Laura Barton’s experience of attending her first peer support meeting in Toronto.
I hate traffic. The vehicular congestion, the people who don’t seem to know how to drive, that one guy that just has to get ahead of everyone else; it all stresses me out, makes me angry and anxious, and I start swearing like many have probably never heard me swear before. And yet, yesterday evening, I decided to drive from where I am in Niagara to Toronto. Through rush hour. I must be nuts.
It was mostly smooth sailing, with the typical slow down near the Hurontario Street exit along the highway, likely because of the continued construction, but then came the pretty much dead stop around Islington Road. I felt like I was so close to my destination and yet we were crawling along, then stopping, then crawling, stopping. Repeat. That part of the journey seemed to take the longest and it was frustrating as hell. But then I made it through and eventually was pulling into the driveway where a couple other cars were already parked and it was all worth it.
Last night, September 17th, 2013, I attended my first CBSN support meeting.
Although the Toronto meetings started many months ago, until last night, I had never been able to attend. Work always seemed to get in the way—I was even supposed to work last night, too! Luckily, I was presented with the chance to switch the shift with someone and you’d better believe I jumped at that opportunity. I was so excited. Not only was I finally going to be able to attend, but I was going to be able to meet everyone, including CBSN’s founder, Sarah. I was going to meet other BFRB sufferers face-to-face for the first time.
It all seemed kind of surreal, like maybe it wasn’t going to happen, and then suddenly there I was, pulling into the driveway. And then I was at the door, greeted by a barking dog and the friendly faces of some of the other members who were already there. And just like that, I was welcomed in and a part of the group.
Several others showed up to join us and while I was expecting mostly pullers, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many pickers among the group, too. I hadn’t thought I would be the only one, but I wasn’t sure how many to expect; even though we can relate between disorders, it’s great to encounter someone who can relate to specifically your disorder as well.
We all got settled in and when 7:30 rolled around, we got the meeting underway. While many seemed to know each other from past gatherings, we all put on “Hello my name is” nametags and went around the room introducing ourselves if we were comfortable doing so. It was nice and welcoming because there was no pressure and it wasn’t putting the newbies like me on the spot since even past members did it, too. It was also interesting because we were asked to share a recent high and a low feeling or experience. My high was definitely finally just being able to sit in that room with everyone else.
Before we could continue after introductions, Sarah came in, a little late from being at another meeting for something else and bearing Tim Horton’s goodies for everyone. It was not something I had been expecting, but a great gesture which added to the ease and comfort of the support group. The smallest details sometimes make a big difference.
Without going into a lengthy post about everything that we talked about, I just want to say it was so great to finally have a face-to-face conversation with someone who gets it, and in this case it was a whole room of people perched on armchairs, folding chairs and a sofa who got it. I advocate heavily for online interaction with the community and I love the people I’ve met that way, but if you have a chance to go to a support meeting, give it a try. There’s just something different about non-internet interaction.
There was shared laughter and tears, celebration and condolences, and we trusted each other enough to be vulnerable, despite the fact that some of us had just met. Maybe it’s just our nature as people with these disorders since pickers and pullers are still among the most compassionate people I’ve met, but I think a lot can be said for how safe and comfortable the environment was.
I have pretty severe anxiety, especially social anxiety, but I felt little to none of that while in that room with those fabulous people. It was a sense of ease, like I could just be without worrying what they might think of my scars or what I said. I was able to just sit, relax and be a part of the group and the experience.
I also learned some things that I didn’t know, or saw things that I had read or discussed online a billion times in a new light. You can read the same things online for years, but sometimes we need to hear it or hear it told differently to see it anew. I had several of those moments and have been left with a lot to think about that I could probably write about for days. I’m the kind of person who gets really excited about new knowledge and new insight, so for me, this was awesome.
To say that this CBSN support group had an impact on me seems a bit of an understatement. I feel like I took so much away from the experience and like I made connections with people who had been more or less strangers about two hours before. With so many BFRB Support Groups popping up across the province and the country, if you have the chance to go, do it. The CBSN is still finding its feet, but it’s doing a great job on this front.
I don’t know how many of these support groups my work schedule will allow me to attend, but if I have the opportunity, I will certainly be going again. Even if I have to face the stress of traffic.