Almost a decade back, I went through a long period of chronic low-intensity depression. The trigger was a job loss.
I had been working as a TV journalist covering health and one day what I had been fearing, came to pass.
I had not been doing well at work- I knew that I could be fired anytime. But, I was just paralyzed and could do no better than wait for the proverbial axe to fall.
But when it did, I became mentally dysfunctional. I lost confidence in myself, i had nil energy and was full of an extreme sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
Perhaps, the most bizarre thing is that I couldn’t identify these symptoms as depression, even though I reported on health.
But, why am I talking about this today? Because, I feel that even though I did recover eventually, I never reclaimed my whole self as a professional and a woman.
Taking stock of my life I realized that un-resourceful behaviours and thinking patterns have held me back in forming healthy relationships as well as setting goals and following through.
I saw the harm these were doing to me and wanted to cut back on the crap.
Better Late than Never
I reached out to a mental health organization where I was told that I could seek a face-to-face session with a psychiatrist or participate in their group therapy session.
I opted for the second. Guess, I was only willing to take small steps and meeting a psychiatrist was still too extreme a step for me.
What is Group Therapy
Group therapy is usually prescribed to people who may be suffering from a gamut of mental health issues like anxiety, depression, panic attacks, social phobia etc.
It involves at least one mental health professional and two or more people in therapy. The group dynamic steers people to feeling better as they feel supported and this helps them achieve their goals.
Mental Wellbeing is a Valid Self-Help Goal
Mental wellbeing has been on my bucket list for a long time. My other goals are improving my physical health . What I feel is that if you are not 100% right in your mental and emotional bodies, you will not experience complete health. The body will rebel as it’s already under a lot of trauma.
Self-help for women, I feel, should and must include checking in on whether they are feeling happy and joyful. And if they are not, they should do something about it. A sense of feeling empty is a definite red flag.
My First Day in Group Therapy
On the day of my first group therapy session, I met two psychologists and three people.
The psychologists were present during the entire session and they were trying slot the issues each one of us was facing.
One of the participants was dealing with depression and had been prescribed group therapy by her psychiatrist. The other two were trying to make sense of their anhedonia and sense of disconnect from normal life. I was seeking support for my social anxiety and self-limiting thoughts and behaviour.
Prodded by the psychologists, we started talking about our issues. I was surprised that I was able to share the traumas that I have never spoken about to even the people closest to me, so easily. Perhaps what helped me was that no one was judging me here and that I felt safe and supported.
I have a major problem of being judged in social situations. A participant helped me deal with this by sharing how she deals with her anxiety. She said she dialogues with her anxiety, instead of ignoring it. She actually says this to her anxiety- “I can hear you. But, please give me 10 minutes as I am doing this important task and then I shall be ready to give you my full attention after that.”
I also tend to tune out while listening. I either get judgemental or lose interest. But I was so invested here. I was looking bang into the eyes of the speakers and feeling so connected.
Sharing my experience of being in group therapy, I remember saying that never had I met such self-aware individuals in my life and that I had opened up about some of my worst wounds and was feeling healed.
This was my first session and there is literally a long way to go… But, I do feel proud that I have been able to break out of my shell, face my demons and am willing to slay them finally.
Therapy, I feel, is an investment in myself and deciding to begin therapy is a big step forward.