Gratitude Stories - Emilie
Bradley Hospital’s PARC Program Helped Emilie Overcome Anxiety
It started when 12-year-old Emilie felt a lump in her throat at school.
“At the end of the day, I walked to the bus with my friend. And I asked her, ‘if I swallow something that's part of my body, what will happen to me?’ And not saying anything is her fault, but she said I could die. And I got too stuck on it.”
Then Emilie felt tingly, like she might be having a seizure. Turns out, it was a panic attack. Around this time, she also started experiencing other fears, like wondering if her food was contaminated.
“It all happened kind of quickly,” says her mom, Kim, of the experience Emilie had in September 2021. “Things just grew into kind of an acute anxiety/OCD situation. She’d stopped eating, and really wasn't drinking. And lost quite a bit of weight. She couldn’t really get through the day without having extreme anxiety and fear that something bad was going to happen to her.”
Knowing she needed more help than weekly hour-long outpatient sessions could provide, Emilie’s therapist referred her to Bradley Hospital’s Pediatric Anxiety Research Center. Within days of an initial intake call, she was admitted to PARC’s intensive day program.
She spent a little more than three months attending the program, which focuses on exposure therapy. In addition to the work done at Bradley, she benefited from therapy with the program’s exposure coaches. They traveled to the family’s home, about 45-minutes away from Bradley, and helped her confront her fears, particularly those around eating.
“I would say the first six weeks, we had a daily challenge to get her to eat,” Kimberly says. “And then one weekend – I don't know if it was a combination of medication or time – she just started eating. And it's like everything changed.”
The program’s clinicians also taught her phrases to focus on when she feels anxious, like “sit with the feeling.” Now, more than two years later, she still uses those words and other tools she learned in the program.
“I want other parents to know help is available,” Kimberly says. “PARC and Bradley Hospital can help get your family through a very difficult situation. PARC was there for us in a crisis and helped us get to the other side of it.”
After completing the program, Emilie was able to transition back to outpatient therapy closer to her home. She still lives with anxiety but feels confident she can manage her scary feelings now – thanks to PARC and her hard work.