I’ve mentioned here from time to time the fact that I go to group therapy. It’s hard to explain, exactly, what this is. Even if someone doesn’t go to individual therapy, they can understand the concept of having a person to talk to about anxiety or other issues, a regular appointment where someone talks things through with you and helps you understand how your brain works to process things, etc.
But group is harder to explain. In a sentence, it’s five of us (in my case, five women) sitting in a circle with our therapist, talking about our feelings. It’s not five different individual sessions going on with the therapist, but it’s a group made of five individuals navigating through feeling that arise in response to what someone else is sharing or going through. It’s also really hard. It isn’t a chat session with girlfriends, it’s peeling back layer after layer, going places that are uncomfortable and raw, it’s talking about what’s in the room and not kvetching about spouses and bosses.
I’ve been going to this same group once a week for three years. When I first started going, I had to plan out what I wanted to share, I was scared to say anything that didn’t seem perfect and so I spent a lot of time in my own head. The group taught me that, when I did this, it was harder to feel a connection with me. This isn’t something I would have learned in a one-on-one therapy session.
Even when one of the group members brings in something from the outside—a problem they’re having that’s causing anxiety or intense feelings—the rest of us don’t sit back and witness a one-on-one session between that person and the therapist. We contribute by sharing the feelings that come up when we hear about their problem, sometimes it will trigger similar feelings because we can relate to what they’re going through, sometimes it can bring up irritation or frustration and by sharing that, we can have little mini confrontations that help us understand anger.
I’ve learned and I’ve grown so much with this group over the past three years, it’s almost hard to describe. I know I’m able to be more open in my relationships, more confident in asking for what I want, and more connected to what I’m feeling and what I need, all of which help me manage my depression and anxiety and know myself better.
Next week will be the last time this group meets.
This space I’ve had for the past three years, a ninety-minute space for me to discover myself and work on myself, will no longer exist.
This is pretty terrifying.
On one hand, I feel like I’m in a much better place than I was when I started, and I know I will be able to apply the tools I’ve learned to my life even without the weekly check-in. So, part of me is even hopeful that maybe I don’t need so much time and energy devoted to it each week, that I’ll be okay without it.
But then, the other hand. The part of me that is afraid of reverting back to how I felt when I first started group, that my anxiety and depression will be triggered more, that I won’t know what to do. This duality of having hope and yet being afraid is uncomfortable, but I’m trying to learn from it. Life is full of times when a turning point or a decision feels both right and scary. Just because it’s both doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision—change will never be without some element of fear because it’s a leap into the unknown.
It’s also scary and sad to think about saying goodbye to the group and to the other women I’ve come to know on such a deep level over the years. The crazy thing is, we don’t even know each other’s last names, and yet we share more with each other than we do with most of our family and friends. It’s a space that does not and cannot exist anywhere else. It’s sad to think about not seeing them every week, to not have the same safe space any longer. It’s hard for me to process something ending, a non-romantic relationship ending, that doesn’t involve me or the other person moving away. But it’s a lesson in understanding that sometimes, relationships change and it’s time to move on—it served its purpose in my life and I can celebrate that even as I mourn losing it.
It makes me wonder, how much do I, do we, hold onto even when it’s served its purpose, even when we’d be not just okay but maybe even thrive without it, and yet we stubbornly hang on because we’re afraid of the fear and the sadness?
So, I look back and appreciate all that this group has done for me, I am sad and scared that it’s ending, and I’m grateful. I will certainly always have it with me.