To my wonderful team who have helped save my life,
I was trying to think of the best way to thank you all, and there really aren’t words to express how truly grateful I am for the opportunity that I have had at Castlewood, and the time that each of you gave me. It was with each of your help that I was able to move forward in my journey, and really experience deep, genuine healing.
I was paired with the most perfect team who cared for me, pushed me when I needed it, challenged me, and supported me the entire time. When I had other needs that needed met, Castlewood gave me the opportunity to work with other therapists, helping me further my recovery and get to know my parts on a deeper level. I believe there were times when everyone fought for me even when I wasn’t willing to fight for myself. Whether it was Tracy staying late or giving me tons of extra check – ins, or Katie helping me connect with my parts, I was always given the space that I needed. I am pretty sure that EVERYONE at some point helped deal with my flight urges, helping me to see that running didn’t have to be the answer, and helping me really get two feet in the door. I was able to see beyond the behavior, the food, and the weight, and get to the real root of what my struggles were.
I believe that I had to leave Castlewood to see just how sick I was, and when it was time to return and continue the healing, I knew exactly where I needed to be, exactly who I needed to work with, and I am so grateful that I was welcomed back with open arms. When problems arose that made it difficult for me to stay at Castlewood, you all helped me figure out ways to make treatment work, and it’s because of you that treatment stayed a priority and I was able to follow through with all levels of care.
As I sit here nearly nine months later, getting ready to attend my very last Castlewood group before discharge this afternoon, I am anxious (shocking, I know), slightly terrified, and sad to be moving forward from the chapter of my life where I was so deeply connected to you all. While I am able to hold those feelings and understand them, I can also recognize how truly excited I am. I am ready to move forward and experience life for what God has meant for it to look like, and because of the help and guidance I have received from each of you, I truly believe that I have the skills to do this. I anticipate struggle, but I also know that I have the power to pick myself up and keep moving forward. I am the adult, I have a ‘self’, and I have the power to be with my parts and comfort them the way that you all have helped comfort me and provide care, love, and connection that was lacking in my life before I came. You have shown me that people can be genuine, and that they can be trustworthy, and that has been huge for me.
To all of you, thank you so much for everything you have done for me. Thank you for the time and the space, the opportunity and having the patience to fight with me. You all helped save my life, and I will forever be grateful. Castlewood, all of you, direct care, literally everyone that had a hand in my treatment has touched my life and I will always consider my time with you a blessing. I hope one day, as I achieve my goal of becoming a therapist, I can impact lives half as much as you all have positively impacted mine.
My therapist from college told me to look into Castlewood as an option when I was in desperate need of more intensive help with recovering from 6 years of a diagnosed eating disorder. It was the fall of 2010 and I was desperate to find a place where I could finally beat this thing that had taken my life away. I was extremely lucky that Castlewood had a bed available for me mere days after I contacted them.
Arriving in a new place is always bizarre. Arriving at an in patient treatment center where you are trying to deal with life’s most challenging daemons is even more so. I was extremely nervous that first day but it didn’t take any time at all for me to make connections with the staff and other clients. I made some of the best friends of my life while in treatment. A deep bond can form when you struggle with others.
Through out my 5 months in treatment (no thanks to insurance!) I not only broke open deeply damaged and hurting places in my self but I was also guided to finding who I really am, what is important to me and most importantly how to be okay, which is probably the biggest thing for someone struggling with ED. I did not learn these things solely from doing internal work, my interactions with other clients, hearing their stories, participating in their processes, sharing experiences, all these things helped me to find myself and my own health.
I said this then and I feel it now, going to Castlewood is the best thing I have done in my life so far. My experience there saved my life on so many levels. It’s only been a year and a half since I left but it feels like a lifetime. I’m fully in recovery and have begun helping others who are struggling as well as talking with friends and family groups about my experience and how it might relate to what their loved ones are going through (all of this through the dietitian I have been going to for support since leaving CWTC).
Life is still full of challenges and bumps in the road but now I know I can handle them, I can unapologetically be myself because who I am is okay.
Castlewood is a revolutionary treatment center. You wont find anywhere else like it. I would happily return just to learn more about psychology and myself in the future, perhaps to help others with an experience I know only too well.
I can’t thank the staff and clients I met enough for what they gave me and helped me find. I will never forget this experience.
It feels incredibly sad for me to think about the life I would have continued to live had I decided not to come to Castlewood, as it is the best decision I have ever made.
Before coming to Castlewood, I engaged in lethal behaviors a number of times a day every day and my denial of how harmful my behaviors were made my disease all the more dangerous for me. When I admitted, I was unaware that my life was saturated in self-hate. I had perfected the art of suffering. I was convinced I was worthless, irrelevant and terminally unlovable. I did not believe that I could possibly change my thought processes or self-injurious behaviors. I was convinced that there was something inherently wrong with me. I sensed overwhelming and inevitable chaos and danger pervading my world. I was adamant that my hyper-vigilance surrounding manipulation of my body and food were the only tools I could use in order to tolerate living in the world. Castlewood’s task was a mighty one to take on, but they never gave up on me. Castlewood helped me cultivate an understanding of how my eating disorder developed and why it came to be that I needed to use such harmful behaviors as a way to insulate myself from a life experience that felt intolerable. Castlewood also helped me gain an awareness of how my thought processes and emotional avoidance perpetuated my disorder; they gave me tools to change, taught me how to use them and were present with me at all times to encourage my recovery process.
During my stay I have fought against myself and against the program as well as fighting for myself and with the program. Castlewood cradled me as I battled binge, purge, restriction and other self-injurious urges that felt impossible to counter. They worked with me when I could only speak from the voices of my vicious eating disorder and self-hatred. They taught me to use internal and external resources that would water the seeds of self-love and allowed me to practice repeatedly; they allowed me to be messy in my process. They loved me even though I was not perfect. They guided my weary heart to proceed forward when I wanted to flee, when I felt depressed, fearful or enraged. They guided me to cradle myself when I believed I had nothing left to hold on to.
I would also like to comment on Castlewood’s setting, which is inherently therapeutic. I remember waking early for vitals and fearing my body as well as the process of recovery, I would look outside and feel my anxiety calm for a moment as I took in Castlewood’s secluded backyard landscape, resting beneath a billowing cloak of morning mist. I also used to sit out back, close my eyes and feel the wind rustle my hair; feel the sun on my shoulders. At first I had fleeting experiences of awareness outside the realm of my usual spinning mind. But as time passed and as I surrendered to my treatment team, I learned to allow myself to feel the world around me. The safety I felt within Castlewood helped me to get in touch with valuing my body’s ability to sense, which encouraged me to explore the concept of trusting the innate wisdom of the human body as well as the lovely mysteriousness of the female body. These are concepts that were foreign to my eating disordered world. It was frightening to distance myself from the disordered beliefs that bound me to my eating disorder; even though the new beliefs were more compassionate, I had felt my disordered ones were more familiar. So, I felt wobbly and unsure, as though I was re-learning to walk or speak. But sustained interaction with nature coupled with my therapist’s encouragement to engage in mindfulness practice, IFS work, reading suggested texts concerning unconditional compassion and accepting Castlewood’s dedicated guidance, I felt within myself an intensifying desire to reconnect to my Self and to the world around me and I felt a desire to revel in both things with curiosity and benevolence.
So much has changed for me since my intake date and I credit Castlewood’s brilliant, creative and wise therapists and staff for the profound healing that I have experienced. They gave me life. While internally hysterical, screaming and sobbing, they helped me to emerge into the world as myself, aware of myself and capable of feeding myself and offering myself unconditional compassion. I don’t know quite how to thank Castlewood or how to express my deep appreciation for what they instilled in me. I wish my thank yous were seeds so I could plant them on the grounds and they could grow into a gratitude tree, which would bloom each season so that my gratitude for this wonderful institution could echo every spring. The genius of this institution is beyond what I can express. I do not believe I could have worked towards transcending my starvation for love, my seemingly insurmountable self-hate and in so doing embark on my own recovery process from my eating disorder without Castlewood’s remarkable guidance.
I have been a client of Castlewood since 2005, and a survivor who has known about her Satanic Ritual Abuse history since 1993. I have received only the best of care from the staff at Castlewood and in addition got compassion, empathy, and love. As a client with DID and SRA issues, I was treated respectfully, and for the first time ever like I was sane and the trauma I had been through, was crazy. I was accepted as a whole human being and not a just a “mental patient” with ” ineffective coping skills”. This framework has made all of the difference. Because I felt believed in, I began to trust certain staff a little at a time. Slowly things began to change, and each time I came back I was able to do more work None of this would have been possible if Mark and Lori hadn’t designed CW in the way that it is.
I am saddened and outraged that former clients who did not benefit from CW’s program, feel a need to lash out against it. My understanding is that CW is a voluntary residential program. I or any other client had the right to sign out of the program (as a legal adult) at any time. Eating Disorder programs are abundant these days. With liberal insurance, if one doesn’t work than you are free to chose another with a different approach. Contrary to the claims of a former client, CW is NOT a cult .In all the times I was there, no one was ever held against their will.
One final word, as a person coping with DID, Ritual Abuse and an Eating Disorder, I found Castlewood to be the only facility in the country, who could treat all of these concurrently. It disturbs me deeply that these two clients, are bringing such negative publicity with their unwarranted lawsuit, about the place I felt safest at!!
Most of all, Thank You for existing and continuing to do the work that you do. I would not be alive today(many times over) with out your continued support.
God used Castlewood to change my life.
I was severely traumatized throughout my childhood and adolescence to the point that it became necessary for Child Protective Services to intervene and rescue me from my home, specifically from the hands of my own cruel narcissistic mother whose endless physical, sexual, and verbal tortures I do not have space to individually name. After bearing much brutal trauma from the time I was four to fourteen, I resultantly rarely spoke and was terrified of human touch. I was placed in an excellent hospital for severely abused and often rescued children where the worst of the worst abuse cases were treated (unimaginable horrors). I left with the ability to hug, speak, and even laugh occasionally. It was there that I was first seen briefly by a specialist who treated Dissociative Identity Disorder (“DID”), since I escaped into fragmented parts of my mind to survive the documented abuse. I then went on to foster care that I survived physically unscathed but still very emotionally wounded.
Due to my high intellectual capabilities, I was able to finish college (despite multiple suicide attempts) and start on a “career.” However, due to the tremendous pain within which I found myself embroiled from unresolved fierce trauma issues, I still possessed a raging eating disorder. I also secretly engaged in self-harm, exercise addiction, and lacked any self-esteem to speak of. I did attend church and work, but was afraid of giving and receiving love and was therefore crippled in adult relationships. I was plagued with flashbacks and nightmares that my childhood hospital revealed I would have for the rest of my life. Living a life on the back of such a horrific past, I never had hope for any type of meaningful life. I simply immersed myself in a flurry of daily activities to keep my head above water and pay the bills so that I could keep living. Similarly to when I left foster care, I was highly functioning on the surface but internally my life was a chasm of torturous nerve-searing emotional pain. Employed in the upscale legal field, none of the intellectuals around me could tell my continuing inner turmoil: daily flashbacks, panic attacks, and dissociation. I hid it well. However, after a surprising hospital visit for physical complications of bulimia in my thirties, I realized that even my external façade was failing.
My psychologist and dietitian strongly recommended more intensive care for my secret anorexia and bulimia that I was using to cope with my inner strife.
I was stunned. I had lived a fake life for years to keep myself out of the hospital – but after realizing my life was at stake, I agreed to admit into a “regular” and popular eating disorder center. The people there were kind and caring. However, during my stay at the well-known center, the clinical director met with me and suggested, due to my intense trauma history, that I needed “specialized” eating disorder care. They kindly researched and agreed that Castlewood fit my needs. That center’s staff worked with my psychologist and psychiatrist in the decision and effort to send me to Castlewood. Deeply discouraged and believing that I was beyond any real help, I was skeptical, but was desperate to survive.
My skepticism was not needed.
Upon my arrival, I found myself in the expert hands of people who possess significant experience and wisdom treating individuals with such extreme and delicate trauma backgrounds. Castlewood is an invaluable rarity: a specialized eating disorder facility that often works with extreme trauma and seeks to heal the trauma as well as the eating disorder simultaneously. I believe there is no other, which is evidenced by the fact that those with trauma backgrounds fly in from all over the country to be treated at Castlewood. True, a handful of clients with DID (out of its much larger population) are always present at one of its centers partially designed for their care, but they are often, like myself, specifically sent to Castlewood. It is one of very few centers of repute known to successfully treat their horrible backgrounds, resultant dissociation and eating disorder — all at the same time. They employ a therapy that is very common in the treatment of severe dissociative disorders, which my home therapist was already utilizing. Unfortunately, she was limited due to her lack of expertise in treating eating disorder. Again, Castlewood is rare in that they can treat both. I am very grateful to them and their expert care as there was no other place I could go to treat me in light of my very extreme (and documented) trauma background.
Naturally, since they specialize in extreme trauma, they have a higher percentage of clientele with such backgrounds at the facility than others (plus they take referrals from other facilities). Like myself, these people suffer from flashbacks, dissociation, night terrors, profound anxiety attacks, and other conditions that would not be found at other facilities due to their lack of expertise. However, Castlewood handles it well and with ease since its staff are highly trained in these areas; they are sent all over the country for ongoing specialized training. Like my childhood hospital, Castlewood takes the worst of the worst abuse cases (unimaginable horrors), however, unlike my childhood hospital, they had much more hope for my future and aggressively pursued it for me when I lacked all hope.
Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin lead Castlewood Treatment Center as its Clinical Directors. They are two of the most honest, caring and dedicated people that I have ever met. Their lives are fully invested into the care of the often damaged clients at Castlewood. Furthermore, they are brilliant people with tremendous clinical experience, authorship backgrounds, and research capabilities. They are welcomed all over the country to provide training and to give presentations on how to heal eating disorder, dissociation, and trauma. My former home therapist even met them at a prestigious dissociation conference. Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin are the antithesis of “money-grubbing”. Aside from collecting the funds necessary to run the 24 hour center, it has been my experience that money seems to be the farthest thing from their minds: they often even provide discounts for client’s care. I am so glad that I trusted them with my very sensitive care and feel privileged that these are the people that oversee my treatment.
As a Christian, I was worried that the “secular” center would be hostile to my faith, however, Castlewood embraces people of all faiths and backgrounds and actually encouraged me to attend my church and to get involved. I went through all levels of the program. They encouraged me, in their IOP program to make real and meaningful friendships in the community and supported my ability to re-enter life in a much healthier real state. Their treatment and care is very individualized and supportive.
I want to impress that the people at Castlewood have worked to heal much more than my eating disorder. Through individual and group therapy, weekly in-depth visits with dieticians trained in trauma (!), and in safe relationships with direct care staff, they work with the whole person. They have a philosophy of healing from the inside out, so that the individual can have a meaningful life: the client learns relational skills, resolves trauma, works on anxiety issues, eradicates other self-harmful behaviors arising from self-loathing, and learns most of all to care about oneself.
At present, amazingly, I find myself slowly healing from the nerve-searing excruciatingly painful effects of terrible abuse. I am healing from DID (that was diagnosed long ago for which I have been in treatment for years). I never thought that I had even the remote possibility of healing from such a painful and often-thought rare disorder. Now I do! Miraculously, I am also learning how to interact safely in relationship. The Castlewood staff are some of the most caring, kind, gentle, and genuinely loving people that I have ever met. They are even humble as they willingly admit their mistakes, which in itself is a life lesson. They pour their hearts and energy into the clients. Their stable, consistent, and skilled care provided a medium for which I have been able to explore being in relationship with others. I find myself feeling safer both receiving and giving love and am learning to sit with myself and hold that I am loved even when people are not around. This is the stuff of life that gives true joy!
I am extremely grateful and blessed that God brought me to Castlewood so that I can heal from devastating circumstances and live a life worth living – something I never before thought possible. I now have friends who deeply care about me. I possess the ability to distinguish between safe and unsafe people. I am discovering who I really am: my passions, hopes, and dreams. Wherein before, I had daily flashbacks several times a day, flashbacks now are actually a rarity. Nightmares have all but ceased to exist. My dissociation has drastically decreased. I am more self-aware and fully in the present. With the “inside-out” philosophy, this translates into a great deal of redemption from the eating disorder. Before entering Castlewood, just the thought of eating three meals per day caused me to break down in tears. Now, I eat three meals a day on my own and can eat a variety of full-fat foods that I actually enjoy. I no longer weigh myself every day, or even at all. I am still a work in progress, however, I have learned (and am learning) what was forecasted in my young life to be impossible: to not simply exist but really live. Castlewood no longer has to hold out hope on my behalf; I now embrace it myself!
Back when I was in the grips of my eating disorder I didn’t believe there was such a thing as “true recovery.” It was so hard to imagine not being consumed daily by self-hating thoughts and disgust of my body. As I spent time in treatment I would often see recovery speakers come and tell their story, and it seemed like their stories were all the same. They came to treatment, were cured, and left to live a perfect and happy life. Hearing this I had such a hard time believing in recovery, if everyone else went to treatment and was miraculously cured why was I in this revolving door of treatment centers and hospitalizations, never seeming to find a way out of this tangled web? It wasn’t until my second time at Castlewood and living in the real world outside of treatment for years to come, when I began to realize what true recovery was.
I believe there are many stages of recovery and you are never “recovered” or “cured.” There is not a day that goes by where I don’t learn something new. It started out with absence of symptoms, being able to go hours, then days, then weeks without acting on an eating disorder behavior. Now I always thought if I just learned how to eat normally and keep my weight in a healthy place I’d be cured, right? Unfortunately it’s much more complicated than that, and it is when you stop using behaviors that emotions come back in full force. I’ve learned recovery is not about not having emotions or hard times, but rather letting yourself feel them.
It’s true when they say the hard part comes when you leave a treatment center. You are not cured or fixed and everything certainly isn’t perfect. But what they don’t tell you is that although it is hard, learning to stand on your own two feet without running back to the safety of your disease is the most powerful feeling.
I left Castlewood and came back to school at a normal weight and was able to follow my meal plan on my own for a few months. Things were sunshine and roses the first few months, I loved being back around my friends and getting to experience so many things I had missed out on. Unfortunately this feeling didn’t last forever and the next semester I found out a close friend from school had killed himself. I was devastated, wasn’t this supposed to stop happening now that I was surrounding myself with seemingly normal and healthy people? This was the first real threat to my recovery, but I got through it by allowing myself to be a mess and fall apart while surrounding myself with people who could hold me up when I wasn’t strong enough to stand on my own. And even though during this time the last thing I wanted to do was not eat I knew using behaviors wouldn’t help anything. During this time I really proved to myself that it was possible to get through something without running back to my eating disorder and the safety of treatment. I learned that it’s okay to let myself fall apart, because it doesn’t last forever.
Things after that were great, and I began to think I had gotten through the hard part, and was a normal person again. I hadn’t struggled in over a year and things were going well, I shouldn’t have to still be working on things and therapy and processing emotions right? Wrong.
As I began to slowly let old habits like care-taking and always having a smile on my face creep back into my life I told myself it was fine as long as I was eating. This is where the eating disorder likes to lie to you and convinces you that everything is fine as it deceives its way back into your life. After quite a few months of taking care of everyone else and never acknowledging to anyone that I had days where I was sad or upset, I began to feel the need to numb out. This is when the eating disorder slipped back into my life and before I knew it, I was counting calories and restricting my food intake again.
How could this have happened? I’ve gone this long without it, wasn’t I cured? I began to question if there was such a thing as recovery, or if I would have years of doing okay until I was back in the throes of my disease and needing to run back to treatment. It was at this time that I began to learn what recovery really meant. During this period I relied on my treatment team and my friends as much as I could and let myself feel all the emotions that I had been holding back those past few months. And after a few weeks of following a strict meal plan and letting others keep me accountable I was back on my own two feet. I was back to eating what I wanted and not obsessing about what I was putting into my body.
I was in shock; I just did something I’d never been able to do. I was able to get back on track without going into a full relapse, without getting to the point where I needed to be hospitalized because my body was going to give out. This is when I learned what I truly was capable of, and this was recovery.
I used to be so ashamed of the fact that I struggled again after leaving Castlewood. Ashamed that things were hard and sometimes I really didn’t think I could keep doing this. I realized all those recovery speakers who gave me unrealistic expectations were exactly the standards I was holding myself to. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to tell you that I’m cured and everything is perfect. There are days that all I want to do is lie in bed and cry or go back to starving so I don’t have to feel all the emotions that life throws my way. But this wouldn’t be recovery and I’m done living a lie. But although it’s hard, it is possible and a hundred percent worth it. The bad days help me to appreciate the good ones and getting through them helps me prove to myself that life goes on.
I am back to a normal relationship with food but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with other things, or I don’t have to worry about my eating disorder coming back in. Things will continue to happen in my life and I will still have days where I just want to curl up in a blanket and cry but I know I can get through it by dealing with my emotions in a healthy way and being honest with the people around me. This will always be a part of my life but the difference is I don’t have to let it rule my life. I am in control not my disease.
Three years ago if you had told me I’d be in school, having fun, holding leadership positions and dating I would’ve thought you were crazy. But now I can’t imagine life any other way. No it’s not always easy but the ups and downs have helped me become stronger than I ever thought was possible. I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I can honestly say I’m so proud of the woman I’ve become and I can’t wait to see what else the future has in store for me.
When I entered Castlewood, I thought life would get steadily easier. What I soon realized was I was beginning to embark on a journey towards authentic feeling; not an easy task when I was numbed out from the world for so many years.
Emotionally frozen for some time when I came to Castlewood, I began to slowly, very slowly defrost. I moved further away from engaging in my eating disorder behaviors, and closer to recovery. The layers and walls I built up during the period of time I had my eating disorder were gradually beginning to be broken down. As I thawed out from all the emotional pain and chaos I experienced for years, I soon realized that there was light at the end of the tunnel, and that this light was not a train barreling towards me to run me over. Rather, this light was the hope I had desperately, and eagerly been searching for.
During my defrosting stage of treatment I received an enormous amount of empathy from staff and clients. Despite all the compassion, care, concern, patience, and understanding I received from all the Castlewood staff, I am learning that the giving nature of the professionals at Castlewood is simply an example of how I should treat myself. From direct care, to therapists, to Mark and Lori, I have received nothing but the kind, understanding, accepting presence of all the staff.
Melting has not been easy, quick, or painless. Rather, the process towards finding out my identity apart from my eating disorder has been excruciatingly difficult and trying. With the encouragement of clients, staff, my therapist, my dietitian, and my support team outside of Castlewood, I am beginning to see tangible change occur in my life.
I entered Castlewood not knowing who I was as a person. I have now grown a better understanding of my make-up, personality, and unique characteristic traits. I walked through the doors of Castlewood not able to tolerate any intense emotion without acting out on a behavior; I can now sit through a whole range of feelings. I came into Castlewood with little knowledge about why I have an eating disorder. I now understand that there are several factors that played into the development and progression of my eating disorder. When I came to Castlewood I wanted someone outside of myself to fix and cure me. Now I realize that I innately have the capacity to help myself.
As I sit here on this cool January evening and reflect on my time spent at Castlewood I am overwhelmed with hope. Today, while playing basketball at the local YMCA I found myself connected to my mind, body, and spirit. A year ago I would have never been able to work up the courage to go into the open gym and ask ten guys if they would let me play with them. I was the only female, and- I not only asked- but I played. During this time my mind was free of the self-destructive thoughts that have kept me in shackles for so many years. I felt the strength in my body and did not have a body image crisis. I felt my fast heart beat and did not wish that somehow it would suddenly stop.
I am thankful for the pain I experienced because it allows me to more fully experience the joy in life, and I can connect with a moment of joy when in it enters my day. I can now put my finger right on it, name it, and soak it in; this- knowing when I am experiencing true joy- is a gift.
Today I realized I am well into the defrosting stage of recovery, and- although I am far from where I want to be- I am in it. I am fighting, and fighting hard. I cherish these moments, the time when I see tangible results from the hard work I am putting in on a daily basis.
Yes, the early recovery is not a walk in the park. Yes, during my time at Castlewood I have been thrown several balls from left field that I was not expecting. Yes, walking into the doors of Castlewood I did not anticipate facing more pain than I had in my previous treatment experiences. But, if it is all working towards finally being freed from the ice that has held me captive for so many years, then- in my opinion- it is all worth it.
So today my wish for all those who suffer with an eating disorder is that you may find joy in the struggle, and beauty in the pain.