I may have mentioned, awhile back, that I was starting a group therapy program for women recovering from trauma.
Next Tuesday is the last day of that.
And there's a lot going on in my head.
I was skeptical, before I started the group, that I would really get much out of it. At that point, I figured I was doing pretty good. I'd (mostly) stopped throwing up and I'd (mostly) stopped hurting myself. I wasn't crying as easily. I was concentrating fairly well.
Basically, I felt as good as I had in recent, and not-so-recent, memory. So I thought, "I'm better. Surely I don't need something like this."
But I tried it anyway. I'd been on the waiting list for so long, it just seemed like something I should at least try after all that time.
And it was a lot harder than I thought it would be, at times. I have a tendency to just get quiet when I'm feeling upset, and ignoring whatever it is I'm feeling. I tried that the second session. And I got called on it; the facilitators asked what I was thinking, what I was feeling. And my first reaction, in my mind, was something along the lines of "Just leave me alone, you're not helping, I can't start crying, I can't."But I did start crying. And it wasn't so bad, once I did, even though I absolutely hated it at the time.
One of the main things I've learned, the past few weeks, is that it's okay to acknowledge when I don't feel okay. I still have trouble with it sometimes - I'm stubborn; I think if I ignore it, it will go away; and I think I don't deserve to take a break and calm myself down. But I'm working on it. It's hard, but I'm working on it. I'm starting to realize that this stuff just doesn't go away if you ignore it - it festers, it poisons, it eventually comes out, no matter what you do. And maybe more importantly, I've started to feel like I deserve to deal with the stuff that's bothering me.
It was amazing and heartbreaking, to be in a room with those other women, with each of us feeling like we weren't worth saving. But we didn't feel that way about each other; we each thought the others were worth saving. So in the end, you are the only one in the room who thinks you aren't worth saving. Which makes you wonder if maybe they're right and you're wrong, after all.
And I've also realized that, if I'm honest with myself, I'm still not okay.
On Saturday, an old man at a store grabbed my arm, then starting shaking and mumbling something I couldn't quite hear. I froze. When he let go, maybe 10 seconds later, I was angry at myself for having froze - I froze when I was eight, and I've never quite forgiven myself for it. Then I was angry at the man. Then I was angry at me again. Then when I got home, I was scared and shaking and angry and didn't eat anything for the rest of the day.
It's been a few months since I've made myself throw up, but the impulse still comes fairly frequently. And it's not all that unusual for me to just stop eating when I'm upset, which isn't exactly healthy. And food still scares me, in general. There are certain things I just won't touch, and I won't go grocery shopping alone.
And I still have self-destructive tendencies. I try to fight the urges - and the fact that I've thrown out my old razorblades helps - but candles are everywhere at home, and burn marks are too generic looking, too easy to pass of as something else. And even if I'm not home, and I'm upset, my nails are long and sharp.
...obviously I still have issues.
I've been worse than this - much worse - but I'm starting to realize that maybe I can be better than this too.
So although this group ends on Tuesday, I'm going to keep with the trauma therapy. The hospital I'm going to has a really amazing trauma therapy department, with different groups developed for different stages of recovery. There's another group program, that's much more intensive - 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, for 8 weeks. I would have to take time off school for it, which means I'd have to get a medical note and formally interrupt my scholarship for (likely) a full term. There's also a six month waiting list, so the earliest I could do this would be the fall term.
Doing this group would mean fully admitting that I'm not okay. And that scares me a bit. But it also makes me hopeful. For the first time, I feel like I'm starting to really address the root of my problems, instead of ignoring them or just dealing with them at a superficial level. I still have a long way to go, especially if all the groups have six-month waiting lists, but I'm starting to see a path I can follow to get better.
I told my boyfriend about wanting to do this group, and he was amazingly supportive.
I'm especially thankful that I talked to him before I talked to Mom about it. She wasn't so supportive. She's convinced it will set my career back. She said "Won't it seem odd that it took you two months longer to do a PhD? Would anyone want to hire you?" I explained that there's a range of finishing times for PhD's - anywhere from 4 to 7 years - so it wouldn't be evident from my resume. We talked some more. She still seemed against it. And that made me upset; and all the urges that come with me being upset cropped up again, as if trying to reinforce in my mind exactly how badly I need to keep trying to get better.
I've thought more about that conversation with Mom, and I realized that, much as I love her and value her opinion, she doesn't always know best. Her way of dealing with everything in her life - her own traumatic childhood, the dysfunctional family I was raised in, her health problems - has been to downplay it and basically pretend that everything was / is / will be okay. I always admired her for that, actually. But sometimes I can't help but wonder if pretending is really such a good idea. If she hadn't pretended her childhood wasn't really that bad, maybe she would have gotten counseling for it herself, and not grown up to be something of a co-dependent martyr. If she hadn't pretended Dad wasn't such a shitty husband and father, maybe she would have left him years ago, and maybe my brother and I would have fewer childhood emotional scars. If she hadn't ignored all the stress she ever felt, and had maybe dealt with some of it instead, maybe her physical health would have been better.
Speculating on all of that doesn't change anything now, I know.
But I also know I don't want to be like her, with all her buried emotions and pain and problems. So even if she doesn't approve, I'm going to do what I need to do to get better.