New Year: Crossroads for My Healing From BPD Blog

I want to thank all of my readers -- from those who have been with me from the beginning to all of my wonderful newcomers.  If you check out the Archives and scroll down to the bottom, you can check out how my posts have progressed since I've started blogging here. 

My initial intention for this space, which I was very clear about at the time, was to put my experience out there in hopes that even one person would read it, connect, and find hope...that they would know that they were not alone.

I never imagined that thousands to tens of thousands of readers per month would visit this space, read my posts, comment, and subscribe. This blog has already surpassed my initial expectations.

As I have progressed in my work with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), I have been getting much healthier, better able to cope, and have had less crises than ever.  A lot of my posts, especially for the first year, focused on how I coped with crisis situations using the skills. The skills were new to me, and it was exciting for me to process through them, practice them, and see them yield positive results in my life.

As time went on, I would find new ways to apply the same skills to new situations that came up.  Eventually, I began to feel that I was "re-explaining" the skills -- which is okay to a large degree, as there are so many possible situations where one could use them.

The thing is, as my life has become more stable (not to say that I am not symptomatic, because I am -- pretty much on a daily basis), I have less "incidents" to write about.  I worried about this initially. What would happen to this blog? 

I realized that I was, on some level, awaiting incidents to happen so that I'd have something to write about. I had an "aha" moment that my association of what this blog had become was causing me to feel that I had to "stay ill" or have crises in order to keep it going.  Because I want to continue to grow emotionally, I must reassess the purpose of this blog and come up with a new intention.

While people searching on Google for specific scenarios and skills (or who use  the search box or the archives) will find my blog and what they are seeking in the "old" material, the content going forward, for the most part, will be shifting.  I don't have the full vision yet, but I can tell you about some choices I've made around what you'll be seeing here:

  • Posts may be a bit less frequent:

    I have been posting an average of 2-3 times a week. This will probably change to 1-2x a week or less. I'll have to see how the flow goes. I don't want to post content for content's sake. I want to bring you quality information. Those of you who currently subscribe via Kindle subscriptions will have to decide if the new frequency continues to warrant the subscription at $0.99/month.
  • New Types of Posts:
    You can expect new types of posts, such as:
    • Guest blog posts, such as this recent one by David O'Garr on what it's like to be a man with BPD. I have lots of interesting people on tap for these guest posts, including others who have Borderline Personality Disorder and professionals who have dedicated part or all of their practice to helping those with BPD to heal.
    • More "clinical" information-style posts. I start graduate school in January, and one of my first classes is "Interpersonal Psychology." I think this will be very interesting and helpful for writing about Interpersonal Effectiveness skills and scenarios.
    • Videos from vloggers on mental health issues. I have several on tap and have already featured two awesome ones here. I also plan to record more videos for you, like this one that I made for you on Christmas.
    • When something does come up on a personal level that I consider share worthy, I will do personal posts as I did before.
  • Other Projects I'm Working On (in addition to Graduate School):
    • I'm tweeting Wise Mind Thoughts from @DailyDBT
    • I think I'll be too busy in the near future to write a new book to add to these titles, but you never know.
    • A top-secret project that I won't be able to talk about for a while. It's a special project to bring awareness to BPD.
    • Studying Spanish
    • Looking for a part-time job.
    • Getting in better shape -- not for vanity but for overall health (walking more, yoga classes).
    • Getting out there and creating and building a Life Worth Living.

I adore and value each of you, and I am so honored by the response I got on Twitter yesterday when I began to talk about these changes a little bit. Thank you for supporting me on my continued journey of growing.

You can continue to stay connected with me here in the new format and via:

You can also subscribe by email to my free, daily BPD newspaper.

Huge hugs and love,

Thanks for reading.
More soon. :)

Have Yourself a Skillful Little Christmas (DBT)

How I'm handling the holidays skillfully (and alone) this year. (Click here to watch the video on YouTube if it is not displaying for you below.)

Happy Holidays!

Thanks for reading/watching.
More Soon.

Coping With The Unknown And Life's Curveballs

Without getting into a load of medical details, I underwent an MRI today.  It came back with some abnormalities, which I learned via an email this evening from my neurologist. I need to go to the lab tomorrow for blood work and then possibly a lumbar puncture the following week.

When I saw the email from the doctor, my initial reaction was interesting. Part of me, perhaps the "jolted nervous system" part, freaked out. I began crying. I was breathing more rapidly. My heart was racing. Essentially, I was having an anxiety or panic attack.

There was another part of me, though, that was present as well.  It was the part who has been diligently reflecting on, learning, and applying DBT skills for over two and a half years. In this moment, that part is winning out.

One of the first things I did after reaching out to my significant other and mother was take to Facebook and Twitter to ask for some peer support, as I felt quite dysregulated emotionally. This was positive self-care. 

Over at Facebook and Twitter, my dear readers' suggestions, including many DBT skills, helped me to calm, slow down, and shift into Wise Mind. (Thank you ALL for that. The fact that you took the time meant a great deal to me. It mattered, AND, it did make a difference.)

One of my dear Twitter BPD Friends, Jess, told me that she had the same experience and that it turned out to be just calcium deposits.  I'm hoping my case is just as benign.

Almost ALL of you encouraged me to stick with my gut which is to stay away from self-diagnosis with the internet (though I confess it was my immediate impulse).

If you'd like to read a brief post on My Daily DBT about which skills I'll be using tonight to cope, click here.

I guess I was really thrown a curveball today. I honestly expected this to be yet another medical exam where I would be told it's "all in my head" in the psychological sense.  I'm hoping for the best and that it's nothing serious.

Stay skillful, and I'm working on doing the same.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Loneliness and Connecting With Others

Many of us with Borderline Personality Disorder know what it means to feel lonely.  In my personal experience, I feel that I am a good, likable person at heart -- someone who has something to contribute and who likes lifting others up in word and deed. I enjoy being around others and conversing -- be it a simple, "superficial" conversation about the weather with the cashier at the grocery store to deeper conversations that might spontaneously develop, say, at a coffee shop or restaurant.

The dialectic that I face is a deep desire to connect with and be around other people and then the opposite desire, especially when my mood is low, of wanting to isolate and not be around anyone.  Because I am still working on learning Interpersonal Effectiveness skills to help me within relationships with others, I still have a tendency to get very black and white/ all or nothing when it comes to being around others or keeping to myself. The moodiness and low self-esteem don't help either.

I've been trying to find shades of grey.  I recently made a commitment to get out of the house for a few hours every day, although I can have one all day pajama day a week when I hang out at home. With the exception of one day (not the PJ day), I've been keeping this commitment, and it seems to be helping with my mood and feelings of loneliness.

I don't feel quite ready to engage on the intimate level required to nurture and maintain a deep, close connection (though I do have one with my significant other and one other friend).  I think I'm afraid that I'll invest and and then end up getting black or white and pushing the person away, only to be alone again. It's a valid fear -- it's happened many times in the past.

So, I'm trying to just take it slow. When I get out of the house, I run errands or treat myself to a bite to eat. Sometimes I look around at a store, go for a walk in the park, and most recently I've resumed yoga classes twice a week.

During these activities, I am able to interact with others outside of just the mental health setting (the DBT and support groups I attend during the week), and this is nice. And, while I'm usually content to spend a lot of time interacting with others online, there is something about face-to-face interaction that simply can't be replaced for me, even with all of modern technology.

Do I feel lonely because I don't feel ready to give and take on a deep level right now? Honestly? Yes. Very.  Do I want to work on my fears, build my skills, and try a little bit each day to deepen my ability to connect, despite my abandonment issues, mood swings, and tendency to push others away? Immensely.

I'm working on it, one day at a time, and trying to be as kind and compassionate with myself along the way.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

P.S. One way I've been keeping busy is by studying Spanish daily for one hour at a time.  I've also started a second blog, focused on DBT skills, called My Daily

The Guy With BPD: Life as a Man Living With and Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder (Guest blogger David O'Garr)

For my 201st post on this blog, I'm doing something a bit different, and it's something I'd like to do from time to time: I'm featuring a guest blogger.  Today, David O'Garr, our peer, will share his very personal story as a man living with and healing from Borderline Personality Disorder.

As David will tell you, the support system for men with this disorder leaves much to be desired.  Read his very personal story, in his own words, then check out his blog and social media, which are listed at the end of this post.

Let's welcome David and honor his willingness to share so openly so that other men may feel less alone.

In kindness,

Trigger Warning: David talks (though not in graphic details) about eating disorder, self-harm, and sexual behaviors in this post

"Wow, being asked by Debbie to do a guest post is pretty flattering -- I mean you’ve read her blog right? And her books? I feel like I’ve 'arrived,' that I’m quasi famous or something. Well I guess you have read her blog, since you’re here reading my guest post. ;-)

Lack of Support Online For Men With BPD

Before I get into my story specifically, I feel like I need to set up a bit of context. A lot of people don’t seem to understand BPD in men. If you Google the two terms together, you tend to get a lot of blog posts by men demonizing women with BPD, which can be really disheartening when you’re a male trying to find resources for yourself when you’re newly diagnosed. Not only are men with BPD invisible, but other men are actively promoting stigma against the disorder.

Why do we have such an imbalance in the blogosphere and twitterverse of male voices with Borderline Personality Disorder? There are more than a couple of us out there, but we seem to be few and far between.  We know that until recently it was thought that BPD was something found in women more often then men, but it turns out that this is not the case. It seems to be equally split. (Grant, B. F., Chou, S. P., Goldstein, R. B., et al., 2008)

But that doesn’t answer the question. We know academically, theoretically even, that there are just as many men as there are women with BPD; but in reality, in the online support communities that we have built for ourselves, it seems as imbalanced as ever. Sometimes it seems that there is one guy to every fifty or so women.  The amount of men I have actually spoken to that have disclosed their BPD diagnosis I can honestly count on just one hand.

Gender Socialization and Lack of "Outed" Men with BPD?

The reason for this, I believe, is gender socialization.  The reason we don’t see as many males with BPD can all be boiled down to how we raise our boys and what we expect from them. I am not going to go into huge detail on this, but it is worth pointing out. If you’re interested, this article on Psychology Today’s website written by Randi Kreger (which also appears in her book The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder)  Borderline Personality Disorder in Men Overlooked, Misdiagnosed is a good break down and is definitely worth the read.

My Story

So now onto me, my story, how I came to be diagnosed, how my recovery is going -- it’s all about me now. :-)
It’s one of favourite topics so much so that I write a whole blog about it. Even Debbie thinks I’m the most interesting thing ever, and it’s why I’m writing this guest post. I’m hilarious! :-)

I think my story is very similar to a lot of others I’ve heard. I was misdiagnosed as clinically depressed for years before anyone seemed to take my other symptoms into consideration. My outbursts of anger were really just filed away as typical male aggression, and because I wasn’t violent with my anger, no one seemed to take it too seriously. 

The Joys of Being Openly Gay in a Small Town

The other thing was my self harming behaviour, which seemed to be overcomplicated again by the fact that I was gay and dealing with a small town general practitioner who had never met a gay person, let alone a gay patient. So I felt that I started to fall through the cracks so to speak, as I didn’t have the proper support and education as a gay teenager. 

Everyone I knew had these backwards ideas of what gay men should be like, and I think many of the professionals in my life were afraid to point out bad/poor/atypical behaviours because I would claim they were homophobic, and they were so uncomfortable with teenage sexuality that they just didn’t bother. 

So, I couldn’t get any of the help I needed, because no one knew how to give it to me. During this time of my life is when I started doing really impulsive and self-harming behaviours. I really do feel that there was overlap between the two. 

Eating, Trying to Acquire Control, and Being Invalidated at Home

The first thing I did was become a vegetarian. I know that some people might think this is pretty innocuous and not really self-harming or impulsive, but I was actually unable to have any sort of control in my home life, and this was one of the ways I did it.  My step-father would refuse to make special meals for me and told my mother she was to do no such thing, so I was to eat what they eat or starve.  

I was never really all that overweight as a kid, although if you had asked me at the time I would have told you otherwise. At 15 years old when I was 5’6” – 5’8” before this started, I was of a healthy weight, weighing in at about 160 – 170 lbs.  By the time I was 17 I was 135 lbs, and my body was pretty much at the lowest weight it could be.  If you look at some of the pictures of me from that time, I looked frail and sick; it’s funny thinking back to that time, because despite being sickly thin, I still thought I was fat.

Sexual Impulsiveness and Promiscuity

Then there was the sex, at 17, my very first sexual encounter was actually not consensual.  I know that what had happened, on top of the fact that I had so many messed up ideas of what gay sex was, is partially why I started having some really high risk sex.  Meeting with random people on the internet, not using condoms – I even started doing some sex work as well.  

As I was no longer living at home, money was not all that easy to come by. As well, there was definitely an element of not knowing how to relate to men, as all the men in my life up to that point had been pretty abusive. 

Generally, promiscuous sex falls into the criteria about impulsive behaviour, but I feel that this also bordered on being acts of self-harm. 

You Don't Know Me, But Neither Do I (Yet)

So in the end, I was supposed to be worried about being skinny and I’d grow out of the whole not eating thing, gay men are all suppose to be skinny anyway, right? “Well of course he’s having high risk sex and putting himself in dangerous situations – because that’s what gay men do.”

Of course if I wasn’t gay the sex thing would probably just be written off as just a typical boy, he’ll settle down when he finds a nice girl or whatever line of bull sh*t. 

Self-Harm Behaviors Hurt The Ones I Loved

I also cut, and I haven’t spent much time talking about that for a reason, because I didn’t do a lot of it. After the first time a good friend of mine found out and literally spent48 hours hanging out with me. We didn’t talk a lot, but it really made me realize how much it hurt other people so I quickly stopped doing it.

Living on The Edge - My Most Dangerous Phase - And My Escape

So these patterns of behaviour went on for years, I started drinking heavily and got involved in sex work while living in Toronto. I was putting myself into some pretty precarious and dangerous situations.  When it was really brought to light to me how what I was doing was affecting my loved ones I literally changed these behaviours over night.

Change is the key word here, because I still didn’t have the tools to fix the underlying problems and I traded one set of problematic behaviours for another. One of the first things I did was that I started to eat, the problem was that I didn’t really know how to stop eating.  I am now twice the size I was at 17 and am trying to work out what I need to do to feel both happy and healthy. 

When I stopped having sex, I actually stopped reaching out to people.  I just turned myself off emotionally from the idea of being in something romantic, because at that time I no longer saw sex as something fun and exciting. 

This went on for years, I tried almost every anti-depressant there is. At first I thought they were making a difference but in the end, I came to believe that it was all a placebo effect. I tried to just put my nose to the grindstone and pull myself up, convince myself that there was nothing wrong, but I always ended up sliding back into old behaviours. Then we would try a new pill and none of them would address the actual symptoms I was facing.

I would tell you about what relationships have been like for me, but to be honest I have never really had one. My longest relationship has been three months long, and to be honest I tend to push people out of my life so hard when I fear they’ll abandon me, that there’s really no hope that they’ll ever come back.

Work was always just as hard for me, I would start off as the model employee. I would end up getting triggered and end up rage quitting or doing something that would lead to get me fired. I tried to go to school, but that had the exact same results.

Things Started to Get A Lot Better

So that doesn’t quite bring us to now, but it brings us to about two years ago, when things were starting to go well in my life. I had a great job. I had some great friends, and I was just starting to put things back together. I feared, though, that I’d backslide if I didn’t find help. So, I went to my doctor, and he just prescribed me another anti-depressant – this time though, I also got a referral to a psychiatrist. After years of doctors just telling me I was just depressed, I no longer had to wait on those long waiting lists. I was finally going to talk to someone who knew more about mental health.

Well the anti-depressant, as I expected, did nothing for me -- (well I believe it did help me quit smoking, as the drug I was prescribed is also marketed as a smoking cessation aid -- so that was one good thing.) But in the meantime, I wasn’t in any sort of therapy and things started to get worse. I kept getting angrier and angrier at work until eventually no one really wanted to work with me, and I was at risk of losing my job. 

Finally Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder

A month before I eventually did lose my job I finally got to see the psychiatrist. That whole day in and of itself was a nightmare and a story that I will tell one day, but certainly merits more time then I can give it right now. After sitting with me for twenty minutes, he gave me my new diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and ushered me out, referring me to someone else that I wouldn’t get to see for another few months.

After that, things quickly fell apart. I felt lost. I had no idea what BPD was or what it meant. I felt like I had basically been told that I am not a real person, I have no real sense of self, that I barely exist, which fed into one of my biggest fears: a fear of not existing. This fear is something that has been driving me to make some sort of impact in the world, I need to know that I have had an effect on people’s lives, I need to know that I can do good in this world. To then be told, as I interpreted my diagnosis at the time, that I was not a whole person – just felt like I was barely there at all.  This was very triggering for me, and it was months before I got any sort of support.

Things that I would normally only find mildly irritating I started to rage about. I pushed away family and friends, except for the few that would not let me do it. I felt so lost and unsupported and scared. I didn’t know where to go or who to turn to. 

My Shift To The Path of Wellness

I started to write about my diagnosis, to start a dialogue at the very least with myself, about what was going on. I researched DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), mindfulness, biosocial theory, and the work of Dr. Marsha Linehan. After wading through the nasty things said about people with BPD by others online, and after reading one too many scholarly articles, I found Debbie’s

This blog has been instrumental with me in coming to terms with my disorder, and even though I couldn’t find much of a voice for men with BPD, I did find myself relating to this blog and was able to start to find a community of support on twitter, even if I was a bit resistant to it at first.

So I guess that’s my story so far as a man with BPD, you might find things you can relate to or things that are different. I think all of us with BPD have similar but unique stories. They say that we don’t have to have grown up in an invalidating environment to develop BPD but I have yet to meet someone with the diagnosis who didn’t grow up in such an environment, and most of us have trauma in our pasts as well. So I think on those levels many of us can relate to one another.

As the world changes and it becomes more socially acceptable for men to seek and get and even offer support, we’ll start to slowly see more men voice their concerns with this disorder. In fact, one of the biggest voices for BPD right now is Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears
and that right there is helping to break down so many barriers and much stigma.

We’re all in this together, men, women, and anyone whose gender doesn’t fall neatly into those categories; I think we all just need to do what we can to help each other out. "

You can follow David and his journey at:

You may also enjoy reading BPD & Males: Finally We Are Addressing It by Dr. Robert Fischer of Roanne Program.

Do you know of any other resources I should add for Men with Borderline Personality Disorder? Please be sure to mention them in the comment area below. Also, feel free to share your thoughts with David about his story.

Are you a man with BPD? Please share your experience and perspective.

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

Triggered by Tragedy in Connecticut

*** Trigger Warning: This post's topic includes details of a triggering news story that occurred in the USA today.***

I went against my better judgment today.  After hearing the tragic news of yet another shooting, this time at an elementary school in Connecticut, instead of processing through my feelings after hearing the coverage on the radio and then getting skillful, I turned on the TV. Big mistake.

At first, it was about feeling so horrified and sorry for the families who suffered losses and the children who witnessed the unspeakable event. I knew I should have turned off the TV, but I kept watching.  I wanted someone to make sense out of this whole thing. I wanted to understand how this could possibly happen. I wanted to send love, support, and encouragement to the parents who were not reunited with their children and to the traumatized students, staff, and friends and relatives of these children.

I cried as I watched peoples' stories and saw parents and teachers visibly distraught.

Mentions by the newscasters that the shooter was mentally ill made me nervous.  I have recently been so much more open about my own mental illness, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD.  When the reporter suddenly said to one of the police officials, "We received word that he had a personality disorder," my nervous system went into overdrive.

Fearful thoughts filled my mind:

What personality disorder does he have?
Will my friends and loved ones be afraid of ME now, thinking I could be capable of something like this?
What makes a person "snap:"? (They kept using that word on CNN and FOX.)
Do we (all mentally ill) need to worry that we might someday "lose it"?

I can't even tell you how intense my anxiety got, and I haven't completely come down from it. The muscles in my neck, shoulders, and jaw became so tight that I began to develop a headache.  When my significant other got home, he asked me why I was watching the coverage and to turn the channel.  I told him I was so sad that the President was moved to tears and about this whole thing. Then I told him that they said the guy might have had a personality disorder and that I was scared they would say it was BPD.

He then looked at me, as the newscasters moved on to say that the children will likely suffer from PTSD. It's a word he's heard a lot lately. He said, "PTSD?  Personality disorder?  You're not going to hurt me someday, are you?"    WHAT?!?

I was devastated, shocked, and speechless. I felt so hurt, offended, and terrified that I couldn't answer. Then I got nervous and left the room. When I came back, he asked me to answer the question.   

I asked him how he could ask me this. We've been together for so many years. He said sometimes he's scared of my anger -- that I get so angry, even over little things and that I can be so mean.  I was completely heartbroken and terrified that he would even for a SECOND have any thoughts about me that would prompt him to ask this. If he was worried, shouldn't I be worried too?  It made me question my own sanity. Yes, I get really angry sometimes, but I've never hurt another person nor do I believe I would ever be capable of doing such a thing.  I told him that.

He then tried to reassure me that he wasn't serious but given my reaction, maybe he should be. Devastating.  I don't know how to respond to this.  I got in the shower to self-soothe. I had the water on really hot, and when thoughts about the shooting or the conversation came up, I redirected my mind to the feel of the water and the soap. I refocused my thoughts on what was happening in the shower. I slowed down my breathing.

I'm now in a different part of the house. I need some space. To think if I had listened to my gut and not turned that television on, this incident probably would not have happened.  But, I can't change the past.

I somehow have to accept that what happened in Connecticut happened, and the conversation that took place in my home tonight also happened.  I am breathing deeply and releasing, as BEST as I can, any judgment around the question I was asked.  After all, I've been talking about mental illness so much lately, especially around my own diagnoses. Maybe he just felt scared by the whole story -- the way they were saying the young man was mentally ill and he snapped. I don't know, and I have to accept that, too. Did I cause him to ask by expressing that I was worried the person who committed this heinous act had BPD?  I don't know. I feel like I brought this on in a way. Maybe I scared him by saying this.

Black and White, intensely dysregulated emotions have been coming through my mind, like:

I am going to admit myself to the hospital tonight because I feel so distraught.
I am a complete and total lunatic and hate myself for being mentally ill.
I am going to deny completely that I am mentally ill and act as if everything is hunky dory.
I should quit my blogs because they just reinforce that there's something "wrong" with me and make me focus on it.

Wise Mind has also come on board. Through it, I'm encouraging myself to acknowledge that the above thoughts are extreme/black or white, should not be taken seriously, and that I'll think more clearly once I calm down.

Other Wise Mind thoughts:

I am not going to admit myself and am going to take an Ativan (which I just did).
This, too shall pass. I was triggered. My nervous system has been alarmed. This is a normal reaction to the brain thinking there is some danger. There is no danger. All is well. I will feel better soon.
I've been triggered before. I can and will get through this. I need to do extra self-soothing and distress tolerance.
I'm not going to quit my blogs. They are a source of light and encouragement for many others and a safe place to be honest about my walk with BPD. I may need to take a break and focus on non-mental health issues for a bit, but I'll need to decide that from a clearer state of mind.

Self Care Plan:

I am probably going to make another cup of hot tea tonight as I did earlier to soothe.
I'm breathing deeply and slowing down my breath.
I'm also going to distract by watching something uplifting on television or Netflix.

Please take EXTRA good care of yourself tonight, as will I. Incidents like these can be just horrific for emotionally sensitive people. But in being skillful and kind to ourselves, we will get through it and feel better soon.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

How An Episode of Ally McBeal Woke Me Up Tonight

I was just so deeply, emotionally moved and brought to tears that I had to start writing while the experience was still fresh.  We all know that television shows are works of fiction, but most of us also know that if you bring together some magic ingredients like great acting, characters you love, and dramatic moments that all of humanity can relate to, the recipe is ripe for an emotional experience. This is what happened for me tonight.

A couple of months ago, Netflix's clever recommendation system thought that I might enjoy a show from the nineties called Ally McBeal, and it made the suggestion. I've been hooked since the first episode. Maybe it's the quirky lead Ally and her fellow attorney John, "the Biscuit," who I most identify with and adore. But I also grew fond of the character Billy.   At first, his character didn't have much depth for me, and I was confused as to why he was such a deep object of affection for so many of the female characters in the show.

In recent episodes, his behavior had grown to be erratic and irritating. He behaved like a male chauvinist pig, and while I appreciated that the show's writers finally gave his character more dimension, the emotions I had toward him were disgust, judgment, and dislike.

If you're just getting to know the show on Netflix like me, Spoiler Alert!

Well, it turns out that Billy actually had a brain tumor, and that's what was causing his erratic behavior.  At first they thought it was benign, but within just a couple of episodes, the hallucinations he was experiencing became more frequent and severe, and he suddenly passed away.  I couldn't believe it. I thought perhaps another character was having a nightmare and would wake up. But, as when something tragic happens in real life, this was no nightmare. Perhaps the shock of the sudden loss of this character tugged at my heart because it reminded me of how realistic it is for any one we love, or even us, to suddenly be gone. Life is so fragile.

It also reminded me of how unfair I can be with my judgments. We never really know what is going on with a person.  Even if someone is acting like a total ass, while it may not be a brain tumor in most cases, we might never know the pain, hurt, and trauma that led up to the exterior demonstrations that they allow us to see.  We may never know the hurt deep within their heart.  I pray that I can grow in compassion and reduce the judgments I have of others (and of myself). I tend to be critical when I would like to be more compassionate and loving. Who am I to judge?!

I pray that the sentiment that is heavy on my heart after this episode -- the reality that we need to cherish, love, and treat well those people in our lives that we care about, right here and right now -- STAYS with me long beyond tonight.

Some lessons I learned or had re-awakened tonight from watching this episode of Ally McBeal:
  • You never know the cause of someone's behavior. Judgments without all of the facts are just opinions and interpretations, and we can often be wrong. It's better to be openhearted, loving, and caring with all people.  (Of course you don't stick around for abuse -- you take care of yourself and stand up for yourself, but in the case when you can opt for kindness while still being in integrity with yourself and staying safe -- well, for me, it's what I want to do.)
  • We never know how long we have with the people in our lives. Things can suddenly happen and they can be whisked away to the after world without warning. I want to not take people for granted. I want to treat those I love with the same love and compassion today that I would wish I had treated them with if they were suddenly gone. Let's not wait until it's too late to genuinely love those around us.
  • (TW) Borderline Personality Disorder can sometimes get us caught up in some selfish thoughts. There is cause for why we can get so wrapped up in our own drama and get depressed and even feel suicidal. Think about someone you love dearly and how you would feel if they were gone. Know that, believe it or not, if you were to take your life, you would have that impact on them. It's a pain that people never truly get over. If you are depressed to the point where you want to hurt yourself and you can't even think about your own well-being, I urge you to reach out and get help anyway. Think of your loved ones and the impact on them.
  • I am going in for an EEG and an MRI later this month to be sure I do not have a brain tumor or that I didn't have a stroke. I've been having some symptoms, and though my neurologist says that he thinks I am fine based on some tests he did, he is having me undergo the exams to put mine and my psychiatrist's minds at ease. The topic of the episode and how quickly the character died obviously hit close to home since I am going through this scare right now.  I thought I wanted to keep low key about it, but the truth is, as much as I believe I will be okay, there is a part of me that worries and is afraid. This show really got me thinking about the importance of taking care of ourselves, following through with appointments, and being open to life. I will accept the best possible care that is out there to be sure I am okay.
  • As much as painful emotional experiences may be uncomfortable, I find that they also hold within them powerful lessons. I seem to learn the most when I can get in touch with feelings like the ones evoked within me tonight.

Thank you for reading.
More soon.

Guilt Vs. Shame | Understanding Emotions: What is the difference between Guilt and Shame?

We've all experienced the emotions of guilt and shame, but it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between the two. The distinction is important for understanding our emotions, our reactions to them, and how to heal from the painful event that caused guilt and/or shame.

I recently filled out an Emotion Regulation Worksheet 1a to cope with some intense anxiety. Afterward, I worked on the Opposite To Emotion Action activities for the emotion of shame, which is the emotion I identified that I was experiencing that prompted the anxious episode. While this was very helpful, I learned in DBT group yesterday that my primary emotion after an upsetting event with my family recently was actually guilt

So what is the difference between Guilt and Shame?

According to my DBT therapist:

  • Shame is one of our very early emotions, and it is automatic. It starts to show up in children as young as 1-2 years of age. Shame arises when we feel our privacy is violated and/or we are feeling exposed.  An example of when a child of such a young age may feel shame is when they are potty training.  Some children will hide in a corner and poop in their diaper rather than have to poop in front of their caregiver on the toilet. They don't want to feel "exposed."  My therapist said that scientists are not yet sure why shame develops so young other than a hardwired desire for privacy around certain things and not wanting to be exposed for our behaviors, feelings, and sensations that we perceive as shameful.
  • Guilt develops at around 4-6 years of age and is an emotion that results when we know we have done something "wrong" or something that is not in alignment with our values or the type of person that we want to be.

What DBT says about Guilt:

Other words that you may identify that indicate you may be feeling guilty:

  • "apologetic
  • culpability (deserving blame)
  • regret
  • remorse
  • sorry
Some Prompting Events for Feeling Guilt:

  • Doing or thinking something you believe is wrong.
  • Doing or thinking something that violates your personal values.
  • Not doing something you said you would do.
  • Committing a transgression against another person or something you value." (From Skills Training Manual for Disordered Emotion Regulation by Dr. Marsha Linehan.)

What DBT says about Shame:

Other words that you may identify that indicate you may be feeling shame:

  • "contrition (feeling remorseful)
  • culpability
  • discomposure
  • embarrassment
  • humiliation
  • mortification
  • self-invalidation

Some Prompting Events for Feeling Shame:

  • Being rejected by people you care about.
  • Having others find out you have done something wrong.
  • Doing (feeling or thinking) something that people you admire believe is wrong or immoral.
  • Comparing some aspect of yourself or your behavior to a standard and feeling like you do not live up to that standard.
  • Being betrayed by a person you love.
  • Being laughed at, made fun of.
  • Being criticized in public, in front of someone else; remembering public criticism.
  • Being reminded of something wrong, immoral, or "shameful" that you did in the past."  (From Skills Training Manual for Disordered Emotion Regulation by Dr. Marsha Linehan.)

Can you recall a situation where you felt guilt, shame, or a mixture of both?  How does knowing the differences between the two help you understand your emotional experience? Which emotion causes you to judge yourself more harshly?

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

Do You Deserve To Be Happy?

When good thing happen to you, are you afraid that the other shoe is going to fall? When you hear of upcoming good things in your life, are you certain that something will get in the way of it manifesting -- that it's too good to be true?

A lot of us with Borderline Personality Disorder have a difficult time believing that we are deserving of good things in our lives. Dr. Marsha Linehan says that everything "has cause." In this instance, this means that there is a reason (or multiple reasons) why you believe you are unworthy and that it's just too good to be true that something could go your way or go right for once.

Many of us have experienced a great deal of disappointment in our past. People we trusted to care for us and protect us let us down or violated us in some way. Things that were supposed to go well didn't for reasons beyond our control, especially when we were children. We've had our hearts and spirits broken (but not destroyed!) many times.

A close family member remembered and recounted to me how her father would get very angry and cruel with her mother on the child's birthday each year, and her father would, inevitably for some reason, take out his anger by smashing and destroying the child's beautiful sheet cake that her family and friends were coming over to enjoy. The child felt betrayed and humiliated. How could her father do this? How would she explain to the guests who were coming over?

How awful for a small child to see this and try to make sense of it. It doesn't even make sense to me as an adult. Can you imagine how this must have affected her? Birthday parties are supposed to be fun times for young children, not traumatic times.

Incidents like this leave a mark and can cause us to later become very skeptical when happy occasions or events take place or are due to take place. Our hearts may even become cynical around having expectations of receiving or being worthy of goodness.

If this sounds familiar to you, start by just noticing and acknowledging that you have some struggles around believing you deserve and can receive goodness in your life with no strings attached and with no drama or trauma to follow or spoil it. By doing this, you are using your Wise Mind to accept where you are at right now. Realize that, as a child, you had no control over much of what happened around and to you. As an adult, you do. You are more empowered than you ever have been.

If it's not too painful, consider acknowledging and accepting some times in your life when things you expected to be good experiences were sabotaged and you were disappointed. Remember how old you were, and picture yourself comforting that part of you. Reassure her that while this painful event took place and was disappointing, life has and will continue to present opportunities for you to genuinely experience goodness in you life. Then, be open to this.

You *do* deserve goodness.
You *do* deserve things to go right for you.

You can internalize this message by perhaps having this mantra -- these cheerleading statements to help change your mind:

I deserve goodness.
I deserve for things to go right for me.
I am receptive to goodness in my life.
I welcome goodness into my life.
I release disappointment from the past and am open to good experiences now.

Consider writing these down, and when you have breaks, read them a few times. Set an alarm to go off every few hours on your phone, and have each alarm show one of the cheerleading statements. You are worth this investment of time, and over time, it will make a difference.

I hope this was helpful to you in some way.

Thank for reading.
More soon.

Does The Moon Affect Our Moods? | Emotion Dysregulation

As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder who experiences intense emotions that often get dysregulated, I'm always interested in learning about possible causes or connections to shifts in mood. I'll even go so far as to consider the urban legend that the full moon can cause strange things to happen here on earth.

If you had asked me a few years ago, "Does the moon affect our moods?" I would have replied with:

"Well, our bodies are made mostly of water, and the moon has an effect on the tides -- so I imagine it must have an effect on us. I've heard that when we are directly under the moon, we weigh less. I've also heard that psychiatric emergency room nurses have confirmed that more people show up feeling psychotic or in distress on full moon nights."

When my yoga teacher and I had this conversation the other day over lunch and she said that she has also had psychiatric nurses tell her that they experienced the surge in patients on full moon nights, I decided that I wanted to look for any evidence out there that this theory is true. Does the moon really affect our moods?

It was important for me to find credible sources for this research (and there weren't many out there), so I started with this article by the well respected National Geographic News, which says:

"There is good reason to believe that people's personalities do change around the time of the full moon, not because of any astronomical force, but because it creates the optimum lighting conditions for feeling carefree and mischievous." -- Psychiatrist Glenn Wilson

The article also says that it may be coincidental when people feel off or something odd happens and it also happens to be a full moon night. They then assign blame to the moon as the cause.  It also goes on to say that no studies have been conducted long enough to see if the correlation between mood shifts are elevated during the full phase of the moon.

But how do we, those of us who have personally experienced this phenomenon -- those of us who have felt especially dysregulated, unaware of the full moon and only finding out after having our experience -- know for sure that there isn't a connection?

Do you believe there is a connection? Just because sufficient research hasn't been done to prove or disprove a connection, does that simply mean there isn't one?

Perhaps I want to hold onto the possibility of what may just be folklore, but I seem to consistently, personally notice a more intense shift in my mood during this time. I am open to the possibility that it is a coincidence, but I'd like to see more research done on this.  

The Universe and the human body itself are very intricate, complex systems.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn about an interconnection between the moon's pull on earth's atmosphere and our primarily water based bodies.

What is your perspective? Have you noticed an increase in emotional dysregulation in your self and others during the full moon? What do you make of it?

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

Little Miss Passive Aggressive Showed Up Today | Dealing With The Difficult Parts of Us

Today was the day from hell as far as distress and emotion dysregulation.  I debated whether to share it, but since it relates to my walk with Borderline Personality Disorder, dealing with distress, and emotion regulation, I decided that I would share part of my experience. More importantly, I am openly sharing a revelation I had about a part of myself that I am not fond of. In fact, at times, I'm very ashamed of that part. Because shame isn't going to serve me in becoming more of a person of integrity, I knew I needed to get processing on this experience.

If you have certain behaviors or parts of you that you are ashamed of but don't yet know how to change or struggle with the urges despite knowing you want to change, I think you'll be able to relate. Please hold yourself in compassion as you read on.

To give you a little background, I spent the later years of my childhood in foster care and in group homes. In recent years, I've attempted to reconnect with family members that I remembered from childhood. Some have worked out. My mother and I are working on our relationship. My sister and I as well.

Then there are the more "distant" relatives. One who I helped through a dark time when she was experiencing severe anxiety and panic, another who I was named after. We shared memories of my father.

Unfortunately today a dispute among us turned very ugly to the point where my cousin was becoming very vicious, trying to publicly humiliate me by airing out my struggles with sexual orientation, saying that I am collecting welfare and not working, and even threatening my well-being and that of a dear friend who spoke up on my behalf. Another non-relative, (a husband of a cousin), also sent me a very threatening message. This all happened on Facebook, as I live 3,000 miles away from my "family."

I couldn't believe the things that were being said to me and my friend, but I can't tell you I'm completely innocent. I unfortunately had a role in getting things to the point where they ended up.

Something happened today, and I noticed it recently happen with a couple of other people. I'm not proud of it. I was passive aggressive.

The Miriam Webster dictionary describes being passive aggressive as:

: being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness)
— passive–aggressive noun

I don't want to give the situation too much more of my energy, so I'll tell you briefly what happened. I noticed that the husband of my cousin, who owns a company, was posting images of his products. Underneath one of the images, someone wrote a terrible, racist remark.  I commented beneath that person that I didn't appreciate the racism. Racist comments infuriate me. I become emotionally dysregulated by them.

What I did next is what I regret. I took to my Facebook wall and posted what had happened and how upset it made me. Although I didn't name names, it was obvious who the post was about, and I knew (and at the time hoped) they would see it and react.  I was being passive aggressive. Instead of going directly to the people who upset me and confronting them openly and honestly, I took a jab at them with my status update.

I ended up canceling my Facebook account entirely. I was shaking for the afternoon. I even took screenshots thinking I may need to show them to the police. Yes. It got that bad.

As I was driving home from some errands, I realized that I really needed to get in touch with my heart and figure out why I felt the need to do this. It was probably the third time in past couple of months where I behaved in such a way, and I've been doing so well avoiding this very hurtful and destructive behavior. I had to check in with myself about why in the world I was resorting to it.

During meditation and prayer, I recalled being a young girl. I was afraid of my parents and lived in an abusive home. I would get so angry with my parents and would want to get back at them, but if it looked like I were intentionally doing so, my safety would have been at greater risk. So, instead, I learned ways to go about expressing the anger inappropriately.

With this situation involving family, I somehow regressed to this inappropriate behavior.  I think of that little girl who was afraid and angry and wanted justice served and who behaved in maladpative and manipulative ways because she didn't believe her needs would be met or that she would be safe otherwise. I have compassion for her. She showed up again today.  I need to listen to what she's experiencing and find out why. It's just not okay for me to behave like this now.  There must be a part of me that doesn't feel safe or is afraid I wouldn't have my needs met or taken seriously if I were direct with these family members. I need to work on this issue.

While working on this as honestly as I possibly can, I am also going to engage in lots of self-soothing, including a hot shower, cuddling up with my blankets and cats while watching Ally McBeal on Netflix. The whole thing really shook me up -- not just noticing my own behavior but also the hurtful threatening things that were said to me and the fact that people I wanted to love could be racist.

I'll release it for tonight but will begin to consider how to go about apologizing for my part in the situation.  I don't excuse the incredibly inappropriate response I received in return or the initial behavior that prompted my anger, but I am only responsible for getting my heart right and fixing the wrong that I contributed to the situation.

Recovery is not always an easy ride. Parts of us that we don't like or understand will show up to be healed. Instead of further abusing them or neglecting them, if we can meet them with love, compassion, and forgiveness, we can then extend those things to others and help heal one another in the process. This is what I plan to do. 

Thanks for reading.
More soon. affirmed the theory on this stemming from childhood for me. I just found this article which states:

"Some suggest that passive-aggressive behavior may stem from being raised in an environment where the direct expression of emotions was discouraged or not allowed. People may feel that they cannot express their true emotions more openly, so they may instead find ways to passively channel their anger or frustration."

5 Steps To Get Out of a FUNK and Reclaim Your Life

I recently decided to pull myself out of what I refer to as "a funk." Since no longer working outside of the home, I grew very used to staying at home all day in my pajamas, hanging out with the cats,and being online.  At first, I felt anxious about it. I judged myself as being lazy. So, I would leave the house just to get out and would end up buying things I didn't need -- just to be out and about.  When I judged myself for that, I felt guilty about spending foolishly and thought perhaps I should accept my situation for what it was and go from there.
So, I accepted that I no longer had a job. I no longer had an established routine and structure. No one was counting on me to get out of bed at a certain time (except my cats for their breakfast, of course, but even they give me a lot of leeway), and I had invested most of my social stock in my relationships with my coworkers, who were no longer in my life for complicated reasons, the beginnings of which that I no longer worked with them.
Sadness seeped in. I became apathetic and began letting one day merge into the next, often not even sure what day it was at all.  Weekends were only differentiated for me because my significant other has them off from work, so he'd be around.
Although I knew that I wanted to change something so that I could feel more fulfilled, be less isolated, and have more joy in my life, I felt quite stuck.  I got immensely caught up in the online world. Because in addition to my former job and now instead of it, I blog, I spend a lot of time online to begin with. Blogging takes place online. So does sourcing and creating graphics. As does promoting the blog and connecting with my readers through various social media outlets.
I found a lot of fulfillment and joy in doing this, but there wasn't enough of it to keep me occupied all day, and even on the days where there was enough to occupy my time, my posture and muscles suffered from the long hours at my desk. Not to mention, it seemed like when I was online too much, I took on too many of the world's problems instead of focusing on solving my own.
I had to find some balance. Clearly there were too extremes in front of me:
Always stay in or always go out.  I had to find a middle ground, and I'm working on it now. Here, from my personal experience are five steps for getting out of a funk using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT):
1.) Radical Acceptance:
I don't know about you, but I have a habit of putting on blinders and seeing the world the way I want to see it. It's served as a survival mechanism as a child growing up in an abusive home, but, since becoming aware of it over the past couple of years, I've noticed it's developed into something maladaptive. I want to see things for what they are. I long to consistently be aware of and accepting of reality. I'm missing out on life otherwise.
It's not always easy, of course. I got so good at pretending things weren't happening or that they didn't matter in order to protect my mind and spirit that I seem to automatically do this at even the prospect of emotional pain.  It's something I have to consciously work on daily.  For the circumstance of getting out a funk, being willing to accept reality as it is, is an important first step.
Keep in mind that accepting reality does NOT mean that you LIKE the circumstances or that you approve of them. It only means that you are acknowledging the reality of the circumstances.  You are saying, "Yes. This is actually happening right now. This is how things really are." 
Accepting doesn't mean you're content to stay in the current reality. It just means that you are aware of it and accept it as the truth of that moment.
For me, after accepting that I no longer work outside of the home and then accepting and letting go of the judgments that came up as a result of my interpretations of the situation, I moved on to accepting that only I could be responsible for creating a life worth living despite all of this.
I wanted to get out of the house in a meaningful way -- only I could decide what this meant and then put in the effort to make it happen.
I wanted to have some structure. Again, no one was going to come along and implement that in my life. I had to accept that no outside force was going to act upon me -- I had to do the work.
2.) Think Dialectically
I had to find shades of grey. The extremes of thinking I either had to just stay home in my pjs all day everyday and deal with the isolation and boredom vs. the extreme that I had to get out all day every day were just that -- extreme. I had to find a middle ground. Don't judge yourself if you find that you also have some extreme, polarized thoughts about what your options are in your particular situation.
Black or white, all-or-nothing thinking is quite common with those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder. Once we become aware that we are dealing with polarized thinking, we can take steps to find shades of grey.
3.) Have A Goal In Mind:
Make it specific. Rather than just saying, "I want to get out of the house more," elaborate with detail, such as:
My goal is to get out for a few hours each day to engage in meaningful activities that allow me to connect directly with others while doing productive things (i.e. yoga class, doing my blogging at a coffee shop, shopping for groceries.) I'll allow for one day a week to stay at home all day in my pajamas, if I wish.
Setting detailed goals that include how long we want to practice, what we want to do during that time, and why we want to do it (our motivation -- in my case, connecting directly, in person, with others) will set us up for more success than a vague goal.
4.) Be Accountable For Your Goal: 
Tell your goal to someone you trust. This can be a friend, parent, spouse, significant other, therapist, etc.  If you feel safe sharing via social media, you could let your Facebook or Twitter friends know you are working on your goal and then update your status each day to reflect how things are going. This creates accountability. You'll know that people who care about you reaching your goal are watching, and you may be more likely to push yourself to meet your goal as a result.
I have one Facebook connection who mainly uses her account to report her progress with marathons. She reports whether she ran on a given day, how far, and how this ties into her goal. She gives dates of upcoming marathons and then reports how she did after the race. She is holding herself publicly accountable while setting a positive example for others. I  personally think this is a great way to use Facebook.
5.) Release Judgment, and Keep Going:
It's doubtful things will go 100% perfectly. There will be days when you don't feel like following through at all.  The good news is, even if you don't feel like it, you can still follow through. Using this opposite action - behaving in a manner opposite to the impulse of not following through, you'll:
  • prove to yourself that you are master of your emotions, not the other way around
  • build character and integrity -- I've had a history of not following through on things because I didn't feel like it. In retrospect, it was often very selfish and self-centered of me. Other times, I felt that I just didn't have the strength. There are plenty of people who wake up every morning and don't feel like following through on something, but they do. I wanted to be among them and have gotten much better at this. I'm no longer "the flake." :)  You can get better, too.

It can take some work to get out of a funk, but it is so worth it when you begin to see things shift and start to feel better. I've started going back to yoga class a couple of times a week and getting out to blog in public places where I am surrounded by other people and can engage in conversations or a smile.  It really is helping a lot.
I hope that you feel encouraged to start breaking out of your funk today. If you'd like some support using the DBT skills daily for a month, you might want to check out my new book Stop Sabotaging: A 31 Day DBT Challenge to Change Your Life.
I look forward to hearing about your goals and progress.
Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Coping With The Pain of Having Your Mental Illness Diagnosis Invalidated

I think that perhaps one of the most painful and frustrating aspects of having a mental illness is when loved ones do not validate our experience.

Many of us have heard things like:

  • It's all in your head.
  • You're imagining it all.
  • It's a made up diagnosis.
  • There's no such thing as [insert your diagnosis] - it's made up by the pharmaceuticals to make money.
  • You're always using your diagnosis as an excuse/crutch.
  • You're just looking for attention.

When I hear such things from people I love about my struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder (and PTSD), I have a few different reactions. Sometimes I just freeze and feel paralyzed and in deep emotional pain. I desperately want to convince them that my pain is real, and I feel terrified that they really believe this. It's heartbreaking!

Sometimes I feel angry. Really? Do you think I choose this for myself? Do you think I enjoy suffering? That this is actually fun for me in some way? Don't you know that one of the possible causes for my developing BPD in the first place was an invalidating environment?!

Sometimes, I feel a combination of all of these.

Why Do Loved Ones Invalidate Our Mental Illness Diagnosis?

The reasons for this will vary from person to person and situation to situation, but some reasons may include:

  • They feel burned out. They see us continue to suffer, and nothing they do seems to help. They feel responsible for not being able to "fix" us or help us feel better, so convincing themselves there's nothing really wrong with us may ease some of their pain and justify any anger they may have about our suffering. They don't know what else to do.
  • They've been taught that mental illness is not real or legitimate. They think that only physical illnesses and diseases are real.
  • They are being verbally or emotionally abusive. Not sure why someone who loves someone with mental illness would engage in this behavior, but it unfortunately does happen.

What Can I Do The Next Time I'm Invalidated?

Take some really deep breaths and engage in some self care and self-soothing right away. Reach out to someone you trust who does validate your experience -- someone who will listen and support you through the hurt you're feeling right now. This can be a friend, relative, therapist, doctor, clergy member, etc.

Next, you may want to share this, An Open Letter From Those Of Us With Borderline Personality Disorder, with them. I wrote the letter a few months ago, and it was my first blog post to go viral. It struck a chord with so many people suffering from BPD and their loved ones. I continue to receive letters from around the world from sufferers and their family, friends, and care providers.

I hope that sharing the letter with your loved one the next time you feel validated will give them a glimpse into the pain you experience, allow them to understand that you are not doing for attention and need their love and support, and relieve them from feeling that they have to be responsible to fix you.

In the meantime, please know that there are people out there who do and will validate your experience, and although it may not seem so at the moment, you are not alone in this.

Thank you for reading.
More soon.

Emotion Regulation Worksheet 1a: Intense Anxiety Episode

One of the reasons that I am able to write so openly and vividly about the experience of the intense emotion of anxiety is because I, too, experience it. Perhaps not as often as in years past, but that doesn't seem to matter in the heat of the moment when it strikes. It feels just as intense and real as ever. A very recognizable group of sensations and thoughts. Can you relate?

This morning, I woke up feeling anxious. We've recently been prompted by our DBT group therapist to pull out and fill out the DBT Emotion Regulation Worksheet 1a when we experience an intense emotion.   Early on in my journey with DBT, these worksheets were a life saver for me. (If you put "Emotion Regulation Worksheet 1a" in the search box at the upper right of my blog, several posts will come up - one of which includes a blank sheet so you can fill one out, too. Click here to go directly to the blank worksheet.) Taking the time to fill this sheet out helped me on many occasions to slow down my experience and prevent myself from behaving in ways that would only cause me more distress by making the situation worse (allowing the sheet to serve two purposes: emotion regulation and distress tolerance.)

It's been months since I've felt the need to fill out one of these sheets. I've had intense episodes but have processed through them without the sheet.  I don't see the choice to use one today as regression. In fact, I think this sheet will be in my toolbox as a resource for many years to come.  I think I just happened to have been  nudged by the reminder that this sheet is the homework for group this week, so it made sense to use it. Plus, it may help some readers if I share here goes.

Note: I fill out these sheets in the heat of the intense emotion, except for the last question on After Effects, which I fill out as I begin to feel calmer. Also, I try to be blatantly honest and real with myself about my experience, sometimes revealing behaviors I've engaged in that evoke shame, which I then need to deal with separately.  I find that the only way to really get anything out of therapy, DBT, doing these worksheets, etc., is to take the risk to be very honest with ourselves about our experiences -- even if uncomfortable emotions come up in response. Then, we just deal with those and further heal, grow, and move forward on our healing journey.

Emotion Name: Anxiety
Intensity (0-100):  78

Prompting Event for my emotion (who, what, when, where) What triggered the emotion?: 
Woke up with some physical pain, nausea, and muscle tension. Received a mean comment online. Hurt feelings of family member with passive aggressive Facebook post rather than reaching out in compassion, for which I feel guilty and like a jerk and hypocrite. MRI scheduled for today.

Vulnerability Factors - What happened before that made me vulnerable to the prompting event?
Anticipation of loneliness/boredom during the day to come. Had neurological exam yesterday (was fine, but anxiety provoking. Dr. asked upsetting, triggering questions.)  Had MRI scheduled for today but was too anxious to go. Weather, though cozy, is gloomy, and driving would likely be dangerous, so I feel stuck isolated at the house.

Interpretation (beliefs, assumptions, appraisals) of the situation:  
This is anxiety or I could be sick. Another annoying anxiety episode. This could ruin my day. This could pass quickly. I know how to get through this.  I shouldn't have to deal with this again!

Face and Body Changes and Sensing(what am I feeling in my face and body?):
Tension in jaw and face. Hands cold. Stomach making noises, having to go to bathroom. Breathing faster. Muscles really tense.

Action Urges - What do I feel like doing? What do I want to say?:
Freaking out: screaming, running, crying.

Body Language - What is my facial expression? posture? gestures?:
Despair face (eyebrows up, frowning, eyes look scared), rubbing belly. Head in hands.

What I said in the situation (be specific):
This sucks. Not again. Enough already. I know what to do.

What I DID in the situation (be specific):
Tweeted. Told sister how I was feeling (on phone). Rescheduled MRI appointment instead of just being a no-show, sat down to do this worksheet. Started planning for self- care, including a guided meditation and muscle tension and relaxation exercise. Took Tylenol for pain. Rescheduled MRI appointment instead of just doing a no-show.

What AFTER EFFECTS does the emotion have on me (my state of mind, other emotions, behavior, thoughts, memory, body, etc.)?:
So far I've noticed tension. A little bit of sadness. Thinking more clearly about what footwork I need to do to get out of the house more (i.e. part-time job, gym).

Here's the actual sheet I filled out: 

Was this helpful to you in any way? Might you fill out this sheet the next time you are feeling an intense emotion and bring it to DBT group/share it with your therapist?

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.


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