Tag Archives: group therapy

Online support can be weird, but also awesome

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I started a therapy group online today.  I think it will be kind of cool.  I’m hopeful it will be kind of the last piece of the puzzle for me.  

Online support can feel kind of weird and I have experienced this now in both individual and a group setting.  My online therapy session with my past therapist was pretty comfortable right from the start because we knew each other so well anyway.  This session today was a bit unsettling at first.  I heard the ring of the video call and kind of froze before accepting the call.  All at once I’m looking at 5 people I have never seen before and I have to just trust them.  It’s a strange thing indeed. 

We did short introductions and then proceeded with the group and I really relaxed into it.  It is a little awkward at first because when the facilitator asks a question you have to kind of wait to see if someone will jump in so we are not all trying to talk at once.  But the group is small so it works out quite well. 

After each session we will get an email and information for reading and reflecting.  It’s optional, but will move us into the next session discussion so I’m willing to do that work as well.  I used to have a difficult time being alone with myself while reflecting on issues of sexual assault and what I need to move on safely.  And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually look forward to it now. 

I haven’t decided if I can or will share any topics of this group, but it is really looking like it will be valuable to me and I’m really excited about the information to be covered.

The world is changing and we rely heavily on technology.  After attending group therapy, I had a discussion with someone about attending groups via Skype.  We agreed at that time it wouldn’t really be a great way to connect with people.  But after only one session of this online group, I’m not so sure.  

I’ll say more as the group goes on. 

KK

Another disclosure

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Well, as if the anniversary of an assault isn’t already enough in one week, I have my second disclosure tonight in group therapy.

A disclosure I can’t even see in my head at all.  I don’t know how it starts or how it ends or what it looks like in the middle.  I’ve been rather quiet about this round of group therapy.  Mostly because I’m still blaming myself for a lot of the stuff involved.  The group has been helpful in many ways, but I’m avoiding things and fighting myself every step of the way.  And I feel shame.  Blame.  Disgust even.

I’m really hoping to break through those barriers tonight. I’ve talked through the disclosure issues in my individual therapy and I’m kind of a believer in the fact that whatever needs to come out will come out during the moment the facilitator says go.  I couldn’t write it down because I didn’t know what to write.  And reading it would probably mean I would disconnect from the feelings and read it as if it was about someone other than myself.

Parts of this disclosure have sometimes come out in my relationship and I like when I just blurt out something and it is ok.  Validated even.  The freedom to work through this stuff out loud and sometimes completely at random is one of my favorite things about the comfort, support, and love I feel in my relationship.  I have never had that before now.  This kind of unconditional love is absolutely amazing and I cherish it every single day.

Tonight is about the Girl in the Corner.  I hope I can have some compassion for her and provide her with some forgiveness.  I want to be able to see her as a person who is worthy.  I want to be able to incorporate her into myself and accept that she is a part of me.  A part I don’t have to be ashamed of because wanting to be around someone doesn’t mean I asked to be humiliated or coerced or forced to have sex.

Part of me wants to run the other way and not show up.

But I have to do this for that girl.  She deserves so much more love than I give her.

KK

Another March 25

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Sit with it. 

That’s a phrase I hear a lot in therapy, whether it is my individual therapist or in group.  And the internal dialogue I hear is never as loud as when I sit with it.  It’s uncomfortable at the very least and absolutely horrible on my worst days. 

Tonight, I sit with it.  Waiting to fall asleep knowing that tomorrow I will wake up to another March 25.  When the day will go by and I will know as evening comes that I will start to remember the time I left my dorm.  The time I arrived at a friend’s house to hang out.  The time I walked back to my dorm alone, crying and throwing up.  The time 22 years ago that “friends” assaulted me while others watched. 

The moments that the hospital failed to help me feel believed and safe.  The questions asked without hesitation at the police station about what did. And the weeks of media and campus torment as I went through a trial where the only person questioned for hours was me. 

It’s different this year.  I am not having many physical symptoms and that’s nice.  I have completed group therapy and embraced my right to feel empowered by that process.  I disclosed the details necessary for me to heal in a room full of women who absolutely understood every feeling I have felt. 

I have overcome. 

It’s been 22 years.  I will not ever forget some things.  I will fight through the moments in my life when shame starts to try and creep back in and take over my days.  That shame is no longer my burden.  That shame never was mine to own. 

You, both of you and those who stood by and did nothing, you own the shame.  You own the guilt.  YOU, not me.  

I will celebrate my healing instead of reliving your crimes on this and every future March 25.  Because you do not win. 

I will absolutely not let you.  

I have overcome.  I have forgiven, not for you but for me.  I have embraced full healing.  That feels awesome. 

And you cannot ever hurt me again. 

KK

Can you give her a blanket?

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The girl in the corner came up at group this week. I was completely honest about her and had a physical reaction to talking about her–I got warm, my breathing was weird, and my body shook as if I was freezing.

She came up because we talked about fear and vulnerability. And things we avoid.

I absolutely avoid her.

After listening to me talk about her, the room was quiet. The group facilitators always know just how long to let you just sit there with your emotions so you can completely feel what you need to in order to figure out how to get through it. I quietly said that I can’t like the girl in the corner, I can’t give her a break, I can’t absolve her of guilt, and I don’t even like her. I won’t give her any credit and I just ignore her most of the time.

Then, the main facilitator said, “can you at least give her a blanket?”

I laughed. Cuz that’s what I do. Then I sat with that a minute and said, “I can try.”

We created our fear in a project I enjoyed during the last group and this group as well. It really is cool to just follow the instructions given and see what comes out in a project. First, we talked about what triggers fear. Some things for me were right there, almost waiting in the pen ink. I quickly wrote cigarettes, hometown, and high school people/connections. Then, after a pause, I added woods and card games.

I likely should have added the girl in the corner. Because clearly I am scared to have to face her. She’s not to blame and that feels true sometimes, but then all the victim-blaming attitude flows into my head. I try to put it into perspective and I just can’t quite get there. I feel defeated by her and by the idea that sometimes I said yes to this person. That over time, I got used to being treated so poorly by him that it was easier to say yes than no. That I convinced myself what we really shared was love. The kind in ridiculous teenage love stories.

But it was never real. And I can see that now.

And that’s when I punish the girl in the corner. How could you be so stupid? Why would you go along with something that made you feel sick to your stomach? Why wouldn’t you just walk away? Why didn’t you tell someone?

And the worst one, which is so often in the media today: why did you wait so long to say it??

Fear and shame. Denial and disgust. That’s why.

I have a lot of work to do here. I have to face someone I don’t want to forgive.

Myself.

When I had individual therapy before group I told my therapist I’ve been frustrated in group. Distracted. Feeling like I don’t belong there. Like my assault is “less than” because it isn’t the same as the other sexual assault I experienced. It isn’t clearly assault in my head. She asked me to pay attention during group the same night to what was really going on in my body. Am I really feeling distracted? Or am I putting a lot of energy into avoidance and denial, and punishment of the girl in the corner? Am I minimizing the assault because I’m more willing to victim-blame the girl in that corner forever?

It was absolutely avoidance. An “l don’t deserve to be here like the other group members do.” And that scares me. It’s the kind of assault people, apparently me included, want to explain away as not that bad. But it IS as wrong as the sexual assault I experienced in college. And in many ways it is more harmful to who I am because it shaped who I was from age 15 on up to 38 years old.

Enough is enough. I will work harder in this group than I did before because what’s at risk is the real me. The girl I left in the corner. What’s to gain is more of what I’ve been experiencing since starting therapy and that is forgiveness and healing and freedom and acceptance and love.

I can’t hide now that all my therapists know I have been doing so up to now. They’ll help me understand and forgive the girl in the corner. They will help me understand that I am not to blame for what happened, even if I thought I loved the guy.

They will help me heal. And tonight, I promised to try by giving that girl in the corner a blanket.

It’s the least I can do.

KK

Validation is the key to happiness, or at least mine

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According to Merriam-Webster online, one definition of VALIDATE is this – to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of. A synonym shown for validate is support.

I believe everyone enjoys and wants to be validated and supported. And I believe the lack of each creates most conflict in relationships whether it is family, friends, or partners.

Think about validation for a whole day during every conversation you have with other people. Think about how you want to initially respond to what the person says and if it negates or validates what they think and feel. Do your best during conversation to respond first by validating what the person said to you. Then, respond with your own thoughts. Remember, validate does not mean agree. And thinking that it does is why people don’t do it.

I can guarantee you that in the majority of your conversations, if you start by validating the other person, you will have a lot less conflict.

In my marriage, there was never much validation. I was married to a guy who believes all things are either fact or things which can be proven wrong. Which doesn’t leave any room for how a person feels. And it’s easy to see why he communicates that way if you spend any time with his family, mostly the men. Don’t get me wrong, they are all wonderful people. People I miss often. Most just don’t believe in validating the feelings or opinions of those around them. Unless, of course, those feelings and opinions are exactly the same as their own.

That makes for some really challenging communication and some serious strain on relationships. In its worst form, it’s emotionally abusive. And as a parent, if you don’t validate your children and how they feel because you believe you don’t have to, you’ve taught them to doubt themselves. I justified that kind of communication for a lot longer than I should have, and I certainly don’t miss it.

Validation is essential to healing from lots of things, including loss, divorce, abuse, and trauma. It’s easier than trying to tell a person how to feel or to get over it anyway!! You don’t have to understand what someone went through and you don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing. But if someone says “I feel…” you can say “I understand you’re feeling …….., is there anything you need from me right now?” Boom, you validated their feelings. You supported how they are feeling and offered to hear what they need, if anything. This gives them the power to say that they need nothing but a listening ear. Or a hug. Or time alone. Or help finding resources. It gives them the power. And that’s critical to feeling you’ve been heard. Validated. Supported.

The first week of group therapy was last night for me. Validation always comes up. It’s the best part of being in a group with people who understand exactly what it’s like to feel the things I have felt. And we always set ground rules which include asking the person who just spoke if they need anything from the group. Always giving the speaker the power over their own experience. I love that. There is a power in group therapy that cannot be explained. The support and validation of the experience is unmatched by anything else. And that’s because of healthy communication.

I’m not at all saying that my communication is perfect every day or right for you or without flaws. But I certainly AM saying that to be in my life, you better be someone who is capable of healthy communication, or of learning and growing in communication style. And you must love honesty. Even when honesty is difficult. If you’re in my life, you’re likely someone who already communicates in a loving and accepting way, and who can understand that certain things aren’t negotiable if you wanna be with me. And you’re someone who expects the same honesty and understanding and communication from me.

I worry about things I can’t control. Prior to abuse in my life, I didn’t worry about a thing. I think most people would agree that I was a pretty free-spirited kind of gal. No worries, just fun. And when that began to change for me around 16ish years old, I covered my fear and hurt with laughter, and recklessness, and being mean to people so I wouldn’t have to focus on my own hurt. I worry now mostly because I don’t feel worthy of goodness, success, safety, or love. Not on the surface, logically I know I deserve to be happy. But I don’t feel worthy way down, where it counts, where it can give me peace. I don’t feel validated or supported. It’s part of who I am. It’s the girl in the corner. The one who has the right to be healed and forgiven and free. And it’s that girl that I am working so hard to validate and to heal.

Validation…recognizing the worthiness of

I’ll get there.

KK

Taking on the girl in the corner

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***I kind of feel like this post, and many to come, should have some kind of trigger warning in addition to the fact that sometimes I will add sexual assault disclosure warnings.  But I am not sure what kind.  So let me just say please be self-aware when you are reading this post and any posts going forward for awhile.  This is very new to me and I have not spoken about it with the majority of people in my life or disclosed it publicly.  I have barely been able to recognize and name it and accept it myself.***

Well, here it goes.  I have committed to another 12-week Adult Sexual Assault (ASA) therapy group and it starts a week from today.  It is technically the same group I did last year.  The topic and goals will be the same and there will be a disclosure.

But for me, and I can’t even believe I am saying this, I think it might be scarier this time around for me.  The last group was extremely tough in many ways and disclosing that college rape experience was SO challenging.  However, even though I needed to rid myself of some blame, guilt, anger, fear, and shame, the completely logical side of me lived every day knowing that it really had not been my fault at all.  Getting through the group last year was about making a declaration, shaking off the shame, and recognizing that I have the right to complete healing in order to rediscover the me that was lost and ashamed and terrified. The level of healing that I have experienced from completing that group has been just awesome. I am thankful every single day for that group therapy success.

This time I will tackle some experiences with a specific person from my past that in my head are much more complicated AND that will force me to examine, discuss, accept and cooperate with that girl in the corner.  The one I avoid and ignore and cover with laughter.  And for the last 7 months or so, I have gone back and forth in my individual therapy between being ready to tackle this and trying to convince myself (and my therapist who wasn’t buying it) that it’s fine if I never deal with it because it doesn’t really affect me on a daily basis.  But it does and I don’t like that.

The worst part of taking on the girl in the corner is that I don’t like her and I don’t even feel like she is worth my time.  And I am ashamed of her.  And I sometimes even hate her.  And I don’t feel like anyone will believe her.  I judge her and disregard her.  I call her names and I blame her.

For anyone reading this post who hasn’t followed my previous posts and feels confused, that girl in the corner is me.  A younger me.  Somewhere between 16 and 20 most of the time.  And once in awhile she’s 38 year old me.  And I shoved her in the corner a long time ago, never to be dealt with again.  Or so I thought.

For this session of group, I may be disconnected or distant or crazy or mean or many other things.  Maybe I’ll be fun and happy most of the days.  Maybe I’ll look like I’m listening to you and have to ask you to repeat yourself.  I really have no idea what to expect.

So for now, I just want to say that I have great people around me and you each know who you are and what you mean to me.  If I don’t call enough, or laugh enough, or respond enough, or reach out to you it is NOT because you don’t mean the world to me or I don’t trust you or want and need your support.  This fight for healing is going to be difficult.  Because today, I can’t even talk about the experience as rape or sexual assault without immediately victim-blaming my very own self.

And that is a miserable feeling.

One I am proud to say I am ready to leave behind to continue rediscovering me.

So look out girl in the corner, I’m coming to rescue you and learn to love you again.

KK

I have the right

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This is a personal bill of rights from my most recent therapy group.  I believe it is from The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, but I’m not positive.  In any case, I am not trying to claim it as my own or not cite the correct source.  I got it as part of a packet of information.  And I really like it, so I wanted to share it.

Personal Bill of Rights

  1. I have the right to ask for what I want.
  2. I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can’t meet.
  3. I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
  4. I have the right to change my mind.
  5. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
  6. I have the right to follow my own values and standards.
  7. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
  8. I have the right to determine my own priorities.
  9. I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings, or problems.
  10. I have the right to expect honesty from others.
  11. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
  12. I have the right to be uniquely myself.
  13. I have the right to feel scared and say “I’m afraid.”
  14. I have the right to say “I don’t know.”
  15. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.
  16. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
  17. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
  18. I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
  19. I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
  20. I have the right to be in a nonabusive environment.
  21. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
  22. I have the right to change and grow.
  23. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
  24. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
  25. I have the right to be happy.

At the bottom of this, it suggests hanging this in your home and reading it daily so that you learn to accept that you are entitled to each one of these rights.  I believe that each person reading the list will have different ones they either find very obvious or that they haven’t given themselves permission to have before reading this list.  I put the ones I read and remind myself of most often in bold.

One of the things we focused on recently in group therapy is that the result or outcome of a person being assertive does not measure the success of the person being assertive.  If I am assertive on something that is important to me, THAT is the success.  Think about that for a moment.  It goes well with #9 on the list because being assertive does not mean that I then become responsible for the other person’s feelings or actions.  And I think that is really important for people to learn and remember, especially when feeling hurt, angry, disrespected, or sad.  You have the right to your feelings and your values and your standards.  And it is OK to make decisions based on your feelings.  I’m not saying make instant decisions without any thought.  But I am saying that for me it was difficult to remember that I DO have the right to make decisions based on my feelings AND I do not have to give reasons for my decisions or behavior.  I have the right to expect that my needs and wants will be respected by those I choose to spend time with in my life.  And I absolutely have the right to change and grow.

How many times have you heard people say “he/she changed” as a reason they broke up or stopped being friends?  I’ve certainly said it and heard it.  But change is always happening.  As people, we age and we learn and we discover and we CHANGE.  Change is good.  Change is ok and all people have the right to change.  People also say “he/she wouldn’t change” and give that as a reason for a break up.  But to be in a relationship, some things will change while both people still have their own values and standards.  And to me, that is how a relationship grows and strengthens.

I don’t give many specific details about my divorce because I don’t feel the need to disrespect my ex or our time together that way.  I think he’s a great person in many ways and I want him to be happy in life.  But what I will say is that (mostly) he did not believe that things should change without a specific and scientifically proven reason to have to change.  He didn’t want me to make changes without giving reasons and that violates one of the rights above for me.  I have the right to change and grow.  And healing and asking for things to change in our relationship was not wrong.  He has the right not to change, and often stated that he shouldn’t have to change.  And that is fine, he certainly has the right to his own feelings.  But I believe change is necessary.  Particularly when someone is healing.

One of the books I read when working hard to figure out if I could remain married or not is Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum.  I really liked the book and reading it was an important step for me in my journey to deciding what I could and could not accept in my relationship.  I still read my bookmarks often because I think that there are MANY good points about relationships in the book.  I think it is a good resource for any relationship, even one that is not running a risk of ending.  It has good relationship information and presents it in a way that gives the reader an opportunity to think about their own relationship skills as much as the skills and traits of others.  No book can decide for you whether or not to end your marriage, but for me books are always tools to help me understand life.  One of my very favorite things the author says is this:

“If I wanted to write a prescription for how to have a doomed relationship that was overwhelmingly too bad to stay in, I’d have both people say I can’t change, I won’t change, I don’t want to change, and I don’t see a reason to change, but if we find each other, it’s beautiful.  The point is that you’re entitled to feel you want your partner to change things about himself.” (page 140 of 279 on the kindle version of the book)

Relationships can be challenging, but understanding that each person is entitled to their personal bill of rights is a great start.  Honoring yourself and what you really value and believe is a great first step to finding happiness.  I have the right to be happy.  And gaining a better understanding of who I really am has helped me to find a lot of happiness.  And I’m excited for the future.

I have the right to be uniquely myself.  And rediscovering who that really is has been fabulous.

I’m having fun being me.  Be you!

KK