How I'm Coping With Sexual Harassment At Work

I've been really frustrated lately.  I am normally able to write very openly about my struggles and triumphs on my journey with Borderline Personality Disorder, but recently I've held back a bit.
 
The reason is complicated, and after giving it careful thought, I have decided that it's okay to open up about about some of the details here, especially because my progress in DBT is evident in the ways that I am coping and dealing with this hugely distressing circumstance.

Essentially, I've been dealing with sexual harassment at work.  My boss is an older man, a scientist who enjoys helping other people and who is very generous.  Unfortunately, he also lacks the ability to stay within healthy and appropriate boundaries with me.

I thought of him as a father-figure type, which made it all the more emotionally brutal when he continued to be inappropriate with me after numerous requests, in person and by email, that he stop.  I can't even express how filthy I felt each time he would say something out of line, leer at me, smirk, or do other graphic gestures while looking at me.  I know this must come from a shame place of past victimization, and I know in my heart that I have done nothing to lead him on or provoke the behavior. It doesn't make it feel any less icky.


I have had nightmares, panic and anxiety attacks, and episodes of dissociation since the last incident that occurred. I actually have not been physically at work since July 20th.  When I explained the situation to my therapist, she was cautious to put me on medical restriction to work offsite so as to not exasperate the PTSD symptoms that were showing up.

So, I've been at home, and for a brief period, because my boss began calling me excessively and triggered me, I was on complete leave and had no contact with the office.

I feel very hurt that his selfish, blatant disregard for my well-being is something that he thinks is okay and that I must now cope with the consequences of reporting his wrongdoings.  I miss my coworkers. I miss my routine...but I just can't imagine being in the presence of someone who violated me in such a way that he did back in July.

After the incident happened, I went in and out of episodes of dissociation until I misappropriated my anger at my boyfriend the next day. It was then that I realized how affected I was by the incident and how I needed to honor myself by standing up and not playing the victim.  I needed to let him know, in detail, how his behaviors affected me, and I needed to take care of myself.  

I did so through an email, and he replied with an email that would make your toes curl. Yes, he continued to communicate with me in an inappropriate manner, even when I confronted him about how upset I was over his violations.  I couldn't believe it.  When I explained all of this to my therapist, she felt that I needed to keep space from my boss for my own emotional safety.  I'm glad she did.


Since I've been away from him, the nightmares have decreased significantly, as have the anxiety and panic attacks; however, I am stressed about other aspects of not being at work.  Someone was hired to cover for me in my absence, and after only 3 weeks on the job, she has been assigned as my boss.  She's not really giving me very much work and has been condescending on a couple of occasions. It's clear to me that this woman hopes to have my job entirely.

The entire company and I have recently participated in an investigation, and the report is due in mid-October. At that time, our attorneys will work out the details of how to proceed.

It's been very difficult for me to wait out this very long process. It's been over two months since I haven't been at work, and it will be at least 2 weeks before the talks will start.  I have to find a way to live day by day, not wishing each day would end so that I'd be closer to that meeting.

Some days I just want to sleep the time away, but I've effectively engaged in Opposite Action - getting up and doing things - and this has helped with my sense of self-worth and overall well-being.  Because I am not really getting the satisfaction of completing anything beyond trivial work assignments that they are providing, I've been Building Mastery through completing other tasks. My laundry room, for example, was a disaster zone for years. It's now looking so tidy and organized, and it's actually a pleasure to be in there! 

I've also been keeping my house very nice, spending more time with my cats, writing more, and cooking from scratch.

Fortunately, the weather continues to be very mild here in Northern California as we step into the month of October.  I've been going for walks and have been able to enjoy the breeze through the windows when I'm working and relaxing.

I have my book coming out on Kindle in just days, and other than the work situation, life is actually good. I have my health.  I also have my DBT skills, and thank goodness for that.  What a difference they make.

I'm actually quite proud of how I am holding it all together while refraining from playing "the victim" and all of the drama that goes along with that role. Even in the midst of a true crisis situation, I am keeping my dignity and self-respect intact while continuing to work on creating a life worth living.  

That feels mighty good.


Thanks for reading.
More soon.

Iyanla Fix My Life: How Family Secrets And Pathology Affect Us (and how to break free)

I love watching talk-style television shows where real people deal with real problems, and I get to witness them heal.  As a person recovering from years of undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder and who has been "doing her work" to heal, I am inspired by watching others doing their own, powerful, inner work.
One such show that showcases this beautifully is Iyanla Vanzant's "Iyanla Fix My Life" on Oprah's OWN network. Oprah describes Iyanla as a woman who is putting the "real" in "reality television."
Last night, I caught up on the most recent episode of the show, featuring a twenty-nine year old man whose mother didn't tell him  (until he was twenty-three) that the man who raised him was not his biological father.

The show is not set up Jerry Springer style. There is no backstage with surprise guests who come out to humiliate you. The show takes place at the family's home, and Iyanla travels to meet them in their own sacred space.

In this case, the focus was on the mom's choice to lie, why she did it, and her facing up to all of the repercussions of her decision to live a lie for 23 years and keep a secret from her son.  Additionally, the focus was on the son, who was devastated and hurt and who blamed, entirely, his mother for the situation. 

The son was livid with his mother for keeping this secret and lying to him for twenty years. The problem is, all of his anger was directed at his mother. He wasn't mad at his biological father (who was 15 at the time his mother became pregnant with him at 17 and who abandoned him), or the man who raised him. This seemed unfair to Iyanla, and she called him on it.  She also encouraged the son to see his mother as she was at the time she made the decision, as opposed to the person he now knows.

Iyanla made him a scrapbook page with a few photos from the time of his birth. One was a photo of his mom at age 17: pregnant, alone, and scared. Iyanla reminded him that his mother was just a child. She felt shame for being pregnant at a young age, and she had no support.   Thinking about his mom in this way did help the son to tap into some compassion for his mother. He was able to get that her intention (though it badly backfired) was that he not be hurt. That's why she allowed the man she met in her 20s to step in and father him.  He got it.  He was still angry though.

When Iyanla talked to the mom, the mom confirmed that she was pregnant, alone, scared, and just a child. She confirmed that she wanted to protect her child because the biological Dad showed no interest in him, and she married a man who loved him enough to step in and be his father. She thought she was acting in the best interest for her son.

What was revealed next was quite eye opening. The mother shared that she had been adopted and was not told this until she was about 23 or 24 years old. Iyanla pointed out the obvious: this was a family pathology. The mother only did what she had learned.   When this was shared with the son, he further understood.

Iyanla spoke about how secrets in a family lead to pathology that repeats itself until someone is brave enough to break the cycle and tell the truth.  This family clearly still needed a lot of continued healing at the end of this show. I can't imagine that it's realistic to expect a quarter of a century of pain to be wrapped up in one show's time.  But, I believe that I (and millions of others who tuned in) witnessed the beginning of some major healing in this family.

Here's what happened:
(Click here if video is not displaying.)

The Chavez Family Reunites
The day has come. After not speaking for five months following the revelation of a painful family secret, Dallas radio personality Jose Chavez is reuniting for the first time with his mother, sister and the man who raised him. Watch the emotional scene unfold and the healing begin.

It made me hopeful that further healing is possible in my family and in yours.  Stepping up and admitting  where we've fallen short, lied, or kept secrets is not an easy thing to do. It makes us very vulnerable, and we don't really know how we will be received or if we will be rejected. I have learned from this and other similar shows that it's a risk worth taking if I desire true healing.
This road to a Life Worth Living is filled with opportunities to break cycles and tell the truth. As Iyanla says, "Let's call a thing 'a thing,' people!"

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Forgiveness and Radical Acceptance: Letting go of the hope that the past can be any different


Iyanla Vanzant, one of my favorite life coaches and teachers on the planet, has explained that forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be any different than it is.

I remember when I first heard her say this on Oprah's Lifeclass and how heavy and real it felt. It came into my consciousness today when I noticed myself struggling with the dialectic of wanting to harshly judge a relative at the same time that I wanted to extend compassion to her.

I realized that Iyanla's words -- letting go of the HOPE -- is exactly what I needed to do. At least in this case. I identified with the nostalgic memories of being a child and then the wishing that many aspects of that experience could be changed: I wished I had a more validating home environment. I wish my parents loved each other and that my father was not abusive.  I wished my mother didn't turn to alcoholism.  The list goes on.  By giving up the HOPE that these things can be any different than they are, that they are deep in my past, already done, never to be revisited again, I free myself.

I also free those people who I have considered offenders. I don't approve of what they did, but I accept that they also cannot go back and right their wrongs. They can't go back in the many ways that they wish they could re-do parts of their lives. And neither can their parents. Or their parents.  Acknowledging this helps me to tap into compassion.

This experience has also helped me to look at the fact that I have done things in my life that others may be thinking about now and affected by -- and not all in a positive way.  To anyone out there for which this may be true, I am so very sorry. May you receive the healing you need, and may my apology reach your heart if I am not able to apologize to you face-to-face.

Having had Borderline Personality Disorder since I was in my early twenties, undiagnosed and with no idea of how to stop my angry and self-destructive behavior, I didn't have the tools and reason that I do now.  

That's where a lot of people are right now: lacking in tools. The same is true of our past selves and those who were in our lives at that time.

I never thought I'd say this, but in this particular case, when it comes to radically accepting the past, I encourage you to "let go of the hope."


Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Emotion Dysregulation and Borderline Personality Disorder & Emotion Dysregulation

You know those moments where you just literally fall apart and want someone to hold you and tell you everything will be alright?  I experienced that this evening. I curled up tight in a ball on the couch and cried, frustrated over a computer file that didn't save my changes.  I had worked on it for a while was devastated. Not just sad, irritated, or made -- but devastated.  Many of us with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to experience our emotions quite intensely. This is not surprising, considering that one of the main criteria for the disorder is emotional instability or emotion dysregulation.

As I laid on the couch, I desperately wanted my boyfriend to notice and to comfort me. I wanted him to hug me and soothe me, but he didn't.  He said some things that helped calm me, but I got even more upset that he didn't read my body language and tears as needing to me soothed beyond that. 

This made me think.  I noticed how I expected him to provide the soothing and comfort that I've worked so hard to learn how to provide to myself.  I felt needy, and I wanted to be taken care of in that moment.  Was that so wrong?  Of course not, but it also wasn't fair to him, as he was stressing about his own issues and focused on something else at the time. I expected him to read my mind, know my needs, and meet them, instead of being assertive and direct and saying, "I really need a hug." I'm not judging myself for this. Everything has cause. I'm sure my inner child showed up, and she tends to operate from Emotion Mind. 

I kept watching my thoughts. I noticed how I had quickly escalated emotionally, and because I've been practicing DBT, I am more aware of when these shifts take place.  This awareness is a gift. It gives me an opportunity to take some deep breaths, notice what I am thinking and feeling, and to take steps to engage my mind in rational thinking.  My goal in these situations is to get Wise Mind -- the intersection between Emotional and Rational Mind.

As I stood there and decided I should wait until I calmed down before saying anything or doing anything (otherwise, I may say things I regret or act impulsively), I realized that it wasn't just about the file. The file was the icing on the cake, but I'd experienced a disappointment this morning. I also ran some errands, incurred a fee that stressed me out, and didn't eat lunch.  By allowing my blood sugar to get low earlier in the day, I set the stage for feeling physically unwell.  This opened the door to emotional vulnerability.

I calmly told my boyfriend why I was upset and decided to take a break from the computer.  I'd taken quite a break from it, as it was, for the entire weekend.  I kept busy, walked 7.5 miles yesterday, and with the exception of skipping lunch today (purely because I got very busy and didn't make eating a priority -- not because I was deliberately restricting) I'd eaten healthfully, and I rested well. 

Today was different. We never know what a day will bring, and even though I can tell it is sometimes frustrating for my boyfriend to witness me become suddenly and intensely upset about something that most other people would not react to, I know that it is. I explained it to him again.  At least these episodes are not as frequent as they used to be.

I'll be practicing some self-soothing tonight with my fuzzy blanket on the couch, hopefully accompanied by my two cats.  I'll also distract by watching one of my favorite TV shows on Neflix.  I just practiced the PLEASE skills by having a healthy snack when I felt hungry again, and I hope plan to get a good night's sleep.  I have an appointment with my psychiatrist in the afternoon, and I look forward to that.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

P.S. With the recent incident of being violated at work, Tori Amos' songs (she was one of my favorites in high school) have begun to serve as self-soothing. Tori writes about the many ways that she was sexually violated as a child and young woman and does so in a powerful, artistic, and beautiful way. 

Some of her song lyrics may be too graphic for those of us with current, intense triggers, but there are other songs, like this one, "Silent All These Years," where the lyrics are more ambiguous and open to interpretation. I like this because each of us can fill in the blanks and give the song personal meaning.  This song really speaks to me right now.  I need to reclaim my power and not be a victim.  My inner child needs this of me. I need this of me. The imagery of her rolling around in the box also come to mind when I find myself in the fetal position.  I hope you enjoy it.   

(Video link in case it's not displaying: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8tdm_CMZDw)





You can listen to the entire album here.
And you can download it here.

Deconstructing A Day In The Life of a Borderline Woman (Mood Swings & Intense Emotions)


Life Is Unpredictable For Everyone, But This Is an Added Challenge with BPD

With life in general, none of us know what exactly will happen on a given day or how we will feel and respond in situations that divert from our expectations. Unexpected issues happen to everyone, but being emotionally sensitive and having mood swings, which are both common with BPD, serve as additional challenges to coping with life's curve balls. We might be overreactive in our responses and either take extra long to adapt to the change, or our moods may rapidly change.

Although I am, in general, quite stable with two years of DBT under my belt, I still observe these symptoms within myself.

How My Day Started: Dialectical at Daylight

For example, it was difficult to get out of bed this morning. I was so cozy and warm and felt so comforted under the blankets and with my two cats on the bed. I experienced the dialectic of wanting to stay in bed for hours self-soothing and at the same time really wanting to get up to honor a commitment I made. I ultimately made the decision to get out of bed. Even though the other person had to cancel the appointment, I was glad to be up.

Surprising Not a Hair Trigger Situation at Lunch

I worked in the morning from home then went to have a nice lunch with my boyfriend. The lunch was a buffet, and surprisingly, I was not triggered, despite my recent realization that I've gained weight (which majorly upset me) and my subsequent commitment to slowly make healthy choices with the help of DBT "PLEASE" skills.

I noticed and acknowledged that I was able to handle the thoughts that came up at lunch time with Wise Mind. I ate a reasonable amount and didn't obsessively try to engage my significant other in a conversation about my weight-related worries. Perhaps I felt especially balanced in that moment. This happens more and more over the years, and to me, it's a sign of my progress.

I know that at other times, perhaps because of vulnerability factors that weren't there today, I would easily flip, obsess about calories and restrict my diet, or go to the other extreme and eat like a wild beast at the buffet. I've done each in the past at the very same restaurant, but today I was able to find balance - the middle ground that can often be so elusive for us dialectical thinkers.

So, that went well.

"Can You Hear Me Now?" asked the extreme anxiety within me.

Next, more work and then an appointment for my ears. Unfortunately, from time to time, both of my ears require ear washes that need to be administered at the clinic. Since I've been turning up my TV volume incredibly loud and still needing to read lips, I realized I needed to get medical assistance. This is supposed to be a routine, non-scary visit, and for the most part it was, but when the nurse took my temperature and other vital signs, she noted and mentioned to me that my temperature was 99.4.

She referred to this as a "low grade fever" and asked me if I was feeling well or if I had just had anything hot to eat or drink. Honestly? I felt pretty much fine until she mentioned this, and I hadn't had anything to eat or drink in at least an hour.

Temperatures and fevers, as you'll read in some of my earlier posts, are triggers from a time when I was a child and got very ill. Within seconds of her questions her pointing out my body temperature, I began to panic. I told the nurse I hadn't had much to drink yet today (insert trigger number two: fear of dehydration due to same childhood incident). I could feel myself breathing more quickly. My speech got quicker too. I asked the nurse a series of questions in a failed attempt to reassure myself that I'd be OK. She wasn't very reassuring. She wasn't rude either. I hoped that she was just being overly cautious. When she left the room, I immediately began googling "99.4 temperature," and of course got a mix of websites, some with terrifying information that didn't help my mood.

At this point, I noticed that I had gone from feeling really calm and balanced just before the appointment to feeling incredibly anxious, nervous, and desperate for reassurance-- a stark difference indeed.

Feeling Spacey (in a Good Way)

I should mention that on my way to lunch, I had the chance, just for a second, to catch a glimpse of the space shuttle descending (in the opposite direction than shown in this photo.) It felt like serendipity that I got to see this sight, even for a few seconds, and I had an intense, warm, feeling of connection with humanity, in awe of the amazingness of where this craft had been throughout space and that it had just crossed my path in just that moment. Again, those feeling and thoughts were quite different from those experienced at the doctor's office.

Ear Wax is NOT Sexy (Not that I was trying to BE Sexy, of course)

Anyhow, the nurse performed the ear washes and then I worked using the clinic's wifi until about 20 minutes later, when in walks the doctor. And: he's a hunk. I felt my anxiety rise again. I have to talk to a hot doctor about my ear wax? You're kidding, right?

I kept my composure, though anxious, and asked some questions. I could literally FEEL my pupils contracting and expanding. How weird is THAT?

Anyhow, I found it odd that when I expressed concerns to the doctor that the nurse said I had a low grade fever, he proceed to feel my forehead with the backside of his hand (instead of using a thermometer) and told me I'd be fine and that 99.4 isn't even really considered a fever.

Honestly, my heart sunk a bit. I wondered if he had seen my chart with my diagnoses (BPD, Anxiety Disorder, etc.) and was just patronizing me and treating me like a little girl, but of course I said nothing to that effect. I let it go. In that moment, I convinced myself I was fine and walked out into the sunshiny, 74 degree, first day of autumn in Northern California day. Mood shifted to feeling pleasant again almost immediately.

I Can't Come To The Phone Right Now. I'm Dissociating.

A few minutes later, my attorney called, and the call lasted for quite some time. Triggered by having to, once again recall the details of a recent violating and traumatic incident, I felt emotionally drained and snappy. I did my best to stay composed but definitely had moments where I just wanted to hang up the phone. My mind would drift sometimes during the conversation to imagining being in bed and snuggling up with the cats, as was my comfy situation earlier in the day. I wanted to escape. I could hear his words but definitely had moments of dissociation. I didn't want to radically accept that the conversation was necessary, albeit stressful, although I eventually did, and we were able to finish up.

Pop Goes The (Very Expensive) Headlight

When I got home, my boyfriend noticed that one of my headlights had blown. I had purchased a top of the line bulb just months ago, and it was quite pricey. I noticed that I handled this well, as in the past, this very same happening would propel me into a "woe is me" mode and cause me to feel stressed. I decided to remain calm, allowed him to replace it with a spare, and decided that I'll research  the manufacturer's website for the return and warranty information. (Can you say "rational mind"? I was proud of myself for this.)

A Day In The Life...

So, although there was no major crisis, I hope this post serves to show you what a day in the life of this woman with Borderline Personality Disorder looks like.  I don't call it a "typical" day because there's no such thing.  When the variables (circumstances, interactions, moods) are adjusted at all, my day can look radically different.  The hope and difference in my life now is that I understand and apply DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills to my life, and in doing so, I create more stability, self-sabotage less, and have an overall more pleasant daily experience than I did before knowing the skills.

I hope this post encouraged you.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

DBT Golden Nugget: Build Mastery Skill

 


According to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), doing activities that make us feel confident and accomplished, even small tasks, fall under a category of skills called "Build Mastery."

I decided that even though I felt like lying in bed all day, I'd get some tasks accomplished.  I know from the past that practicing this skill does help me to feel better than does giving into the temptation to be a bed dweller.


  • This morning I completed a writing assignment that was difficult, and I honestly expressed my limitations around the assignment.
  • I went to the auto supply store, picked up some windshield wiper fluid, and added it to my car.  This may not sound like a big thing, but I had the option to go to the car repair shop and have them do it for me, and I instead took a moment to figure out where the fluid went and did it on my own.


    wiper fluid
    When I got home, I prepared a yummy dinner for my significant other and I.  He is a carnivore, and I am a vegetarian, so I had to make some parts separately. I got to engage my Rational Mind in this process.  Taking the time to make the meat and meat-free portions was also an act of self-care for me and an act of contributing toward my boyfriend.
cooking to build mastery DBT


  • I washed the dishes
  • I continued my organization project in the laundry room.
  • I started a spreadsheet project that is very detailed and which again required me to engage my Rational Mind
All in all, although I didn’t save the world or cure any diseases, I accomplished the tasks I set out to do, and I feel good about that.  Tonight I can enjoy my TV programs without pestering guilt about sitting or lying around all day doing nothing.  I chose to Build Mastery (while also practicing Opposite Action).

What simple way(s) can you build mastery today?  What activities are on your to-do list that, although you may not feel like it, you can go ahead and do to feel a sense of accomplishment?


Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Debbiesig

Living "As If," and Turning The Mind To Escape An Emotional Crisis (NOW)


When I got on Twitter today, I noticed that many of my #BPDfriends were suffering emotionally.  I feel for them, because I understand the pain firsthand.  

Many are experiencing loneliness. Some are experiencing an intense reaction - a feeling of abandonment - by loved ones who must leave them for a business trip or even to just go on an errand.

Borderline Personality Disorder is complex and difficult.  We can be feeling well, strong, and confident one minute only to feel unbalanced, weak, and insignificant the next.  We must understand that this is all part of the illness.   We may not LIKE it, of course, and we certainly don't APPROVE of it, but ACCEPTING that this is the case is the first step to coping.

If you're suffering today because of BPD related symptoms, I encourage you to begin your healing journey by acknowledging:  

"I accept that while I do not like or approve of what I am experiencing, it is all part of my complicated diagnosis.  Even though it feels like I can't tolerate it, I can.  I may not entirely WANT to, but I can.  Things will get better. I will feel better again.  Emotions are transient. This too, truly, shall pass.  I'm holding on to that promise.  I've seen it more than once. I will be okay."

Next, we get to "live as if" and turn the mind over and over and over to our commitment of acceptance.  When I say "live as if," (the adult version of "Make Believe"), I draw from my own personal experience of using DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), particularly the skill of Opposite Action to behave in ways that elicit the feelings and moods I WANT to feel.  I do the things that I would do if I were feeling well.  Somehow, this affects my mind and helps it to make the shift to feeling better. This is an effective way to feel better, and it can work for you too.

For example, if I'm feeling depressed and lonely, instead of listening to heart wrenching love ballads, I'll instead turn on upbeat, encouraging music. I may turn it up loudly and sing along if I'm driving. If I'm at home, I may get up and dance.  I don't care how silly it is. I don't care how ridiculous I initially feel or about the thoughts that come up of "why bother?".  

All I care about when I'm feeling this way is practicing skills that are proven to help me feel better, and DBT skills do just this.

I also self-soothe.  Often when we are feeling upset, sad, depressed, anxious, or angry, the LAST thing we feel like doing is treating ourselves well -- and that's exactly why we must.  Swaddle up in a blanket with your pet.  Turn on some good TV or a movie while you nibble on your favorite snack.  Get outside and feel the sun on your skin.  Go to a local coffee shop with your tablet or phone and tweet or surf the web from there, around other people.  Fight the isolation. Live as if you are already in that space you wish to be in, and soon, you very likely will be.

Keep turning your mind.  It will naturally turn back to the more familiar negative feelings. Choose to acknowledge and accept that they are coming up, but consciously choose to live as if.   

How can you Live as If today?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Creating a Life Worth Living - What does it mean to YOU?



In her video series, From Chaos to Freedom, Dr. Marsha Linehan tells us that 
life is worth living even when we are experiencing great pain.  

She goes on to say that we must BUILD that life worth living.  No one is going to do that for us, and in reality, they are not capable of doing so no matter how hard they may try.  Those of us who have experienced depression or suicidal ideation can attest to this.

In my own personal experience as someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, I spent many years looking outside of myself to try to create my own inner happiness. I thought the right spouse or partner would complete me and that this alone would make my life worth living. I've learned that no other person can take on that responsibility. It's not fair to expect it of them.  This process must be an inside job, and we can start small: one tiny step at a time.

To begin with, each day we can do things that lift us up, make us smile, and make us feel well.  It can be something as small as sitting out in the sun for a few minutes each day to feel it's warmth on your face, snuggling up with your pet, or soaking in a warm, foamy bubble bath to melt away the tension of the day. 

Taking the time to take care of ourselves and pamper our bodies and spirits are big steps toward building a life worth living.  We may have neglected self-care for so long that we misinterpret self-care as self-indulgence or something that we are not worthy of experiencing. When we take care of ourselves anyway, despite these thoughts, it becomes easier and easier to do so.

One thing that makes me feel good is exploring San Francisco. I feel glad to be alive when I am out and about seeing old things with new eyes. And, even with all of the years I've lived out in California, there are still so many new things to see, even in just this one city.

My significant other and I went to North Beach today which is an Italian neighborhood in SF.  We ordered some delicious food to take home for dinner and walked around the lively streets.  Even though I've seen these sights so many times before, I saw new beauty and decided to capture it with my camera to share with you.

Being around others, feeling like I am part of a community, and taking in beautiful visuals are part of my process around building a life worth living.  I practiced all of these today.


Here is a view of the Transamerica Pyramid Center from one of the steep streets in North Beach.


Here's a view from a street perpendicular.



I took a picture of this home because I felt so soothed imagining what it must be like to live in there. My imagination ran wild.  This image is something I can look at to bring me back to this place in my mind's eye, since I am not in this neighborhood everyday.




I found beauty in something as plain and ordinary as the red brake lights shining from a collection of cars in the distance, so I captured that in this photo. Others may find the little things that make you smile or feel good "odd," but as long as they are meaningful to you, that's all that matters.  You're building YOUR life, not theirs.




So many people were out and about today.  September is one of the most beautiful months for weather in this area.  I was glad to see so many others enjoying this day with me. I took this photo close to Fisherman's Wharf and AT&T Park.




Even though traffic was very, very heavy throughout the city, I was able to enjoy the clear skies and palm trees for miles.  



Days like these hold so many opportunities for feeling connected and well. Does a similar outing sound appealing to you?  If city exploration is not your thing, what is?   What types of things would a fun, pleasant day include for you?

What can you do today to work on building a life worth living by your standards?

Thanks for reading.
More soon.


Avoiding Old, Destructive Coping Habits (Borderline Personality Disorder)


James on Twitter asked for this topic to be covered on my blog/vlog:

Here are my thoughts on the topic.  I would love to hear yours!


(If video is not displaying, click HERE.) 
Thank you for reading and watching.
More Soon.

Coping With An Emotional Crisis Involving Multiple Diagnoses (BPD, OCD, PTSD) - There is HOPE!


Last night, I found myself struggling with the thought: "To post or not to post? That is the question."  

I have been in the midst of an emotional crisis - not a huge one, but a crisis nonetheless.  Questions that went through my mind: "Do I share this experience with my readers? Will it make them lose hope in getting well? What will they think of me and my journey?"

As I've done consistently in the past, I realized that it's a disservice to you, on your healing journey, for me NOT to share the struggles and the challenges. As I say in my bio on the About Me page of this blog:

"I am in the process of healing.  I don't claim to be all well. I have my days where I backslide on a large scale, and I have days where I show a lot of progress.  As time goes on, I seem to be more aware and insightful, as I hope you will see in my writing. But, we have to remember, it is all a journey, and we each have a voice worthy of being heard."

I realized that sharing these times with you may actually serve to give you MORE hope and a realistic expectation around what it looks like, at least for my journey, to create a life worth living and to manage Borderline Personality Disorder. I am in a constant process of healing.  I don't claim to be healed.  What I do claim is that, while I continue to, from time to time, experience emotional crises despite the ongoing intensive work in DBT (Dialectial Behavior Therapy), my REACTION and my ability to respond in ways that are helpful to my ongoing recovery and wellness have changed -- for the better.  This is where the hope is.
All we can do is our best to manage our symptoms and consistently work toward building that life that we want to have.  There will be bumps in the road. This is true for everyone -- even those with no mental health issues.  We have the added challenge of dealing with emotions that sometimes get the better of us - intense emotions that sometimes change rapidly. But, despite all of this, we can enjoy our lives.  

My motto the past few days has been: "Life is good, it's just difficult RIGHT NOW."  

*TRIGGER WARNING - Scroll down to skip if you wish *

This is quite different from the dialectical (all-or-nothing/black-or-white) thinking that I experienced at the onset of my distress, which was "Life is either worth living or it's not." That thought frightened me and set me off into a spiral of obsessive thinking that developed into this recent crisis.

I had very scary, intrusive thoughts around existential questions ("What is the point of life? Why do we go on when there's suffering? Why do people prevent others from committing suicide? Why do they care?)  My DBT therapist helped me make light of this, saying, "That's when you say, I'm not a philosopher, so I don't have to think about these things. I need to focus on what's REALLY going on."

But, needless to say, I became quite frightened and concerned about my state of mind. I knew I had no intention of hurting myself. I knew that the thoughts were distressing and that I didn't want them. Because I'd been experiencing other OCD symptoms that had been dormant for a long time (checking doors and stove, repeating things), I suspected that this familiar vicious cycle of unwanted thoughts and distressing over these thoughts were more than likely OCD.  This brought some comfort.

I reached out to my therapist, my DBT group therapist, and our clinic's medications nurse. They all agreed with my assessment that the onset of these distressing symptoms are connected to the recent issues regarding work. Recalling and sharing, in details, the way I had been violated at work was a traumatizing in and of itself. 

After speaking with the medications nurse, she checked in with my psychiatrist who recommended that I increase anti-anxiety medication at this time, and she suggested a small dose of either Zyprexa or Risperdol to help manage the obsessive thoughts and for mood stabilization. 

I researched both and was perplexed to find that these medications are normally used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.  Having neither of these, I dug further and found that others have shared that they, too, were on small doses of these meds to manage OCD obsessive thoughts. 

It still frightens me to take any drug classified as an "anti-psychotic." I know that taking it for a reason other than psychosis does not mean that I have psychosis, but I'm still weary.  I did increase the anti-anxiety med last night, which helped me feel calmer, and I admit, it did slow down my thoughts. When I did sense a distressing thought -- I only sensed it, and it had no real power on my mood. That was nice.

I'll see my therapist tomorrow for an individual session and will discuss it further with her. I'm not jumping into anything, though I am not closing my mind to it either, as my priority is to feel and be well.

*END TRIGGER WARNING*

I credit my Wise Mind for coming up with the motto: "Life is good, it's just difficult RIGHT NOW."   I literally felt a sense of relief when this thought came to mind. It led to another soothing thought that has helped before, which is, "This too shall pass."  I'm very glad to say that I have had this experience before. It ALWAYS passes. I always feel better, so therefore, it's easy for me to have hope around this.  If this is your first or second time experiencing something like this, I hope you can gleam some hope from my experience.

What has complicated my situation at this time is that, in addition to having the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, I also have PTSD, OCD, and anxiety.  With the recent upset I experienced on Friday, my nervous system and brain evidently became overwhelmed, and the OCD symptoms that have been dormant for years (but that have begun to creep up slowly over the past month or so) and the PTSD went haywire in my brain, and it was difficult to accept. It was also difficult to sort through the "what's what" of my situation (What part of this is OCD? BPD? PTSD?)

I've decided that the best thing I can do is have compassion for myself and ride this out. It *will* pass.  In the meantime, I've taken these self-care actions:

  • Checked in with therapist about symptoms
  • Checked in with DBT group therapist about same
  • Checked in with medications nurse and psychiatrist about same
  • Increased anxiety meds as prescribed/recommended by psychiatrist
  • Researched and am considering additional medication for mood stabilization and obsessive thoughts (I have questions though, such as: Is this as-needed or a daily thing? Are these addictive? Do the potential benefits outweigh possible side effects? How quickly do they work? Is this just temporary, during this stressful time? What other non-medication solutions are available to me? .... I'll be asking these questions today to medications nurse and then discussing with therapist tomorrow.)
  • Keeping my appointments (2 DBT groups this week and 1 individual session tomorrow.)
  • Self-Soothing:
    • I've been wrapping myself up in my favorite fleece blanket and swaddling on the couch, watching TV shows that make me smile
    • I bought some cherry blossom scented body wash and used some body lotion with the same scent. I also got some new shampoo to have a new sensory experience in the shower.
    • Ate a fudge brownie
    • Lots of encouraging self-talk
  • Being willing to explore ways to feel and be well.

I hope that you are feeling encouraged after reading this post.  No matter what you are going through now...no matter how overwhelming or hopeless it may feel, we CAN push through to make choices that will make our situation better. We can choose to refrain from behaviors that will make our situation worse or sabotage us and the hard work we've been doing.

I have a book coming out next month.  This is a huge accomplishment. I need to focus on that.  I also radically accept that, as I discussed with my DBT group therapist, this particular crisis is probably an old coping mechanism (possibly related to OCD) to distract me from the REAL, intensely difficult situations I am facing right now (trauma related to work and discussions with significant other about his plans to return overseas to be with his parents) and that simply acknowledging this allows me to have more compassion for the fact that, as Dr. Marsha Linehan says: "Everything has cause." It will pass.

I will continue to self-care and will keep you posted on how things are going.

How are YOU doing right now?  What are you doing to take care of yourself?  
Do you have more than one diagnosis, and how has this complicated things for you?  Have you found ways to cope?  I'd love to hear about your experience.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.


Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care and Self-Soothing


Because many (not all) of us with Borderline Personality Disorder were brought up in invalidating environments, the concept of self-care and the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skill of "Self-Soothing" may seem foreign or even self-indulgent. But, once learned and practiced these skills can become a wonderful ways to help you feel better.

BASIC SELF-CARE

Basic self-care includes:

  • Eating balanced meals (not skipping meals, eating mostly healthy foods)
  • Getting enough sleep (trying not to sleep too much and being mindful to get enough rest)
  • Taking medications only as prescribed
  • Avoiding illegal substances
  • Keeping therapy and medical appointments


What else would you add to the above list? It is certainly not comprehensive, but it lists some of the basics that come to mind for me.  I understand that when we feel depressed, discouraged, or otherwise unwell, it can be difficult to maintain even basis self-care, let alone go the extra mile to soothe yourself. But, doing so is worth it. If you're not so sure, there's no harm in giving it a try. You may find that taking the time to soothe yourself makes all the difference in turning around a terrible day or helping you get through uncomfortable emotions.


SELF-SOOTHING


The Self-Soothe DBT Skills involve soothing yourself through the five senses, which are:


  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Touch


I subscribe to My Dialectical Life (MDL), a daily email that includes a DBT skill along with suggestions on how to implement it.  The subscription is $10 USD a month, and I believe it is worth every single penny.  Here's what I received today from MDL.


Image courtesy of Amanda Smith/My Dialectical Life


I often wrap myself up in my favorite fleece blanket on the couch to use the Touch skill in self-soothing. Spending time with my cats, petting them, is also a great way to experience this. This little reminder was a great way to start my day. It also reminded me to check off self-soothing under Distress Tolerance on my Diary Card.


Let's look at the other senses and how we might soothe through them:


  • Vision - look at beautiful artwork in real life, in books, or online
  • Hearing - listen to comforting music
  • Smell - put on your favorite scented lotion, perfume, or use a scented body wash in the shower
  • Taste - have a piece of hard candy or a treat, like a cupcake or cookie


PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE


Some have found it helpful to start a self-soothing kit. You can use a shoe box or some other container that you might like to decorate.  Here's a link to some ideas on creating a Self-Soothing Kit.


Also, here is a video on child development and self-soothing. It can help us to understand why this skill  is important and how to help yourself (or a child) learn to self-soothe:






What would you put in your kit?  How do you like to self-soothe?  Can you identify one way to soothe for each sense?


Thank you for reading.
More Soon.


Don't Give Up - DBT for Distressing Self-Harm Thoughts

It has been a long while since I have had the types of thoughts I'll be writing about today. If you're feeling particularly sensitive around self-harm thoughts or issues, please be advised that this post comes with a trigger warning.

*Trigger Warning Starts*

I felt alarmed today.  I experienced thoughts I haven't had in a couple of years.  The thoughts were around existential questions.  I had seen some recent tweets where people were asking "What's the point if I keep suffering?" and "Why should I go on?"  When I am feeling strong and stable (as I have been for the  most part the past two years), I can scan over these tweets, first feeling compassion for the person suffering and second even replying sometimes, and then I am able to let them go. I noticed that I actually felt triggered by such tweets yesterday and today.

I don't want to avoid Twitter, as it is a large source of support for me, and I offer quite a bit of support to others through it as well, so I need to figure something else out.

I'm keeping in mind that everything has cause.  This means that nothing is completely random. Even if we don't know the reason for something, we can rest assured that something happened before it to cause it. I take comfort in this. It means that my thoughts and feelings and reactions are in response to something. Whether or not I can sort it out as to what the cause is, applying DBT (Dialectical Therapy Skills) can be effective in helping to reduce my resulting suffering and help me from making matters worse.

Instead of completely freaking out over these unwanted, intrusive, and scary thoughts, I am instead looking at them mindfully, with curiosity, and looking through my DBT skills to determine what will be the best course of self-care action. Which skills will I use to cope with the distress of these thoughts?

In just asking these questions, I became aware that I do not WANT to have self-harm or suicidal thoughts, and this is a good sign.  If the thoughts felt good or I wanted to pursue them, I'd be in the type of crisis that would require professional intervention. I know that. I've been there before and have needed to seek that help. I am confident in my ability to discern between that type of feeling and feeling distressed because I'm having unwanted, distressing thoughts.

In addition to my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, I also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and the intrusive thoughts feel like they are coming more from that place than BPD (where I would actually think about or consider acting on the thoughts), however, due to the complexities of the mingled diagnoses, I believe that DBT will be more effective than CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) for these particular thoughts. I could be wrong. If they continue, I'll discuss it with my therapist at my appointment on Thursday.

I think I can identify the cause in this case.  Yesterday, I was interviewed for an investigation from 9:45 in the morning until 3:00 pm with just a half an hour break.  It turns out that we didn't have enough time to finish the interview, so I have to go back on Tuesday morning to complete it.

The topic was difficult.  Someone had violated me in very inappropriate ways, and it triggered wounds from the past.  I had to retell what happened, in details, and I became very emotional during those times. I managed to remain strong and calm throughout the other segments. 


I have been very stressed leading up to yesterday, knowing it was coming.  At 3:00 pm yesterday, when I headed home, I felt overcome with exhaustion. I went home, connected on Twitter, and then fell asleep on the couch.  I was out.

I got up to eat and watch one TV show, but by 9:30 pm, I could barely keep my eyes open. I decided not to fight it and that resting was in my best interest. So, I managed to take a hot shower, and then I went to bed.

I slept quite a bit, and when I woke up, I felt depressed and groggy.  I got ready to meet my boyfriend for lunch. We did that, and after that, we went for a walk. It was on this walk that he began to discuss his plans to eventually move back overseas.  This is when I started having the thoughts.

It's making sense.  I've often noted that when I have had suicidal thoughts, it was NOT because I really wanted to die.   I actually wanted to feel ANYTHING other than what I was feeling.  In that moment, overwhelmed with replays of the troubling moments of the investigation yesterday and then hearing these words from my significant other, it became too much.  

Other times, I could have these thoughts pass through like a cloud in the sky and not latch on to them.  I could see people tweeting existential-type questions and not become wrapped up in them or freaked out by them. But, I think I have been under so much stress and pressure that I was emotionally vulnerable to the point where the thoughts became a trigger. 

When I'm not under so much pressure, if a thought like this crosses my mind, I literally think, "Who cares? I'm enjoying life."  So, I told myself this even though it didn't feel completely true.  I liken this to doing the "half smile" exercise, which I also practiced today.

*Trigger Warning Ends*


I felt the sun on my skin, opened my arms up, turned my head up to the sky, and said "Yes!" to life. (This is a Radical Acceptance exercise.) 

I decided that although I am justified in feeling sad, the thoughts that have followed are not in proportion to what I am dealing with,  so I will use Opposite Action skills to cope.  With opposite action, you identify the emotion you want to change. The closest emotion I can come up with is sadness.
According to Skills Training Manual for Disordered Emotion Regulation by Dr. Marsha Linehan, (c) in press Guilford, in order to practice opposite action for sadness, one should:

"1. Get Active: approach, don't avoid.
     I'm writing out what's happening. I told my boyfriend how I'm feeling. I'm taking action
    to cope skillfully.
 2. Do things that make you FEEL COMPETENT and self-confident.
    I did my makeup and hair nicely today. I also helped boyfriend clean laundry room and take
    recyclables to the recycling facility. I am also blogging.

 3. Do the OPPOSITE of other action (or inaction) urges.
    Instead of sleeping all day and focusing on the thoughts, I got out of the house.

ALL-THE WAY Opposite Action for Sadness:
4. Pay attention to the PRESENT MOMENT.
    As I was walking, I told myself, "It's Saturday, September 8th at 1:45 pm..." and I described
    what I saw around me.  I let me self be in the moment, reminding myself, "Just this moment,
     just this breath."
    Be mindful of your environment, each detail as it unfolds.
    Experience new or positive activities you are engaging in.
5. Change POSTURE AND KEEP AN UPBEAT VOICE TONE.
    I was mindful of this and adjusted accordingly, including doing the "Yes to Life" radical
    acceptance exercise.
6. Change BODY CHEMISTRY
     Increase physical movement, e.g. run, jog, walk, or do other active movement exercise"
     I walked for about two miles and helped clean up around the house.
     (Linehan, 56).

I can also use Distress Tolerance skills.  I plan to:
  • Distract with my favorite TV shows
  • Push away emotions - I think it's perfectly fine to put these thoughts "on the shelf," as they serve me no good.
  • Think new thoughts based on experiences (i.e. from funny TV show).
  • Use self-soothing by wrapping up in my favorite blanket on the couch with my cats
  • Listen to upbeat songs that improve the moment, including:
    • Move (about trusting things will get better, and until then, I can dance in the rainstorm.)


    • Don't Give Up (the title says it all)

I have DBT group on Tuesday and Thursday and an individual session with my therapist on Thursday as well.  I have the skills to cope through this distress, and I will.



How might you apply some of these skills when you are feeling this way?




Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

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