Today is about a big thing: student minds’ support group. It takes quite an effort to ignore them, because their stickers are in every building of Cardiff UNI, Cardiff Met, and the USW. However, if anyone had asked who thinks that peers support groups are a waste of time, because they’re not professionals; and of energy, because you wouldn’t be able to connect to other people’s stories, my hand would have been in the air.
Therefore, your double agent has gone to their last meeting, and come back with a report. Guess what? They are not professionals, so there is no chance of feeling judged; and you might not be able to connect to other people’s stories, which actually takes a lot of pressure off your own.
Still, will they ask questions? how many people are there? do they ask details to track you afterwards? This might keep people from going. Well, the meetings are run by fellow students, who are trained as facilitators. They do not hold truths (finally!); and they do not make your decisions (thank you!). It is two of them, and 4-5 people attending. They will introduce themselves and explain their three safe rules.
Knowing weight, sizes and calories is not that interesting after all. People come first.
Silence doesn’t harmWhat has been said in the room, stays there
At the beginning of the meeting, attendees are asked to introduce themselves, with as many details as they want. Who would rather skip the presentation can says so. The guidelines on Student minds’ website provide the generic topic of the month, so you can look it up and decide if you are interested in hearing something about it. March is dedicated to the challenges of University life, when living with an eating disorder. In fact, the facilitators started from there. People share what they wish on how the assignments are going; where will the next vacation be; if they rather stay in Cardiff for Easter or going back home; how they handle ordering at the restaurant during the festivities. Eating disorders come up once in a while, and without any pressure.
No one is saying it is easy, nothing about dealing with an eating disorder is; but at least this meeting is not something to worry about, and relief can be a new and cuddling feeling. In one hour of chatting, there was laughter, and a moment of tenderness: although you can be sitting in silence, once everyone has said something, they might automatically turn towards you. The quizzical eyes are not asking questions, just hoping that you’ll say “hello” back. A cautious encouragement more than a push, but we know that courage makes a difference. If eyes start burning, that is fine as well. In 60 seconds of crisis, you might think that coming was the wrong move. Deep breaths and no shame. No one will ask what is wrong, nor will they explore your demons. It will pass in a minute and the meeting will wrap up fine.
Have you ever attended a peer support group? Share how it went, or why you feel it’s not right for you! Next Friday a follow up on what happens when the peer group becomes a one-to-one! #closertoDreamingtheMoon