The prospect of counselling or therapy is daunting enough, without the prospect of sharing every detail of my life to a whole group of strangers without a few Instagram filters!
So when I was offered group therapy recently I, like many others, shied away from the idea (read shied away as ran away screaming into the abyss). However ever the intrepid explorer, I gave myself a talking to and decided to go and see what it was like.
I found myself wanting to talk to someone after my self-esteem took a complete nose-dive recently (you can read about that here). A few solid years of battering down my anxiety barriers combined with a slightly relentless chain of rejection at the hands of the modern dating scene left me in an odd place of being a confident happy person who had zero self-esteem. Hence my minor meltdown and trip to the doctors for a bit of help when I spotted a few worrying warning signs.
I still had a five-month wait from being added to the group to actually beginning it, but that was nothing compared to what others have had to wait, and it was mainly due to the fact I was about to join a specific eight week course, aimed solely at women who had anxiety stemming from self-esteem issues.
I was fairly dubious before the group started, but I was invited to meet the two female coordinators of the group; trained social workers, these ladies weren’t your typical counsellors. Meeting them before the sessions started meant we all had recognisable faces and took away from fear ever so slightly. I confessed to them that I felt like a fraud, I was envisioning women who had ‘real’ problems and mine would be seen as self-indulgent (anxiety and body dysmorphic disorder are mean at times), but they allayed my fears and a few weeks later I rocked up, ten minutes early as usual, to my first group session.
Everyone was as nervous as me, if not more so, but we were made to feel safe and confident immediately. I couldn’t speak at the beginning of the course, I was too scared the minute I’d open my mouth the tears would start but within an hour I was babbling away as if I’d know the women for years. Over the following weeks, I have found myself looking forward to going to see my new friends, wanting to help them boost their confidence as much as boosting mine.
The course has a solid structure over the 8 weeks, whilst there is room to discuss issues and chat, we are all really there to learn. We are given tools to use to help us deal with the little gremlins in our brains that scream that we aren’t good enough.
The benefit of group therapy is you don’t have an hour to talk about yourself, you might get two minutes here and there, and so it forces you to pinpoint things into concise moments. Moments that have beaten you down, brought you up or slapped you so hard across the face you didn’t know where you were. Looking at these moments and realising their power has given me my power back. I’m definitely not the most self-confident person but I’m getting there, I now tell myself off when I see someone and compare myself. I tell myself the things I would tell the ladies in my group when they’re searching for confidence. I’m just far kinder to myself.
Also, when you hear other people talk about their lives and how they feel, you understand once again, you’re not alone and you never were. A number of times I have said ‘Yes, exactly!’ is now getting a bit silly. Ultimately I’m proud of my group and the progress I’m seeing in my new friends as well as myself. I told them all recently what we all know deep down. If you get out of bed in the morning when everything is screaming at you not too, if you battle a mental health problem daily, then you’re stronger than most. I guess you just have to keep proving how strong you are over and over again. So maybe, if you’re offered group therapy it’s just another opportunity to be brave and I sincerely recommend taking that leap.