I was sent to an outdoor program in 2020. It was a horrible experience. To this day I still have nightmares that keep me up at night. I ended up staying 3 days and not completing the program. I hated the hours and hours of hikes that went uphill or having the sun right next to you with long black pants and a blue / black long sleeve shirt. Not being allowed to roll up the sleeves. You are not allowed to show your skin because of triggering reasons. You are not allowed to touch, this includes hugging, high-fiving, and other forms of human contact. You could not have private conversations, and you had to be in the eye-site of a staff at all times. You have to inform them when you are using the bathroom and talk to the staff during this time. With questions about what you are doing and how everything looks. You also have to request to go to the restroom and are most times told no and then forced to wait. You have to hold your bodily functions (that are healthy and bad when not happening naturally) for hours sometimes. Then comes the food. There was a food schedule of which days u ate what. For breakfast, we either got oatmeal with less than a teaspoon of brown sugar, and that never lasted through the week or two weeks that you had the brown sugar, or you had granola and grape nuts, then with that, you had powdered milk. For lunch, you had either a packet of tuna and one packet of mayo and two of mustard on 2 tortillas, and on the other days you have 2 lousy scoops of peanut butter and if you were lucky 3 seconds of honey(they counted how long they put the thick layer of honey on), onto your tortilla. For dinner, you had quinoa, mac and cheese, rice and beans, and rice and lentils which you had three out of the seven nights. I did not eat anything because all of the stuff looked disgusting plus I was trying to starve myself to death at that horrible place. If we wouldn’t make or couldn’t make a fire we wouldn’t eat. Same with water. They want to break you down until you’re nothing. They treated us like objects. We were nothing more than cargo. It was dehumanizing. They call it therapeutic, but it’s just cruel. Every kid is treated like a criminal. The program also overworks kids while giving them little to eat. They don’t tell you future plans (i.e. how much time a hike will take). Staff told us that our parents had signed us away and I was now property of the program. I was also told that if anything should happen to me in the event that I would die or have critical injuries that my parents had signed a waiver saying that it would be legal. This is not a safe environment. I am 17 now I was 15 when I went. In the 3 years since I have been diagnosed with depression and panic attacks from this event. To this day I have a feeling of abandonment and I am terrified that I am going to be sent back.
- Thank you for sharing your story with the TeenCentral community. It sounds as if you went through a rough time during your stay at the wilderness camp. Anxiety and depression can be very tough to cope with, but it is possible with the right help. Keep up the good work on talking about your feelings.
- We are sorry you didn’t find the help you were looking for at that time, but it’s never too late. One thing that often builds resilience in children and adolescents is being linked with a positive supportive adult. Can you think of such a person in your life? Perhaps you could express your feelings to a therapist, guidance counselor, teacher, coach, religious leader, parent, or adult family friend.
- While it is not uncommon for mental health treatment to be focused, it sounds like you didn’t enjoy the approach of this program. Most mental health programs really focus on healthy boundaries (emotionally and physically) for all, staff are required to keep clients (especially children) in their sight regularly, and it is part of any therapeutic program to encourage staff to talk to children and ask probing questions as to what lead them to the program. While the food may not have been to your liking, it sounds quite balanced, healthy, and portioned. It also sounds as if you were free to leave as you were able to drop out within three days. It’s worth asking yourself if you think you were ready to accept help at that time as you seem quite turned off by many of the things that are a standard part of 24 hour group treatment for teens. That may be an answer only you will know. More importantly to ask yourself is, are you ready to accept help now? Just perhaps in a different setting.
- Check out our LEARN tab on TeenCentral and look over the information on Anxiety and Depression. You might learn a lot about each of these diagnoses. Also at the bottom of the screen we often link to useful resources such as Support Plans or an MPE Toolkit. You are not alone in your feelings of sadness and/or stress but each of these can be cover come with the right resources.
- Consider finding out what works for you when you are feeling a bit overwhelmed. We understand you didn’t enjoy nature camp, but perhaps you can find a part of nature you enjoy. Try a part time job or volunteering. Join a new club at school or out in the community. Read a new book, paint a picture, or learn to cook.