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When No One Shows Up

"See the path cut by the moon,... For you to walk on,... See the waves on distant shores,... Awaiting your arrival,..." - Pearl Jam

 

Is it just me or have we all had that experience where you put time and effort in to an event, a get together, a meeting, even a one-on-one dinner date, or whatever it might be, and no one shows up? People may show some initial interest, ask some questions about the event, hem and haw about their availability and then in the end they don’t commit and no one shows up. It may not happen often, but sooner or later it’s bound to happen to you at least once in your life.

This happened to me last night. I’ve been planning for two months to start a support group… actually two separate support groups. Both are for individuals who suffer from body-focused repetitive behaviors such as compulsive hair pulling (trichotillomania) and skin picking (dermotillomania). But one is specifically for adults, and the other is for children ages 10-17. Last night was supposed to be the first meeting for the children and teenagers. I advertised on the Trichotillomania Learning Center’s website, I posted reminders on several Facebook groups, TrichWorld.com, as well as forums on DailyStrength.org. A few parents emailed me about their children, so I was hopeful.

Empty Chair.jpg

I arrived last night, set up the chairs, laid out the brochures, even brought trich related books and a ton of fidget toys to keep our hands busy during the group. I stood around waiting, watching every teenager who walked through the door to see if they might be the one that would join me in the support group. But in the end, no one showed up.

I could have let this bother me. I could have felt rejected. I could have considered myself a failure. I could have taken this as a sign to quit, that I’m not meant to facilitate a support group for adolescents. But instead I decided to look at the reality of the situation.

  1. The first meeting was scheduled the night before most kids go back to school in our area. Not the ideal day for a brand new support group to begin.
  2. Compulsive hair pulling, skin picking and BFRBs are shame-based disorders. To leave your house to attend a support group takes a lot of courage, especially for a child who may have never spoken to anyone except their parents about their disorder, and probably never met anyone else who pulls and/or picks either. 
  3. I didn’t advertise as broadly as I could have. I focused on social media instead of local community resources.

Taking all of that into account, I decided I am going to use this as an opportunity to up my game. I’m ready to challenge myself, put myself out there and network fully with local schools, counselors, hospitals, churches and other community resources that may come into contact with children who are suffering from body-focused repetitive behaviors. I’m going to focus on education through contacting local news sources and take advantage of National Awareness Week for trichotillomania, Skin-picking and other BFRBs which is coming up the first week in October.

When I was 12 I didn’t know anyone else who had trichotillomania. But now with the TLC conferences, retreat, and workshops, children who pull and pick have resources I never had growing up. I watched these kids at the TLC conference last April making friends who understand them and I realized how much better my life would have been growing up if I knew other people with trich and had somewhere to turn to express myself. But we can’t turn the clock back. We can only move forward and use what we’ve learned from our life experiences to help others through theirs.

So this is my goal for the support group, to reach out to children and teenagers who are suffering the shame and embarrassment I know only too well, and provide them with a safe, non-judgmental and confidential outlet for expression and support. If this support group can reach even one or two kids over the next year, then sitting by myself for 90 minutes waiting for people to show up will be completely worth it! 

I just need to continue to remind myself: When no one shows up, it’s the perfect time to continue to prepare for those who eventually will. 

 


When has no one showed up in your life? How did you deal with the situation? Were you able to turn it into a positive?