I had a really hard time breaking into the group socially when I got here. At first I realized it was because Sarah’s suicide. I got close to someone at Renfrew and I really liked her and then a bit over a month ago, she killed herself. I was really upset after she died (obviously!) and what I didn’t realize is how her death still shadows me. Like little things set me off and I get really upset. So, when I got here, I totally distanced from my peers. It took me about a day to figure out that I didn’t want to get close to them because I was feeling very guarded about putting myself out there and then being hurt. (I have several side notes about other things that have triggered my sorrow/grief about her suicide here, but will tack that into another post.)
So…The women here are intense. Most of them are emaciated…Just super, super thin. That, of course, is intimidating to me because it makes the fact that I am fat just glare. And several of them are so pre-occupied with having to find something to have control over that they openly obsess about random things. It made approaching challenging.
Plus, they are so obsessed with their weight/size (and please note, I know that I am obsessed with my weight/size too, I just do it differently) that they judge each other and I am sure that they judge me.
I have been walking around the social scene on eggshells. It has been brutal. I have felt lonely and like I don’t fit in and very left out. Those feelings hit on lots of my social fears. Plus I have felt judged and body shamed. Like body shame that has been so intense that I have been just mortified to exist here.
And while the women have made small talk with me, I only connected with one, and even then my approach has been guarded and closed.
A fucking rough first week.
So, Sunday afternoon, I talked to a recovery-friend about some of my struggles and when I got off the phone, I had a couple of realizations. If I want to make friends and not feel socially isolated, I need to behave differently. I need to engage and be friendly. I realized later that in my anxiety about feeling body shame and not fitting in that I was probably giving off some pretty defensive vibes which were probably off-putting to my peers. It was kind of one of those moments when I was able to get out of my head enough to look at myself and see what I can do to make things better.
Yesterday morning, I woke up with a new attitude. I approached peers and felt much more relaxed and open. I engaged in small talk and at times, worked to connect on the next level with some of my peers. And I found some responsiveness on their part and I just plain felt better on my part. And more relaxed. Which is good, because the energy I spent being on guard around my peers is better spent in other ways here.
Plus, I have made a friend…Sometime mid-week last week I connected (guardedly for sure) with a woman who I have some things in common with. And she is nice and I like her. That relationship has kept me from feeling completely like a social pariah. Yesterday, we connected some more as I let my walls down some. And then she did something unexpected. I ate my snack late as I had had an appt during snack time. So, it was me and a person from Direct Care at the table. Hmmm…I’m gonna need a name for this new friend…Ummm…..Polly. Okay, so Polly came over and sat at the table to visit with me while I had snack. She was partly waiting to ask the woman from Direct Care a question, but really she sat to chat with me. And her body language was open and relaxed. I felt kind of surprised (you know…the, “Why would she go out of her way to come to the table and sit and chat with me?”) and I also felt kind of happy.
Yesterday was totally a turning point socially for me. This may be a hard group of people to connect with as we are all pretty damaged and guarded and inter-personal relationships are not really our talent (understatement of the day) but….I can do it. And getting to the point where I don’t feel like such and outsider is a huge relief to me.