After Group

“It’s not just a haircut…” C said, as she looked at me empathetically. “There’s one important thing I want you to do tonight, after you are picked up at work and get home. When you are alone, and these thoughts come back, I want you to go to the mirror and look at yourself. Look at your haircut and what that represents for you. It’s not just a haircut…”

That was what C said to me earlier, after group therapy ended (it was our last session together – I was feeling really emotional, and B and C (the two psychologists that lead our group) had asked me to join them at C’s office after the session.

It was my first time being confronted by two psychologists at once. It felt a little intimidating but at the same time, also felt very nice because I knew that two people whom I’ve come to look up to care about me enough to want to talk to me.

“What’s up?” I asked them as I sat down – knowing full well what was up. This was familiar – as it has happened at least 2 times before this. This was about my BHM score.

“Oh, we looked at your BHM score and we just wanted to check in to make sure you’re safe…” B said, I had indicated in my BHM that I was always suicidal and that my risk was at a moderate level. “I know S had alerted us to the fact that your scores are going to be elevated for a while but we just wanted to make sure…”

I knew they were doing their job, but I couldn’t help but feel like these two women cared for me at a deeper level than just the job. They’ve seen me grow throughout therapy and they are invested in my future growth.

“Are you going to be safe?” C asked.

I didn’t know what to say. Since having my haircut, I’ve been receiving many compliments. Even random strangers would come up to me and tell me how great I look. It has boosted my confidence and made me feel better than I have in a while. Yet, despite that, it’s still there – that darkness is still lurking. It’s still angry and now even more upset because I’ve found something that strengthened me. I still don’t know who “it” is – I’ve not gotten any answers the times I’ve asked it who it is.

“I think I’ll be ok…” I said, not able to look at either women in the eye. They didn’t look away – I could feel their gaze on me.

“I know you say that you will be ok… But why don’t I feel good about that?” C asked.

“I think I just need to focus on the good things, on the more positive things… It’ll be ok. I just need to hang on until tomorrow…” I said, sounding completely unconvincing. “I mean, S took my knife away…”

“S took your knife away?” C asked.

“Yeah… He asked me if he needed to take that away from me and I said that it was probably a good idea…” I said.

“S took your knife away… But when there’s a will, there’s a way, right?” C persisted.

I started crying. “Yeah. Yeah there is… I mean, I can’t tell you how I’ll be in a few hours from now… ” I said. I showed them the scars that I had just recently acquired. Sure, S had taken my art knife away but when I was home, I have access to the kitchen knife.

It was true. I’ve never liked the question that psychologists pose, “Are you going to be safe?” because when I’m triggered, I react. I can’t help it most of the time. I know I need to work on better coping skills so that I don’t just react each time I’m triggered but it’s a process…

I didn’t know what else to say. I just told her that coming to group today had helped me a little to cope with a stressor that I’d had last night. It was something that affected me deeply and in the midst of it, I thought to myself, “See, this is why it’s better that I just die. It’ll absolve Hubster of his responsibility over me…”. I told B and C this. I told them that it’s much easier if I just died.

“Also, I go to bed really late… It’s usually during those times that I get the worst feelings.”

“And that’s understandable… It’s dark, you’re all alone… You’re tired… I can’t think straight when I’m tired!”

“Yeah…” I said, “I haven’t had enough sleep for a while now.”

“What do you have to do after this until tonight?” C asked, “After you work, after you get picked up… What will you do between 9 and 1?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, I have school work I need to do… I guess I’ll do that… Or maybe I’ll force myself to go to bed earlier…” I said.

“Yeah, going to bed earlier might be a good idea…” C said.

“I mean I’ve tried the crisis chat line before and that wasn’t helpful at all…” I said.

B said, “Just like how there are bad therapists or therapists that you don’t match well with, there are also crisis lines that aren’t as well managed…”

C picked up a business card and gave it to me. She pointed at the list of crisis hotlines.

“Just because one didn’t know work for you, doesn’t mean you should just give up. If one doesn’t work, try another and another,” C said s she handed me the card with all the pertinent information about crisis lines.

“Yeah… I’ll try…” I said, “I mean… I also made a promise. I promised S that I’ll try to hang on. I don’t want to break that promise…”

We were quiet for a while. C took the opportunity to fill the void. She said something that made me sob uncontrollably.

“It’s not just a haircut…” C said, “There’s one important thing I want you to do tonight, after you are picked up at work and get home. When you are alone, and these thoughts come back, I want you to go to the mirror and look at yourself. Look at your haircut and what that represents for you. It’s not just a haircut…”

I had shared in group that my haircut symbolized something important to me. It felt like a change that I needed; like it was the step I had to take in this journey of recovery. I told the group that as the stylist cut my hair away, I visualized all the bad things falling away and I had started feeling lighter. B had commented then that it seemed like I had more confidence than she’s ever seen me have. I told her that the haircut did give me a boost in my confidence and that people seem to want to talk to me more now – it’s like just exuding some confidence makes people more willing to interact with you.

So when C said that, the floodgates opened and I sobbed. Both B and C let me sob for a few moments. It was so easy to forget the good things. I had just ended group, and I had already forgotten that I’m stronger than I let myself believe. That like B said, I have the courage to keep going.

“I am smarter than I think… All things are possible today… Good news is coming my way…” I said, repeating what one of my group members had shared in group today. He said that it was something that he was taught as a child and he repeats that every day. It sounded like something I needed to hear. B and C smiled and nodded. “Yeah… I guess it’s so easy to forget that…”

“It’s ok. I’ll remember it for you. I’ll hang on to it for you…” C said.

“You’ve got an entire team here working with you. Don’t worry. We will keep reminding you, Jules…” B said.

I cried some more because what they said was touching.

“Thank you…” I said, choking back all the tears. “Thank you…”

“I’m more of a tactile person so I’d touch my hair… But whenever you need affirmation, you need to look in the mirror…”

“I like to touch it too…” I said, brushing my fingers through my sides. We were silent for a few moments. “Yeah…” I said, as I thought about what C had just told me – about how my haircut was more than just hair. It’s a symbol of hope for me. It’s something I badly need to hang on to right now. “Yeah…” I repeated. “Thank you…”

Now sure that I would be ok, B and C relaxed. I could sense it in their body language.

“Okay. Come on, let me walk you to the door…” She said.

As I gathered my belonging and followed her out, I said to her, “You know. You’re doing a great job, C. I hope you finish and graduate and be able to do your own thing…” (C is actually an intern at CAPS and I realize now that B was probably present because being C’s supervisor, she was probably wanting to observe C’s session.)

“Yeah, I hope that I can graduate too,” C said as she opened the door.

Funnily enough, we bumped into S who was trying to get into the office while I was trying to get out.

“Oh sorry!” C said.

“Hi S!” I said, my heart leapt with a measure of excitement. I don’t often see S outside of his office so whenever I do, it’s an exciting moment. He was carrying some groceries.

“Oh! Hi, Jules!” He said – I saw him do a double take when he saw me. He had paused slightly after saying hi, probably because he didn’t recognize me at first. I was hoping that he’d see me with my new hair tomorrow but maybe a quick preview would spare him the shock.

Anyway, so group has ended for me. It has been a bittersweet experience. Bitter because it has ended and because of the stuff we dealt with but sweet because not only was I able to connect with 3 other people on a deep level, I was also able to learn how to listen, learn to be more forgiving towards myself, learn to be supportive and also learn more about myself.

B, being the lead psychologist, noted that though every group is different, she did think that our group was very quick to dive in to our “hidden” areas – i.e. the stuff we hide from people and don’t want to talk about – and was quick to attack our root areas. She said that because of that, we were able to grow so quickly and be such a great team. I feel proud of that. I feel proud to be a part of a group that did so well in such little time.

I also feel a lot of affection for the other two group members (both amazing guys) despite only knowing their personal life stuff and nothing about their background or story. I’ve known these people more intimately than I’ve ever really known anyone (besides Hubster). I trusted these people with my life and parting ways with them today hurts.

I’m grieving this loss. I’m grieving the fact that I might never see these guys again. I’m grieving the fact that we had gained momentum and were unpacking so many important issues that we were all grappling with – but now, it’s all over. I’m grieving all these things but at the same time, I’m also celebrating the end of a chapter. I’m celebrating the lives of these two other men that I’ve had the privilege to get to know. I watched both of them grow and change through these 8 weeks – BE went from being a shy kid who would barely speak, to a more confident leader who brought notes to therapy and who led a session himself. DD stopped minimizing his feelings and emotions and started to let us in. Today he actually told us a very important personal information that he never could reveal to us before. He told us that he trusted us.

I love these guys – maybe I’m just being emotional right now but that’s how I feel currently. I can’t even adequately express just how much I’ve learned from them or how important they’ve been to me. Through it all, they’ve also reminded me of how important I have been to them. They made me feel wanted and heard. They gave me a place where I belonged. I owe them a lot.

Things will not be the same even if I attended another group.

BE summed it up nicely, “It’s not going to be the same with another group. I don’t think I can attend another process group ever again. It’s just not going to be as special… It won’t have you two in them…”

He made me cry with his words. In fact, I couldn’t stop crying for the last 10 minutes of the session. When it was all said and done, I told them, “We’re going to be ok. We’re going to be just fine…” It was more for me than it is for them, but I think they appreciated hearing it as well.

At the end of it, we took pictures – B and C commented that this has never happened before; no one has ever asked to take photos of group before. B warned us that this meant that our privacy will no longer be ensured. We all agreed that it was fine.

Pictures are important to me and being able to look at a photo in the future and reminisce on this great chapter of my life feels like it’s something I really nee so I’m glad that BE suggested that we take a photo together.

I just can’t believe that I was initially so resistant to joining group. I was so adamant against it but S never stopped trying. He kept bringing it up and reminding me of group opportunities. Now that I’ve joined and had a great experience, I’m ready to do another group. It’ll never be the same as this first group but I know that I’ll glean even more about myself when I attend future group therapies! I’m so thankful that I attended this.

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5 thoughts on “After Group

  1. Hey – just sent you an email but wanted to check in here too. It’s too bad group is ending, since it’s been a good support. Another group won’t be the same, true, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be helpful in other ways. I hope you’ll keep using whatever resources exist to take care of yourself. Your self deserves that care!

    Liked by 1 person

    • JL says:

      Hey Q, thank you so much for the email. I’ll respond to it soon. I’m at CAPS to do a screening interview for another “Understanding Self and Others” group therapy actually and then my second session with S directly after. You’re right, it won’t be the same but I figured it might be helpful anyway to expose myself to different groups of people. I might not have such an easy time with this group and it’ll probably push me to learn other things, maybe. And you’re right, I need to practice more self care. Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

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