Group Counseling Is Less Terrifying Than It Sounds

Group Counseling Is Less Terrifying Than It Sounds

It helped me find my worth.

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The first semester of my junior year began and I started to notice I could really have used someone to talk to outside of my friends. Someone to help me better understand my emotions and help keep me on a path towards success. I have always tried to make my mental health a priority, so I decided to go to my university's counseling center.

I was first paired with a one-on-one counselor. Of course, she helped me, but ultimately she decided it would probably be a great experience for me to give group counseling a try. I was skeptical and pretty much against it at first, but I put my skepticism aside and went through with it. I was scared that warming up to more than one person would be complicated because one-on-one counseling was hard enough. I was afraid that the people would be judgmental of my thoughts and emotions. It is none of that at all.

The first day of group counseling we were reminded that the area is to be a safe space and that each therapist in the room is bound by confidentiality. We were then asked to keep anything said in the group, in the group. That reminder seems cliche. However, everyone in the room lived by it, and I could tell that each person in that room with me was genuine and would never talk to others about me negatively. Each person in the room with me was in that room for pretty much the same reason as I was.

A common misconception about group counseling is that is is much like an AA class. Not at all, mainly because if you are in group counseling for something non-alcoholic related you won't be talking about the things they talk about in AA classes, and it is not a class. The group counseling I participated in did not have a strict agenda. My group mates and I were able to talk about whatever we wanted to each day. Usually, someone would bring something to the table and conversation would go from there.

The most impactful part of group counseling was the last day. We were asked to ahead of time write to each group member. We were to write a thing that could use improvement and an area of growth that we noticed within each person. Then, on the last day, we were to read what we wrote out loud to each member. Initially, this scared me. I take what people think of me to heart and I was really worried that this would make me regret going to group, but it didn't. The people in that room saw things in me that I never knew of. It was one of the most amazing feelings walking out of group counseling that day.

Something I was most afraid of was not being able to ever voice my opinion, but it wasn't that complicated. I was actually able to speak quite often. It seems intimidating going into things like this, and it's anxiety-inducing for sure, but it is worth it. The first few sessions were the hardest, of course, but with time I was able to warm up to everyone and understand the process. For those who are in one-on-one counseling and feel as if it alone is not enough, I definitely recommend trying out group counseling if possible.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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8 Strategies To Overcome Shyness

How to stop your social anxiety from taking over your life.

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There are many people who battle with the constant anxiety of meeting new people. Whether you're in high school, college, or are out in the workforce, being shy doesn't simply go away as you get older. You can still have anxiety when meeting new people or engaging in social interactions. Being shy may not be the same as social anxiety where you can have an all-consuming amount of anxiety from interacting with others.

However, it can still affect your ability to meet new people or engage in social interactions. Here are eight ways that you can overcome being shy.

1. Surround yourself with new people

Friends

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Being shy can sometimes cause you to avoid meeting new people or stay with the same group of people that you are comfortable with. This is fine; however, if you want to overcome being shy, you should first try to get yourself to meet new people. Go out of your comfort zone and try to talk to people you don't know! If you are a student and have an assignment, try talking to the students in your class you don't know.

Or at work, try to introduce yourself to coworkers that you haven't talked to. Talking to new people will help you eliminate any fears that you have related to meeting new people!

2. Make goals for yourself

Goals

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Creating goals for yourself is the perfect way to overcome being shy! Try to ask yourself what aspect of being shy you would like to overcome, whether it's related to meeting new people or attending social events, and create a strategy for accomplishing your goal.

3. Engage in more social events

Socal events

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The best way I've always been able to overcome being shy was through trying to attend social events or gatherings. Instead of making excuses to why you can't go to a social event, go to one instead! If you're scared of not knowing anyone, try going with someone you know such as a family member or friend. Going with someone will help take away the fear of not knowing anyone, and it will eliminate some of the anxiety of getting to know new people!

4. Do things outside your comfort zone

Party

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Part of being shy is being too comfortable with doing things inside your comfort zone. Instead, attempt to do one small thing at a time that is outside your comfort zone. It's best to begin with something small such as starting a conversation with someone you're unfamiliar with. Taking baby steps can help you build up to doing bigger things outside your comfort zone such as attending events that you've never attended before or hosting a party. Getting yourself to do more things outside your comfort zone will help you open up more and overcome being shy.

5. Get involved in a club or sport

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The best way to overcome any shyness is joining a club or sport. One way I was able to overcome my shyness was through joining theater in my high school. I had begun to engage in acting in plays and musicals. It was one of the best decisions I made since I was able to meet new people and begin to learn how to let my guard down around others. You don't need to join theater particularly to overcome shyness. You can join any type of club, sport, or organization since any of them will involve getting you to meet people that you don't know.

6. Don't be too harsh with yourself

Self-love

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Another part of being shy is that you often criticize yourself too harshly. You may feel angry with yourself for not opening up more or being able to make new friends. Instead, focus on the positives of what you were able to accomplish. If you were able to introduce yourself to someone new, even if you couldn't carry on a conversation with them, give yourself praise for being able to introduce yourself. You should always try to keep a positive attitude toward yourself and work toward self-love rather than hatred.

7. Stop caring about what other people think

Judging People

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This is a big part of the fear that surrounds a lot of people who are shy. What can often lead to being shy is being insecure, which can prevent you from engaging with other people that you may not know. Instead, focus on what you think of others rather than what they think of you. Avoid caring about how other people may judge you. The people who will care the most about you will be people who will likely not judge you. Therefore, there's no reason to worry about what others will think of you since you won't be hanging out with the people who are judgemental anyway.

8. Get rid of "I can't"

Goals

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Take a moment to write down the worst thing that could happen if you try to go to a social event or say hi to someone you don't know. Chances are, you'll probably have a hard time thinking of a few things to add to the list. Try using positive talk where you replace "I can't" with "I can" so that you will give yourself more confidence in being able to overcome your shyness. You'll find that if you begin to change your attitude about overcoming your shyness, you'll be able to accomplish more things.

Instead of letting your anxiety of meeting new people or interact with others control your life, try taking these steps to overcome being shy! Being shy can often keep you from allowing yourself to letting your guard down, making new friends, or engaging socially with others. I remember being shy myself, and at one point I let it control my life through not allowing myself to make new friends, go to social events, or engage socially with others, which caused me to feel very unhappy. Finding ways to overcome shyness can help give you more confidence and lead you to feel more satisfied in your life.

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