The toughest, most magical Easter I’ve ever had

April 5th, 2021

Easter is a time of miracles. Or at least that’s how I see it. We all have our own way of looking at life on this planet, and that’s just my way. I realized that this Easter day, marked a strange and mystical milestone for me.

12 years ago today, on April 4th, 2009, I entered a very well known facility in Tucson for anxiety and depression treatment. There is a sign on the way in that says, “Expect a miracle”. Very few see it.

How I ended up there and what the experience was like is a story for another day. The facility was a campus, it was lovely and expensive, but the program was tough as nails. My family and I didn’t know all of it when we decided I would go there. They tend to make it sound like a therapeutic paradise on the website, and on our phone conversations. We also had two recommendations from people we trusted. I soon found it about the 16 hour days, the rules, and how to survive the process and come out of it stronger.

I got better there, but it was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever had, and I’ve had plenty of difficult experiences.

There I was in the desert, 1,300 miles from home. The desert itself was both literal, and I suppose proverbial. Vast, stripped down, stark, and both dreary and beautiful, sometimes at the same time.

I knew no one and we were cut off from the world. Family could call and leave messages, could send flowers and packages, but as no cell phones, tv, books that we not treatment approved, newspapers, or internet were allowed, we were on our own. We could call friends and family during a phone hour. There were lines though, and for the most part, you usually ended up trying another day.

I spent 42 days there. We were scheduled from 6 am to 10 pm every day.

And yet, there was a sense of magic about the place that I didn’t see for at least two weeks. No one does, as they arrive traumatized and the shock of entry sets you back before you start to gradually improve. Survival shock mode lasts a couple of weeks, then you move into just a day to day get through it, but finally, if you’re lucky, you move from survive to thrive. Many didn’t last there and left. I stayed.

Easter that year was April 12th. I was still in the shock phase, imagining my friends and family happily celebrating. I was newly single, which was a very good thing, but I saw how it helped many patients who had supportive partners. I was lucky to have siblings who cared, but that Easter Day, I found little comfort.

After a walk around the campus using one of the rare free times that day, I thought, why am I here? Is it the right thing? It felt a bit like free falling with no where to land. I needed something, anything to ground me. I needed a sign. I needed a mystical message. I prayed.

In the cafeteria, they had an Easter brunch of sorts. I sat with a beautiful and warm woman from California that I had met in the first few days. We talked of our despondency in being there, feeling alone, feeling cut off. We decided to make a pact. We would each ask for a sign that told us, we were on the rocky but right path. Her sign was white roses. Mine was, as usual, a double rainbow, an unlikely sign in the desert.

About 5 minutes later, we heard banging on the roof, an extremely strong cloudburst. People, starved for rain, went to the window. It lasted several minutes. We stayed at the window. An enormous double rainbow just stunned us all. I have yet, to this day, to ever see one like it.

My friend did not receive her sign, but she had given it much thought and told me she had decided to transfer to another treatment center by the ocean. I hope she is well.

But for me, for whatever reason, I stayed, and in a sense, I shed parts of the old Cindy, and formed a new one. If some of us think of Easter Day as an ascension, I also look at it as a spiritual rebirth, a sign of hope, and a sign of transformation. and really, a miracle.

When I spoke to one of the group therapists the night before I left, I told her that I didn’t miss my destructive relationship with an alcoholic husband, who was a good person, but was drowning in depression and dysfunction. I had been back and forth with this for 24 years. It wasn’t all his fault, it was mine too. I was still fond of him, but I didn’t miss the dance we’d done all those years. She said, referring to the entry sign, “There’s your miracle, Cindy”. And so it was.

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