I went off to my ACA meeting Saturday. I’ve missed it for weeks, because a lot of times I’ve felt too overwhelmed to venture out, and other times i’ve just had other commitments. It was a problematic experience, set off by the loss of a key.
When I got there, I saw a group of people, a few of whom I was familiar with, huddled on the steps of the church where the meeting takes place. I joined them, and learned that we couldn’t get into the meeting room as the key had been misplaced. I immediately felt stressed out and let down, but sat on a step and waited to see what would emerge.
Eventually, it was decided we’d have the meeting in a nearby parkette. I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of this. Basically because though able to function, I was feeling really fragile as a result of therapy on the previous day. I would not have felt able to attend a social function, but I’d come to the meeting because the fairly strict format is comfortable for me – I know what to expect and what my part is. I didn’t expect that meeting in a park would be private enough, I was worried about what passers by would think, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was freaked.
At the same time, I didn’t want to seem freaked. Although a few people left, I decided to stay and participate anyway. I’d come all this way. I felt very awkward, but walking to the park I feel in beside the woman who had taken charge, and started an awkward small talk type conversation with her. Fine.
As we sat down, I very carelessly remarked to two people who were saying hey, it’s nice to be in the park – for some reason, I said, what do you mean, it sucks we’re in the park. Or some such. Then after, some other woman said something about how she was glad to be outdoors, and I agreed that at least the weather was good. She seemed to be demanding agreement.
As the meeting progressed, it turned out it was fine. We were in a secluded corner and no one seemed to notice us at all. Everyone shared, including me, though I didn’t feel that coherent.
When the man next to me shared, it emerged that he had misplaced the key, and felt terrible about it. He obviously took this very much to heart, and it was a huge issue for him. And of course I realized that the people sitting around him were trying to make him feel better, at the start, with the remarks about the park. I felt awful, for having said I didn’t like it. And now it was all working out well, I felt really bad I’d said anything.
The meeting finished, and I tried to say something about how I was glad this guy had lost the key, the park had been so pleasant. And he kind of jumped away from me – it obviously wasn’t OK. I felt embarrassed and bad.
I left. I waited to say goodbye to someone, but everyone was talking to someone, so I just left without saying anything.
And at home, I felt like I’d been partaking of something pretty dysfunctional. This whole rigamarole about the key seemed kind of crazy. First of all, they kept it a secret as to who had misplaced the key, so I didn’t know something everyone else knew. This was supposed to ‘protect’ this guy who did this dastardly deed. Well, anyone can make a mistake. It’s really so understandable – why did he need protecting?
Second, when I put my foot in my mouth by protesting, and this key guy was sitting right beside me, no one said the truth. They’re just all trying to get me to feel something else – hey, you don’t feel worried about the meeting suddenly being in a park, you actually feel happy because you’re out in nature.
Third, I then beat myself up for having my fairly understandable reservations about the park, and being disappointed. When really, those were just my feelings and reactions. They weren’t hurting anyone. Or if they were, it wasn’t my fault, I wasn’t mean about it.
Anyway. It wasn’t until I got home that this whole thing became more clear to me. And I thought, wow, I’m going to this group to get over being dysfunctional, yet here I go. What would have been good, is to discuss how I felt in my share. Of course, it didn’t occur to me to deal with what was going on as it was happening.
I’m now up in the middle of the night worrying about this craziness. I especially hated being managed by this one woman, who intervened several times to smooth something over, when I didn’t even know it was a thing. I hate caretaking behaviour. To me, it’s deeply disrespectful of the other person. It’s trying to control people so things will be ‘nice’. I guess I react to that so strongly because my family does that – everything must appear ‘nice’ – it’s never OK to have your actual feelings.
I think it’s about boundaries. To be a healthy situation, it needs to be OK for everyone to have their feelings. My feelings belong to me, and as long as I’m not blaming you for them, it is healthy to express them. It should be fine for me to be upset that we are not able to meet in our usual location, and to express that. That’s just who I am in that moment.
If I go back, I might still share on this whole scenario. The guy who lost the key got to speak of his feelings extensively. I want to share my own feelings also. Not to shame or disturb anyone else. Just because I have them, and they’re OK.