Saturday, October 18, 2008

Recovery: Working Through Uncomfortable Emotions.

I'm in a group learning basic social skills. I requested help with my social skills in groups larger than three, counting myself. I get so frightened, I either withdraw completely, or force too much attention on myself by putting on a "show". Neither place is truly me. I am tired of being ruled by fear.

I don't understand why I get so scared. I suspect it was just the years of "shaming" I experienced in my crazy childhood. I know I don't understand a lot of "people" things and I'm so afraid of making a mistake. I finally had to admit that prayer by myself wasn't solving the problem.

After several weeks in this group I am learning how to accept times of having uncomfortable emotions. I realize, with proper medication, my emotions are not crippling to me anymore. I don't get swamped and overwhelmed anymore. I have never learned how to just "experience" feeling mildly uncomfortable, until being in this very special and supportive group.

Different mental struggles cause us to need help being with people successfully. Sometimes it is Schizophrenia, where the person is learning to distinguish reality from their own thoughts. Some are paranoid and have to realize that everything in the group is not directed at them, or caused by them. Some people labor with learning difficulties. I am learning how to work with uncomfortable feelings for the first time in my life.

I approach this group of between six and ten people like a "white-knuckle-flier". I grip the arms of my chair as if I will levitate to the ceiling unless securely connected to the chair. My mouth dries up and after our session I gulp water like someone returning from a desert. There is great haling in this strange process. As I force myself to participate and interact, I reprogram myself to function under emotional discomfort. What a concept.

We meet once a week. I have total respect for the other members of the group, because I comprehend how hard they are working in the group. I am thankful for my set of problems, others seem to be laboring with things so much more difficult than I. I love the supportive atmosphere. This is not a group that needs confrontation, or tear-down. This is a group which is learning how it feels to be supported and gently taught new sets of skills. It sounds simple, but for people laboring with severe forms of mental difficulties "socalizing" is a tremendous challenge.

Our group leader is a psychiatric nurse. We have to "check in" giving a quick run-down on our week, or day. She shares parts of her life with us to model how to "check in". We then are asked who said what. If we don't remember the person's name, we can gesture to them and request their name. I find this part most troubling, emotionally. I want to run and hide, but I force myself to admit I don't remember a name and then tell what I remember of what the person shared. Sometimes it is very difficult to hear people speak, as they are so scared, they have trouble speaking much over a whisper.

Then we are led in mild physical and mental exercise. These exercises are math or logic problems and some gentle physical movement. We can ask questions of the group and sometimes our leader asks a group member specific questions about an interest, or activity they've mentioned. We wrap up the group with a fun exercise of telling a story. It doesn't have to make sense, or hang together. Again, just forcing us to open up and communicate.

Why the exercises? They are to help us reduce stress and gain physical and mental balance. Exercises also assist us in concentrating on the world around us, instead of being locked into our own thoughts.

I aways feel like I've been refreshed after group is over. I'm somehow lighter inside. I pray for all the members of our group. I am glad I'm getting some perspective on my fears. I hurt for some of the struggles I see members going through as they fight to overcome their fear. I am extremely grateful for the compassion of our leader and our HMO who provides this group. This group is a chance to challenge years of self-imposed isolation and self-hatred. A way to overcome our fears and emerge into thew sunshine of life with other people.

No comments: