Forgiving our Abusers - I'm Just Not Ready

I watched Oprah's Life Class the other night, and the show was about forgiving people who have hurt you so that you can be free. It sounds wonderful, and I have managed to forgive several people in my life that have hurt me, bit when it comes to my parents, the two people in the world that I perceive as having had the responsibility of caring for me and raising me, I have honestly had a very difficult time forgiving.

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I like the idea of letting it go and moving on.  I like the idea of experiencing a sense of freedom and relief within me upon truly forgiving, but I haven't a clue as to how to genuinely and truly forgive.

It's important that we remember, as we learn in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), that ACCEPTING is not the same thing as APPROVING. So, if we forgive people who abused, neglected, or mistreated us, we are accepting that these things happened and that they are in the past. We are choosing to leave it behind and move on. We are NOT saying that the person/people have been given a free pass or that what they did is now acceptable or excusable or okay in our eyes. It just means we are accepting reality. Someone on the show said that by forgiving, we are no longer allowing the abuser to take away joy in our present and future moments.

I just don't seem to have it within me to forgive. This saddens me.  Maybe I'm just not ready.

It's been quite a while since I was a child, but I still - almost daily - deal with the repercussions and scars of my parents' behavior toward me.  I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in addition to BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) as a result from the abuse and neglect. To this day, I have flashbacks.

My father passed away when I was 16. He apologized to me before he passed away. He is gone now, and it is almost certainly not tormented by the past any longer.  I still carry such anger and hurt as a result of his behaviors toward me when I was a little girl.  I don't know what good it does, as he is gone.

My mother is still living, and when I turned 18 years ago, I moved all the way across the country to be as far away as possible from the memories and drama. She has apologized up and down and written me heartfelt letters of apology. I just still do not trust her with my heart.

A little bit more history: from 13-18 I was in a number of foster homes and group homes.

On Oprah, it was said that the only "good" things that come out of terrible experiences are that we learn a certain lesson about living that we couldn't have learned any other way.

The only good thing I can see, right now, is that living in the group homes changed my life for the better. I learned to begin to love myself and to live with and care about people from all backgrounds. I learned what it felt like to live in a safe environment. I had the opportunity to experience some normality, regular meals, and bonding that I didn't have at home.

I can acknowledge that and feel peace in it, but I am unfortunately not finding it within me to really forgive my parents. Can you relate?  If you have let go/forgiven, please also share.

For comic relief, I love this tweet one of my twitter connections sent me on this topic:

Thank you for reading.
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Using DBT to Help You Identify & Describe What You Feel

I've noticed recently in DBT class (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) that when I feel a sense of overwhelm of emotions, it is often difficult for me to clearly and immediately identify which emotion(s) I am feeling.

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The therapist who leads the group suggested that I utilize my DBT binder and head over to the Emotion Regulation section, Handout 4.  It is a very long section that goes into details about some very specific emotions.

For example, under "Anger" are the following sections:

Ways to Describe Emotions

  • Anger Words (a ton of examples are listed, including: "anger, aggravation, agitation, annoyance, bitterness, grumpiness, and outrage.")
  • Promoting Events for Feeling Anger (examples include: "Having an important goal blocked or prevented, Having an important or pleasurable activity interrupted, postponed, or stopped, and You or someone you care about being attacked or hurt physically or emotionally by others.")
  • Interpretations of Events That Prompt Feelings of Anger (some examples: "Believing you have been treated unfairly, Believing that things 'should' be different, Ridgidly thinking 'I'm right,' Judging the situation as illegitimate, wrong, or unfair.")
  • Biological Changes and Experiences of Anger (some examples: "Muscles tightening, Teeth clamping together/mouth tightening, Hands clenching.")
  • Expressions and Actions of Anger (examples: "Physically attacking the cause of your anger, Verbally attacking the cause of your anger, Making aggressive or threatening gestures, Pounding, throwing things, breaking things, and Walking heavily, stomping, and slamming doors.")
  • Aftereffects of Anger (examples: "Narrowing of attention, Attending only to the situation making you angry, Ruminating about the situation making you angry and not being able to think of anything else.")
  • Typical Secondary Emotions of Anger (examples: "Intense shame or fear.")
(This information was sourced from my DBT binder, and the citation at the bottom of each page is Skills Manual for Disordered Emotion Regulation by Marsha Linehan (c) in press Guilford.)

This handout, comprised of about 20 pages, covers an array of emotions.  I am finding it really helpful for identifying exactly what I am feeling at any given time.  If I don't know the word for the emotion, I can look at prompting events, interpretations, biological signs, expressions and actions, aftereffects, and secondary emotions, and I am usually surprised to find out that what I am feeling lines up with one or more category of a very specific emotion.  Sometimes, when I am feeling more than one emotion at a time, I have to do the process again to figure out what other emotions are also present.

I appreciate having this tool, because prior to it, I would feel quite odd when I could not put into words or understand what I was feeling.  This would lead to frustration and feed into the idea that I am not in control mentally.

Now that I have it, it actually makes me feel less stressed and like I have a stronger connection to other people. Why? If the contents of a certain emotion handout precisely describe what I am thinking and experiencing, then I realize that my reaction is very human. It is what pretty much every other human being experiences in similar situations.

While I may experience my emotions more intensely than someone who is not diagnosed with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), I can learn to identify, understand, and moderate my emotions  -- all steps on the road of progress.

Thank you for reading.
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Songs to Boost Your Mood (Opposite Action & Self-Soothe, DBT)

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It's amazing what a difference a day can make.  It's also amazing how one song can either match or change your current mood.  In DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), one of the skills we are encouraged to use when we wish to change how we are feeling is called "Opposite Action." I like to use music to invoke an opposite action when I am feeling sad, insecure, lonely, or depressed.

I've gathered a few songs that I find helpful.  It helps if the tempo is upbeat, but as you'll see with most of my choices, this isn't the case. It's the lyrics that really help. They speak to the common experiences and doubts that we all share, whether we have Borderline Personality Disorder or not.

Check them out if you'd like, and if you have certain songs that help you out of a funk or create a preferred emotion when you are down, please share what they are in the comments area.  I'll put together a list, and your input can help other people.


"The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World

Download "The Middle" MP3

"Hold On" by Wilson Phillips

Download "Hold On" MP3

"Amazing" by Aerosmith

Download "Amazing" MP3

"Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M.

Download "Everybody Hurts" MP3

An Off Day: Using DBT Skills When You Feel Weird

Today pretty much felt "off" from the get go.  I kept finding myself staring into space, feeling disconnected, and with a flat affect (no expression on my face).  I wasn't thinking about anything in particular. It was such a peculiar state and feeling.

When I got to work, I noticed the feeling manifest itself in the form of insecurity.  My work fluctuates from being very busy to having hardly anything to do. Today was a slow day, and one these days I tend to get anxious. I want to "look busy" in case my boss or co-worker walks through my work area or flat out asks what I am doing.

I decided that perhaps I should be proactive and let some staff members know that I am available for busy work when my work load is light.  I did so, and when I didn't receive the thankful reaction and offers of work that I hoped for, I felt awkward and insecure.  I wished I hadn't volunteered.  I immediately and intensely worried that they would think I had nothing to do, ever. I worried that they would think I was useless and disposable.  I noticed that this was black or white, all or nothing thinking, and most people don't think this way.  They probably were not thinking that....but I worried that they might be.

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My stomach felt a bit upset - perhaps a mix of something physical along with the anxiety that I was experiencing.  I took care of myself by making sure that I ate (even though I didn't feel like it) and drank water.  I treated myself to a couple of pieces of hard butterscotch candy to improve the moment and self-soothe.

I also tweeted some thoughts I had that I was using to regain my Wise Mind:

My Twitter is HealingFromBPD

I left work early and headed home.  I didn't feel like doing any of my errands, but I chose to do two of them. The others were not time sensitive and could wait until tomorrow. 

When I got home, all I wanted to do was pull the covers back on the bed and lay down.  It's not as if anything catastrophic would happen if I had done that, but I noticed that doing so would give in to the feelings I was experiencing that I did not want to experience: sadness and fear which cause us to want to withdraw or hide. 

The best option for me was opposite action.  I decided that feeling sad and fearful is not truly justified today.  Nothing was happening that seriously threatened my health, well-being, or safety.  I was just having some insecure moments, and that's very human.  I can deal with that and remind myself that this too shall pass. This day will pass as well, and there will be a new one tomorrow.

I'm about to focus on making dinner, playing with my cats, spending time with my boyfriend, and watching some good TV (funny shows for opposite action) - all great distractions as well as pleasant life activities.  

Just because we have an "off" day doesn't mean that we are nuts or that all is lost.  It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with us.  It's how we react to such a moody, off day that differentiates whether we will grow in our emotional healing or end up in crisis mode.  I choose to grow.

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

I've bolded the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills) that I used today to get through.

DBT Pivotal Moment - Radical Acceptance

A pivotal moment in my recovery occurred about a year ago during a Distress Tolerance (a module of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, also known as "DBT" group.)

Each person in the group was talking about ways that they had been victimized and were becoming emotional about past traumas - most of them abuse that they endured as children.  I related and became emotional too.

One of the group members said, "I am SICK of feeling this way. It is SO UNFAIR that I was hurt as a child, and now I have to suffer for the rest of my life! They took away my childhood!"

At first, I was angry and sad. I could relate. It really is messed up. And, there is no way to go back in time and reclaim our childhood - that's true.  I got angry at my abusers. I got sad for the loss many years of my childhood - experiences that no child should ever endure.

But, then, I focused in on her comment that he now had to suffer for "the rest of her life."  I think I had been living with that story as well.  I would replay tapes in my mind of the suffering I endured and then walk around living my life in victim mode, expecting to always feel terrible and to never be able to quite feel or function right because of the pain of the past. I believed it would hold me back forever and be my excuse for not succeeding at things or achieving my dreams.

I raised my hand and offered, "We don't have to suffer for the rest of our lives. We've already been victimized. I refuse to further abuse or victimize myself, and I hope you will, too.  My childhood is gone, yes. I, too, am so upset by this -- but I REFUSE to let anyone take away my happiness now or in the future."

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This was a pivotal moment for me.  As children, we have very little control over how we are treated, and these messages go deep and train us on how others may treat us as adults and even how we will treat ourselves.  The good news? As adults, we have the opportunity to CHANGE.

We have the opportunity to learn to love ourselves, to learn skills that help us manage and tolerate difficult emotions, and we can re-train ourselves to accept nothing less than being treated well - by others and ourselves.

We can learn to radically ACCEPT that painful things have happened and that those things are in the past. Remember that Accepting is NOT the same as Approving. Of course we wouldn't approve that horrible things have happened to us in the past, but we must accept reality in order to move on.  Radical Acceptance is an important and challenging skill and decision.

DBT has been an important part of my journey and will continue to be. I'm so grateful that it exists.

Thank you for reading. 
More Soon.

Push My Buttons Experiment

Today at work, I noticed that DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is really helping me "Create a Life Worth Living," which is the motto of the program created by Dr. Marsha Linehan. My day started out beautifully. It was unseasonably warm outside, I was working on fun projects, and despite it being "that time of the month," I felt good.

There were several instances at work later in the day where, even in the recent past, I would have likely reacted over-emotionally and caused myself and others unneeded distress.   I used DBT skills today in a new way to intervene. I call it my "Push My Buttons" experiment. I allowed myself to feel the discomfort that criticism brought up without losing myself in the emotion and taking the situation personally.

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My boss asked me to work on something with him.  He said he would then give it to a manager to ask his opinion. The manager ended up delegating the review of my work to one of his employees - a person with whom I've had conflicts in the past. He has difficulty with controlling his emotions and has yelled and even thrown things in the office. This person, I'll call him Jack, got a hold of my papers and marked them up tremendously with criticism and changes.

In the past, when he has done things like this, I have become highly emotional and reactive due to taking his actions personally and have sent off attacking emails to him while copying my boss.  I've learned that doing this makes me feel worse. I lose self-respect, come off as unprofessional to others, and it further strains the relationship with this person that I have to see several days a week.

This time, I took a deep breath and shook my head. Classic Jake. His boss then told me that Jake's mother was in the hospital today getting an operation and he was "losing it" and likely took it out on my work.   I actually felt bad for him and considered that he may have been acting on his emotions. I called upon my compassion. To any anger that did arise, I used the DBT skill of trying to just be a little bit kind. I simply said, "That's got to be rough."

His boss walked out of the room, and I looked over the "corrections." There were some good suggestions, but mostly nit-picky things that weren't all that important. I decided to not take it personally. I told my boss what happened, and he reassured me that the employee shouldn't have even been involved with those papers and not to worry.

In this instance, and in another today, this thought went through my mind as I took a deep breath: "Is it more important to me to be right or to have peace right now?"  By doing this, I was able to LET IT GO.

In a Summary of 15 Styles of Distorted Thinking in my DBT binder, I found a listing that I could apply this to. (Sorry, no source is listed on this page.):

"Being Right: You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable, and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness."

It goes on to say that "active listening" is the key to overcoming the need to always be right.  So, I just listened, nodded, and appreciated the pieces of information that I could effectively use to improve things and myself. The section goes on to suggest, "Focus on what you can learn from the other person's opinion."

Instead of making it all about me and my sometimes inability to tolerate making mistakes or not getting things perfect, I let it go.

The need to constantly be right means you are exerting energy to continuously prove that you are not wrong -- that you couldn't have possibly made a mistake....that you are perfect and have no room for improvement.

That was my old way of thinking. The new me chooses Peace.

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

Jealousy: Emotion Regulation Handout 4 (DBT)

Today I experienced an emotion that many of us would be embarrassed and hesitant to admit: jealousy. At first I didn't even recognize that this was the emotion I was so intensely experiencing. I sensed fear. I sensed anger. I felt a mix of so many different things.

I decided to pull out my DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) binder and turned to the Emotion Regulation Handout 4.  Upon looking through the different emotions, it became very evident to me that what I was experiencing was certainly jealousy.

Here are the handout pages for Jealousy from Skill Manual for Disordered Emotion Regulation by Marsha Linehan:

The new girl at work decided that it would be nice to celebrate one of our co-worker's birthdays. In all the years I've worked at my job, we've never celebrated birthdays because not everyone was comfortable with it. Yet, somehow, I'll call her "Liz," managed to convince everyone to gather in her office area. She brought in homemade cupcakes and some of the other employees brought in a variety of foods and drinks. When she had told me about her plan yesterday, she only mentioned the cupcakes. I had no idea that the event would be more elaborate and hadn't brought anything.

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People seemed to be enjoying themselves and the food.  She was in the spotlight - laughing, talking with people of all levels of the organization with confidence and sass.  She was being the perfect hostess.  I felt uncomfortable, irritated, and awkward.  I wasn't as witty as her. I am not willing to make flirtatious and borderline racy jokes at work since we are the only two females on an all male staff. But she was. People flocked to her.  

I quietly left the room and returned to my desk on the verge of tears.  I was afraid and angry, but I didn't quite know why. The truth is: I was jealous.

According to the DBT worksheets, one of the "Prompting Events for Feeling Jealous" is:
"Someone is more attractive, outgoing, or self-confident than you."

I definitely perceived her as more outgoing and self-confident than me. Up until her arrival, I was the shining star.  I was the social butterfly in the workplace who made people smile, and I often engaged in conversations with different staff members.

My diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder complicated matters, because I realize that when I evaluated her to be outgoing and saw how people liked and responded to her - when I saw her working the room and being the social butterfly, my very identity felt threatened. It's almost as if my mind thought, for a moment, "OK, now Liz is the social butterfly, so who I am I? I am now nothing." 

My mind, for a moment, couldn't reconcile that just because she is outgoing, self-confident, and fun to be around, that I could also still possess those qualities and be an important person to my team.

Once I realize I was jealous, it helped. I decided to use one of the opposite action skills that I learned for dealing with anger: If you can, just be a little bit kind.

I took a deep breath and went into her office and told her that it was very nice of her to put together the party.  I told her that it was nice that she got everyone in one room talking and having a good time and that it was thoughtful that she made cupcakes. I wasn't being phony - because underneath all of the garbage and the triggers and the reasons why I responded the way I did - I really did think it was nice that she did all of those things. She didn't mean any harm and was just being a positive, upbeat person. I had more respect for myself after having done this.

By the end of my conversation with her, I was back to being my own positive, upbeat person, too.

I hope this was helpful.
Thank you for reading.
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How I Used Wise Mind in Response To a Major Trigger

In DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) during the Mindfulness Module, we often talk about Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind. Where they intersect is referred to as "Wise Mind."

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I needed to use the skill of coming into Wise Mind this past weekend and over the past few days. It's been a real help in preventing me from going into a crisis.

For those of you who know a bit of my own personal story and my challenges as a person living with and healing from Borderline Personality Disorder, you may be familiar with my dehydration trigger. In a nutshell, I still have the lingering effects of PTSD due to a literal life and death situation that I experienced as a child, during which I became dehydrated. Since then, I have self-admitted myself to the emergency room a number of times, reliving out the experience to a certain extent. June 11th of this year will be my one year anniversary of not taking that road. It's been a challenge!

I have been triggered a few times since Saturday.  The first incident was on Saturday afternoon. I agreed to go on a long, brisk walk with my boyfriend.  The farthest I've walked in recent times has been about 6 miles, but on Saturday, even though I wasn't sure if I had the stamina, I agreed to walk 8 miles.

Although I was sore and my feet hurt a bit, overall, I did well. The weather was a bit cool, so it wasn't uncomfortable weather-wise.  When we got to the 4 mile point, I saw a man and woman walking past us, and they had water bottles. All at once, I felt anxious.  Here we were on an 8 mile walk, and we hadn't brought any water.  My boyfriend assured me that under the weather conditions, we would be fine.  Even though at the 4 mile mark there was a small snack stand where I could have purchased a bottle of water at that point, I decided that I felt well, the weather was cool, and I could make it back to the car and have water then.

I was fine, but then I went into some OCD habits once I got home. I kept monitoring how frequently I urinated. I noticed if the volume seemed to be less. I looked back to see the color to see if it was too dark.  I was worried about dehydration.

When I freaked out and considered going to the emergency room, I pushed myself to go into wise mind by thinking rational thoughts. I reminded myself that I was ok.  I was drinking fluids, and my body was restoring itself. It would just take a few hours to catch up on fluids. Sure enough, this was the case. Crisis averted!

This morning, still a little bit emotionally shaky, news of the Boston Marathon was on the radio.  The newscasters were talking about how the weather would be unseasonably hot -- in the 80s...and how inexperienced runners were being encouraged to sit out the race and go for it next year. Their concern? Dehydration.  When the newscaster began, "The symptoms of dehydration are..." my heart began to race.  I wanted to turn off the radio, but I used opposite action and allowed myself to be exposed to the information, knowing that I would use Wise Mind afterward.  When the newscaster went on, "And the symptoms of SEVERE dehydration are..." I felt like I might dissociate, but I stood there and grounded myself. I tapped my feet on the floor and said, "I am tapping my foot, and it's 2012. I'm touching the refrigerator door, and it's 2012."  I was able to still listen, and I made it through.

When the topic changed on the radio, I used self-talk again:

The warning was for people running 26.2 miles on an 85 degree day, not for me, who would be sitting at a desk all day eating and drinking at my leisure.  I kind of laughed after that thought. :)

Reasonable Mind is comprised of rational thoughts based on evidence.  When I get into Emotional Mind, which is made up of emotional thoughts, I sometimes can get hysterical.  I am learning that it's important to acknowledge the emotions and then to root myself in the rational thoughts in order to find the safe haven of Wise Mind.

I hope this has helped you in some way.
Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

When Emotions Spiral Out of Control

Today I experienced an intense, extreme emotion.  When I tell you what it is, you may initially wonder why it was a problem.  I pulled out my DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) binder and turned to the Emotion Regulation 4 Handout to help me identify what I was feeling, as I felt overwhelmed and flooded with whatever it was.

The emotion I most identified with was Joy.  A good thing right? Perhaps in moderation and even at a higher intensity if it only lasts a short time...but, for me, the joy turned to a feeling of ecstasy. Still doesn't sound bad, right?  From there it progressed to me feeling very sped up. I was talking faster, thinking faster. Everything around me felt as if it were in slow motion.  I began to then feel irritable, but I couldn't slow myself down.  I began to use whatever skills came to mind to help myself from spiraling. I was scared.

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I sat down and noticed my heart. It was beating very rapidly. I went into Wise Mind and asked myself:

Are you anxious?  No
Have you had any caffeine? No
Have you had any sugar? No

I then turned to my breath. I sat at my desk with my feet on the floor and slowed down my breathing.  I still felt very amped up on the inside, but since I was at work, I did my best to conceal it. I deliberately, though it was difficult and my heart was beating out of my chest, spoke more slowly.  I deliberately focused on others when they spoke to me, and I dived into my work, channeling all of my concentration into my project as best as I could.

The other thing I wanted to do was take a walk, but since it was raining and I had high heeled boots on, this wasn't an I took a few minutes to daydream about how good it would feel to be able to physically release the adrenaline rush I was feeling by moving my body. In retrospect, maybe next time I'll go into the restroom and run in place or do jumping jacks.

I'm starting to wind down now. It's almost dinner time.

I'm looking at my binder, and it seems that there is justification for my joy. I am very excited that my hours have been increased at work.  I have been looking for more structure, and what's better than more structure that brings more pay?

I experienced several of the biological changes that come with feeling joy: "feeling excited, feeling physically energetic/active, feeling like giggling or laughing," but as I became more keyed up, I did not experience some of the other biological changes, such as "feeling at peace, and feeling calm all the way through" (Skills training Manual for Disordered Emotion Regulation by Marsha Linehan).

So, even though joy is generally a positive emotion that I do want to experience, when it began to take flight, and I began to feel out of control, I needed to make an active choice to calm down and regain control. Fortunately, my DBT skills came to mind and helped greatly.

Can you tell which ones I used?
Can you relate to sometimes having your feelings of joy and elation become out of control?

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

Emotion Regulation Worksheet 2 with Personal Example | Pros and Cons

Today in DBT class, we focused on the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) Pro's and Cons exercise as outlined in the top portion of this worksheet:

From Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha Linehan

Lately I have been dissociating when my boyfriend talks about his plans to go and live with family abroad for a few months.  I volunteered to use my situation as an example for the class, anticipating that I would also gain insight and help from the experience. And, I did.

I wanted to stop the dissociation, but dissociation isn't an emotion. It's mentally checking out...feeling's more of an absence of emotion. I had to get to the emotion that has been causing me to dissociate.

After looking through the pages that describe emotions in my DBT binder, I quickly realized that the emotion is Fear.  Some of the "Prompting Events for Feeling Fear" that I identified with were:

  • Being in a similar or the same situation where you have been threatened or gotten hurt in the past, or where painful things have happened
  • Flashbacks
  • Being alone

Once I identified the emotion, it was time to fill out the worksheet.  

Emotion Name: Fear
Intensity (0-100) Before: 90
Prompting Event for my emotion (who, what, when, where): What triggered the emotion?
Discussions with boyfriend about his plans to leave the country for several months.  It triggers in me fear of being left, abandoned, and being alone. I am afraid he will stop loving me. I am afraid he will not come back.

Now let's look at the top two boxes in the 4-box chart at the top of the page.

The top left box are the Pros or "positives" about KEEPING the fear.
By feeling and dealing with the fear, I can work through it and be stronger.  I have the opportunity to ask questions and not assume, and in doing so, I may find that the things I am afraid of are blown out of proportion to reality.  If I face the fear, feel it, and process it, I am facing reality, which is one of the ultimate goals of DBT.

The top right box are the Pros of about CHANGING the fear.
I first had to identify what I would change it to. With a little bit of coaching from the doctor, I realized that my own personal opposite of fear is courage, so my emotion would be "feeling courageous."  If I am able to feel courageous in this situation, I will grow in confidence in my progress in DBT and my ability to continue to heal and get well. I will have more self-respect and be proud of myself.

The lower left box are the Cons or "negatives" of KEEPING the fear.
If I keep the fear, I will live in anxiety and inner turmoil. I will continue to dissociate if I do not conquer the intense emotion that I am feeling, which starts with feeling it and accepting it.

The lower right box are the Cons of  CHANGING the fear.
If I change the fear, I am making an adult, responsible solution. The con of this is that I won't lead others to believe that I need to be taken care of or babied. Past coping skills have included going to the ER and making myself sick so that others would care for me.  I would be giving up those methods (June 11, 2012 will be ONE YEAR that I haven't done this behavior).  The thing is I've been working SO HARD to develop, practice, and implement into my life new, healthy coping skills. I don't want to regress or go back to these behaviors.

Needless to say, this class and this particular worksheet were very helpful to me.  I hope that you gained something by reading my example and that it helps you as well.  Here is a link to the Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha Linehan, the source of the worksheet:

Thank you for reading.

More soon.

Discovering the Real YOU When You Have Borderline Personality Disorder

One of the symptoms that was so strong for me and that led to my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was extreme distress over not knowing who I am. I described myself as a chameleon to my psychiatrist and to the doctors in the hospital program.  I was becoming both aware and tired of how I would change my personality, interests, even my values, depending on who's company I was in.  I wanted to be loved, accepted, to belong.  I had no idea who I was...what I stood for...what my interests and desires were apart from anyone else.  I just wanted to please whoever I was around.

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Discovering who you are when you have Borderline Personality Disorder is definitely a journey.  You become so used to molding and conforming yourself to fit your surroundings that it's difficult at first to determine which, if any, of the activities, interests, and preferences you have that you have been pursuing are really, indeed, your own.

I have decided to make mental notes of moments that I catch glimpses of who I really am, and you may find it interesting to do the same. As an extension of the mental notes, tonight I am going to document 2 things that I believe are the "real me."  These are things that seem to stay constant regardless of who's company I am in or whether I am in crisis or not.  I hope that you may relate in some way.

Here we go:

1.) I don't like to eat meat. I am a vegetarian.
For years I have tried to make myself eat meat because it is convenient for others and most other people eat it. But, hands down, this is true for me: I prefer not to eat meat and have changed my diet so that I do not have to.

2.) Writing is my passion, and it's what I am good at.
For years I would look at successful people and want to be like them.  I would think that the passion they pursued must be the answer, and if I followed it too, I would be successful and happy. Years ago, I began following a makeup artist on YouTube. I loved her vivacious, upbeat personality and thought it was so awesome that she was doing what she loved and had so much passion. I spent hundreds of dollars traveling to Los Angeles to take her classes, spent hours watching "how-to" videos, and practiced on friends and family.  I sucked.  I didn't get that it wasn't makeup artistry that was my answer...or massage therapy...or real estate...or any of the myriad of other things I tried while emulating others...I needed to find what MY passion and talent really was.  I have found that, for me, writing comes naturally. It is a means of expression and my own personal therapy.  It is what I love to do. It is my passion.

I wanted to go beyond 2 items and realized that I have a lot more searching to do.

What about you? What is ONE thing (or more, if you can think of them!) that you know is the REAL you? These are things about you that stay static and pretty much constant regardless of who you are with.

I look forward to your sharing.

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

Half Smiling and Being Half Joyful (DBT)

In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), we have a practice called "half-smile." When you are feeling down, sad, or depressed, you simply make the effort of a half smile.  It's important not to overdo it, so that it's not super fake or phony. Just a gentle, simple, half-smile.

The science behind it is that not only do our emotions cause us to make certain facial expressions, but making facial expressions also causes us to feel emotions.  When we half-smile, we are sending a message to the brain that something has made us happy, and we feel good. The brain acts in turn, and we end up feeling a bit better.

Here are some examples of half smiles. Study them closely before reading on. Try to replicate them.:

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Today at work, I decided to take the "half-smile" a step further.  I used opposite action.

I felt a bit down, and the action behavior that tends to go with that is withdrawing.  I decided to be "half-joyful." I smiled at others. I engaged in conversation even when I didn't really feel like it -- not in a fake was genuine, because in my heart, I do want to connect with others. I want to engage in conversations, be liked, and have something to offer.

Just as half-smiling can feel awkward at first, so did being half-joyful, but, I have to tell you: it worked.  There was something about pushing myself to be kinder, to smile more, and to listen to what others had to say, that helped me to also have a more rewarding and happy day.

There's something to this stuff.

Thank you for reading.
More soon.

PS... I enjoyed this video made my our young peer, Hannah, on her understanding of the Half Smile skill and how it's helped her:

Emotional Sensitivity, Impulsiveness, and BPD

I often tell other people who are suffering with intense, extreme emotions and urges that no matter how intense, extreme, or strong it is, it will pass. Not only will it pass, but you also do NOT have to follow through on any impulse to act during that time.

Often when we are in a heightened state (especially when we are emotionally sensitive), the actions we feel like taking - those immediate fixes to quell the pain and calm our nerves in that moment - end up being things that hurts us - either physically or by sabotaging our relationships and life circumstances.

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I need to take my own advice, and quite often. As person who lives with and is healing from Borderline Personality Disorder, there are many heightened moments that are so difficult to experience and bear.  I've learned in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) that what I am experiencing in these states is called "distress," and unless you are in immediate harm's way or danger, there are Distress Tolerance skills that you can use for "tolerating painful events and emotions when you cannot make things better right away." (Marsha Linehan, 1993, Skills Training Manual). These are considered "Crisis Survival Strategies."

I practiced some today.  I was triggered yesterday after watching a film about Borderline Personality Disorder. The film was well-made by a credible source and had lots of great, accurate information about BPD.  It is ideal for doctors, graduate students, social workers, and other who treat or love a person with the disorder. Some who have BPD may experience comfort watching the film. They get to see people from all walks of life who talk about their struggles and triumphs and doctors talk about research and findings.

For me, I was particularly triggered by one man's story. It really shook me up. I couldn't get his words out of my head, and I kept ruminating. Being that I am also diagnosed with OCD, I recognized a lot of the symptoms showing up (as often happens when I am very stressed or triggered.)

Last night, I kept telling myself that "this too shall pass."  I told myself what I tell others: no matter how intense, extreme, or strong a feeling or emotion it is, it will pass. I don't have to flip out and cause a scene, even though I really, really want to.

I watched some TV, tweeted some, and spent some quality time with my significant other and cats. It all helped, though the anxiety and unsettled upset lingered, and I could still feel it, even on a visceral level.

It wasn't until this morning that I was able to focus on the fact that what that guy was talking about was HIS story - not mine.  I didn't have to take it on, make it about me, or worry that what happened to him would happen to me.  I realized that I needed to do something to take my mind off of it and take care of myself.

I distracted with a drive down to have lunch outside where some birds were chirping. That was nice.  It also served to self-soothe (vision: the birds, hearing: their songs).

I picked up a CD of Whitney Houston and listened to only the songs that make me happy (distracted by changing emotion with music, and self-soothed the hearing sense.)

Now I'm relaxing and writing this post. Emotions and thoughts still lingering, but I'm feeling a lot better. In the past, I wouldn't have been able to tolerate the type of emotions and thoughts I've been experiencing. I would have ended up in the crisis clinic. This is progress.  I hope this helped you in some way.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

A Short Film About Borderline Personality Disorder

Here is a short video (just under an hour) about Borderline Personality Disorder.

Warning, may be triggering for some.

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DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) was founded by Dr. Marsha Linehan, who was formerly hospitalized for Borderline Personality Disorder (well before the diagnosis was commonly used) and who engaged in self-harm behaviors. She, as well as others who have come forth to share their experiences, are featured in this film. I look forward to your thoughts and insights. (I got a lot out of it, but I could have done without the dramatic music. That's just me.)

I Wish I Would Keep My Word

Here is something, like most of my less desirable behaviors, that I am not proud of.  It's something I'm not even entirely motivated to work on, yet it bothers me on some level.

I am not very good at keeping commitments.  For example, my boyfriend and I both agreed - mutually - that he would take on a bit more of the financial burden as I work only part-time, and to make up for it a bit, I would keep the house nice and cook.

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But, sometimes, I "don't feel like it," and I don't keep my end of the bargain.  I hadn't really considered it before today, but I can't tell you how outraged and freaked out I would be if he only paid the utility bill or his share of the rent when he "felt like it." Yet, some part of me thinks it's perfectly okay to keep or not keep commitments based on how I feel.

The "adult who wants to be healthy" part of me frowns on the rebellious and selfish side that shows up and parks her butt on the couch, eating ice cream and watching reality tv while the sink is full and the rugs show tons of cat hair, but more often than not, the latter part wins. (Perhaps she is the teen who wishes she could now have someone take care of her once in a while.)

As I was cleaning up the pans and utensils I used to cook dinner tonight, I did it begrudgingly.  Essentially, I had an attitude. I thought about leaving the big mess and hoping he'd read my mind that I wished he would do the dishes after I had worked so hard on the meal.

But then I remembered the deal. I remembered the commitment.  It flashed me back to a time in college when I was living with a friend who had a young son and an (emotionally and sometimes physically) abusive husband.  The deal was I could sleep on their couch and join them for meals if I helped take care of their son and washed the dishes throughout the day.

I remember not keeping my commitment then, either.  It wan't paranoia - her husband, who didn't like me, especially when I stood up for my friend when he would become abusive - purposefully used numerous glasses, plates, and utensils throughout the day and invited his friends to do the same, telling them that I would do them. (My boyfriend does NOT do this, by the way.)

It didn't matter to my friend when she came home from a long day at school and work why there was a pile of dishes in the sink.  In an attempt to "show him" (her husband), I hurt her by ignoring the commitment that I made.  I was passive aggressive instead of dealing with the issue head on, though I'm sure you can understand some of my hesitation with this particular guy.

It didn't feel good then, and it doesn't feel good now. I'm not beating myself up over it...just noticing.  I also practiced the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skill of Opposite Action.  Even though I felt like not doing the dishes, I did them anyway. And, you know what?  I'm sure I feel a lot better than I would have had I not.

The dish issue, though, is just a snapshot of a larger issue in my life - the difficulty I have around keeping commitments...essentially around keeping my word.  It bothers me that this doesn't mean more to me or that I don't appreciate the consequences as much as I should.

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.


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