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The Bournewood Ultimatum–Introduction

*For HIPPA reasons, I have changed the names in this blog post to names that I felt each person more closely resembled (’cause I’m a weirdo and I’m obsessed with names).

In late November 2013, my husband gave me an ultimatum–our marriage would be at stake if I didn’t enter a psychiatric program for my depression.

I knew Dave had been miserable for a year while I attempted to come to terms with Jack’s autism diagnosis on my own.  I mean, I was still seeing my psychologist and was being bumped around from psychiatrist to psychiatrist (thanks, Lahey).  I was taking my prescribed medications.  But it was far from enough.  Every day I was getting fatter and more depressed.

My psychologist had been recommending that I enroll in a Partial Psychiatric Program for about 10 months and I was adamant that I didn’t need it.  Now, I had no choice.

What is a Partial Psychiatric Program?  It’s a step up from your basic ‘see your therapist’ regimen and a step down from ‘being admitted, against your will or not, to the psychiatric unit of a hospital’.  It’s basically like Psychiatric Day Care for Adults.

The Partial Program to which I was admitted is called Bournewood-Caulfield in Woburn, Massachusetts.

2014 Bournewood 04

I truly thought that I was being enrolled in some sort of ‘Mommy & Me’ program where a bunch of other moms and I would vent about how difficult it was to raise kids.  Wow, WAS I WAY OFF!!!

Day 1 at Bournewood-Caulfield was a rude awakening.  The class ran every day from 9:00 am – 2:00 pm, 5 days a week, with multiple breaks throughout the session.  Class was held in a room with multiple long tables surrounded by chairs, pushed together in the center of the room.  So what ‘mommy problems’ did we discuss?  Ummmm, heroin addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, addiction to pills, sex, and self-harming.  WHERE WAS I???!!!

At the end of the first day, I went home and cried my eyes out.  Skipped class the next day.  Now I’m quite familiar with ALL of the above issues, but I didn’t belong there, . . . right?  Then I remembered how arrogant I had been 15 years ago when I first entered Shawsheen Tech as a Freshman.  My math class was Algebra?  Seriously?  Because I’d been doing that since 5th grade.  And you’re telling me that there’s not a more advanced math class for me to take?!  Yeah, I don’t belong here.  But I swallowed my pride and stuck it out, and it turned out to be 4 of the best years of my life.  Could Bournewood be the same?  If I just swallowed my pride and gave it some time, could it be one of the best experiences of my life?  Only one way to find out!

I returned to class after skipping a day, determined to give it another chance.  Once again, I am SO glad I did!  My time at Bournewood truly was life-changing.  I met so many people who were struggling just like me.  Maybe we weren’t struggling with the same issues, but we all needed time to concentrate on our mental health.  To learn coping skills.  To learn how to leave the past in the past and the future in the future.  To a certain degree, it was like being in high school all over again and I loved it.  Meeting new people, a few that I HATED, but the majority that I really liked.  Very colorful people with different beliefs, opinions, and ways of looking at the world.  I learned a lot from them.

What were the instructors at Bournewood like?  First, there was the manager of Bournewood-Caulfield, Paula.  The frequent flyers to the program absolutely loved her.  She only conducted a few sessions while I was there so I didn’t really get to know her, but she seemed wonderful.  Next there was my intake coordinator, Sylvia, who tells it like it is.  You can’t get anything past her!  In fact, for all of my fellow students who are reading this, y’all remember the memorable conversation that we had with her during one of our sessions!  And that’s all I’ll say about that matter!  Then there was another therapist named Gary.  Did he look like a ‘Gary’?  No, the farthest thing from it!  My first impression of him was WAY off.  He speaks in a very quiet, monotone voice with very little inflection (think Ben Stein in the Clear Eyes commercials), but he’s dead-on every time with his advice.  You just have to pay attention to what he’s saying.

The most memorable person at Bournewood is Dr. Belzer.  If I was to sum him up in one word I’d say ‘dynamic.’  He’s hilarious, he tells it like it is, and you can tell by the way he listens to you that you are totally transparent to him.  So telling him anything short of the truth is completely futile.  He also happens to be a brilliant psychiatrist who’s written a book on addiction and mental health.


Of course, now that I’ve posted the cover of the book he’s written (you can buy it on Amazon.com) you can see his real name.  I honestly don’t think he’ll mind one bit, but I figure if I’m going to change everyone else’s names, I might as well change his too!

And lastly, we have Aziz Ansari.


I swear, if you put 20 lbs on the actor Aziz Ansari, you’d have our guy!  Very nice, but I only met him a few times.  Our sessions were almost always with either Sylvia or Gary.

Another thing that came as a surprise to me is that there was a constant rotation of students in and out of the program.  I thought the people in the room with me on my first day were going to be the people with whom I graduated.  When I realized otherwise, I was seriously bummed.  I guess I kinda imagined all of us as The Breakfast Club, graduating together, and fist-bumping the air as we left.

imagesCA3LAZLZ imagesCAKQ0XBC

But I grew to like the constant rotation of people.  Some who successfully graduated out of the program.  Some who dropped out because they weren’t ready to stay clean.  And some whose insurance companies wouldn’t authorize additional time in the program, whether they were ready to leave or not.  That was one of the saddest things.  Seeing somebody leaving because their insurance company felt that they were somehow well enough‘Hey, we’ll cover your hospitalization if you attempt suicide again, but we can’t pay for you to spend another week or two in a Partial Program.’  Makes perfect sense!

I don’t even know where to begin with all of the things I learned at Bournewood.  I’m actually going to save that for the next post.  Right now, I’m fighting a head cold so my brain is fried.  But let me tell you, if you’re someone who’s struggling with addiction or depression and regular therapy isn’t cutting it, please please please consider a program like Bournewood.  It truly has changed my life for the better and I’m starting to see glimpses of my former self.  I’m not better, but I now have the tools to get better.  It’s going to take time and effort, along with therapy and medication, but I no longer feel like this when I wake up in the morning:

2014 Bournewood 12

Now I feel more like this:

2013.10.31 Disney (22)

The Bread & Butter Pudding at Raglan Road, Disney

or this . . .

2011.12.01 Egg to Die For

Murder, She Wrote.  Best show ever!

Not quite like this (yet):

2013-11-01 18.15.02

but more like this . . .

2011.09.26 My Love

Grande Mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks

or this:

2011.09.26 Disney Shorts

Disney Sweatshorts with teal Rite Aid faux-Crocs

Stay tuned for the post “The Bournewood Ultimatum–Conclusion” to find out what I learned in my Partial Psychiatric Program.


Pink Sweatpants


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