Of Being Happy and Mindful

I am happy today.

I am so happy that my anxiety, and depression are temporarily gone from my awareness. It’s different.

Something else is different too.

For the first time in my life, I am not afraid to say that I am proud of the fact that I am happy. I don’t have to make excuses and downplay my happiness, like I’ve always felt like I had to in the past. I could never tell people positive things about me because of how afraid I am of others judging me for being happy as a depressed person.

In group today, I told Jenny and Brandon that I love them so much that it hurts me tremendously to see them both in the darkness, still struggling to climb out of the pit of depression. I told them that I felt really sad that Jenny have been victim shamed so much in her life that she can’t even bring up the topic of sexual assault or even believe that women are right to talk about their survival with her significant other, and that Brandon felt that he can’t feel okay with who he is. I recognized their pain because I was just a few months ago, steeped in it. I’ve been through all the shit, and muck, and though I still visit the pit from time to time, I’ve also been spending a lot more time in the sun lately.

I told the two of them (because only 3 of us attended group today) that I didn’t want them to misunderstand me – that for a moment, I didn’t want to tell them how I felt because I was afraid that they would judge me as ‘hypocritical’. I felt hypocritical because back when I was in the thick of depression, many supportive people have told me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That there is hope. At that time, I had scoffed at every single one of them and in my mind, had resolved that none of them knew how I felt. I refused to believe them because I didn’t think that they’d understand. That no one would.

Now I’m more stable, and can cope with my difficulties better. And I suddenly realized that I now know what those well-meaning people had been saying to me. I knew now that they weren’t just saying words to make me feel better but rather they really believe it.

I said, “I decided to say what was on my mind anyway even though a part of me felt like a hypocrite but I trusted… Or at least, I hoped that you two would get what I was saying, and where I was coming from. You both have seen, and experienced me at my lowest. You know how much I’ve struggled. So I hoped that you’d hear my message and see it as coming from someone who did go through shit and who did do all the hard work to come to this sunny side. And it is my hope, I am so so hopeful that you two can feel this way too because it hurts me so much to see you two struggle. I want so much good for you guys!”

Of course, I cried. I got very emotional and I explained that I didn’t know why.

T offered an explanation, “Jules, when you said all those things to Jenny and Brandon, I could tell that it came from your heart. That you genuinely wanted good things for them. And in saying those things, telling them that their issues are valid, that they’re worthy to feel the way they do despite what others have told them, is also in the same way, self validating. You were also talking to yourself, Jules. You told yourself that you were worthy, and that you were valid…”

What he said struck me. He was right. I was validating myself too. And that’s why I got emotional. I still have trouble telling myself good things without crying. It’s so emotionally impactful for me that I can’t do it without the tears.

Later, I shared with Brandon how I’ve been able to climb out of the pit – it was that I had built a support system around me who would remind me from time to time that I’m doing well, and that I’m heading the right direction. I told him that it’s all and well to be able to self validate, but to also receive such recognition, and encouragement, is huge. I told him that I felt so much stronger now because I have recognized who my people are.

I then told him how much of a privilege it’s been for me to watch him grow, and to see how much he’s grown. He used to be high strung, philosophical, cold, distant, and so stressed out. Today, he sat there with an even temper, and was able to participate in the conversation without even once going to the philosophical arguments. He was vulnerable, and allowed himself to be, and he was accepting of all the feedback he was given. I felt so proud of him. When T asked me how I felt towards Brandon, I said, “I feel so good. I feel so privileged to have seen such a huge change. It makes me extremely happy that you are reaching that point, and are working so hard yourself. I feel so much affection for you right now. It’s almost like you’re my little brother, and you’ve done so much good work!” I wanted him to know that his hard work is being recognized. It made me feel so happy to be able to say that because not only did it impact him, it also rebounded and hit me with the fuzzies.

Just before group, the Director of the Office of Health and Wellness said to me,

“When you learn to love yourself, those who love you will come back around to you. You don’t have to acclimate to others. You are a square trying to fit in a round hole. You’re not meant to fit!”

The Health and Wellness Promotion Coordinator then added,

“Those who are for you can’t go. Those who are not for you, can’t stay”.

Those two things have changed my life today. The words reverberated through me and I felt the anxiety that has been holding me back all this time ebb away. I was so afraid of losing people, and losing good times, that I was willing to settle for mediocre just so that I don’t have to rely on only myself. When I heard all that, I learned that I could let go, and the world will still revolve… And somehow, that helped me let go today.

It helped me stay uplifted, and positive.

So much so that I went and watched Power Rangers at the theater by myself. I was giddy with excitement because I felt like a child again, and Power Rangers was one of the more positive aspects of my childhood. I remembered how hopeful, and strong I had felt every time I watched the show. Watching the movie today reminded me of that. I also felt that the interaction between the characters to be similar to what I’d felt for Jenny, and Brandon today. It felt good. They feel like family.

I also was able to learn that when I love myself, it makes me love my partner, Cherie, even more than I already do. It made me secure in our relationship, and I am not worried about a thing right now. I confessed to her, and to group that my relationship has been going well – despite some fights – and it’s been going on so well that I have consciously caught myself thinking, “Wow. This is going well. Now what can I screw up so that I can go back in the pit again? What can I do to make it so that I feel depressed again?” I’m so used to being in the dark that being in the light feels strange, and uncomfortable. I know that now.

Today has been one of those really mindful days for me. I’m just so aware of my life, my speech, my actions, and my feelings. I don’t know if it will last or not, but I am hopeful that even if it doesn’t, that I’ll be able to handle it and turn the negatives into good growing experiences.

New Year

So it’s Day 5 into the new year – technically, as I type this it’s Day 6 but since I  don’t count a day as ending until I turn in to bed, it’s still Day 5 for me – and I’m happy to say that I’ve had an eventful holiday/semester break.

Ever since Christmas at Chérie’s family’s, we’ve been inseparable. Below are some photos of us to highlight our stay together. She left for home a few hours ago and this apartment has never been quieter. After she left, I thought about how perfect this woman is in my life, and how she fulfills all of my needs, and more.I can’t imagine how my 2016 would’ve ended had she not entered my life.

I also thought about how great of a positive impact she’s had on my mental health. She’s been very encouraging during all my lows – and I discover that I am able to be vulnerable with her, and allow her to see me at my weakest, as well as allow her to help me. Much of what she says is still hard to believe but with repetition, I’m starting to build the habit of listening to her and to trust her. It’s been quite an experience.

I realized that having her around for the holidays, the impact of my depression has definitely been dulled. I still get into my low moods but they’re not as bad as they were back in the period of April – October. I see how important it is to have a significant other who understands my struggle as well as woks hard to help me in my walk.

Between the two of us, I have a more severe anxiety disorder, while she has a more severe ADHD, so it really works out well because I provide for her the coping skills that she lacks, while she provides me the coping skills I lack. She’s always able to see past my anxiety and help me see past it as well, while I’m always able to remind her to do the things that she needs to do (having poor short term memory is pretty typical in ADHD sufferers).

I know I’ve talked about Chérie a lot lately, and it seems like I can’t talk about anything else but her. However, if you have someone who’s impacted your life so drastically, I don’t think you’d be able to stop talking about them either…

In any case, I’m going into 2017 with more positive feelings. I hope that things will continue to go smoothly – I can’t help but feel like after such a shitty 2016, I need a breather, and I need a year that won’t keep pounding me down.

I hope everyone else’s year started out right! I hope that I will be able to have more time to blog.

Lessons in Recovery

“I know from the way you stroke my hair, the way you talk to me, the way you look at me, that you really love me,” Chérie said to me yesterday as we laid in bed.

That made my heart melt. As someone who constantly feels like I’m never enough for anyone, it made me realize just how my girlfriend – and also others – see me. Just from the things I do, and the things I say to her, she could tell that I cared about her greatly.

Although my school life has been a huge mess lately, being with Chérie has brought a different kind of clarity and stability to my personal life – this has made it a lot easier for me to deal with the distressing situation that school has become.

I was lucky enough to have gotten the weekend off from work that I was able to spend almost a week with my beloved at her apartment. Her family even invited me for Thanksgiving and I got to meet her parents, and some extended family. Although nerve-wrecking because this was the first time meeting them, I also settled in comfortably without much difficulty shortly after. It was the kind of ease that I never got from meeting my ex’s family.

I was supposed to leave for home tonight but I found that I couldn’t. I had been crying the whole day today because I didn’t want to leave. The pain of separation from Chérie for the next 2 and a half weeks was great and unbearable. I am glad that she’s strong enough for both of us to not cry with me because that would have made it even harder.

I finally decided on a compromise – I would leave at 5am tomorrow morning instead, to make it in time for my shift at the MAC. This has given me a few more precious hours with her. My friend, El, told me that though it’s hard, it must also be a great feeling knowing that there is someone amazing I could look forward to seeing. She’s right. I never looked at it from that perspective because I’ve always just been so used to seeing life from gray-tinted glasses.

The changes that Chérie has catalyzed for me in my life has been so drastic that I really just can’t imagine life without her anymore. I know that I am so much better than I was just a month ago. Even S has noted that several times – telling me how proud he is of me and of the changes I’ve made in my life.

Last session, he asked, “Do you think you could’ve done the same a year ago? Maybe even 6 months ago?”

I shook my head as soon as the words left his lips. “No! No way!” I responded almost immediately. “I couldn’t have done this a year ago… Not even 6 months ago. I feel different. And I can see that I have come a long way…”

“You have!” S said, smiling. “I’m so proud of you!”

His words made me smile. It made me feel proud too – I am proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I know that he and I have done a lot of hard work – he would also often remind me that most of the hardest work was done by me – but I also know how much Chérie has helped catalyze things for me as well.

Most of the hardest work in my recovery happened over the course of a year and a half with S. However, not even a week after I met Chérie, I had managed to take all the groundwork that S and I have laid down and made leaps and bounds of progress. It’s amazing just how one person can make a difference in your life.

Despite that, I am still struggling with many more things – there are days when I still wish that my marriage had worked out; that I didn’t have to struggle as a bisexual person; that I didn’t have to struggle with understanding my faith and the judgments I’ve had to deal with; that I didn’t have to feel so insecure about myself and what I have to offer. It’s just that despite the struggles, I am able to work past them – with Chérie by my side, I am able to let myself see the positives that she sees of me. She’s able to help me accept who I am, and learn new skills to cope with life as a non-neurotypical person.

The last 5 and a half weeks that I’ve been with my girlfriend have been the best time of my life – not only have I been able to learn to value myself more , I’ve also learned that it’s much easier to go through difficult times when you have someone to help you. Through it all, I’ve also learned that it’s okay to still struggle and that recovery doesn’t mean that everything is 100% fixed.

I’m thankful for this amazing woman in my life. I am sad that in just a few hours I’ll be packing up to leave, but I also know that like El has said, I have someone incredible to look forward to seeing again in a few weeks’ time.

Progress on Self-Affirmation

So almost a month ago, I had posted about someone that I had been chatting with – someone that I had met over a dating site in this post (Love Bug). I was supposed to meet them last weekend for the first time and they had reservations about our date. They cancelled, and told me that they felt stressed out with the pressures of school, with how their relative is sick, and how it’s so much pressure to meet me for the first time.

I felt like I had been too pushy and too insistent for us to meet. At that point, I was very burnt out with life itself and felt that if I gave myself a reason to leave the city I live in right now, that I might feel better. That if I could meet this person, I could feel better.

It was hard not to feel disappointed when we didn’t meet. It’s not that easy to admit that either. Somehow, it feels embarrassing.

Every time I think of this person, and how they haven’t messaged me in about 8 days now, I feel like somehow I did something wrong. Maybe I pushed too hard? Maybe I said something that they took offense to? Maybe I am texting too much? Maybe I’m too desperate and it comes across as needy? Maybe it’s just me… Everything’s my fault, right?

My anxiety started to convince me that it’s something that I did or didn’t do.

Then tonight, something else happened. The anxiety came back because I had contact the person again through the dating site. I had seen that they were online so I decided to send them a “Hi, hope you’re doing well” kind of message. They didn’t respond and shortly after I sent the message, they went offline. I had a feeling that they didn’t want to talk to me.

I started to beat myself up again. Thinking that it’s probably something I did – that I should’ve waited a little while longer before talking to them again but now I’ve blown it because I couldn’t wait a few more days.

As I showered, my thoughts went back to what I could’ve done differently.

Then I said to myself, for the first time ever, “No. You did everything right. You did everything you knew to do and you didn’t text them every day. You texted them once every few days. You’ve done everything you could. Now it’s me for them to reciprocate”

“What if they don’t?” The inner me asked.

“Well, if they don’t respond back, too bad for them… It’s their loss really. You’re intelligent, you’re attractive, you’re pretty awesome, and interesting. For them to let you go is a huge mistake. And it’s fine because someone will recognize your talents and appreciate you for your qualities. They’re making a poor choice if they choose to leave you”

A few moments after I finished that conversation, it hit me that I had just self-affirmed in one of the most positive manners I’ve ever felt. I was compassionate and understanding of myself. I recognized some of my good qualities and was not afraid to tell myself that I did indeed have those traits.

I felt thrilled that this had happened. I felt thrilled because this is an amazing step that I’ve taken. It wasn’t easy to get to this point but now I’m starting to be more and more aware of my action and words! Wow! What progress!

Impassioned Desires and A Sense of Purpose

Psychotherapy, joining the Peer Educators’ Program, and the divorce are three things in my life that have changed me for the better.

I was talking to my friend, El, and I marveled at how much I’ve changed, and how much I’ve done just in the space of one year. I thought about how the divorce had been a catalyst of even more exponentially growing change for me. It’s only been 4 months but the kind of things that I started doing, and the way I’ve started behaving have improved.

A few days ago, while at work, I was able to stand my ground during a minor altercation with my co-worker who was accusing me of stealing his tables. I not only stood my ground and adamantly protested his accusations as being wrongful, I also yelled at the guy for being ridiculous, for not watching his section closely enough, and that because of his incompetence, that I had to greet a table for him and take their orders. I didn’t yell very loudly – I just raised my voice – but it was enough for him to recognize that I wasn’t about to be bullied by him – even if he stands a full head above me. He recognized that I meant business and quickly shrank back down and apologized. He offered me a handshake to signify a truce. I had half a mind not to accept it but I did because I felt that he had learned his lesson.

For the first time in my life, I was in a public confrontation with someone who is much bigger than me in stature, and who has a very strong personality, and I didn’t shrink. I mustered all the courage I had and stood up for myself!

The divorce hurts. And I use the present tense because it still hurts me to think about what I’ve lost. At the same time, it also has empowered me to do all kinds of things that I would have otherwise never have done because either I would have been held back, or that I wouldn’t have felt it was appropriate to be off gallivanting on an adventure without my husband.

I don’t think I’d have been able to spend as much time on campus as I have been doing lately because I’d be rushing home. Nowadays, I have the freedom of being single and doing whatever I want, whenever I want. Sure, many days, that is actually overwhelming because many days, I don’t know what I want. However, I’d like to believe that I’m getting better at that…

I also had a chance to speak to my Director about my time as a Peer Educator, what I’ve learned, how it’s impacted me, and how I want to continue to grow. She had taken an hour of her precious time off to talk to me and for an hour, I gushed about how amazing my experience has been as a Peer Educator, how great it is to be able to create change and make a difference on campus, how I now have a clearer idea of what I want to do in the future, and a little about my background and how much the Peer Educator Program has impacted my mental health as well. The Director was so happy to hear me share all these things. She in turn shared some wisdom and some of her own passion. She kept telling me how much she wanted to cry because of how amazing my story was – she also told me that I’m so resilient and so strong.

I also self-disclosed my suicidal tendencies and tell her more about how much I’m struggling. Despite that, I have also decided to keep pushing on and to keep fighting. The part of me that doesn’t want to get better still fights back but I feel like she’s getting weaker by the day. It seems like it at least, when I’m on a good day like today.

The Director then said to me, “You are a a woman of color, like me. You are going to make an impact in the community in ways that all the Caucasian Peer Educators can’t. You’re going to reach the women who never speak up or come forward as sexual assault survivors. You’re going to inspire a new generation of “Jules”. As a woman of color, you give a face to what is possible. I gave a face to what’s possible for the other Peer Educators who struggle to find their place. Take JJ for example, she came up to me one day and said, ‘What? But you’re a black woman. How could you be in such a position of power? Wow… That must mean that I can do the same too! I want to be just like you!’ You will do the same for someone else”

I was just so awed by her. She is only 4 years older than I am but her depth of experience and the wisdom she’s gained from her years of experience really shows. I was so thankful that she had taken her time to talk to me today. It renewed my passions, and made me even more determined to follow through with my recovery. I felt fired up.

Later, I felt even more fired up when an old high school friend of mine messaged me. She had been in contact with me for months now because she had wanted to improve her English skills. As I was the person who had constantly gotten really good grades in English back in high school (and was even the only person in my school to have gotten the highest grade possible during the Malaysian University English Test), she had contacted me for help. I agreed to help her on a regular basis because she showed so much initiative and so much drive to change. English is not an easy language to learn as a non-native speaker so I was awed by her desire to improve despite the difficulty.

Today, she messaged me and said some really inspiring things. It made me even more fired up!

With her permission, I post these screenshots of our conversation here:

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I erased her full name and photo just to protect her privacy.

This conversation was a God-send. I was just so amazed at the timing. It was what I needed to hear. It was validating and urged me on even more. It humbles me to know that I can inspire others just by being me. It humbles me whenever people tell me their story. This is one of the reasons why I keep doing what I do.

I want more people to be successful. I want more people to be cognizant and mindful of their lives, mental health, and emotions. I want more people to care about others and give to others the way I am doing. I want people to pay it forward and keep doing so until all lives have been touched and changed.

What a world that would be!

I’m inspired, fired up, excited, humbled, grateful, and hopeful today. Despite the end-of-the-day struggle with depression and suicidality, I had had a very good morning/afternoon. Although I grappled with the idea of self-harm tonight, I also had more strength to resist it because of the motivation I received this morning.

It’s amazing what just one person can do to another – in my case, I had two people do to me what I try to do to others all the time – they reminded me of who I am, what my purpose is, and how I can change the world.

Love Bug

I’m struggling with the fact that someone I met on a dating site has expressed that they think that I’m attractive and that despite the fact that we have a connection that in my opinion is genuine, I don’t hear from them often enough. 

We’ve never talked on the phone or Skyped or anything like that. We’ve only been texting all this time. 

I’ve known them for 5 weeks now. But usually, I’m the one sending all the messages and I hardly ever get replies. 

I’m trying not to be the anxious, paranoid, stalker-y person that I can be but I do know that they’re still on the same dating site we met on and that. Sometimes, it makes me wonder if their feelings for me are real because in my perspective, someone who cares enough about me will make the time to talk or message even if they’re extremely busy. So, in my perspective, the fact that they still get on the dating site and with the time they used to do that, they could’ve texted me but didn’t, really makes me feel unsettled. 

Also, I don’t know to what extent I’m just obsessing because of my anxiety and to what extent are my uncertainty and insecurities founded. 

The worst part is how much I care about them and how much I want something in my life to just go right. I’m sick and tired of every single waking moment because of all the pain I’m in. I just want something good. 

This person makes me happy in ways that I never thought I could be – whenever I do hear from them of course but they manage to put a smile on my face every time I get their message. 

So, on top of my overwhelming schedule, new job, inability to catch up in class, lack of time to do homework and assignments, inability to focus, pain from the divorce, workload on campus as well as outside, and inability to digest the things I’ve learned, I now have the distraction of liking a person and getting the typical butterflies in the stomach type reactions whenever I hear from them. 

And it’s just so distracting. At the same time, while hopeful and really praying for a better time for myself, I’m also a little cynical or maybe just hyper cautious. I’m trying not to invest so much. I think I’m justified to feel that way, right? 

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.