ETAAM (usually just referred to by its location in Orlando) is a retreat for moms parenting children with early trauma or attachment issues. I first heard about it on a blog and decided to apply to go to try to recharge my batteries and learn skills that I could apply in our family.
For almost a year, I looked forward to going and in the very, very darkest days that were defined by parenting a child with RAD and PTSD, I clung to the thought that Orlando was coming up and would give me what I needed to be able to cope.
The thing I was most nervous about prior to Orlando wasn’t the fact that I didn’t know anyone there or even that I was traveling alone. It was having to come back home afterwards to a life that is admittedly challenging at present without “Orlando” to look forward to.
And then something unexpected happened. Back in January, I decided to go on the spur of the moment to BEECH Retreat, a blogging conference ironically also in Florida. The people I met at BEECH did not share the commonality of raising trauma kids and the conference had nothing official to do with parenting and yet, I left there feeling confident, refreshed and excited about implementing information I had gleaned not only about blogging but about parenting and about appreciating my family.
BEECH was actually such an incredible experience for me that I became nervous that ETAAM would be knocked off the pedestal I had placed it on and shatter into thousands of pieces.
Truthfully, in some ways, it was knocked off that pedestal and really that was a good thing. Once my expectations were shattered and broken that first day, it gave me the opportunity to build them into something better.
ETAAM is one of those things that is hard to describe. One of the girls in our house put it well when she said, ”This is not just an experience, this is a movement!”
“Orlando” can be whatever each person needs it to be whether that means sleeping and relaxing or attending classes and learning from others.
For this time, I needed it to be about building relationships and knowing that I am not alone in this isolating world of childhood PTSD and RAD. And that is exactly what I got!
My housemates were incredible and I go away feeling richly blessed by that. There were others too who gifted me this weekend in sharing openly and I treasure those individual conversations.
There were some fun bits too! I got a henna tattoo (some of the ladies got real ones), ran a 5 K thanks entirely to my friend Audrey who stayed with me and encouraged me the whole way, tried and failed to successfully hula hoop, participated in a fun gift exchange, went to a lovely fancy dinner, drank girly drinks by the pool, and laughed until I cried!
The Husband didn’t fall for me telling him that I was going to get a real tattoo:
Of course I’m biased but I really believe our house was the best house and the simple truth is, it was…for me. It was the perfect fit for me. I left Orlando feeling a connection to each of the women in my house. I found a very powerful thing in Orlando. I am no longer alone.