May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month!

It's May -- that time of the year when we get the spotlight to spread more hope and encouragement and to smack-down stigmas surrounding Borderline Personality Disorder.

If you write a blog post, do a video, create art, or anything along these lines to celebrate this month and bring awareness, please let me know by posting to my Facebook page. I'd like to compile your efforts and share them in a blog post.

In the meantime, check out this video I did to kick off the month.  In it I respond to your reactions about my recent announcement of my intention to sell the Healing From BPD blog, which I announced yesterday in this post.

As always, your comments are welcomed and encouraged.

Thank you for reading and watching.
More Soon.

Be sure to download and read my books on my process of overcoming the oppressive symptoms of BPD and emerging into my new life in recovery:

Discharge Planning: The Evolution of this Blog (Borderline Personality Disorder)

What does it mean to have Borderline Personality Disorder, and what does it mean to "heal," or do the work to be considered in "recovery"?  These are the questions I've asked myself over the years as I've grown and evolved publicly on the pages of this blog.

A few years ago, my life was a mess.  I was self-destructive, sabotaging, and didn't even know that there were tools available to help me cope with the pain that I carried around and didn't know how to process and handle.

Several years later, after much commitment and hard work, primarily through a treatment called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), I am now in recovery.  I no longer meet the criteria for a BPD diagnosis, and quite frankly, I don't identify as being a person with BPD anymore. There was a time when this was not the case, and it wasn't very long ago, so if that's where you're at now, there is reason for hope.

I recently recorded this video, "Both Sides of The Borderline: My Recovery from BPD," and my books, Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder: My Journey Out of Hell Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Stop Sabotaging: A 31-Day DBT Challenge to Change Your Life continue to be hugely successful around the globe. Why? People want to get well.  It is encouraging to follow someone else's journey and see that recovery is possible.

It's also powerful to see the challenges involved in the process.  It's important to see how much hard work must go in. It's gratifying and instills hope to see it all work.

Am I still emotionally sensitive? Sure.  Do a still meet some of the criteria? Sure.  But, overall, I think that these have more to do with my inborn disposition as well as effects of my cumulative life experiences. I am who I am, and I've grown to know, like, and even (most of the time) love that person. A few years ago, I literally had no idea who I was.  Even simple things like television shows and dietary choices were things that I looked to people outside of myself to determine my own preferences.  I couldn't have imagined that I could come so far as to have strong opinions and be a strict vegetarian.  I can't believe that I no longer sit through television shows and movies that others like because "they must be good," as I had no sense of what interested me. This has been a huge process for me, and it's possible for you, too.

At the beginning of this year, I made an announcement that this blog would be evolving as I am evolving. (Here's that post.)   I've pretty much been following my planned course of action, and I plan to continue to do so.  My personal posts are less frequent, and I have been featuring more guest bloggers (look for one in the next few weeks from a California-based psychiatrist who will be covering the topic of medications for the management of some BPD symptoms).  I've done more vlogs via my YouTube channel. I've also been focusing more on my graduate studies and working on personal issues.  Additional projects include co-starring alongside three other very strong women in a documentary on BPD, an interview that I did with Psychology Today magazine (which will be out in the summer - I'll keep you posted!), an online DBT-group that I co-facilitate with therapist Alicia Paz, and upcoming presentations in the San Francisco Bay Area on how DBT has changed my life.

Part of my evolution and the evolution of this blog is "Discharge Planning."  What do I mean by this?  Have you ever been in the hospital over night or for longer?  When the doctors begin to evaluate you for readiness to leave, in the U.S., you go through a process called "Discharge Planning."   Your clinical staff works with you to determine if you're ready to move on from the hospital and what next steps you should take for your self-care.

I had a phone chat with my psychiatrist this morning, and we talked about how I need a discharge plan from this blog.  I want to continue to bring quality information on BPD and DBT to you to continue to encourage and inspire you on your personal path to wellness, but since I no longer fully identify as being someone with BPD (but as an emotionally sensitive person), I am considering ways to allow myself to grow and move on from the full-time commitment I've been putting into the blog to pursue other things.

I am beginning the process of looking to pass on the torch with this blog by selling it and its rights to a writer or organization that is ready to take over and give the site a new lease on life.  I would expect this person to continue the Healing From BPD mission of creating a caring, safe, respectful community that supports positive personal growth and to maintain a positive, encouraging tone to the information provided here.

Update May 10, 2013: Closed for bidding. Thank you for your interest, and I'll keep you updated on exciting developments here at Healing From BPD! ♥

I can't believe that I am at this point, and I have to tell you -- I feel proud. :)

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

P.S.  Don't forget that May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness month. What will you be doing to celebrate or spread hope and smash stigmas?  The information I shared in this post is a huge part of my commitment to continued self-growth and healing in recovery.

Say "NO" to "Non" and Anti BPD Websites (Borderline Personality Disorder)

Did you know that May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness month?  While it's BPD month all year round here at Healing From BPD, it's important that we join this worldwide movement to bring awareness to this condition and help reduce stigma.

There are somethings we may be doing that are counterproductive to this goal, and they are easily fixable.  Check out this quick video about avoiding websites about "Nons" and other anti BPD content -- not only to help the cause but also for your own personal self-care and emotional well-being.

See this video for more information.

Thanks for reading and watching.
More Soon.

Is Everything We Do Pathological?: How Not Everything You Say, Think, Do, and Feel Means You are "Crazy"

Many of us who have received a mental health diagnosis can relate to over-identifying with what it means to have, for example, Borderline Personality Disorder or to be an emotionally sensitive person.  

A few years ago, when I was diagnosed with BPD, (I no longer meet enough of the criteria to have the diagnosis. You can watch my video about this by clicking here), one of the things that I found most distressing was my experience or sense of a lack of identity.

In part, while very helpful to learn that there was a name for the collective symptoms that I'd been suffering from, and even more importantly that there were effective treatments to support me on my way to wellness, there was also the temptation to become my diagnosis -- a role I've engrossed myself in for years now, especially since this blog has become popular on a global scale.  

I became obsessed with BPD. I read everything I could get my hands on. I watched films that had characters thought to have the diagnosis.  Self-education is a good thing - don't get me wrong. I found out about DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), enrolled, and ultimately found it to be the missing link for my recovery.  I started this blog and now do a number of collaborations with other organizations that are working hard to fight stigma and spread awareness about BPD and DBT.  Lots of great things have come out of learning my diagnosis.

What has also come out of it, though, is often a preoccupation with BPD and mental illness in general.

My DBT Life Coach Teresa Lynne and I discussed this today. When I came off as concerned that I've been experiencing agitation and irritability the past couple of days and that I'd made some seemingly impulsive decisions around my hair, she came right out and asked, "Gosh, is everything we do pathological?" 

I'm not a person who curses often, but after our discussion, it felt incredibly liberating to drop the f-bomb and say, "Yeah, so the f*&# what if I did that? Is it really such a big deal? It doesn't mean there is anything 'wrong' with me."

I paused.  I was driving home today from getting groceries when I realized just how much time I spend self-analyzing and assuming that every one of my thoughts, emotions, and actions is somehow related to mental illness or that these things -- which are very normal, everyday human experiences -- are, in a word, pathological.

We are allowed to have feelings. It is part of the universal, human experience. We are allowed to make mistakes, sometimes be impulsive, and to wish we had done something differently.  I am going to be really mindful the rest of this week of what I tell myself/what thoughts I have during the week.

I am going to be mindful to notice when I  automatically connect my experiences with any mental health diagnosis or with something being "wrong" with me.

Can you relate? Do you find  yourself saying, "This is my BPD" often?
Are you willing to be mindful this week of the thoughts and begin to notice which of your experience are just plain and simple human experiences?

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

Emotional Crisis Plan of Action: A Recovery Tool (DBT)

Sometimes we try to force things to happen, even when out gut tells us that doing so will have unpleasant consequences.  You know the feeling, right? That sensation in the pit of your stomach when you text or call an ex because, in that moment, you're feeling lonely and distressed?

Perhaps you'll get a response that makes you feel good in the moment, only to later regret having initiated a connection again. Alternatively, you may get a response (or no response at all), which leaves you feeling rejected, hurt, and in even more distress than before you reached out.

It is human to seek connection when we are feeling emotionally unwell, unstable, or lonely. Dr. Marsha Linehan compares people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD),who are highly emotionally sensitive, to emotional burn victims.  For that, you should not judge yourself.  When you begin to find, however, that the choices you make around who  you contact are not serving you but rather causing you more emotional pain, it's time to come up with an Emotional Crisis Plan of Action. This is a great tool that you can share with your therapist in your next session.

Also, perhaps your knee-jerk reaction is less about reaching out to exes and more about binging or shopping beyond your means. Whatever the maladaptive behavior is, if you're ready to face, it, I'm proud of you! I saw a funny quote online today that had no author: "By the time I'm ready to figure out what to do, I've already done it."  People who struggle with impulsive behavior can often relate to this. 

One of the keys to change in this area is to slow things down a bit and approach situations more mindfully. I get that it's considerably more easily said than done when you are in the midst of feeling emotionally dysregulated, so it's important to work on this plan when you are feeling relatively well. Pick a day where you might put your mood at 6.5 or above on a scale of 0-10 (with 0 being the most awful you've ever felt and 10 being the best you've ever felt in your life).  Pick a day when you're feeling less emotionally vulnerable.

In your diary, you might set aside a page or two and label it:

Emotional Crisis Plan of Action

Next, answer the following questions, which are based in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) concepts:

1.) When I feel lonely, the behaviors I engage in but wish to avoid because they only cause more problems are: _______________________________________________________________.

2.)  The benefits (pros) I get out of the above behaviors are: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

3.)  The negative effects or consequences (cons) I get out of the above behaviors are: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

4.) My ultimate goal in engaging in the behaviors listed in item #1 is (for example: to feel relief, to feel less anxious, to feel less lonely, to feel wanted): ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

5.)  When I realize that the negatives aren't worth the positives I get out of this behavior, I realize that I can use the following skills to cope more effectively with my distress: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

Recovery is a challenging process that involves a lot of investment and tons of hard work. Every time you make a choice to look at your behaviors and choose your Wise Mind when faced with the temptation to give into behaviors that you'll regret, you get stronger. Every time you choose self-respect (if that is one of your goals) over temporary relief, you get stronger.

What other ways might you cope with loneliness and the impulsive desires to do things you may later regret when feeling emotionally distressed?

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

PS, Although this may sound really strange, holding a piece of ice can actually help when feeling intensely distressed and impulsive. You can read about this method here: DBT Ice Cube.

Discovering Who You Are: Identity Issues and Borderline Personality Disorder

One of the chief complaints of many people with Borderline Personality Disorder (as was the case for me just before being diagnosed), is a huge amount of distress related to not knowing who they are, or experiencing a lack of a sense of identity.

People who suffer from BPD are often compared to chameleons that shape-shift to the situation and company that they are in at a given moment.  More than this being a manipulative strategy, it is far more often an unconscious survival mechanism learned from a very young age.

I write about this in my book Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder: My Journey Out of Hell Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The example that I get into is my father's anger. When I was a young girl, I often had to "read" my father and determine what way to behave in order to please him and be safe around him.  Of course I didn't know I was doing this as a child, but it's clear to me now in retrospect.  This behavior stood with me throughout my adult life until I got deep into my treatment with Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

Throughout the process of self-exploration and skill learning in therapy, I found it helpful to take quizzes, values tests, and surveys that helped me get a better idea of who the authentic me was.  I answered to the best of my ability and based on what my gut  told me -- not what I thought others would want to read if they looked at my survey results.  This can be challenging at first, especially if you are so conditioned to pleasing others and trying to win favor, approval, and acceptance.

Go easy on yourself. Perhaps take the quizzes knowing that you'll immediately shred them afterward. This way, it only matters to YOU what your results are. No one else will see them.  This may help you tap into what YOU honest feel and not what you predict others expect or would prefer of you.

This week in my psychology class, we are taking a number of self-evaluations, and I will share them with you here. They are:

Feel free to share your discoveries if you choose to do any of the tests/surveys. 

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

As a word of caution, no online tests like these can diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease. Always consult a mental health professional.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like to read:

Myth: Never Date a Girl With BPD

We all know that Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) carries with it lots of stigma that causes its sufferers to often feel ashamed and ostracized  A great deal of the work that I do with this website and all over the world involves putting human faces to the diagnosis -- a dx that is so often grossly misunderstood.

That's why you can imagine how saddened and emotionally triggered I was last night when, during my daily perusing of the net for articles on BPD and DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) I came across a blog post with the title, "Never Date a Girl with Borderline Personality Disorder."  (First off - don't Google it to click on it -- you'll only make the search engines think it's a topic we are looking for and possibly give the article a higher ranking -- the opposite of what we want to do with materials like this. The best way to reduce the presence of such materials is to avoid clicking through. It is also probably a landmine of emotional triggers, and ain't nobody got time for that. )

I didn't read beyond the title and formulated a response based on just the title alone.

Before I go on to that, I'll refer anyone who was attracted to this title because they have been hurt by a partner with BPD and consider such people to be "monsters" to read this post: We Are Not Monsters | Borderline Personality Disorder.

People with BPD (especially women, since they are more likely to be diagnosed and open about the disorder) have an enormous amount of stigma attached to their illness. Because of this, they often have feelings of shame, and others truly are afraid of them and their behaviors. The only way this can change is to continue to spread accurate information about the experience of having BPD and to have more of us share our stories in a human, open way. The other important component is that people with BPD (women and men alike) be afforded opportunities for recovery, such as DBT, and that they take advantage of such opportunities.  Through therapy, we can learn how to adapt our behaviors from dysfunctional to highly effective. It takes work, but it is highly possible.

You can watch my video on how I am in recovery from BPD here: Both Sides of the Borderline | My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder.

If you are a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder and are concerned about how this will affect your ability to find and maintain a relationship with a mate, keep in mind - first of all - the issue of boundaries.  The man or woman that you are establishing a connection with will likely be, as is normal in the context of relationship building, revealing increasingly private and deeper information as the relationship progresses.  

I'm not suggesting that you "hide" or "conceal" your diagnosis, as this only plays right into the shame and stigma -- and it's really not an option for advocates me once a potential suitor asks, "So, what do you do?" but sharing a mental health diagnosis early on in any relationship isn't necessarily the best course of action when you are getting to know someone. This is your private business that can be revealed once trust is established and sharing the information becomes relevant to the relationship at hand.

Please remember that although the suffering that comes with having a disorder like BPD can be very intense, your diagnosis is NOT who you are. It is just one PART of who you are. 

And to those who would be concerned to date us: Yes, we have our challenges. We are highly emotionally sensitive, but that often means we are also very passionate and highly empathetic. Just as there are potential "negatives" with the issues we cope with, there is a plethora of positive possibilities as well. Go beyond the diagnosis. Get to know the PERSON. Get to know their heart, their soul, their dreams, and intentions. Support them in receiving the help they need, and then remember what I've pointed out to them: they are more than their diagnosis and the collection of stereotypes that permeate the media about who they are.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

The author wrote this blog post several years ago. She is now in RECOVERY from BPD and thriving as an emotionally sensitive person. She teaches all she learned in her live, weekly, global ONLINE classes. Learn more  and sign up for a class at DBT Path. 

Not All Self-Harm is Physical: A DBT Strategy for Self-Destructive Impulses

I have been very open about my journey and plan to continue to be. We all need to have realistic expectations about recovery, including me.  It's definitely not all smooth sailing. I still meet several of the criteria for BPD, and with those symptoms often comes suffering.  I am still quite an emotionally sensitive person.

It's overall been a great past six months. I had two books come out on Borderline Personality Disorder and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (and they are doing well and helping many people), I started grad school, and my website has been gaining a lot of attention -- especially in light of my recent announcement that I no longer meet the criteria for a diagnosis of BPD. 

Issues which have caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety lately include some changes in my personal life (which I am not yet ready to discuss publicly) and the fact that I've been instructed to wean off of the low dosage (30 mg) of Celexa that has kept depression and OCD symptoms at bay so significantly so that my psychiatrist recently updated the latter diagnosis to be "in remission." (My psychiatrist informed me that some people have heart problems due to Celexa, and when I went for my EKG, it indicated I could be in the trouble zone.)

Unfortunately, during this weaning, it is becoming evident that the low level of SSRI that I have been taking for years had been largely responsible for the obsessive compulsive symptoms that tortured me being in remission.  I am making the switch to Prozac as of next Tuesday, and I look forward to the relief that I anticipate I'll experience once I am up to a therapeutic level.

Obsessions and compulsions have been quite triggering. My emotional vulnerability has increased due to both the toll that this weaning and medication switch is taking on my mind and body, and then there are the personal life issues.

The triggering aspect has come about due to my reduced ability to resist impulsive behaviors that can be damaging to me.  While I have no physical harm impulses, I do have impulses to do things like reach out to people from the past, and even upon receiving dreaded rejection and experiencing feelings of abandonment, I've felt compelled, against my better judgment and that of those around me who care about me, to continue acting on these impulses and compulsions.

These behaviors have led to high feelings of frustration, moments of hopelessness, and utter disappointment in my lack of restraint.  When I am able to address the critical voice within, I am able to, even if briefly, tap into my Wise Mind, and perhaps even more importantly right now, my heart, which holds compassion for myself and others. In doing this, I realize that it there is cause from many angles for why I am feeling this way. 

I am most compassionate for the parts of my brain struggling to maintain the stability I have grown accustomed to while, though ill-guided, it is also driving me to follow through with compulsions that provide temporary relief from anxiety and mental tension (only to, ironically, create more of these.) I also have much compassion for the part of me that wants to feel loved and reassured.

So, what DBT skills can I apply during this difficult time?  It's time for me to come up with a self-care plan, and here it is:

1.) When the impulse arises to contact an "emotionally unsafe" person from the past, I will remember that between the impulse and action is a sacred moment where I have CHOICE. I will treat this like any other self-harm impulse and intervene with Distress Tolerance skills that are meant for crisis intervention. For example, I will run and grab an ice cube, or put a piece of lemon in my mouth, or start walking out of my house and keep walking until the urge subsides. (I've thus far deleted all emails with any mention of this person's name, deleted him from my contacts, and withdrew a Facebook friend request. In my current state, this took strength.) 

2.) I will remember, from a place of compassion, the cause reasons for my current state and tell myself that I am not at my normal level of resilience. I don't want to do things I'll regret because I am more emotionally vulnerable right now. I'll turn to my DBT PLEASE skills, such as making sure I'm getting enough sleep and eating as healthfully as I can. I will also continue to go to yoga, follow medication directions exactly, and start reading The Mood Cure, as recommended by my DBT Life Coach, Teresa Lynne.

3.) I am going to begin to trust Life again and to trust that my heart holds wisdom. Life knows that I want to be loved and cherished, and I'd like to let go of the fear and self-damnation that had been standing in the way of me remembering and truly believing this. I deserve way more that what I have been pursuing, all the while feeling a literal sensation in my gut that I was trying to force something that wasn't supposed to happen in my life right now and that I was heading for trouble if I didn't heed the very visceral warnings I have been receiving.  To build this trust, I will engage not only in self-soothing acts that allow me to love, cherish, and bring honor to myself, but I will also work on my life worth living by visiting the DBT Adult Pleasant Activities sheets, picking some tried and true activities and adding some new ones to my agenda.  Building positive experiences help us to grow and provide mood boosts.

I think this is a good start, and I'll keep you posted.

What skills have helped you when feeling emotionally vulnerable or impulsive? As always, your comments are welcomed and encouraged.

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

The Recipe for Change in Your Life with DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)

Yesterday during the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) group that I attend, one of our newer members asked a veteran member how she was able to shift her mental state from feeling and rejected and angry when her significant other would not walk the dog with her, to appreciating her surroundings and experience with her dog.  The new member shared what many of us experience early on in our treatment: confusion around how to shift and not stay stuck in the negativity that we want to escape.

The short answer is to practice the skills, but I love the analogy that our veteran member gave. She described it as the process you would follow if you want to bake a cake. 

In this example, baking a cake = successfully using the DBT skills.

She said that if you had the recipe for the cake (the DBT Skills), and you just kept saying, "Where the hell is the cake?" you'd realize that you have the recipe in your hands. You need to actually PRACTICE by putting the recipe together and following the steps consistently.

The same is true for watching DBT change our lives. We must actually use the skills. We can try them in small matters to build confidence, or we can take a giant leap and apply them to larger issues. Either way, we will see which skills are effective for us.

How do you determine if they are effective?  Essentially, you see the changes you wish to see in your life. Maybe you're able to hold back from self-destructive and impulsive behaviors more than in the past. Maybe you're better able to tolerate transient, uncomfortable moods and emotions. Keep trying the skills until you find the ones that work for you in your given situation.

The proof will be in the pudding...errr... cake.

It does take time to shift ways of thinking and behaviors that we've been stuck in for years, but it is very possible. It's happening all around you, and if you haven't already noticed it happening in your life, know that with practice, you will.

What is an example of how DBT has started to change your life?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

If you've been looking for a structured way to practice DBT skills, get started with my book, "Stop Sabotaging: A 31-Day DBT Challenge to Change Your Life."

DBT Pushing Away Skill: When is it a GOOD idea to push your thoughts and feelings away?

When is it a good idea to push your feelings and thoughts away? In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) there is actually a skill called "Pushing Away," and it falls under the Distraction Skills. These are considered "Crisis Survival" skills to be used when there is nothing more that you can do to solve a situation and you want to reduce your stress.  Reducing your stress reduces your vulnerability to acting in ways that make the situation worse or cause you more suffering. This skill works even if the situation is not at the crisis level.

When should you use this skill?

Dr. Marsha Linehan recommends the following process for determining whether you should use this skill. It involves answering two questions:

1.) Can I do anything about this right now?
2.) Is it a good time to work on this?

Here's an example. You're up at 2 a.m. stressing about not getting along with your co-workers. You ask yourself the two questions:

1.) Can I do anything about this right now?  Obviously not, no.
2.) Is it a good time to work on this? No, I need to be sleeping or I am going to feel exhausted at work and more vulnerable to the emotional situation.

If you answer no to one or both of the questions, it's a good time to use this skill. You can use it to push away the thoughts and the accompanying feelings.

How to use this skill:

It takes some imagination.  Imagine putting the problem in a box and then placing that box up on a shelf to be dealt with later.  How can this possibly help? Imagery is very powerful when it comes to our mind processes. My DBT therapist explained that this exercise sends a message to the brain that thinking about the problem right now is ineffective, and, in simple terms, it tells the brain to "cut it out."

I use this skill when I begin to ruminate over something over which I have no control and I need to be focusing on something else (or sleeping).  It actually works!

Have you ever used this skill?  What other kind of imagery comes to YOUR mind when you think about consciously and skillfully pushing away feelings or thoughts?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

P.S. Have you seen this post on DBT Games that bring the skills to life?

DBT Games from Dr. Moonshine Bring the Skills To Life (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)

As a person who is in recovery from BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), DBT skills have been the primary element that have helped me to overcome self-sabotaging behaviors and to truly begin to create a life worth living.

I continue to practice the skills on a daily basis and am always in search of creative ways to integrate them into my life, which is why I was very excited when Alicia, the therapist with whom I co-facilitate a weekly online DBT group, led me to D.B.T in Life by Dr. Moonshine.

Dr. Moonshine created a line of games based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills. These games bring the skills to live in new, fun, and creative ways.  There are playing cards, bingo cards, a dice game, a board game, and books.

Dr. Moonshine was kind enough to send me the following products for the purpose of this review:

D.B.T. in Life Board Game
and 2 sets of these:

D.B.T. in Life Playing Cards

Let's take a look at each of these in a bit more detail.

This game is a great way to learn and practice DBT skills with a therapist and client or with a client and loved ones.  It is played in a similar way to a popular real estate game, except you collect DBT Skills instead of properties. The object of the game is to acquire 10 DBT Skill Cards.

You use "Practice Vouchers" instead of money for currency.

The board is filled with skills to acquire.

Also included is a Definitions and Instructions Guide, a Facilitator Manual, and game pieces.



The playing cards are really neat.  You can play lots of "regular" card games with the skills cards, such as D.B.T. versions of Phishing (Go Fish), Solitaire, Charades, and Concentration (requires two decks). 

Each of the skills on the cards are described in detail in the accompanying Definitions and Instructions guide.

I really love these cards. Not only do I think they are fun for playing the card games mentioned above, but I've enjoyed going through them to pick random skills to focus and work on.  I came across this one. It's for a skill called "Turtling" and is listed under the Mindfulness skills in the guide. It is described as:

"Turtling: Take care of myself like a turtle. Retreat inside for safety sometimes, go slow and methodical, protect myself but don't be aggressive, be adaptive in a variety of situations, use my hard outer shell to let other's judgments roll off my back and get myself back in balance persistently." (Dr. Moonshine, DBT in Life Playing Cards Definitions and Instructions)

There were several other skills that I noticed, and I'm excited to become familiar with them.

I'd like to make a video showing the games to supplement this post. 

Please take a moment to let me know: 

  • What would be helpful to see or know about the games? 
  • What do you think of practicing DBT Skills using games?
  • Any questions or comments you may have.

You can comment here or via my Facebook or Twitter

Visit  D.B.T in Life by Dr. Moonshine to learn more about and order the games.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Impulsivity with Texting, Social Media, and Emails (and Suggested DBT Skills)

Yesterday on my Facebook page, we talked about when our emotions get the best of us and we behave impulsively, such as sending texts or emails that we later regret. Here was my original post:

Sometimes our emotions can be so powerful that we feel compelled to make impulsive decisions that we later regret -- like sending an email (or emails) that may not have come from the kindest place and/or should never have been sent at all. 

There are consequences for our actions, and a lot of the time, they show up as the residual emotions that we feel after we've engaged in a behavior that brings up shame or guilt. The more we practice pausing between the impulse and the action, the easier it becomes. With things like email, it is still a challenge for me. 

What are some strategies you use to avoid sabotaging on social media, email or with texting?

Today's quote: "I am thankful the most important
 key in history was invented. It's not the key to your
 house, your car, your boat,your safety deposit box,
 your bike lock or your private community.

 It's the key to order, sanity, and peace of mind.
 The key is 'Delete.'"-- Elayne Boosler
Many of you shared that you have experienced an unsettled feeling when you get the urge to send that message and that you think that if you don't act on the impulse, you'll "never know."  Some of you said that you would keep sending messages even if you received no response, even though you felt ashamed of your choice to engage in this behavior.

I understand this completely, because I've been there, and it is still something that I personally struggle with from time to time. As emotionally sensitive people, the effects of such behaviors can feel devastating, but there is hope.  Even though we may feel out of control in those moments, the truth is, we really are in control. We just need to learn how to slow it down and tap into this, and then we'll be empowered to make new choices that reduce our suffering.

Some things that I've found helpful around this issue:

1.) We can't control others' behaviors -- only our own. We can't make someone respond no matter how desperately we may want to hear back from them, and even if they do respond, we aren't guaranteed that they will reply in a way that satisfies us or makes us feel better.  Also, I read something somewhere yesterday that said, "If the person doesn't dignify you with a response, you need to dignify yourself by discontinuing your attempts to make contact."  I know that this is a lot easier said than done, but if one of your goals is to reduce your feelings of loss of self-respect, it's important to try.

2.) Sometimes we set ourselves up for the very thing we fear the most: rejection.  The problem with emails and texts is that it is SO easy to send that message. There's really nothing (other than learning to pause and quickly get skillful) standing in the way between us and that SEND key.  We can send messages so quickly and easily, just because I can.  I had my "a ha" moment yesterday and tweeted it from my second Twitter account, @DailyDBT:

Although it can be very difficult, indeed, to slow down before sending that message, doing so can be the game changer for us. If you can stop yourself long enough to think about or even WRITE DOWN what the possible consequences will be if you send that message (i.e., I'll feel even more anxious, especially if I don't get a reply...I'll have to cope with shame or disappointment that I didn't hold back....I may annoy or push the other person away...I may feel rejected or abandoned, especially if the person never responds), it can help us to realize the suffering we (and others) stand to endure if we follow through with this behavior and dissuade us from doing it.  

Next, you'll want to get skillful.  In DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), there is a set of skills called Distraction Skills.  These are ideas of things to do to cope with the distress or when in an emotional crisis. 

Here are some Distraction Skill ideas:

  • go wash the dishes or vacuum the house
  • go for a walk
  • study
  • go help a neighbor or loved one with a task
  • watch a good tv show or movie
  • start a Pinterest board of ideas that you can distract with when you need ideas

The idea is that taking time to PAUSE between that impulse and taking any action -- your difficult choice to step away from that electronic device and do something else to take your mind off of it for a little bit -- can be the difference between engaging in a behavior you'll regret and making a new decision. The more you practice the skillful choice, the easier it will become with time.

3.) If you gave in and engaged in this behavior, take responsibility and work harder to be skillful the next time the urge or impulse arises, but do not beat yourself up over it.  This does you no good. You are human. On top of that, you're emotionally sensitive, and there is CAUSE for your choice to follow through.  It's usually a complicated chain of all of the events that led up to this moment, including any positive results that you expected or hoped for by following through on this behavior.  If you made a mistake, try to show yourself some compassion.  It's important to acknowledge the behavior you want to change and make efforts to do so while at the same time not condemning yourself for a slip up.

Do you find it difficult to resist sending emails or texts when feeling impulsive? What has helped during these times?  What have some of the consequences been when you've followed through on the impulse? What might you try to do differently the next time it strikes?

As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged!

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

Sorting Out Emotions using DBT Emotion Regulation Worksheet 1a

Have you ever had difficulty with your DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) homework?  Because I am so passionate about the skills, I offer weekly FREE assistance with the worksheets (though some readers have generously left donations via the contact page after receiving help -- which I appreciate greatly!).

I recently received a request for help from Angel F., who granted me permission to share her submission with you, in hopes that it will help aid others with this particular task.

Answering the guideline questions that I provided, here is Angel's submission with my responses (and additional notes for this blog) are in red.

Here is the worksheet that Angel was using at the time. You may find it helpful to print it out and follow along.

DBT Emotion Regulation
Worksheet 1a: Describing Emotions

1.) What module you are studying: 
Emotion Regulation

2.) How long have you been in DBT? 
5 months (completed Interpersonal Effectiveness and some bits of basic Mindfulness)

3.) Your question, as specifically as possible:

This is my first pass through Emotion Regulation (the weekly group I am in is cyclical; some of the members are on their second pass) and I'm having difficulty separating one emotion from my subsequent emotions from having the emotional reaction. This, of course, makes doing the analysis difficult. (I kind of wish we'd had distress tolerance first, because I bet I could use those skills in order to be able to learn the emotion regulation ones.)  

Debbie: I know this may sound overwhelming, but my DBT teacher recommends that we break each emotion out on a SEPARATE sheet. It's the only way to do it you'd do one for the primary emotion and then one for each of the others that you notice.

...when I sit down to try and figure out the Emotion Name, I generally come up with a whole string of sadness – shame – fear – anger – sadness, (and so on) in recursive loop. 

Debbie: No worries. This is very common. As noted above, you would do one separate sheet for each.

I do a lot of suppression of (visible) emotional reactions, so when I actually show one it's usually because I'm full of so much stress that I am *completely* out of spoons and (literally) can't hold it in any longer. 
Debbie: That's a really good observation! 

(Seriously, I am often surprised myself when an outburst finally happens.) Then along comes either shame of being weak enough to show emotion or fear of someone else's reaction to my outburst. After that I usually get angry at myself *for having* either of the two previous reactions, then either sad some more or afraid of my anger. Anyhow, this emotional constellation is a recurring theme with me (as I'm sure it is with many others).

"What I'm feeling in my body" is a mix of most of the examples on Handout 3 for all those emotions.  Debbie: I encourage you to SPECIFY the physical symptoms you feel, as they can often be guideposts back to emotions. Are you breathing more rapidly? Is your stomach upset? Do you have muscle tension?

I don't usually have an "expression with words," and my Action Urge is nearly always to hide until I have better control of myself.
Debbie: Hmmm. I encourage you to take a look at that and at the list of emotions in your binder. Which emotions tend to motivate us to feel like hiding? (Maybe shame or anxiety?)

My Action is usually to freeze and stop responding to anything or anyone until I get a handle on things.
Debbie: Same here I encourage you to take a look at that and at the list of emotions in your binder. Which emotions make us feel like we're frozen and stuck? (Maybe fear?)

I don't really have any idea of what "message my emotion sends to others;" I'm too embarrassed to ask. Debbie: Put down what you THINK it conveys or what you would interpret if another person behaved the same way as you are outwardly.

My emotion generally Says to Me "you suck," and I can't think of any Facts to Check Out, as almost everything that is actually happening is internal.

The Function of my Emotion aside from telling me "you're doing something wrong," is a complete mystery to me.
Debbie: Start with the sadness. What purpose do you think sadness has in motivating us to behave a certain way?

I basically have a mess of emotions about having/showing emotions, plus suppression which all merge into a general feeling of "badness." 
Debbie: Just notice that as a judgment, not a fact. 

My Reason Mind locks down my body until my Emotion Mind stops flailing around. I generally end up exhausted, tangled in my thoughts and too muddled to do good analysis.
Debbie: Despite this, you're actually doing a fine job.

4.) The specific handout name/number that you are working on:

Emotion Regulation Handout 1, Worksheet 1a, from the Skills Training Manual for Disordered EmotionRegulation.

5.) IMPORTANT: Please let me know if I may use your situation/homework as an example while keeping your identity confidential!!!   

Please feel free to use me as an example if you think it could possibly help someone else.
Thanks so much!

Can you relate to Angel's questions about this worksheet? What are some suggestions that you have? 

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.


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