By: Erin Marcus, Clinical Admissions Director
One of my favorite parts of the work we do is receiving updates from students after they leave Pacific Quest. Over the years, we’ve received emails, letters, photos and it’s always an inspiration to hear about continued progress and personal growth. I recently had the opportunity to visit with a PQ alumni student, Celest and discuss how she is doing after her journey at Pacific Quest.
Erin Marcus interviews alumni student Celest
Thank you so much for speaking with me Celest! How old were you when you went to Pacific Quest and about how long have you been out of the program?
I was 17 and I have been out of the program for about one year and a month.
We’ve been able to spend some time together recently and I’ve noticed how calm and comfortable you seemed to be in different settings. Were you always this comfortable in your own skin?
I think I’ve always been comfortable with who I am and expressing myself but what was challenging for me was being comfortable with other people. If I didn’t really like someone by first impression I didn’t give them a chance. I could and still can be pretty judgmental. But PQ gives you a unique setting where you get to know your peers on a deep and factual level, that usually takes a lot of small talk to get to anywhere else. It was easy for me to relate to people I never thought I would by appearance and later on have more compassion for the people around me at school or work, instead of just labeling them “not my kinda person.”
What were some of the difficulties you experienced during your time at Pacific Quest? How did you cope with/overcome them?
Being able to just sit with my thoughts got tricky at times and having everything so scheduled could get mundane for moments but oddly enough I think the hardest thing for me was to be comfortable with my peers in a light way. I got so use to just hearing and telling heavy personal stuff that it started to just feel like I was reading a book of my life, because it’s hard to feel things from the past, even if they hurt at the time. I’ve always had a somewhat difficult time joking with people at first and exposing my personality so the regimented talk was kind of a comfort. To just be expected to say the facts how they made me feel and nothing else. But getting to know my peers on a level where I would let myself get uninhibited sometimes made me uneasy. But it started to come naturally with repetition and having to constantly be in public. That’s probably what I grew from most. Just allowing myself to get comfortable. Allowing myself to feel happy and have it be known.
What were some of the goals that you set while you were at the program?
I set goals to get into a college, notice when I’m feeling depressed and take care of it, make effort to be social, and to be a healthier person in general.
What was the outcome? Do you feel like you’ve been able to sustain the changes you made at the program?
I have gotten into a school. I am much better at recognizing when depression is creeping up since I’ve learned so much about what genuinely makes me a happy productive human being. Making an effort to be social is probably the one I let slip under the rug the most without even realizing it but I am much less critical of people. And I do socialize in better ways than I use to, meeting my need for human interaction in actual productive conversations, instead of bonding through mutual hate or love of similar vises.
What were your favorite parts about being in the program?
My favorite parts about the program were being able to get to know my peers through group therapy, developing relationships with staff, and being able to see a therapist regularly.
What are some of the long term changes that you attribute to your hard work while you were with us in Hawaii?
Long term changes for me were being able to appreciate smaller things more often. Appreciating everything I’m given and working on myself because I deserve to be worked on. I realized my self worth and that I do and can take up space.
What words of wisdom do you have for students who are on the fence about coming to Pacific Quest and to those struggling to stay once they have arrived?
If you are considering going I would recommend just going and not getting too stressed on the details. If you are given an opportunity to go to Hawaii and experience something vastly different from your day to day, why not take it? No matter how hard it gets, it’s a blink of an eye in all of your time, and I promise once you go home you’ll be glad you went. Once your a few weeks in you’ll probably be glad, but everyone feels differently. The first week is the hardest. And our generation really struggles with long term gratification so this is a prime way to really feel good about your actions in the long run. If that means anything to you. But whatever your struggle is you deserve to give it the attention and the time it needs to pass.
What advice do you have for parents who are having difficulty deciding if they should send their son or daughter to Pacific Quest?
It’s not that intense of a program as in your kid isn’t going to be killing themselves with manual labor and sleeping under a leaf every night but, it is a lot to go through emotionally and a very efficient way of growing up. Like a developmental pressure cooker. I don’t think anyone can’t handle it but I think everyone sometimes doubts that in the program. Which is so necessary. To struggle. But overall, if you’ve got the funds, I recommend it.
Often times, parents worry that their son or daughter will resent them if they send them away to a program and/or that their child will feel abandoned or never forgive them. What was your experience and the experience of some of the other students you were in the program with?
I don’t think it’s a great idea to send your kid in blind. Having a conversation is important, even if they are going regardless. It just sits bad to feel lied to and I’ve seen that delay progress in some cases. I was a bit upset at first in the program because I wished they had explained to me better what it was, but as I realized there’s nothing really to know or say, I accepted it. And a few weeks in I just was excited for the next time I was going to get to see them. You’re there because you’re loved.
What was your experience with the healthy lifestyle at PQ? What, if any changes have you maintained since leaving?
I liked having a consistent sleeping cycle, so these days I really don’t let myself sleep in past 9:00 am. I’m usually up by 9:00 am which is insane compared to the 12 pm wake up I was pulling before PQ. I eat a similar diet to what is at PQ so that wasn’t too much of a change for me. Most of the health knowledge I picked up to apply to my life everyday was for the health of the mind. Going on runs, starting up conversations, drinking tea.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Overall, what PQ did for me was make me grow up. Get out of the mindset that my sadness or whatever I was feeling was part of me, and not just a fleeting small potato like everything else. Being little doesn’t help anything or anyone. You deserve what you work to get. Everything else is a privilege. Doing things for your own well being is the most important thing to do before helping anyone else.