My regulars will remember that I recently launched a spin-off to my Therapy Diaries series, where I look back through my notes from my group therapy sessions in my final year of university. This was part of my counselling module that aimed to develop self awareness and to also practice the basic skills we would need should we go onto further training (spoiler alert, I didn’t). As I mentioned in the last instalment, the thoughts I had around and during these sessions not only contributed to my decision to walk away from counselling as future career, because, as you’ll soon come to realise (if you haven’t already) that I would have made a TERRIBLE counsellor. Anyway, today I’m delving through the next few sessions of group therapy, picking up where we left off!
Of course a lot of what was said in these sessions is not my story to tell, and I’m well aware of the confidentiality issues around that. As a result, I will not be disclosing information from any of the stories told by other members of the group or any details that could identify anyone. Any actual quotes from my journals only refer to my own thoughts and feelings on what went down. The point of sharing this is to reflect on my own mental health issues that were (as I now realise) bubbling away under the surface, and to address my thoughts on them in the present day.
Let’s set the scene for session two – in short, I was in a SHITTY mood. I was fed up that I hadn’t seen my friends back home in forever, and I’d had the worst day at work dealing with a bunch of dick customers. However, despite said shitty mood, I was actually a little more willing to share in this session. I had lots of material backed up, so I surprisingly went into the session willing to participate properly.
“What’s on My Plate?”
For the first half of the session, our tutor handed out paper plates and coloured pens for this rather self explanatory task. Not surprisingly, you had to fill out the plate with what was currently “on your plate.” This was actually something I quite enjoyed, as it was a way of helping me to organise my thoughts in a more creative way than just writing a rant in my diary. I filled my plate with the obvious stuff – uni worries, work, future job worries, and of course my phobia that was playing quite a key role in my final year. The next part of the task was not something I was thrilled about – we had to choose someone else in the group and show them what was on our plates. FFS. Can’t I just sit and stew on my problems like everyone else?
Anyway, I went for the easiest choice, the person who was sitting next to me. While I had spoken to her before, I wouldn’t say we were friends – more acquaintances. However, she was very easy to talk to which made the process a lot less painful, and it turned out that (besides from the phobia), we actually were going through the same sort of stuff. So I guess I needed to wind my neck in.
Ugh. It was all going so well. The final part of the session got us all back together, where the tutor said she had a ball of “imaginary clay” that she was going to mould into a box and pass around the room. We each had to put something into the box, but also take something out of it. Now, I don’t want to immediately slag off this sort of task, because I can certainly see how kids, or someone with more of an imagination than me would benefit from this – but for me, it was incredibly hard to get on board with it. I don’t particularly like exercises that make me feel like a twat. I’m well aware that’s my issue though, and of course I didn’t say anything along those lines to the group! It took me forever to actually think of what I’d say, but when it got to my turn I said that I would put in the positive outcome of the session and leave behind the frustrations of the day that I came into it with.
Once again, I went into this session feeling pretty stressed and fed up with everything going on, but I was dealing especially with some drama with a friend that had upset me earlier in the week which I really wanted to bring up but was a bit too reluctant.
We didn’t actually do any activities in this session because the check-in went on for longer than usual. A few people in the group shared some stuff that was going on in their personal lives and it obviously got more people speaking up – the next thing you know, a good hour had passed. During the break I made the decision that I was going to speak up, because a fair few things that got mentioned were things I could relate to, giving me every opportunity to chip in. Surprise surprise though, I chickened out at the last minute. When I was asked if there was anything I wanted to share, I just gave a few flippant sentences about how I was worried about career stuff post uni. The tutor gave a few encouraging words, and we moved on.
To be honest, I was quite relieved that we didn’t do any activities, because by this point, I’d got myself feeling a bit down again, and I wasn’t particularly keen on explaining myself to yet another different person in the group. It wasn’t so much a trust thing, but more a fear of being judged – again, there were a couple of moments that indicated the group was very cliquey, and I just had visions of them joking and laughing about my futile life drama as they waited for the bus.
Sticking with my theme of being a miserable cow during these sessions, come session four, I was REALLY not in a good mood. I’d had yet another shitty day at work and I was just fed up with having no time. On my days off from uni, I was usually working, and on my days off from work I was either at uni or doing uni work. I was trying incredibly hard to work towards that first I so badly wanted, but it just felt even more unfair that I didn’t get any downtime with it.
The irony being that despite working myself into a severe depression, I STILL didn’t get that bastard first. Is it clear that seven years on, I’m still not over it? Jeez, a therapist would be set for life if they had me as a client.
Anyway, I spiralled there. Sorry. I may have had a couple of gins.
Back to group therapy – as we got ready to go into the session, I made the decision (again) that I was going to speak up about why I was feeling so shit. But, surprise surprise, I chickened out AGAIN. This time, I had a bit more of a reason – a couple of members of the group shared some real personal stuff that put my first world problems into perspective, and I honestly think if I was to follow that up with how sad and frustrated I was because I didn’t get enough time to sit on The Sims for hours on end, I would have been the worst human being in the world. I didn’t want to be judged for being a drama queen.
Again, I briefly mentioned that I was worrying about job stuff and I was stressing about exams; but in a way, it was reassuring that I didn’t delve into it any further, because I noticed that corner of the group sniggering as I was talking. Of course, I have no idea why they were doing it, and no proof that it was even towards me, but either way, it was inappropriate and made me feel as though I was being laughed at.
It was then time for this week’s activity – to make a timeline of our past, present and future. OH WHAT FUN.
Honestly, this was a task that genuinely upset me more than I thought it would. Most people marked that they were confused and unhappy in their ‘past’ sections, whereas Miss Happiness over here wrote that in the past I was happy and content, distinctively marking in the ‘present’ section that I no longer felt that way. Many other members of the group wrote in the ‘future’ part the hopes they had post graduation – moving on to a masters, further training, job prospects. I left mine blank, purely because the thought of the future scared the shit out of me.
Once again, we had to then sit with someone we hadn’t worked with before to share our timelines. Not surprisingly, I was not in the mood for this. However, things worked out as I ended up with someone who was going through a similar thing, and she wasn’t keen on thinking about the future either, so in a way it made me feel better. After talking for a bit, we both established that we needed to have a good think about what we wanted, so it was nice to feel like I was on the same page with someone. I definitely found one on one a lot easier – I’m not sure after those (I apologise) bitches were sat there giggling away that I could have been as honest as I was with my partner.
Despite a slightly more positive outcome at the end of the session, it still didn’t stop me from having a meltdown when I got back to my flat, much to Liam’s dismay. There was a silver lining though (if you could call it that) as the tutor was off sick for the next two weeks – meaning our six week group therapy was cut short. I know that’s not something I should have been relieved at, but I think from everything I’ve said it was clear that I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind to be participating in these sessions.
Once again, it draws me to the conclusion that I would have made an awful counsellor. Of course part of your training is going through counselling yourself, but I feel as though my reluctance to participate in some of the group activities and my very short fuse in the first session where it took as long as it did to agree on what we’d do if one of us needed the toilet was probably a good indication that it was not the career for me.
I kind of feel bad that this post has ended on a bit of a sad note, but I was adamant that I didn’t want to sugar coat any of this. I wanted it to be an honest account of how I feel during these sessions. If anything, it actually annoys me a bit that my Therapy Diaries series is now out of sync! Rest assured, next time it’ll be back to the usual sequence. Provided I don’t find any more abandoned therapy notes.