Today I’m having my women’s support group. I’ve been doing this for a little over a year now & I still get anxious every time. Partly because I don’t know how many of the women that RSVP’d will show & whether or not other women will show without having RSVP’d. There are new faces every month & usually around 2-3 familiar faces. So there is the waiting/casual small talk while we’re greeting each other & getting something to drink & gathering around the kitchen & table.
I try my best to remember names & make sure everyone is introduced. Then I start things by sort of catching up with what I’ve been up to since we last met. Sometimes this is brief & simple – other times I mention what I’ve been focusing on our what challenges I’ve been facing. And then we sort of go around the room, taking turns listening & offering comforting nods & words of encouragement.
Once caught up with the general stuff, we sort of find common threads that were woven throughout our stories & updates. We take turns discussing our similar experiences & ways that helped us handle these different thoughts, feelings & reactions. We’ve all read so many books & most of us have been in therapy at some point in time. Not all of us are medicated, so we are careful not to speak strongly for or against meds. We all acknowledge that healing is nonlinear & everyone has to make their own choices on that path.
After a good 90 minutes or so of sharing, connecting & gaining support from each other, we switch gears. We then figure out what it is that we would like to focus on for the next month, until we see each other again. This is totally optional & is really just a way of grounding us back in the present again. It can be something small – like getting outside every day. Or it can be something larger, like taking the first steps toward a bigger goal or life change. I never know what my goal for the next month will be until the end of the meeting comes & I usually find out what it should be with the help of the many discussions that we had that day.
Above all, no one tells anyone what they should do or labels them in any way. We share the vocabulary of trauma healing & speak a slightly different language that’s purpose is to increase connection & reduce judgement. We occasionally have tears, anxiety, dissociation, or difficult memories that surface & we share our coping techniques & self care skills that help us through this rocky terrain. We form a bond over a relatively short period of time because of all of these shared experienced & survival behaviors. All of us are stronger afterward because we had that time to let our guards down with each other. We know each other deeply through our shared history of trauma & healing. We are not alone.
None of us are alone. We’re all connected by a web of experiences & understanding. And that’s what I will focus on. Not the anxiety of having an unknown number of people over to my house. Not whether or not I have enough snacks & creamer. Connection & safety are the focus. Everything else is just gravy.