In the comments on my last post, Missy and Sarah asked if I thought my PHP group was helpful to me any more, given the place where I am in my recovery.
In short, the answer is yes.
The dynamics of the group have been steadily changing since a two of the older girls left a couple of weeks ago. More than once in the past week, I have shared my concern with my therapist (as well as the clinical director of the site) that the environment has become very competitive among the younger girls. The facilitators are good at re-routing this conversation during groups, but in the 10-15 minutes we have between groups, it seems that the conversation quickly reverts back to a laundry list of who’s had a feeding tube, who had a supplement for weight loss, who is exercising in secret in their rooms at home. All I hear in these minutes is a bunch of eating disorders speaking through the mouths of beautiful, talented young women. Beautiful, talented young women who have drive and spark and the ability to do great things, but struggle to believe any of that.
The general vibe of the group right now is Recovery? Over my dead body! More than once, these young women have said out loud in group that they love their eating disorders, want to hold on to them, wish their parents were passive in their responses. And believe me, I understand that. I also understand the women in the group who are there for someone else, not quite sure they want recovery, but willing to do it for someone else until they make a final decision.
This puts me in an interesting position. It puts me in the position of being the voice of reason that other women have played for me in the year I’ve been working toward recovery. It is a new role for me, one I am barely accustomed to playing for myself, much less other people. It’s a work in progress.
Yesterday, during family group, one of the teen girls told her mother that she should be happy she’s eating at all and stop pushing her to finish 100% of her meals.
I broke in.
I just wanted to say “hi” to T’s eating disorder. Welcome to the group!
This got a laugh, but I was being serious. I told the girls and women in my group later that I was tired of hearing their eating disorders all the time. I told them and assured them that I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE to hear that voice in your head 24/7 and not have any idea how to fight it. Geez, that’s why I went to residential treatment. I get it. But the thing that helped me most was having a friend call me out every single time I was letting my eating disorder speak. If nothing else, it drew my attention to just how often I was speaking (and thus believing) distortions and gave me the chance in the moment to reframe my thoughts.
I told these girls and women that I was planning on playing that role for the rest of them now. I told them that I am trying too damn hard to drown out that voice in my own head to sit and listen to it come out of their mouths five hours a day. I told them I was going to start calling them out and they were welcome to do the same for me. It is time to shift the dynamic of the group away from competition and back toward what it should be at a treatment center: Recovery. Treating a deadly disease. Rediscovering and uncovering parts of ourselves long hidden by the mask of an eating disorder.
There is a chance that in the next week or two, I will be moving to the evening IOP group at my treatment center and will no longer be in PHP (hooray progress!). Honestly, I think at this point I would be okay either way. Being in PHP with people who are decidedly not in recovery (though this is not true for all of them, please understand) is making me fight harder for my own recovery. I could be drowning in the sea of distortion and competition that is sometimes PHP.
It feels at times like I am swimming upstream, but in the end, it’s simply making me a stronger swimmer.