What Happened in Group Therapy as an Introvert With Anxiety
As an introvert, even the idea of being around a group of strangers seems like a daunting task, let alone having to share the most vulnerable pieces of your life with them.
After years of therapy, multiple electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) sessions, and many trials of medication, it was suggested I try an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for anxiety and depression that was group based. I was terrified. I didn’t want to have to share my darkest thoughts, feelings and experiences with a group full of other teenagers.
Honestly, I went in thinking I could get away with just sharing the bare minimum and keep all the dark and scary stuff hidden inside, but I quickly learned that wasn’t going to fly (with the therapists leading the group as well as the other kids).
I thought they wouldn’t care — that they would be mean and judge me. That once they heard what was going on inside, they would leave me. But it turned out to be the complete opposite.
The group ranged in age anywhere from eighth grade to 12th grade. Each person was there for the same reason — depression and anxiety. We all had walked different paths of life but we were all connected in some way.
The first week I was there, I sat in the chair, head down and my body almost folded into itself. I only talked if I was asked a question and avoided eye contact with everyone else at the table. I didn’t want to be there.
But, as the weeks went on, I began to feel more connected to the other people in the group and those around me almost forced me to talk and open up, whether it was by asking me question or simply including me in a conversation during one of our breaks.
Each time a new member entered the group, we did introductions, and one of the questions we had to answer was, “why are you here?” Normally people would respond with the simple answer of “because of anxiety and depression,” but one day, we all decided to really share our stories and the real reasons why were there.
That day was a turning point for everyone in the group. We all grew closer by sharing our most vulnerable thoughts and life experiences. People shared experiences they had kept locked away for years. By the end of the group, almost everyone was crying and you could feel the atmosphere in the room change.
After a few weeks, we would all sit around the table during our dinner break, laughing and sharing stories that had happened throughout the week. We started a group chat with everyone so we could talk outside of group. We all became friends and support for one another.
It makes you feel less alone. You can relate to those around you in ways you never thought possible. Others can say things out loud you could never put into words.
Group therapy can sound scary and you may feel like it won’t help. But I encourage you, if you are given the opportunity, at least give it a try. The power of connection can be life-changing.
Getty Images photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz