If you’d like to start by reading Week 1 of my experience in Trauma Recovery group, click here, then return to this post.
Week 2 of 8…
It’s week two of group, and when I arrive, I noticed that only 50% of the people from last week have returned, and only one man among them. I am so relieved that both members of my small group have returned. Wow.
During the first hour in the large group, we talk about grounding exercises that can be used when feeling triggered and when experiencing flashbacks. Grounding is an active, conscious choice to DISTRACT from the intense feelings that are causing the distress to become unbearable (to the point of having dissociative episodes and/or flashbacks.)
Some examples that we went over and practiced in group include:
- Quickly describing, in detail, how to make spaghetti
- Naming as many television shows as we could think of
- Naming as many cities as we could think of
- Read the letters of words backwards. For example, I saw the word “health” on the wall, so I slowly read it to myself as h-t-l-a-e-h.
- Notice our feet on the ground. Dig our heels into the ground a bit to literally “ground” ourselves.
- Gripping the rails of the chair and describing how they feel (cold, warm, round, hard, plasticy, sturdy)
- Standing up and reaching our hands high above our heads
- Thinking of favorite things (colors, TV shows, animals, seasons)
- Imagine people who we care about
- Remembering, in vivid detail, a safe place
All of the above exercises are from the book we are using in group, called Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse by Lisa M. Najavits. (As a side note, in our group, “substance abuse” and “self-harm behaviors” are used interchangeably, since not everyone in the group abuses substances as their method of self-harm.)
Next we break off into small groups. Tonight our assignment is to take out our notebooks and to write out, in vivid detail, the incident of trauma which brings us the most symptoms and distress. I’m anxious. I’m afraid of losing my composure and crying. The doctor asks us to let whatever shows up just show up. This is a safe place where we will not judge each other. We are all here because we have been suffering and want to get well. We are here to get help.
We are given twenty minutes. About midway through, the doctor comes and reviews our writing. She says something compassionate to each of us and writes in the margins where she has questions:
Please add more detail.
Please describe the thoughts and feelings you had when x happened.
At the end of the group, we check in. We are all visibly upset and shaken up. The doctor reminds us that the worst is over. It may feel really bad right now, but we are safe, and those things are in the past. This is now. She tells us that our assignment is to write our stories out again, with more detail each time, at least 4-5 times before our meeting next week. She tells us it gets easier with each entry, as we will become a little bit desensitized to the intensity of the story.
Here is an excerpt of my story. Many of you are familiar with some of my trauma history through this blog and my previous books. I am now working on my memoir, and this story will be in it. Here is a glimpse. Please use GOOD self-care and decide whether you feel up to reading this potentially triggering content. I don’t get into anything really gruesome, but I do realize that this content can be upsetting.
End Trigger Warning
When we do our check out, I burst into tears. I share my concern that my incident probably isn’t as bad as everyone else in the group. Who am I to be here having this reaction to something like this when people have been through so much worse?
My peers console me (as I’ve done for them when they spoke), and the doctor asks me to have compassion for this part of me that feels undeserving. She assigns me a similar assignment as last week: to write down harsh thoughts I have toward myself and then re-write them as compassionate statements. I’ll be working on that this week.
This morning, I re-wrote my story. At least three times to go before next Wednesday. The journey continues.
My favorite highlight from the second session’s material:
“Remember that pain is a feeling; it is not who you are. When you get caught up in it, it feels like you are your pain, and that is all that exists. But it is only one part of your experience – the others are just hidden and can be found again through grounding.” (Najavits, 2002, p. 133)
I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks for reading. More soon.
To go on to read Week 3, click HERE.