Margot's Story | Wingate Wilderness Therapy
After a lot of therapy, a lot of people telling me what to do, who to be, and how to live, I was finally like, “don’t touch me, don’t talk to me, don’t look at me, and we’ll get along just fine.” That’s what I was like when I got to WinGate. Cutting, sex, and alcohol had helped me stay numb and helped me forget what had happened. But these people wanted me to stop doing the things that helped me cope; they wanted me talk about my feelings instead. At the time I was like, “NO WAY!”
So far nobody had been able to break through, and I was glad. I just dug deeper and deeper into my hole whenever people came after me and tried to “help” me or got uncomfortable with my “behaviors” or “attitude” and tried to control me. If somebody just wouldn’t quit trying—like my mom—I would lash out or talk about killing myself and they would leave me alone for a while. I figured I could just keep doing that at WinGate, serve my time, keep people at bay, cut where no one would see it, and eventually get back to my old life. My own life.
But my therapist and the staff at WinGate didn’t chase me deeper into my hole. I really have to give that to them. You know, there was a lot of stuff that I actually didn’t mind, the routine of living and eating and sleeping and hiking. I did that. But the therapy and sharing and what not—I wasn’t doing that. I wasn’t ready. And they didn’t try to force it.
So I figured I had things wired. I would coast. Then one afternoon, during down time, this field staff, Janine, was whittling a stick. She’d been whittling every day for a few days and I didn’t think anything of it. But today I saw her blow the little chips off of it, rub it smooth with her hand, and put it up to her mouth. Then she started playing music…amazing, floaty, soothing flute music! It was beautiful. It was so cool.
“I want to make one of those,” I told her. So she helped me find a stick, gave me the tools and started teaching me how to make a flute. Every time we had any down time, I disappeared into that flute with Janine whittling or playing music next to me. At first we didn’t talk about anything but the flute and how to make it. But I found that making the flute was absorbing.
It’s weird to say, but it was like cutting, but of course I was cutting a piece of wood instead of myself. So I didn’t feel bad afterward. I don’t know. It was a relief to be doing something that felt good with no guilt or shame in it. It sort of soaked up my attention and my pain and I could kind of talk about things that way, kind of absently. Janine just listened at first, while I made my flute.
When I finally played a note on that flute it just made this one loud squeak. It was ridiculous and Janine and I just cracked up. But I was so excited. I made a musical instrument! I eventually learned to play it like Janine. The same floaty soothing notes. Janine taught me to how to play it and we got close that way. I trusted Janine in a way that I hadn’t trusted anyone in a long, long time and it really helped. It helped me change and start to heal. I can tell you that making that flute was the best “therapy” I’ve ever experienced. Kind of like sideways therapy, if that makes sense.
When I got to WinGate, I was pretty sure nothing could change me. Nothing could get me to come out of that dark cocoon. But all it took was a small wooden flute. Go figure.