t worthy of love because of all the things in my past that I thought were wrong. But there’s no reason for me to think that and I know that I deserve all the positive things in my life. I deserve my unique self, I deserve my loving parents and I deserve my life. I deserve to be happy, safe and healthy for all of my life. It isn’t anyone’s responsibility other than my own. I can’t blame others for my actions. I’m my own person with thoughts and feelings that can be influenced, but are really sourced from my heart. I also can’t blame my parents. I‘ve tried for so long, “you raised me”, “it’s your fault”, “I am not the problem”. Now, through all those awkward and teary family therapy sessions, I have complete faith that my parents love me unconditionally and I will always be grateful for that. In fact, it is a goal of mine to express that gratitude to them, as I’ve done a subpar job, so far. That’s not my only goal though and I have some more in mind. To be truthful and honest, to stay in the moment, to be my authentic self, to live my own story, to get up to The Farmhouse and to do my best to be my best!
“Listen” by Nate Powers
We are honored to share this original song from a former Ironwood resident who has so much potential to make our world a better place. These lyrics represent the fragile needs that exist within all of us and further, the family transitional growth that we hope to see for all Ironwood residents and family members. “Trust”, “Time”, “Change”, “Family”, “Not Alone”, “Love”, and “Listen”. Nate offers up his appeal for hope, openness and the desire for better, more inclusive days ahead. When we contemplated sharing this song, we spoke to this resident and his parents specifically to seek permission AND to discuss the protection of their privacy. This resident and his parents OK’d the share, but both would have none of this discussion around privacy. This resident is proud of his accomplishments and wants the world to hear his voice. His parents share his pride and they are grateful for their Ironwood family experience, giving us full freedom to share this song in any way that might help their son and others. So, there you have it. Please “LISTEN” to this original piece written and performed by Nate Powers.