I’ve been in a partial hospitalization program during the day for the past 2 weeks. Most of the day is spent in group therapy. Today is one of the groups we talked about shame. The therapist said that research suggests that shame makes things like depression, alcoholism, addiction, eating disorders, etc. worse.
Then we were instructed to pick something that is a source of shame for us and write a little bit about it in our notebooks–how it makes us feel, where we think the shame comes from, behaviors related to the issue that causes us shame, etc.
After that we picked a compassionate figure (a person in our life, a famous person, an imaginary entity, a ball of light, whatever) and write a letter from them to us. The letter was supposed to offer encouragement, love, acceptance, and compassion in regards to the source of shame we’d picked.
I chose my shame around being fat and hating my body. I didn’t think it would be difficult since I spend a huge percentage of my waking hours thinking about how fat and ugly I am. However, I got extremely agitated by the first part of the exercise. Just writing about my shame around being overweight and ugly made me angry, sad, humiliated, and ashamed, of course. I had to leave the room and pace in the hallway for a little bit.
When it was time to write the letter, I couldn’t imagine a human being saying compassionate words to me on this topic. People are so weird and uncomfortable with fat. They either tell me I’m not (when I know I am) or act like it’s a horrible thing about me that I can change and that they are willing to look past because they are so amazing and kind. So I just thought about one of my cats and how he loves me no matter what. What I look like is of no consequence to him. I imagined him lying snuggled up to me and radiating love. That calmed me down a little.
Next the therapist asked people to share. I was already kind of irritated because there are two people in the group who derail the discussion in every single group. And they were doing it again this time. Also, since I’ve been tapering the lexapro all my emotions seem a lot closer to the surface and I’ve been getting pissed about things I normally don’t.
When the therapist asked me to share it caught me off guard because it didn’t seem to follow the flow of the discussion. When I said that I’d been unable to imagine a person saying compassionate words to me on the subject, she asked me what I would say to someone I love if they were in my position. I might share my response in another post. Next she asked what emotions I was feeling and I said, “Embarrassed and mad.” She asked what was there if I tried to peel back the anger. I realized that I was sad and hurt because there was no one in my life who would say those compassionate words to me. I was also irritated because I wanted to cut myself and couldn’t. I was getting teary and choked up at this point. She asked what I could do instead of cutting and where I could find my strength. I started crying harder and said I didn’t know and didn’t want to talk about cutting. She said I didn’t have to. I covered my face and was curled up in the chair and had my hands squeezed into fists. She asked what the emotion was then and pointed out that I was making myself very small. I said that I was mad that people were in the room and that I didn’t want anyone to look at me. She asked how old I felt right then. I thought about it and pretty quickly realized I felt 7. I told her that and she asked what I wanted to hide from when I was seven. I said, “I don’t know and I don’t want to talk anymore.” Then she said I didn’t have to but that I might want to explore that with my individual therapist.
I cried for the rest of group. I used my hair as a curtain around my face and wrapped my arms around my head. I wanted to leave the room so badly but I didn’t want anyone to look at me. It was so painful–the whole thing.
When the group was over and people left the room to take a break I went to the bathroom and cut my arm. That kind of helped.
So I feel like I realized/figured out some stuff during the group and maybe let out some pain. But I don’t know what I am supposed to do with that information. It doesn’t fix my body image issues or my shame. It doesn’t provide me with compassion from others. It just brought all this hurt to the surface. Now what?