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June 10, 2018

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Crossing a Threshold: A Parent Testimonial

We recently received this testimonial from a parent whose daughter attended Pacific Quest.  Thank you for sharing your story!

“Eight months ago our daughter’s father and I made the most difficult decision we had ever made in our lives ~ we chose to have our daughter transported to Pacific Quest. She had been spinning out of control for almost a year prior to this, the source of her depression, self harming, running away and drug use was not clear to us but after trying to help her ourselves and seeking the help of local therapists we realized we might lose her if we didn’t make this very difficult decision to send her away from home.

Although she did not go willingly it did not take long for her to begin to feel ‘held’ in this new environment. Safe with herself and safe under the care of a compassionate and deeply patient therapist and staff. One of the elements that seemed to both challenge her and give her the support she needed were the highly structured routine of each day with equal parts opportunity for self knowledge and growth as well as opportunities to give to the PQ community. Encouraging her to spend time by herself (never without eyes on her) and become comfortable in her own thoughts and struggles was key in slowing her down in order to see herself in relationship to her lived experience of the previous year. In this unraveling and opening up to her therapist she was finally able to share with us the source of her trauma. This was a huge step but also one that had to be treated with enormous delicacy and patience. The guided weekly phone calls with her therapist were invaluable as were the many hours of self reflection and writing that we were asked to do as we navigated both the old and our new relationship with our daughter. One of the most significant aspects of the PQ therapeutic process in my experience was understanding the patterns in relationships within the family. Without the recognition of our independent roles in our family story, I do not believe that our daughter would have been able to arrive at the deep healing that took place while at PQ.

Another of the enormously powerful and I think unique aspects of PQ is the role of initiation and ritual. These are often student led with the guidance and support of other students, therapists and staff. Early in her stay, our daughter chose to change her name from her birth name to her given middle name. She wanted to begin anew and renaming herself was a part of this new identity, she continues to use this name to this day.

I began to refer to this time of our daughter living away from us as the “betwixt and between” times. We had crossed a threshold, initiating us to another level of consciousness. This has most definitely been a time when we are clearly leaving behind what we believed to be “true”, what held us in our lives and what we move towards becoming ~ what is before us is still unknown, the discomfort of this place of “betwixt and between”. As our daughter used painting as an expressive modality during her stay at PQ, I also began to explore the personal and collective ideas of transformation and initiation in my own work.

As ritualized initiation in our culture is all but lost we sometimes are given the opportunity to “wake up” and re-member our soul’s work through a great loss or a traumatic experience in our lives. This has been one of those experiences for me, not one I would have ever asked for but as our daughter is able to say today, without these experiences she would not have “found” herself. The sum of our experiences have the possibility of transforming us as if there has been a mythic alchemical process, stirring the soul, aiming us towards our lives in a new and profound way. Along with both specific and mythic life challenges, this soul work through initiation and transformation has been at the root of this recent body of work: Dreaming in Red.”

– PQ Alumni Parent

Dreaming In Red

 

May 1, 2018

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Personal Reflection: A Parent’s Testimonial

We always appreciate hearing updates from students and parents about their experience at Pacific Quest.  Here is a testimonial from a parent who shared their story as they reflected back on the decision to bring their son to PQ and how they are doing after his time in Hawaii.  Mahalo for sharing your story!

“Only a month into his freshman year of high school it became clear that our son did not have the tools, or emotional capacity, to deal with his anxiety and he shut down. He refused to go to school and when we did actually get him on campus he would not go to class or worse, escape off campus. A specialist in our town recommended Pacific Quest (PQ) for our son and within a few weeks we were on a plane to Hawaii. The hardest moment of parenting in our lives was dropping off a child who begged not to be left on an island to deal with his issues (it took two hours to get from the hotel room, to the driveway and into the car). That said, we do not have a single regret about the decision because PQ changed our son’s life so dramatically. His therapist was exceptional, the program incredibly thoughtful and effective, the staff so kind and gracious and though our son will say he hated every minute, he does not deny what a gift it ended up being.  He has re-entered high school and excelled academically, become involved in sports and established a nice group of friends.  But most importantly he is far more confident of himself, more self-aware, has a broader vocabulary to express his feelings, and he continues to own the hard work to deal with the anxiety that remains.”

– Parent of PQ alumni student

March 23, 2018

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A Personal Reflection – PQ Alumni Student Testimonial

We always enjoy receiving letters from past students – who share updates on how they are doing, how their experience at Pacific Quest has impacted them and how life post PQ is unfolding.  This is a letter from a student to her therapist – what an inspiring testimonial to the powerful work that takes place here!

“ …I’ve been thinking a lot about my experience at PQ since leaving and just wanted to share some of my major takeaways with you since you were an integral part of my stay. I am so grateful for you and the role you played in my growth at PQ and beyond. Since coming home, things have certainly not been easy but I have learned so much and become such a stronger person in the process and I feel like I am really headed in the right direction at this point. I’m amazed at how much things have changed since I was in Hawaii! Looking back it’s sometimes hard to believe I’m still the same person. I thought when I graduated that I had learned a ton, and I did, but so much of that learning came after I had time to process the whole experience and live it out on my own.

Okay, I’ll warn you now, this is definitely the longest email I’ve ever written in my life, but I’m just so excited about all the realizations I had that I had to share them!

I still at times struggle with recalling treatment as a positive experience, mostly because it was just such a difficult time in my life, but as I was journaling the other day, I concluded the following… PQ taught me a lot of things – like how my happiness, life, and well-being are not dependent on my parents. Even though I love them, they don’t have the solutions or answers to everything and they shouldn’t be my reason for living. I need to live for myself because I am worthy of life and have a lot to hope for in the future. I also worked a lot on quieting my inner critic and developing more self-compassion. Acceptance was huge – accepting my feelings and present reality. For a long time I fought against and stuffed my emotions, but at PQ I learned to feel and express them in healthier ways. Although I remember feeling like all my independence had been taken from me (like how I couldn’t even go to the lua by myself at times), I really did learn a lot about being more independent and functioning and making decisions on my own, based on what I needed, rather than what I thought I “should” do. I also learned about setting boundaries with people. Other’s problems do not have to become mine. And I undid my distortion that adulthood sucks and that I didn’t want to grow up. In reality, both childhood and adulthood have their challenges and high points, but being an adult is really cool!

I learned about pushing through discomfort after taking the time I need to process, I learned about being okay with not being okay and letting my emotions out instead of bottling them. Man, I did a lot of letting out! I didn’t know it was possible to sustain that much emotional upset for that long or cry that many tears, but I think it was just everything I’d been holding in for my whole life finally pushing out. And I proved to myself that I really can make it through anything even when I think I can’t. I realized how much I want authenticity for myself and in my relationships. I learned to deal with and embrace difficult and vastly different types of people and to allow them to have their own beliefs while standing strong in my own. I learned that even when I think I can’t go on, or sustain more pain, or not hurt/kill myself, that I can live and be okay. I learned that sometimes it’s best to push through the pain and stick it out for the long-term goal to be reached. I learned that even when and sometimes especially if people know your weaknesses/struggles/faults/fears/failures, they can still love you.

I learned a lot about gardening and loved it! (Although it’s winter in CO and hard to grow things outside, I have a bunch of potted plants inside that I love caring for). I learned about the importance of balance. I learned how I can use my story to relate to and positively impact others and make a good change in both our lives by being authentic, truthful, and open. I learned that even with all the pain, life is worth living and I will never give up! I learned how many people love and want to support me. I gained empathy for more people and human experiences and suffering. (This whole experience really gave me a lot more empathy for my sister which has and will continue to help mend our relationship).

I learned to express my needs. I was honest and open and vulnerable more so than I’d ever been before with myself and others. I learned about self-reflection and how to ponder and explore what was going on. I learned to feel instead of stuff and it was so liberating! I laughed. I cried. I screamed. I sobbed. I wept. I yelled. I spoke. I found my voice and I was heard! I survived. I learned. I grew. I changed. And now I can thrive! I became more authentically me than ever before. I really did cry a lot and feel a lot of loneliness, sadness, anxiety, fear, depression, grief, and hopelessness – more than I ever imagined possible. And (and I say “and” not “but” because both were equally true) I also felt deep love, empathy, and compassion for myself and the people around me. I felt proud of myself (and I feel so proud of myself right now as I reflect on these things which is really amazing). I felt victorious and accomplished and happy and whole. On my last day, at my appreciation ceremony, eating dinner out by ocean front, my eyes brimmed with tears of joy and gratitude. It was by far one of my happiest moments (and I love thinking back to it – everything about it – the way the sun sparkled on the ocean, the way I was there in community with all those beautiful people I was lucky enough to call my friends and they were there to love and support me).

PQ was so hard, those 81 days, but it was oh so incredibly worth it! It saved and changed my life. I didn’t want to admit it for a really long time, but I needed PQ. I needed to go far away, get out of my comfort zone, be in a new place with new people, to first lose but then find myself, in a group of people who finally, really, truly, understood me and now I am finally starting to understand and love myself on a whole new level I never saw as possible…”

– PQ Alumni Student

August 29, 2017

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Alumni Visit, 3 Years Later!

By Ashley Cipponeri, Alumni & Family Services Liaison

Summer in Hawaii brings a steady stream of new students and visitors to experience Pacific Quest! Not only do we see an influx of student admissions during the summer months, but we also see a steady stream of alumni students returning for a visit. Pacific Quest is often times the catalyst for student’s long term growth. Students identify their time at Pacific Quest as one of the main turning points for their wellbeing. The roots of reflection, responsibility, community living, and mentorship began here.

Alumni student, Juliette, recently visited Pacific Quest’s Adolescent Program. She was eager to experience Pacific Quest with the new outlook she has developed since her time at Pacific Quest. We had the opportunity to interview Juliette during her visit:

How old were you when you attended Pacific Quest and how old are you now?
I had just turned 14 when I arrived to Pacific Quest and I am 17 making it three years, almost exactly, since I was last here.

What were some of the challenges you faced while at Pacific Quest and how did you learn to cope with those challenges?
I had never been away from home for more than a week so I missed my home, my parents, and my family a lot. I had to deal with these challenges because I wasn’t able to overcome them. I wrote letters a lot and I tended to distract myself with landwork or writing letters. I also sang a lot and wrote lyrics in my journal to songs I enjoyed. I also did not do exercise before PQ so having to do work and exercise everyday was a big struggle at first. That was the hardest physical thing for me.

From the start of the program to the end, did you feel any difference with your physical activity and how you felt?
I felt a lot better. Just from eating super healthy and drinking a lot of water and working out everyday, I felt stronger and clearer, both physically and mentally.

Did you set any goals while you were at Pacific Quest that you continued to work on these past couple years?
My intent statement. I am a brave, smart, and beautiful young woman who accepts that the choices she has made are all a part of her journey. Accepting the past and recognizing I can’t change it and I have to move forward.

Have you been able to sustain any of the changes you have made starting at Pacific Quest?
I am trying to eat healthier, it doesn’t always work out because you have to make it versus just going somewhere, but I do try to eat healthier and I definitely eat healthier compared to before coming to Pacific Quest but not as healthy as the Pacific Quest diet. I also drink plenty of water.

Have you made any changes in how you deal with challenging emotions?
Before I came here, emotions were a big thing for me because it was hard to identify what I was feeling so I didn’t know how to express myself so I learned how to be aware of my emotions and not give up.

Did the emotional vocabulary you learned while at Pacific Quest help when you went to other programs after Pacific Quest?
Yea, it was the start of expanding it.

What was your favorite part of being at Pacific Quest?
I loved cooking. That was my favorite thing to do and I was good at it. People liked it when I did it because I was creative. I really enjoyed learning about plants. I don’t get to use it much now but I still remember most of it.

Do you have any Malama* words of wisdom?
*Malama means “to care for” or “steward”. It is the pinnacle phase at Pacific Quest.
Even if something is hard, it doesn’t mean it is bad. I really like quotes and one of my favorite is, “it’s always darkest before dawn” and I agree with that. It gets really hard before it gets better.

What would you say to parents who are on the fence about sending their child to Pacific Quest and maybe are worried about their child not enjoying?
I’d say they do not have to enjoy it for it to be good. I doubt there will be any student that enjoys it the first couple weeks. Some enjoy it in the end but the important thing is they will look back on it and be glad that you sent them there and in the long run they will thank you.

You spoke about how the healthy eating and drinking has had an impact on you, what about the other pillars of health taught at Pacific Quest?
Yea, deep breathing is the best way I have found to help with my anxiety and calm myself down.

Anything else you want to share before we close?
Even if you believe you might make it through without PQ, it will still be good for you. I don’t think this will be bad for any person. Even if you think you can do it by yourself, with the program you will progress better and faster.

June 12, 2017

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One Year Later – Meeting with a PQ Alumna

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.  

June 9, 2017

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Pacific Quest to Donate a Portion of Profits to PQ Foundation

We are pleased to announce that Pacific Quest will now be donating a minimum of 1% of our profits annually to the Pacific Quest Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to support the Hawaii County community and its existing non-profit organizations.

Pacific Quest was founded in 2004 and over the years we have developed relationships with more than 60 different local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, its employees and its clients. With the generous support and donations from alumni, families, community members and businesses, we are excited to continue our tradition of stewardship within the Big Island community.Pacific Quest Announces Formation of Pacific Quest Foundation

Martha Bouchard, PQ Foundation Director, reflected on this decision to donate profits to the foundation, “It is essential to our mission to both be sustainable and in right relationship with the community in which we work and in which Pacific Quest has built such life changing programming for students. This has to go beyond the community service that our staff and students do. For us, being able to increase our capacity to give back to the island by helping to fund organizations that are the heart and soul of our local communities is a direct reflection of that commitment.” Donations to the foundation help to fund the organizations that sustain our island’s diverse communities, which benefit both residents and visitors alike.

Pacific Quest Foundation will begin accepting applications in Fall 2017. Requests will be considered from Hawaii Island based non-profit organizations in four general categories, including:

  • community or public service
  • environmental issues
  • health and education
  • youth and senior citizens

For more information on how to help support the Pacific Quest Foundation, please visit:

http://pqfoundation.org/donate-now/

May 3, 2017

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A Letter to My Therapist: One Year After PQ

By: PQ Alumni

I was a student at PQ last year. I just received my letter from a year ago* and I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate what you did. Words cannot express my gratitude.

I know that not all of the students at PQ take the program completely to heart all the time, and many of them do return to old habits after they leave, but I was not one of those people. Pacific Quest was a turning point for me in my adolescent life, as corny as that may sound. Without it, I’m honestly not sure where I would be today.

The gardening, the nature, the outings, and Huli all made a significant difference in how I thought and approached what my life had to offer. And most of all I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations together.

I’m in the last quarter of my senior year in high school, and I’ll be graduating in June. When I started PQ, I was sure I was going to drop out of high school, and college didn’t even seem like an option back then. Now I’m choosing between multiple colleges to attend in the fall, and sometimes I wonder how I made it this far.

My relationship with my family has improved drastically. I still fight with my mom sometimes, but who doesn’t? I talk with my dad a lot, and we actually go do things together, like going to the gym, and taking road trips to Lake Tahoe. I love my dad, and I like spending time with him, which is something I didn’t think was ever possible a year ago. Pacific Quest helped me learn to appreciate everything my family has done for me, and I want to thank you for saving us. PQ was a wake up call if there ever was one, and I am so grateful to be lucky enough to have experienced it. Soon hopefully I’ll be starting a new chapter in my life at college, which will bring its own set of challenges. But I have the confidence that I’ll be able to work through them.

Finally, I want you to know that if you ever feel like the kids you work with don’t have any chance of bettering themselves or you feel like you haven’t done enough to help them, that that simply isn’t true. Because there is one kid from California out there in the world, and he is forever grateful.

Best,
PQ Alum

*The letter this alumni is referencing is a letter that students write to themselves that PQ then mails out a year later. It’s an incredible reminder of all the hard work and progress they made at Pacific Quest.

February 3, 2017

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PQ Success Story: Creating a Path in Life

By:  Dr. John Souza & Janna Pate

Linus came to Pacific Quest as a 25-year-old who struggled with four college failures, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. He often referred to himself as “lazy” and believed he could not finish anything.

At Pacific Quest, Linus received a 391-page curriculum consisting of 242 assignments in English, environmental literacy, fitness, health, Hawaiian culture, horticulture, and psychology. One of those assignments was a project called a Discernible Difference (DD) that requires students to spend at least 3 days creating a lasting, positive impact on the land.

PQ Alumni Success Story: Creating a Path - in the Garden and in Life

Student with his final project

Per his pattern, Linus took on a project that was far bigger and more anxiety-producing than necessary, opting to cut a long and difficult path through the cane grass (a “noxious weed” that grows in clumps over 10 feet high) to a meditative section of the camp known as Ocean View. At the time, students could not access Ocean View independently because it wasn’t visible to staff over the cane grass.

To start, Linus felt his familiar pattern of anxiety while working in the cane grass and at times suggested quitting. However, as he continued to work and reflect, he began to feel empowered.

Most notable was the day when Linus began to redefine his past failures as not resulting from “laziness,” but rather from a “paralysis of analysis” — anxiety from over-thinking and not “doing” something. By “doing” something every day, Linus learned how to break down large tasks into smaller ones, take breaks, ask for help, and take ownership of his own wants and needs.

When project completion was in sight, Linus began to ask: Wouldn’t the cane grass simply grow back? But finally he said, “It doesn’t matter if the DD gets maintained after I leave, the real work is for me. And if it does get taken care of, all the better.”

PQ Alumni Success Story: Creating a Path - in the Garden and in Life

Over a year later – continued progress!

Almost a year and a half later, we are happy to report that Linus’s DD has inspired generations of PQ students not only to maintain the Ocean View path to but to expand it. A vast new area for gardening and other projects now exists: a pumpkin patch, a meditation mandala, a memorial garden, and a secondary path to a space used for graduation ceremonies. And students can access Ocean View independently.

Not only did Linus complete all of his work at PQ, but since leaving, Linus has successfully completed a transitional program, started taking university classes, and is living independently, continuing to create his own path.

January 20, 2017

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Newfound Hope: Our Daughter’s Story at PQ

By: Alumni Parent

Where were we prior to PQ?

Our daughter has always been a bright, and charming person who excelled at school and sports, not to mention having a lot of friends. But underneath all of her success was a dark area in her life that reared its ugly head when she was in the 10th grade…social anxiety.

We started to notice that our daughter was complaining of being sick and needing to stay home from school. We didn’t make a big deal about it since she was nearly a straight “A” student. But we started to notice a trend that she was stressing out about what were seemingly trivial details. She also started to stress about how her friends perceived her. While a struggle, she completed 10th grade and went on a summer trip to a program in Europe and seemed to have had a great time.

11th grade year at her school (a highly competitive prep school) started out seemingly just fine. She was into her classes and taking in the grind that we knew to expect. But then the absences started to pile up again. She was becoming withdrawn and refusing to leave her bedroom. If she did make it to school she often complained of being sick, calling my wife or I to complain. Finally, mid-way through the first semester she just couldn’t get herself to leave her room anymore.

I didn’t have a clue what was going on. The thought that my child was having an emotional issue just didn’t compute. I mean, when I was upset about stuff in high school I just hit the gym and worked it out. Why couldn’t she do the same? It just didn’t make any sense to me. So I just remained angry a lot with her, not understanding this was something she couldn’t control. I also closed myself off emotionally towards her in a lot of ways.

My wife had more of an idea about what was going on. There is a bit of family history with struggles in this area on her side so she had a better comprehension about what was going on inside our daughter’s head. She was also the one to bear the brunt of the early struggles with our daughter. She got her into see a therapist. She talked to her for hours about what was going on in her head. And she also took the brunt of the angst and vitriol that was spewed out of the ever morose and despondent daughter.

For the next four years, our daughter was in therapy for what we came to find out was a severe social anxiety disorder. The years had a lot of ups and downs. Successes and more than a few betrayals by people she thought she could trust. She did finish high school, but too late to apply to college. She tried a semester at a gap program in Paris but again couldn’t handle the anxiety. After that, she took a gap trip abroad that had a lot of support for kids with issues and came back like a new woman. Full of piss and vinegar and ready to seemingly get on with her life. So it was off to college and right into another failure. After barely finishing one semester she fled home. Transferring to a school closer to home this time she was ready to try again, failure. To top off the final failure she was in a car accident that totaled a brand new car.

At this point our daughter finally realized that she had hit rock bottom and needed to make a radical change to get help. She had been told about wilderness programs that could help teach her skills to help regulate her behaviors and not succumb to her fears and anxieties.

Coming to PQ

One day in December 2015 our daughter came to my wife and I and asked about applying to a place called Pacific Quest. She had been researching a number of alternatives and this was the program that she thought would be best to help her. After looking into the program and consulting with her therapist we agreed to her going. We spoke with Kellyn about the possibility of her starting as soon as possible and he said he would see what they could do. Less than two weeks later she was on an airplane to Hilo with just her clothes on her back.

PQ was a startling wake-up call for our daughter. She had lived a bit of a spoiled lifestyle never having to do without anything. At PQ she was all of a sudden met with expectations that had never been placed upon her. The idea that she didn’t have instant access to mom and dad were particularly hard for her, but we clearly saw the value in this. The early parent meetings were intense for us. We heard about the struggles of having to conform and do what was expected. Her therapist, who was terrific, brought the idea that she might write a letter asking us to rescue her.

But we had faith in our daughter’s will power to succeed and survive. We told her therapist it was her decision that she needed to go to PQ and because of this she wouldn’t want to run away from the program. We were right. After the initial phases of the program we started getting regular letters from our daughter talking about what was going on. The fact that she had to write rather than speak, made her slow down and process, rather than just to spew out a bunch of words, and was a great idea. We were also getting reports from her therapist about what she was working on and how she was progressing. He was also digging into our history with her to find out what made her and our family tick.

The work on both sides was ongoing for 6 or 7 weeks before the fateful day when we finally got to have our daughter in on a phone call. We didn’t know what to expect. She immediately fell back into an old pattern with my wife and I, she had sprung a trap laid by the therapist. He immediately pounced on it and called her for how she had reacted and spoken to us. Boundaries were crossed and she was out of line!

My wife and I were astounded to hear the reaction. Dead silence from our daughter. She was using one of her new tools to compose herself so that she could speak to us as an adult. They call it her toolbox, skills that they work with the participants to develop to face situations that in the past would derail them. Our daughter was a willing learner.

We spent a number of other sessions working with the therapist, sometimes with our daughter on the call and sometimes not. We were clearly seeing growth on her part so we were happy. Near the end of her stay at PQ a family weekend was planned for those parents who could make the trip to Hawaii. Our daughter was very anxious for us to come out for it. Since she had been making such good progress we decided one of us should go out. I was selected since I had the most leeway in my work to take such a trip. I don’t know what I was expecting when I got there, maybe some sort of super school play or something. I didn’t realize I was being thrown into the therapy fray.  Best thing that could have happened to my relationship with my daughter.

During this two-day weekend, parents were given the opportunity to experience some of what our children were going through. I was forced to confront some of my issues surrounding what our family had gone through during the worst parts of our daughter’s suffering. I came to realize that I had walled myself off from her and the rest of the family with the excuse I didn’t want to get angry with her anymore. It was pointed out to me that instead of being a solution it was actually a contributing factor to the bigger problem. It wasn’t fair to my daughter and it sure wasn’t fair to my wife. I was devastated. Once I confronted this part of myself it was about finding forgiveness and figuring out a path to help us all go forward.

After PQ

Shortly after the parent’s weekend our daughter was ready to move onto the next phase, a transitional program. PQ recommended an educational consultant and between our daughter, the therapist and the consultant, we found a program that we felt would best meet her needs.

Today our daughter is finishing a reintegration program that has continued to build upon and add to the toolbox she started to develop at PQ. Just recently she finished two college psychology classes and commented that it was the first time in nearly 5 years that she had actually finished classes on time. Next semester she will be taking a full load of classes and is actively planning a future as a full time student.

For the first time since this problem started, our daughter feels she has a fighting chance due to the skills she learned from the wonderful guides (some of whom she is still in contact with) and therapist at PQ. She also made some friends amongst the participants and remains in contact with several. The fact that she saw that she was not the only one with issues, and that she had the chance to participate in group therapy really opened her eyes about her perceptions and her harshness towards herself and got her thinking differently. There is now hope where before there was only despair. We recommend this program highly, and are so glad we decided to entrust our daughter into their care.

December 16, 2016

Written by:

Family Fridays: Getting Her Sparkle Back

By: Alumni Parent

As a little girl, our daughter was always the life of the party. She was a bright and sunny kid who loved to have fun. She loved to sing and would often belt out the words to Nat King Cole’s “Love” while dancing around the room. She had a whacky sense of humor and always had a sparkle in her big blue eyes.

Our daughter loved to plan parties, decorate our house for just about every occasion and plan menus for the holidays. In middle school everything started to change. She desperately wanted to fit in and have friends. She became obsessed with social media and how others viewed her. The drama started to take over her life. It got worse when she was bullied by other girls in school. Often it was so bad that she refused to go to school so she didn’t have to deal with the fear and anxiety. She became increasingly anxious and depressed and difficult at home. Little things would set her off in a frenzy. She would go to her room and lock herself away, refusing to come out or open the door.

In 8th grade she was diagnosed with ADHD and went on medication. While things were better for about a year, the old issues resurfaced with the pressures of high school, only now the stakes were higher. She began to put off her homework to hang out with friends. She started smoking marijuana and hanging out after school at a nearby park. We would find evidence of her smoking almost every morning in her room. And while the punishments escalated, they did nothing to change her behavior. She would constantly lie about where she was and who she was with. Hours would go by where we had no idea of her whereabouts. When she came home she refused to talk to us. Rather than do her school work and ask for the help she needed, she would just avoid it all together only to fall further and further behind. Our house became toxic as we were either franticly trying to track her down or arguing with her. I became consumed with trying to find her the right help. She went to therapists, tutors and psychiatrists. We tried DBT and CBT and nothing helped. She became my second full time job. Finally, it hit us that we couldn’t help her at home. An educational consultant recommended wilderness and after talking with several programs we decided on Pacific Quest.

It was a very difficult decision to send our daughter so far away. The day the transporter came to get her was like a bad dream. I’ll never forget my husband’s words in the early days after she left. Whenever I felt worried and scared about our decision he would say “I am more worried thinking about what would happen if we kept her here.” As the days went by, and they did go slowly at first, I started to get more comfortable. We would get updates from the staff at PQ as well as her therapists about her progress. During our weekly therapy sessions, we also received feedback about our communication style with our daughter and how we could make changes in how we communicated with her and each other. Every week we received photos from PQ and we started to see big changes. She looked healthier. There was a visible calmness that soon turned to huge smiles which we hadn’t seen in ages. At first, we couldn’t have imagined our city kid adjusting to life outdoors in Hawaii with none of the comforts of home. Not only did she adjust, she began to blossom. Her letters home became increasingly reflective. She expressed pride that she could do the hard work required and move through the phases. She also began to appreciate so many of the things she had at home, including parents who believed in her. She even thanked us for that.

When we went to see her for family program, I will never forget how she put her hand in mine and walked me to her little hut. We spent an incredible two days with her where the work we all did culminated in a reunion of acceptance, forgiveness and appreciation for each other. We talked, we listened, we cried and we laughed. The PQ staff was kind, nurturing and supportive. They taught our daughter the importance of loving herself and owning up to the choices she made and the power to make new choices going forward.

The day before we moved her into a therapeutic boarding school outside of Phoenix, she and I went for an evening swim. It was nearly 90 degrees that evening. It was only the two of us in the pool. She again placed her hand in mine. We stood there eyes locked, stars shining down on us and she said…”mom, I’m nervous about my new school.” This time, I just listened and validated, so happy that she was able to share and seek comfort in my presence. As I looked at her in that moment, I noticed something else. The sparkle was back in those big blue eyes.

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