Confessions of the first group session:
Five o’ clock hit and slowly a group of ten girls walked in – all equally nervous – all sharing slightly embarrassed expressions on their faces. It was only two minutes into the session and we were already learning breathing techniques for relaxation.
“Place your fingers on the edges of an ‘imaginary’ star. Okay, good. You got that right, slowly inhaleeeee… now ladies, really focus on the exhaleeeeeee….”
Those were the longest two minutes of my life.
Then the ‘breathing star’ came to an end with a chime noise to calm us down and settle us into our new seats. Essentially, the group leader was preparing us to feel comfortable with possibly the most uncomfortable thing we’ve all ever done.
Oh, and it will happen every week for the next six months.
“Don’t forget to put your name tag on, ladies.”
Our group therapist (Stacy we’ll call her) talked about the rules of housekeeping and recovery. Basically she was asking us what our hopes and fears of treatment were. I found it more to be an ice-breaker, to see where everyone else was at mentally into their ED. Observing other’s ED was terrifying. Especially being thrown into a room with others who have literally hid their eating disorder from everyone for as long as they can remember.
First things first, there were guidelines written all over the room outlined in pretty, vibrant colours. Written in the same smelly markers like the ones you use to smell in kindergarten.
Anyways, self-compassion and compassion for others seemed to play the main role in our first session. Like Meryl Streep, compassion was the main actor on centre stage and making all of us feel all fuzzy inside whenever she sang.
Stacy also discussed the importance of being in the ‘wise mind‘. The ‘wise mind’ is a balance as wonderful as it sounds. The balance between the ‘reasonable mind‘ and the ‘emotional mind‘. And for anyone who struggles with anxiety or an eating disorder, then you definitely understand what I mean when I describe the drug-like-state and explosions of irrational behaviour of the ‘emotional mind‘. Well the wise mind is the integration of the two – the quiet and the calm of both those powerful and valuable states of mind.
After a quick break with some Tazo Passion tea and cheese strings (they won me at cheese) we began to discuss ‘supportive self-talk’. These were conversations to encourage self-love, and one by one, individuals in the group began to raise their hand and whisper their own self-love practices.
“I am only human, I am not suppose to be perfect.”
“Mistakes are a learning opportunity, we all have to learn. It’s okay if I don’t get it right the first time.”
By the end of the session it sounded like all the girls in the room were slowly showing signs of more energy, positivity and possibility. However, the honest truth was, when I really looked into some of the girl’s faces… self-doubt and fear was all I saw.
And that my friend – is the eating disorder doing what it does best.
And that’s a wrap! Group session one, check.
See you next week.
The first sessions homework entailed a nice little reading from “It’s Not about Food: End Your Obsession with Food and Weight” by Carol Emery Normandi MFT, and Laurelee Roark.