Managing Chronic Illness Health Anxieties with DBT



Happy New Year Healing From BPD Community!  I filmed a vlog for you this week on how I am using DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills to manage a chronic illness (MS - Multiple Sclerosis).

May you be encouraged, whether you, too deal with a chronic condition as an emotionally sensitive person or if you know and love someone who does.

As I mentioned in the video, even a temporary illness or injury can reduce our emotional resiliency and cause us to feel more vulnerable, so bring the skills to the rescue!

Watch the video now:




.... and then participate in the discussion. Thank you for these BEAUTIFUL COMMENTS coming in via Facebook, as well as your awesome comments also coming in right over at YouTube.  Be sure to add your own, and I'll do my best to reply to each of you.

Huge hugs. We are never alone.


Thanks for reading and watching.
More soon.


In kindness,
Debbie

Last Minute Ideas for Coping Effectively Over the Holidays

Dear Healing From BPD Community,

Here are some last minute ideas for coping effectively over the holidays as an emotionally sensitive person.

Click HERE to read the article, featured this week over at the Roanne Program website!



Happy Holidays, dear Ones!

Thanks for reading.

More Soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

BPD: There is Strength in Vulnerability


I had an interesting experience this week.  Most of you know that I co-facilitate a weekly 90-minute worldwide, online DBT class with licensed social worker Amanda Smith, LMSW over at DBT Path.   Because I am in recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and very infrequently have symptoms/criteria that show up in my life anymore, I tend to teach as someone who has "been there and done that."

This is not to say that I do not sometimes have my moments, because I do.  Sometimes my emotions get really intense, and I am not always skillful and effective in how I manage them.  Most of the time, yes. All of the time, no.

I've tended to stay away from sharing any recent struggles with my students, putting the focus on them, emphasizing the skills, and allowing them to talk about how their personal situations affect their own ability to be skillful or not.  It had been a while since I filled out a DBT worksheet and shared it with the class as a demonstration and personal example, but this past week, with the agreement of my co-facilitator Amanda, we did just that.

I filled out an Emotion Regulation 1a worksheet (now the 4A) from Dr. Marsha Linehan's new DBT Handouts and Worksheets book. I talked about frustration and anger that I recently experienced when I felt embarrassed about a typo at work and after a slew of technological nightmares, including having a work report that I worked on for an hour "disappear."  I remember deliberately "saving as" in the same folder I save my report in each week, and I even pressed the little "save" icon every few changes that I made to the document. I went back to add something to it, and it was GONE.  Even Microsoft's remote access tech couldn't restore it. There was no trace of it.  I cried.  I swore.  I got VERY upset. As a chill pill, moment of pause, I filled out the Emotion Regulation 1a worksheet because it felt to me as if my emotional response/reaction was a bit disproportionate to the incidents that happened.

Is it perfectly understandable that I'd feel embarrassed over a mistake that others saw?

Of course, that's human -- and if you have a sensitivity about that, even more so. I am thankful that a kind colleague pointed it out to me privately in an email rather than publicly.  I know I need to slow down in this respect, as this is one of my flaws. I get so excited, and sometimes my fingers move faster than my brain.., click...click...click. I refer to myself sometimes as the Typo Queen, and when in treatment for OCD, the CBT doc actually had me do an exposure of purposefully sending out an email with a typo to see that it wouldn't be the end of the world. It took me WEEKS to work up to agreeing to do that.   I do know that no one is perfect, including me.  I know that my FEARS were connected to my interpretations around the tiny mistake (Ha! They see you're not perfect! You messed up! You suck!), and this is what fueled my anxiety about this.

Is it understandable that I might have a mini freak out over losing a lengthy, detailed document that I needed to submit for an upcoming meeting?  You bet your bippy.

But I was REALLY, REALLY feeling upset.  On the worksheet,  I wrote about my anger, and what ended up being the most helpful was reflecting later on the Emotional Vulnerabilities section.   This is where you fill in what circumstances in your life might be influencing your ability to be emotionally resilient in this moment in time.

For me, the items included (skillfully and healthfully) reducing caloric intake to lose some weight, which makes me a bit grumpy, other technical issues that happened with my tablet the night before, and a medical appointment coming up later this week that is very scary for me.

Looking at the causes of my emotional vulnerability gave me compassion for myself. I began experiencing anxiety attacks after feeling vulnerable for having shared in class, so I quickly shifted into self-care mode.   I did a progressive muscle relaxation mp3. I stayed on schedule and focused on work tasks.  I went to yoga.  I made sure to get enough sleep and to stay hydrated and eat balanced meals.

I emailed my students for feedback on my sharing as part of a reality check. Their responses were overwhelmingly positive. They thanked me for being vulnerable. Three of them said that hearing me share authentically, to the point where they could hear the emotion in my voice, meant something to them.  They felt more connected with me and less alone in their walk.  They appreciated seeing that I am human too. Some said it was their favorite class to date. Even though I am in recovery from BPD, I still need to keep practicing the skills and be accountable to others on my own personal journey.

I found this so encouraging.  I worried that they may have been judging me negatively, thinking I was weak, or thinking "Who is she to teach DBT?", but instead I got "you walk the talk, Debbie."

There is beauty and strength in vulnerability. Being willing to share our difficulties in a safe environment while proactively working to become/stay skillful with a Wise Mind plan of action helps us and those who witness our willingness to make this healthy choice.

The anxiety has passed, and I'm feeling grateful and strong.


Thanks for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie


I wrote this article this week for the Roanne Program on BPD: Disclosure, Boundaries, and Treatment, and it's getting lots of social media love.  Check it out!

Coping as an Emotionally Sensitive Person over the Holidays


Last weekend, I had the pleasure of co-facilitating a webinar presented by Optimum Performance Institute with Robert "Bob" Fischer, M.D. (a psychiatrist) and April E. House, MA, MFT (an eating disorder specialist).

We talked about the various, usually quite inevitable triggers that we encounter over the holiday season as emotionally sensitive people. Whether you have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or are in recovery, you probably are all too familiar with the scenarios: needing to go to anxiety and panic attack provoking holiday events and parties that are crowded, being expected to be joyful when you may not be feeling that way, and you may also have issues around your body image and food.

In years past, I thought I needed to push myself over the holidays to endure activities and situations out of cultural and familial expectations.

I would be left feeling dysregulated and often needing intensive emotional support come January.  With DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), I've learned that I can respect the good intentions and invitations of others while also taking care of myself as an emotionally sensitive person.

In the webinar, Dr. Bob talked about how we really need to evaluate whether it's more effective to use opposite to emotion action to attend certain events or to be present at family gatherings where there might be a triggering family member or other triggers, or whether it would cause more suffering than do us any good.  If the latter, he gave suggestions for making a "mindful exit," being skillful in respecting those who have invited us to attend while at the same time being sure to take care of ourselves so that we stay emotionally balanced.

Also addressed were issues around getting to the bottom of the issues that are causing us anxiety about the holidays and various helpful strategies for dealing with eating disorder issues.

The replay of the 90-minute, free webinar is now up and live on the OPI site.

Click HERE to watch it now.

Let me know what you think!


Thanks for reading and watching.

More Soon.

In kindness,
Debbie






Hang Out With Me Online this Saturday Morning!

Want to learn about how to cope effectively with triggers this holiday season?  Check out this video, then click the link below to register for a FREE 90-minute, live, online event.

I'll be there -- will you?  :)









For those with MFT or MFTi designations, 1.5 CEU credits are available for attendance.

Space is limited at this virtual event, so please reserve your spot by clicking HERE.

It's FREE, 90-minutes, LIVE, and online Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 10 am Pacific.

In kindness,
Debbie


When The Holidays are Triggering (Free Webinar)


Most of us who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or who are in recovery also struggle with one or more other areas, such as anxiety, depression, and possibly eating disorder behaviors.  While the holidays are intended to be a joyous time of connectedness and togetherness, when you are dealing with distressing mental health issues, it can be difficult to get into the holiday spirit.

The holidays can test our limits when it comes to anxiety: Will I be expected to travel? To be home while we host tons of people?  To go to parties that trigger panic attacks?  Malls crowded with people?  With depression: But I don't feel up to dressing up and acting like I'm enjoying myself when I'm not. And eating disorder behaviors: How am I going to cope with all of that food around?  How come she can eat so much and not gain weight, and I have to sit here and freak out over this?

The holidays can really shake up our world, and when you're emotionally sensitive, even though you may be accused of liking and creating drama, underneath it all, you probably just want to feel stable. You don't want your world rocked by having your schedule and routine turned upside down in the name of gift giving and buffets.

But here's the thing: the holidays are coming, whether we want them to or not... whether we feel up to them or not... whether we have anxiety attacks, are feeling down, or are having issues around food.  So, how do we best take care of ourselves by being skillful and effective during these challenging times?  How do we, against all odds, find some way to actually experience and share a little bit of joy with our loved ones during these holidays?

These are all all great questions that will be addressed in an upcoming free webinar that I have the pleasure of moderating.  This online event (you're invited!) with limited virtual seat (so make sure you REGISTER NOW) on Coping Effectively with Anxiety, Depression, and Eating Disorder Behaviors Over the Holidays: When the Holidays are Triggering.

The co-facilitators will be Dr. Robert "Bob" Fischer, Psychiatrist and Executive Director at Optimum Performance Institute (OPI), and April E. House, MA, MFT, Therapist and Eating Disorder Specialist at OPI.

I am so pleased to be a part of this event.  I encourage you to sign up and attend.  I also encourage you to give the link to your family members and loved ones if they are supportive and want to know how to help you cope over these upcoming holidays.

There will be a Q&A section at the end, during which you'll be able to ask questions (over a microphone on your device or by typing into a chat box) of Dr. Fischer and April.

I look forward to connecting with you at this event.

Because these types of webinars tend to fill up quickly, be sure to click HERE to register now and reserve your spot.

See you there!

Thanks for reading.

More Soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

Men, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Breakups


It's been a while since I've seen seen article by a psychiatrist (or anyone with mental health credentials) that addresses the issues that people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) face when it comes to romantic breakups -- particularly the struggles unique to emotionally sensitive men in our society.

This week, I refer you to a blog post called "Men & BPD: The Breakdown after the Breakup" by Robert Fischer, M.D. of Optimum Performance Institute and the Roanne Program, the only residential treatment center in the U.S. that serves both young women and men with Borderline Personality Disorder and BPD traits.

In the article, Dr. Fischer speaks about the stigma and other issues that men face when they seek help for coping with emotionally dysregulating issues such as a breakup when their diagnosis is BPD.

It's an excellent read.  Check it out, and let me know your thoughts!


Thanks for reading.

More soon.


In kindness,
Debbie


After you've read Dr. Fischer's article in a separate tab/window, check out these posts here on Healing From BPD on Men and BPD:

Resources: Men and Borderline Personality Disorder

Help Wanted: Men Have BPD, Too!

The Guy with BPD: Life as a Man Living With And Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder



A Key to Less Emotional Suffering with BPD


Dr. Marsha Linehan has likened those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) to third degree emotional burn victims.  Even in recovery from the disorder, when we no longer meet the criteria for the diagnosis, we typically remain highly emotionally sensitive people.  The difference is, we've learned skills to manage the intensity of our emotions and to be mindful of the differences between thoughts, emotions, and feelings. This goes a long way to help with issues such as impulsivity and black or white thinking.

One of the keys that I have recently found to be incredibly helpful in releasing some unnecessary suffering and embracing life with acceptance is the concept of not taking things personally.  I recently re-read the book "The Four Agreements" by don Miguel Ruiz.  In it, he gets into how nothing anyone does is EVER about us. It's about them (and likewise, of course.)

This means that when people say something hurtful, it is about their experience. Perhaps they are afraid. Perhaps they never learned skills to manage their emotions in a healthy way.  Perhaps they do not understand the boundary of where they end and you begin.  I've been applying this idea to behaviors from others that I previously would have judged critically.  What has resulted is an increase in compassion for that person and a reduction of suffering on my end. Judging others, holding grudges, and taking things personally, in general, take a lot of energy.

It's not that I don't have an initial visceral reaction sometimes when someone does something that is seemingly quite truly "directed" at me.  With the perspective of not taking things personally in mind, I acknowledge that my feelings may be hurt from words spoken, but the words spoken are coming from the mouth of a person who sees the world in his or her unique way.  Behind the person's words are his or her feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and all of their experiences up until that moment.

Embracing this perspective does not mean I give people a free pass to treat me poorly.  I will certainly let someone know that their behavior toward me is hurtful and unacceptable to me, but I will not take it personally. I will not internalize it, believe it, and make it my story.  Is there some truth to meanness directed at us? There can be.  We don't need to go black or white and not try to distill the essence of the person's message and from a healthy place of reflection consider whether there is room for us to grow.  Will we be in the wrong sometimes? Sure, and we can own up to that and make the changes that we need to -- but we don't have to buy into any of the guilt trips or other negative thoughts and emotions someone may try to deliver to us with their words.

It's important to note that don Miguel Ruiz says that NOTHING anyone does is about us, it's about them.  This includes the "positive/good" stuff as well: compliments, praise, and the like.  To find true balance and piece with this release of not taking anything personally, we must also realize that while people genuinely love us and want us to feel good with the words they direct toward us, words can switch from loving to negative at anytime, so it's important to receive the goodness but take compliments and praise with the same grain of salt.

What are your thoughts on releasing taking things personally. Do you think you could try it as an experiment for a day? An hour?  Just notice your emotional reactions to other people's words and actions toward you. Then, consider visualizing that the person's words and behaviors are more about them than you. What might this person's choice of words and behaviors say about them?  Are they hurting? Are they afraid or insecure? Your compassion might grow and suffering reduce if you consider these questions and act from the different place you find yourself emotionally.


Thanks for reading.

More Soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

BPD: It's Deeper Than Attention Seeking



One of the things that used to really irritate me when my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) symptoms were at their worst was being accused of  "looking for attention."  I was told I was "so dramatic" and a "drama queen."  I was accused of wanting to be the center of attention and using my disorder as an excuse.  Being emotionally sensitive, those words hurt deeply.

The truth is, I can see how my behaviors could be misinterpreted as such. I desperately wanted to be accepted and to feel a sense of deep and lasting connection to others, but I had no idea how, so my attempts were misguided.  Because I didn't have a solid sense of self, in response to these accusations, I felt hurt that other people didn't see my true intentions, and I found myself questioning my own motives when I was only being me in the best way I knew how.

My attempts were misconstrued by those around me as attention seeking, but it was much deeper than that.  I'm writing this post because I know there are many in our Healing From BPD community that can relate and may think that no one could possibly describe, let alone understand this experience.  I want you to know, you are not alone.  Even more importantly, like, me, you can overcome this yet another often painful aspect of living with BPD.

Did I like to be the center of attention?  Sure.  I have a personality that loves to engage with others, and at a time in my life when my self-esteem was low and I wasn't sure who I was, the doting upon me of others was some sort of affirmation or validation that, even if ever so temporarily, assured me that I was "good enough." There was no malicious intent behind it.  I wasn't trying to grab attention for attention's sake.

As for the drama, I am a lighthearted, but yes, dramatic person, and that's actually not a "bad" thing. Perhaps I should have gone into theater. Hey, wait -- I still can! I think I'll focus on teaching my online DBT classes for now, though. :)

Even now in recovery (no longer meeting the diagnostic criteria for a BPD diagnosis - more about me and how this happened, here), I know that because I am very emotionally sensitive, I need to tap into my inner wisdom and take a step back to distinguish an emotion from a thought from a fact.

I have no shame about this.  I love being a compassionate, loving, sensitive person. Being this way comes with drawbacks, of course, as does any personality disposition, but since I have discovered and accepted and learned to love me for me, I accept all parts, even those areas where I can still grow.

The next time someone accuses your outward behaviors as purely attention seeking, as painful as it may be to defend yourself, consider taking a step back, taking a deep breath, acknowledging to yourself that you are doing the best you can, where you are at, with what you have, and maybe let that person know, too.

Read all you can about the experiences of others who have overcome. This blog is a good place to start.

You are not alone.

You can get better.

You are doing the best you can.


Thanks for reading.

More Soon.

In Kindness,
Debbie of DBT Path



Identity Issues and BPD


Halloween always reminds me of how stuck I used to be with the Borderline Personality Disorder issue of a lack of a sense of identity (with the masks and costumes and all).  Through much work through DBT, I no longer have this problem.  I never, ever imagined that I could overcome the lack of sense of self that so plagued me.  It is what ultimately led to my diagnosis of BPD and set me on the path of treatment.

Here are some posts from over the years on identity disturbance and BPD.  I look forward to your thoughts on this topic.

Identity Disturbance and BPD (it can be overcome)

You've Gone Away, So Where Am I?

The Psychic Borderline: Reading Others & Identity Issues

Identity Crisis: Finding Yourself When You Have Borderline Personality Disorder

Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker: Career Issues with BPD Identity Disturbance

Reinventing Ourselves: Identity Issues & Borderline Personality Disorder


And, an article with a pic of me in my Lady Gaga Halloween costume...

Gaga at the Psych Intake: BPD and Identity Disturbance



► PS  This week I guest blogged for the Roanne Program on Living With BPD.  It's a really encouraging post, and I hope it helps you in some way. Check it out, and let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

Guided Meditation to Help With Relaxation



Got Stress? 

This week I have a treat for you. It's a 30-minute guided mediation that I recorded to encourage you to take some time today to relax, restore, and rejuvenate.  Getting proper rest and relaxation is a major contributor to our well-being.

It's often things like guided meditations and exercise that we resist and then inevitably end up being glad we followed through.  We often feel invigorated (with exercise) and calmer and more blissful with guided meditations.

Because I've had success with noticing a reduction in stress as a result of a variety of methods, I've included short forms of several in this one, cohesive experience.  

This is my gift to you.  Please let me know if you do it and what you think.  Please take the time out to do something good for YOU.

Listen now:




Thank you for reading/watching/listening.

More soon.


In kindness,
Debbie 

Watch It Now: The Webinar on Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar (by Optimum Performance Institute)

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to co-facilitate a webinar on bipolar and borderline personalty disorder with the esteemed psychiatrist Robert "Dr. Bob" Fischer of Optimum Performance Institute (OPI).  That webinar (approximately 90-minutes long) is now up and available for you and your loved ones to watch!

I really had fun with this event, which involved lots of Q&A with parents.  Please do let me know what you think!

Click HERE to watch it (and keep this tab open so you can check out some other Healing From BPD articles after that):






Thank you for reading and watching.

More Soon.


In kindness,
Debbie

Should You Take a Gap Year off Before College? (I wish I had)


Image courtesy of CollegeDegrees360. Image cropped.
Recently, I've heard a lot about the "gap year" -- that question of  "Should I take a year off before college?"  It's been a while since I was a high school senior.  I'm feeling nostalgic, actually, in response to the 90's comeback. (For those of you who watch YouTube makeup tutorials, check out the latest, and you'll see what I mean.  The makeup, flannel, grungy hair -- it's all coming back.)

While I can recreate how I dressed and looked in the 90s, I cannot go back almost twenty years to change how I handled my senior year in high school, and I hope that this information is helpful in helping others prevent unnecessary suffering in their lives.  If this information had been discussed with me at that time, things might have turned out a little bit differently. But, I do not wish to live in regret.  Ultimately, my life did get on course with my education, and yours can, too.

Looking back at my own situation, in the midst of my junior year, I transferred from alternative high school which consisted of only about a hundred co-ed students, all of whom were in residential group homes due to behavioral issues, including me, to public high school.  That, in and of itself, was a huge adjustment.  With consultation between the staff at my independent living group home and the guidance counselor and principle at my new school, we arranged for me to do half days, leaving before lunch and completing some course work at the community college and some at the group home.

I thrived upon my return to public school.  This wasn't the case before group homes.  I was constantly getting into trouble, fights, being truant, etc.  I had learned some skills in the alternative setting to help me succeed in the academic environment and with my peers. I was getting better! I was researching colleges and scholarships.  I wanted to use college as my ticket out of Massachusetts and into California.  I had excellent grades and received awards for excelling in human biology. I had seriously considered going into medicine.

That's why it was shocking to those around me -- the group home staff with whom I had bonded dearly and the administration at my school,  when, a couple of months before graduation, I sabotaged it all.

I convinced a friend to run away with me, in the middle of the night on a Greyhound bus from Boston to Seattle.  Completely dysregulated with fears related to success (of all things), I subconsciously found a way to ruin it all so that I could be in control, rather than the victim.  I could see that only in retrospect and from the wisdom of my adult self who has grown and evolved.

As a result of running away, upon our return we were asked to leave the independent living group home. They said that if we managed to make it to and from Seattle and survive, we had proven we were independent enough. They helped us fly home, and then we had to leave. To be honest, I was SHOCKED.  I can still remember that feeling in my solar plexus that I had been turned away from the place I considered home. I was terrified, because I did not have a safe and secure place to go.

I had a break in my high school year due to the move. I stayed temporarily with an alcoholic family member and then ran away, again, to be with a guy I met during the Seattle runaway. He happened to live in California. I got my ticket, but not the one I wanted or needed.  This was a huge setback.  Even after I managed to complete my high school education, it took me nearly eleven years, on and off, to finally finish my degree.  I didn't get into medicine, but I am proud of the accomplishment of my bachelor's degree. It symbolized a huge accomplishment in my life. It just took soooooooooooo long to get there.

What if, instead of running away, I had reached out for the support I needed at that critical time in my live -- that important milestone?  I might have expressed my fears and concerns and then taken a gap year before college to work through the emotional issues I had and become better prepared for the college and work life experience.

Young adults today have Failure to Launch residential programs like that offered at Optimum Performance Institute (OPI) in the Los Angeles area.  Had they existed back when I was that age and I were to find out about them (the internet was just born that year, really), I would have seen OPI as my golden ticket to California and my ticket to getting the help and support I truly needed and deserved.

Check out this article by Robert Fischer, MD of OPI on the Gap Year and taking that year off after college to get intensive treatment and support for the transition.  I hope you'll consider taking care of yourself in this way to avoid unnecessary suffering.

What are your thoughts on the gap year?  Did you take one?  Do you plan on doing so?


Thanks for reading.

More Soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

Is it Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar?



Some of you know that I was originally misdiagnosed with bipolar rapid cycling, put on meds that didn't help, and left wondering if I could ever get my life on track.  When I finally received an accurate diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I received access to treatment that would finally help me -- namely, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  My meds were adjusted accordingly, and life began to change.

There are many reasons why I (and many others) have been misdiagnosed.  There are many similarities between the diagnoses; however, there are some distinctions that help a clinician determine whether what you're experiencing is bipolar, borderline personality disorder, or a mix of both.

In a free webinar that Dr. Robert Fischer of Optimum Performance Institute and the Roanne Program will be giving on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 10 am Pacific, many of these issues will be addressed.  Parents will have the opportunity to ask questions of both Dr. Fischer and of myself (from a consumer point of view) on this topic.

This presentation will be tailored especially for parents of young adults ages 17-28 who suffer from bipolar disorder, BPD, BPD traits.

Click Here to reserve your spot for this free online event.

See you there!

Thank you for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

Brandon Marshall on Overcoming BPD



This week is a bit different at Healing From BPD.   Did you all catch NFL player Brandon Marshall's special "A Football Life," on how he overcame Borderline personality disorder?

I had a special opportunity after live-tweeting about the event to guest blog at the Roanne Program's website regarding the show, Brandon's story, and the topic of men and BPD.

So, I invite you, dear member of this healing community, to go and check out that post.  You can view it by clicking here: Remarkable Achievers and Very Likeable People (Men Included!) Can Have BPD.

That article also includes screenshots of many of my live tweets from the event, including a RT from Brandon.





What an inspirational man Brandon Marshall is.  Let me know your thoughts!


Thank you for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

Free Webinar on Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) for Our Parents



I am so excited to announce this free, educational, 90-minute webinar that I'll be a part of with psychiatrist Dr. Robert Fischer of Optimum Performance Institute (OPI) and the Roanne Program, located in the Los Angeles area and serving young men and women ages 17-28 who have a variety of issues they are seeking to overcome, including emotion regulation disorders.

Check out the video for the details and to get signed up.





Here's the link to get registered for the event:  Webinar on BPD and Bipolar for Parents.


Thank you for reading and watching. See you at the webinar!

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

Open Letter from Those of Us With BPD in German (Deutsch)



Thank you so much to Healing From BPD community member Liva Florentine for taking the time to translate my Open Letter From Those of Us with BPD video into German (Deutsch)!

Here is the video:






To view this video in English, click HERE.
For a written version of it in English, click HERE.

For other languages:



If you translate this letter/video and would like me to add it to this site, please reach out on Facebook or Twitter.


Thanks for reading and watching.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

Breaking Free of Toxic Relationships (When You Have BPD or BPD Traits)



I took to Facebook to ask the community what topic would be most helpful to cover at this time.  By overwhelming demand, you wanted to talk about breaking free from toxic relationships.

Some might say that's ironic.  We are often the individuals accused of bringing problems into the relationship.  The truth is, that's not always the case.  Sometimes we are doing our best to deal with others who may be contributing to the dysfunction, while other times, both parties are contributing.

If you think you're in a toxic relationship, listen in on this vlogcast.  Do you relate to any of the people in the examples I give?  Have you broken free from a toxic relationship?  If not and you need to, perhaps you are ready to seek the help you need to move forward.

May you be encouraged as you listen, and be sure to share this recording with anyone you think may benefit from it.




Thank you for reading and listening/watching.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debibe

Tolerating Being Alone When You Have BPD


I can recall with great detail the distress I used to experience when I needed to spend time alone.  Most of the time, even an hour was difficult, let alone an entire day or evening.  I didn't understand at the time, but there was a lot going on that contributed to my inability to tolerate others going away, and of course, it was complex.

In the thick of my experience with borderline personality disorder symptoms, I was contending with some very specific inner experiences that contributed to the intolerance:

  • a history of being abandoned by the people I counted on and loved and therefore a fear that this behavior would be repeated by others
  • an absence of a sense of self
If you can relate to any of the above issues, read on...

So first we have the history of abandonment and rejection that became a part of how I navigated the world.  I was living in fear that people I loved, if I allowed them to do things on their own or to spend time away from me, would stop loving me and would leave me.  They'd "see the light," I was sure, and not come back.  This terrified me, and of course it was a distorted, extreme thought based on past, very painful experiences.  I sat there and imagined how horrible it would feel if they left me.

The one and ONLY way I overcame this aspect of suffering was to actually experience, in increasing amounts of time, separation from loved ones.  I needed to see that they would come back.  In order to do that, I needed to give them the opportunity to go somewhere first. This was so difficult.  At first I cried myself sick due to anxiety and distress.  Nowadays, although it's still difficult to part with loved ones, very short-term absences such as them going to work or being away for half a day are totally manageable.  Them going away for longer periods of time is more challenging, but I handle it much more in stride. A few tears, then I am able to pull myself together and get on with things until they return.  No more going into crisis and crying myself sick.  I realized it did nothing to change the situation and only left me with more unnecessary suffering to react in this way.  I learned to respond rather than react.

Secondly is the piece about identity.  Although it wasn't clear to me at the time, I behaved much like a chameleon. I morphed my mood, behavior, and personality, in fact, to those around me.  With no one around me, I experienced a scary, empty feeling -- almost as if I didn't exist.  It wasn't until I learned Dialectical Behavior Therapy that I began to discover who I was aside from anyone else.  As I grew in that confidence, this helped substantially with being able to tolerate being alone.

How about you?  Is this an issue for you or was it at some time?

How are you/did you cope effectively?

My hope is that by reading this experience, you will be encouraged that you, too, can overcome the issue of being on your own.  Perhaps, like me, you'll even begin to enjoy some time all to yourself.


Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

Why Are We So Affected By Robin Williams' Death?



This is going to be a very difficult post.  Life sometimes is difficult. I like to put it as: it's not all rainbows and unicorns.  The good news is, that we can reach out, get the help we need, and build our resiliency. While there is much pain in the world, there is also much beauty, much healing, and much overcoming.  Keeping that in mind, I will share my experience with a recent event about which you are almost certainly aware.

Last Monday night, one of my best friends and I sat down to watch The Bird Cage.  We were looking for a comedy on Netflix, and it recommended this movie.  We hadn't seen a movie with Robin Williams in a while, and were laughing our butts off.  At about 9:30 pm and half-way through the movie, we decided that we needed to do some other things and that we'd finish watching the movie the next night. We still haven't returned to the film. We're just not ready.

TW TRIGGER WARNING

Little did we know that just a few hours later and only a short drive away from us, Robin Williams would take his own life.

I heard the news during a DBT class that I was teaching online. One of my students said, "Sorry, I  just got distracted because I heard the news about Robin Williams."  Another student said, "I think that was a hoax."  The first student replied, "I don't think so. I'm so sad."

At this point, I drew the conclusion that Robin had died, but to keep the class safe, keep myself emotionally regulated, and to foster an environment that would hopefully help my students to do the same, I said, "Wait -- what news -- no, you know what?  I know we have a lot competing for our attention when we're taking an online class.  Let's focus on our studies and those of us who want to know what happened can look after class."  My students agreed.

Of course, the first thing I did after class, even though I am an emotionally sensitive person and KNOW BETTER (yet always seem to do this), I turned on CNN.  That's when I learned the news was true. Robin was dead.  I was so sad. And, I felt weirded out, since I had started watching The Bird Cage the night before and was thinking to myself, "Wow, he's inspiring. He's struggled with mental illness his whole life.  What an awesome, loving, person he is. So funny, too."

If that wasn't bad enough, the next morning our local sheriff's office had a press conference on the nature of Robin's passing. I will only tell you, in case you haven't heard it, and I hope you don't, that it was VERY graphic.  It was like an auditory train wreck.  As much as I knew it wasn't good for me to hear, I kept listening.   I then cried and sobbed at how sad I was for him and his family.  I was ANGRY at the press for allowing the broadcasting of such details about how he was found, etc.  I felt angry because, to me, it was very un-dignifying to this man who should be remembered for all he gave to this world and not for how he was found after committing suicide.

It was very difficult to hold and process that day, and to be honest, I still feel affected by it and am not 100% emotionally regulated since it happened.    I reached out to my therapist and also talked about it in DBT group under the scope of Mindfulness practice.  I talked about how I am working hard to consciously redirect my thoughts to other things when the distress associated with Robin's passing becomes too much to bear.  My doctor said this was an excellent use of Mindfulness skills, and she urged me to consider, when I'm feeling stronger, to consider exploring WHY his death has affected me so much.  I couldn't fully understand why I  -- and so many of us -- have been having such a strong reaction, and why some among us think we're weird for grieving over someone who was not a close relative or someone we even knew.

She suggested that Carl Jung's complex theory can help explain it.  She said that within us are chemicals, physical structures of cells moving about, neurons sending information all over our bodies by neurochemical reaction, and our nervous system is reacting -- all in response to what we take in in our environment.  Hearing about Robin Williams can be triggering for us for so many reasons.  I can relate to many mentioned in this Huffington Post article by Lindsay Holmes, Why do we grieve celebrities?

We feel like we were connected with celebrities. We "grew up with them." In Robin's case, he brought us joy, laughter, and he was incredible actor who brought characters to life like few others could.   For me, he was practically a neighbor.  His death reminded me of my own mortality and that of those I love.  It reminded me of the scary fact that sometimes people feel so desperate that they think death and suicide are the only answers.  Writing that makes me cry.  For a man so gentle, so kind, so wonderful, who although it turns out he was facing financial and health issues, had access to some of the very best care, still ended up taking his life.  He knew we would find out.  He felt so much pain that this concern didn't stop him.   All of this is quite scary to me. This is all very, very difficult stuff for anyone to process.  We MUST reach out for the help of qualified professionals who can help us work through our grief, whether or not our grief makes sense to us or anyone else around us.  As Dr. Linehan always says, there is "cause" for the emotions we experience, even if we can't readily identify them. Therefore, our experience is valid. It deserves to be honored by looking at it and processing it through in a safe space.   (This is actually the first time I'm processing through it, and I plan to talk about it later today in a therapy appointment.)

There is very little control we have when things like this happen.  I did what I could do.  I started this post in memoriam of him on Facebook, which many from around the world have found, "liked," and commented on.  I invite you to do the same.

 
 
I'm processing through my own stuff, and I'm sure many of you are doing the same. If you're having thoughts of hurting yourself or need help working through processing Robin's suicide and you're in the United States, you can call 1-800-273-8255.  Please do reach out for help.   When I called them in the past to help a suicidal friend, they said they are there for loved ones and those affected by suicide in any way -- so you can get the support you need.  If you're outside of the United States and know of such numbers or websites in your country, please reply to this post with your country and that information.
 
 
We will get through this.  Rest in Peace, dear Robin, you are already so dearly missed.
 
 
Thanks for reading.

More Soon.
 
 
In kindness,
Debbie 


UPDATE:  Check out this wonderful post from Dr. Robert Fischer of Optimum Performance Institute on this issue from a compassionate clinical perspective.

How to Not Be Controlled By Your Mood (Using Mindfulness)



In most treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and other issues involving emotion dysregulation, you are very likely to encounter the subject of mindfulness and how implementing it into your life can help reduce your suffering and overall symptoms.  The word "mindfulness" is often thrown around, though, so most people see it as an elusive mystery, attainable only to monks far removed from society or other religious people only.  I'm happy to tell you that this isn't true.  Mindfulness is available to everyone, including you, and you can begin as soon as you've completed reading this post.

Mindfulness is something that has helped me manage during the worst points of my BPD symptoms, and it continues to help me with the BPD traits from which I still suffer, PTSD symptoms, anxiety, and, beyond it being a way for me to help manage problematic experiences, I've integrated it into my life so that it's a daily practice of truly being here in the now, enjoying each moment as much as possible.  Now, I'm no guru, and I won't pretend to be.  I'm not mindful 100% of the time.  But you know what?  No human being is -- not even those monks removed from society. You get to start right where you are.

So, what is mindfulness?   According to Dr. Marsha Linehan, who created Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a set of skills to which I attribute my recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder , says that mindfulness "is not a place you get to. It is the practice and the process."

She has also said that in her research as to why suffering causes some people to become stronger while it has the power to destroy others is one key ingredient: Radical Acceptance, a major concept in Mindfulness. It means to fully, totally embrace reality as it is in this moment and is sometimes referred to as Reality Acceptance. 

Keep in mind that acceptance is not the same thing as approval.  So, if you're going through a tragedy in your life right now, Radical Accepting it doesn't mean that you like, approve of, or want the tragedy in your life.  It only means that you are looking at life in a realistic way, acknowledging that the tragedy is occurring in this moment. Rather than deny it, suppress it, avoid it, etc., you are simply saying "this is happening right now."  This reality acceptance is the starting point for processing through the pain and for making changes in your life as needed.

How do we go from where we are now to being more in the Radical Acceptance state of mind?  Dr. Linehan says that the only bridge from willfulness, tantrums, and non-acceptance in our lives to Radical Acceptance is practice through Mindfulness.

Here's an example:  In BPD, we often have urges... urges to engage in impulsive behaviors that, while they may feel like they bring relief in the moment, are ultimately self-destructive and harmful.   With mindfulness, instead of instantly going from the urge/impulse to acting on it, we insert a pause, on purpose.  We notice the impulse like a scientist observing something.  We acknowledge that the impulse has arisen within us, and then we acknowledge that we have power in this moment to choose.   Yes, it is possible, though mindful awareness, to observe an urge without acting on it.

We also do not need to be controlled by our moods.  Let's say you've set out to complete an important tasks, such as a university assignment or work project.  You become bored.  There have been times in my life where that was all it took: I felt bored, had the urge to quit, and I did... only to regret it after the fact.  Can you relate?

With mindful awareness, though, you can notice the boredom arise, and tell yourself, "Even though I am bored, I can stay in integrity and complete my commitment and finish this project," and then you do it.  You're left with a much higher sense of self-respect when you follow through on things even if you "don't feel like it."

Mindfulness, that pause you proactively take when you become aware of whatever is going on in your conscious thought process (thoughts, body sensations, impulses, emotions, feelings), allows you to understand yourself better and to make healthier, more recovery focused choices most of the time.

So, today, as you go through your day, notice your experience.  If a feeling, especially an intense one, rises up in you, instead of immediately acting on whatever impulse or urge the emotion is triggering, try proactively inserting that mindful pause.   Notice your thoughts. Notice the feeling. Notice what's going on in your body.  Acknowledge it all.  Then acknowledge that you have the power to choose, and for your well-being, may you at that point choose wisely.


Thank you for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie


Click to learn how DBT skills like Mindfulness helped me overcome Borderline Personality Disorder.

Distraction vs. Avoidance


For those of us who deal with intense emotions, whether due to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), BPD traits, or other reasons, we know how important it is to take a mindful, skillful break from our suffering through the use of conscious distraction.

I call it conscious distraction, because in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), we use Distraction as a Distress Tolerance skill -- not to avoid, suppress, or deny that we are having an intense emotional experience, but as a way to temporarily handle the time during which we have no control over whatever is causing our distress. 

For example, let's say you have to undergo a number of medical tests. During those days of waiting, there is nothing you can do to speed up the results.  You don't want to be suffering in high emotional pain for three days, especially when it won't make any positive difference in terms of your waiting. That's where these skills come in.

We might do things like engage in a hobby or something we like to do (as you can see, I set myself up to play with nail polishes and to create a collage/vision board).  We might watch a TV program, surf the net, call a friend, or go for a walk.








If you're like me though, I need to watch it, because something like watching TV or going online can quickly turn into "how did eight hours just pass by?", and then I'm left stressed with the fact that I have chores around the house and other things undone. I then need to hustle to get them done, which causes stress.

The main thing about using Distraction as a distress tolerance tool is to use it skillfully and mindfully.  We must strike a balance. One way to do this is to set a timer.  I use the Google Timer to remind me once 20, 30,  60 or any amount of minutes are up to keep me on track. The trick is, like an alarm clock, to not keep hitting reset/snooze :-D .


Just type "timer" or "google timer" into Google,
and the timer widget works directly from your browser.



What types of skillful distraction do you engage in?  Do you find your distraction sometimes turns into avoidance? What can you do to proactively prevent this or to cope effectively if you notice it happening?


Thanks for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

Coping with EXTREME Anxiety and Panic



Anxiety and Panic attacks can be SO SCARY!!!  If you agree, read on...

Hey everyone. I am experiencing some intense/extreme anxiety since yesterday, and because I've
become well versed in how to effectively cope even in the midst of feeling completely
"crazy" and terrified during anxious episodes, I thought I'd share with you, as I
know many here in the community suffer from this as well, and maybe you're even
struggling today.  I hope this post gives you hope and encouragement.  Remember, I'm
not a doctor or therapist, so I'm sharing from my personal, peer perspective.

I have a lot emotional vulnerabilities going on since the past couple of weeks, and I
haven't talked about them much.  Because of these, my anxiety level has been up and
down, with the highest being yesterday and this morning.

Just a glimpse: my grandma passed away last week and her service was Monday.  It's
never an easy time for this, of course.  I was so emotional for days, then I began to
feel accepting, since she was in her 90s and hadn't been doing well with her health
lately.   Another thing is I haven't been speaking to a very close loved one after
her choice to return to an abusive relationship (there are a lot of reasons why), and
I injured my ankle, so I've been on bed rest the past couple of weeks. I had an
important work-related meeting yesterday. It was the first significant out of the
house trip in weeks, and while the meeting went wonderfully, I think my nervous
system was jolted by overstimulation on my first day out (I'm very sensitive to such
things), and here I am in full on anxiety city.


Here are a few things I know to be true of anxiety and panic for me:

1.) As terrible as they feel, they cannot last. I think of the episodes as storms. I
can weather out the storm. If I can stay as calm as possible, not further work myself
up, and take care of my physical and mental health in the meantime, the storm will
not last as long, and it typically won't get worse.


2.) There is always cause for anxiety. We may have an idea or be very aware of what
has overwhelmed us to the point of panic and anxiety, but sometimes the cause is not
as obvious.  The good news is, we can begin engaging in self-care regardless of
whether we are able to pinpoint why we feel so terribly.  I have a well-meaning
friend who will ask me sometimes, if I have anxiety or panic and there's no obvious
cause, "But WHY, though?"  I just say, it doesn't matter -- something is going on
physiologically, too, and I need to address it.


3.) Anxiety and panic often makes us feel a sense of urgency to do something drastic
or to freak out.  Part of our brain is concerned we are in danger and is trying to
protect us.  I find that literally talking to myself from my Wise Mind with
reassuring statements, i.e. "I am safe.  All is well. This shall pass. Thank you body
and mind for trying to protect me.  I am not in danger" all the while slowing down my
breathing can help significantly.  I tell myself, "This isn't an emergency, even
though it feels like one. I can get through this. I have gotten through this before." 
And when thoughts start jumping into the future, i.e. "What if I still don't have an
appetite at lunch time?"  "What if I can't pull it together in time for work?"  I
remind myself that I only have to be concerned with this moment. I have no control
over 3 hours from now or really even 3 minutes from now. I remind myself that it is
is THIS moment that I can focus my breath, thoughts, and deal with my experience.

4.) The other thing I've noticed about anxiety and panic is that it often tempts me
to break my routine --- in a lot of ways. My appetite is one of the first things to
go when I'm very anxious, which due to past trauma is very triggering and anxiety
provoking in its own right.  So, when I get thoughts about how long will my appetite
be affected, I do what I did in number 3, reminding myself to be here now, then I
make sure I stay hydrated and nibble on things until my regular appetite comes back. 
The other thing I used to always do was panic and run to the crisis clinic (and
sometimes by the time I got there, the episode would be over, proving that anxiety
and panic episodes are really transient), so, now what I do is STAY in my routine as
MUCH as possible.  I get up on time rather then wrestle with the covers tossing and
turning and panicking with racing thought.  I feed the cats.  I have a little
something for breakfast and take my meds.  I floss. Brush my teeth.  Check social
media -- all of the things I normally do when I'm feeling fine.  I honestly believe this has a significant impact on the episode passing, as it is sending messages to my brain that everything is same old same old.  Now, I know it's not easy to brush your teeth and do tasks around the house when you're hyperventilating -- I just experienced that this morning (LOL!), but it can be done.  And yes, I go to work (which fortunately I work from home, but I do live classes online, so I'm "on.")


5.)  When it comes to anxiety meds, I try to not take anything; however, my psychiatrist has repeatedly expressed the importance of reestablishing equilibrium through taking my prescribed anti-anxiety med only as needed, such as in cases where I've tried other non-medication routes (such as all of the ideas above), as well as progressive muscle relaxation and guided meditation (which I also did already this morning).  I decided to take my med as prescribed.  If I need the help when I know I'm doing everything in my power otherwise to help myself, I take the med.  Sometimes when the chemical aspect of my imbalance gets too far (or so I'm told by my psychiatrist and psychologist), the med is the most effective thing to help.

I hope my sharing helped you in some way today.

If you're experiencing anxiety, may you feel peace and ease very soon.  Know that you are NOT alone -- far from it.  Know that anxiety's bark is much worse than it's bite.  Know that this storm will pass, and you will feel better soon.


Huge hugs.  Thanks for reading. More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

The Accidental Flirt: Setting Boundaries When You Have BPD (or BPD traits)



What is a boundary?  In interpersonal relationships, you might imagine yourself being in a protective bubble. This bubble grows or shrinks in size depending on who you are around.  The smaller the bubble, the closer and more intimate the other person can get to you, and of courses the opposite is true the larger the bubble.  You control the size of your boundaries, and it is the expectation is the other person will respect your limits.  This, of course, does not always happen.  With some people, you must repeatedly reinforce where you stand in term of your boundaries.  If they continuously disregard and disrespect the limits you have set, it may be time to re-evaluate whether this is a relationship you want to continue to nurture.

In the past, when I experienced the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) fiercely, my overall sense of boundaries and enforcing them were non-existent.  I remember scenarios such as meeting a stranger at a bus stop, them being friendly, and me then literally unloading my whole life story (or at least the latest dramatic highlights) to them before the bus arrived.  As my stranger "friend" would board the bus and I'd wait for mine, I'd be left with feelings of regret and an ickyness that at the time I couldn't describe -- it just felt "dirty," I suppose -- I felt emotionally naked -- very vulnerable and exposed...yet I repeatedly did this all of the time.

Perhaps I longed for connection, and since my life in general was very unstable at that time, and I didn't have any healthy relationships that allowed for a balanced reciprocation of personal information, I tried to connect with anyone who would listen... anyone who had warm eyes or a soft smile... anyone who I thought would care to make a connection with me.  Unfortunately, a lack of boundaries often achieves the opposite of connection: it can push people away.

People who have a balanced set of boundaries can spot a person with poor boundaries from a mile away. Why? Because when we behave from a boundary-less place, it makes others uncomfortable.  By coming on too strong (as I did in the bus stop... or by "falling madly in love" over night with a potential partner or even a potential friend), people with a healthier sense of boundaries may see this as a red flag and avoid going deeper with us.  On the other side of the coin, there are some who prey on those with poor boundaries, and they make take advantage of the situation. I've certainly experienced both.

Another issue that I had with interpersonal effectiveness when my boundaries were poor is that men (and women) would hit on me all of the time.  When I was in a relationship with a steady boyfriend, he would get so upset, insisting that I'm "asking for it" by overtly flirting with anyone and everyone, including the cashier who rang up our groceries.  I would get so bent out of shape and offended.  I saw my boyfriend as jealous, possessive, and insecure, and I thought I must have been hot stuff to be hit on so often. That was my version of reality, and I believed it.  I would also sometime have (again, "dirty") feelings inside in response to feeling that men were being inappropriate with me "all of the time."

When I began to consider that I might have had some role in the situation, I began to change my behavior.  This did not happen overnight.  Even when I set the intention to be aware of the messages I was sending to others, I'd still find myself falling into automatic flirtation -- much to my own, and my boyfriend's dismay.  I had to admit that I had developed a way of connecting with others that sent messages I didn't intend to send.  I saw my behaviors, words, and actions as "nice," but they were often misinterpreted as signals that I was interested in something more with the person, usually of a romantic nature.

I began to notice.  I began to pause before engaging in interaction. I became mindful of my words, tone of voice, body language, and choice of words.  This might seem like a lot off trouble and like a process that requires a lot of energy -- and it does; but, I knew it would be worth it to me.  I was so fed up with boyfriends accusing me of deliberately flirting, even in front of them, disrespecting them, myself, and the relationship.  I needed to know if I really was doing anything and then make adjustments and changes to alter the course of this repetitive pattern.

As a result, over the years, I've become more reserved in my interactions with strangers or people I do not know well.  I sometimes feel the need to clarify if I am concerned that I've sent the wrong message or led someone on a way that I did not mean to do so.  For the most part though, I've learned to modulate the intensity of my level of sharing and enthusiasm with people until the relationship naturally progresses to a place where there would be less room for misunderstanding of my intentions. 

I have also learned to (most of the time!) share personal information in a way that makes sense to the relationship and at a pace that makes sense for the type of relationship. (No more bus stop life stories!)  I also take the time to observe how a person responds to my sharing and what level of respect and dignity my sharing is treated with... and this determines how much I share or do not share in future interactions.

Boundaries are a very important part of life and can be a challenge when we are emotionally sensitive or have BPD.  Can you relate to any part of my story?

One of the books that has helped me over the years is "Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin."

How are your boundaries at this point in your life?  Have you noticed a shift over the years?  What has helped (or what do you think might help) you to establish healthier boundaries?


Thanks for reading.

More Soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

PS -- If you struggle with boundaries, check out my live, weekly, ►online course◄ where I can work with you on this issue.

Are you selfish for being skillful?



There is a set of skills widely known to help those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), those of us who have BPD traits, and those of us who identify as being emotionally sensitive.  In particular today, I'll be highlighting  "crisis survival" aka "Distress Tolerance" skills.

These skills can be used to help us better cope with distress, because if you could actually solve the problem (or multiple problems) you are facing, you would likely be turning to problem solving skills. If there is no immediate solution and you're finding yourself becoming emotionally dysregulated, these skills may help. They do in my case and for many others I know who try them.

We can turn to these skills when we are experiencing emotional distress over things that we have no control over in the moment. In just a bit, I'll give you a very real example of my own, as I am calling upon these skills in my own life right now.

What sometimes stands in the way...

1.) The thing about Distress Tolerance skills is that many of them may, on the surface, appear to be simplistic too work. Because of this, we may readily dismiss the skills instead of using them. If you have this thought, the encouragement is to just notice it, and give the skills a chance anyway.


2.) Another thought that sometimes stands in the way of practicing is that we are doing something "wrong/selfish," or "non-productive."  I'll address each of these concerns now.


Thinking you are wrong/selfish about using distress tolerance skills to soothe and distract you during a crisis:

I'm dealing with a number of very stressful issues over which I have no to little control. Where I do have little control, I'm exercising it.  In the other areas, I am choosing to be skillful, even though to the outside world I may look wrong or selfish. 

For example, I just found out yesterday that my Grandmother, my only loving grandparent who lives 3.000 miles away, is in critical condition in a nursing home*. She likely only has a short time. I, of course, became so sad and cried. I then called her. I tried to speak with her, but she can no longer speak. This was really hard to bear (very emotionally distressing.)

The nurse held the phone to my grandmother's ear as I told her I loved her as other important things. My wonderful, stubborn grandmother never really wanted to learn much English, and my Italian is extremely limited, but I said what I could, and I know she can hear me.

Now, my emotional mind can be unreasonable. It suggests that I need to dwell upon, ruminate, and get very anxious over what's happening. 

I understand and have compassion for that part of my mind, but is any of that REALLY going to help anyone, or does it have the potential to make matters worse? (That's my Wise/Rational/Reasonable Mind talking back.)

It's hard not to think of Grandma and get sad. That's NORMAL, of course. After that I have a choice. I'm 3,000 miles away and unable to travel back to her at this time.  She's in her 90s, and I have no control over whether this is her time.  Getting myself sick by not taking proper care of my own health or acting out due to the distress won't help my Grandmother, it won't help me, and it won't help anyone else.  I have to make the CHOICE to keep it together and get/stay skillful.

In conjunction with practicing a skill called Radical Acceptance (a mindfulness practice), I'm finding ways to distance myself from the intensity of the emotions I'm feeling (consciously and without suppressing or denying that I have real and valid sadness), and I'm soothing myself, including by watching an intriguing show on Netflix (at the moment, it's Breaking Amish.)

So, am I wrong or selfish for taking a time out and getting engrossed in a television show while my grandmother's health is failing and I cannot be by her side?  Of course not. She would not want me in constant despair.  It's easy for us to see others as not being selfish but we often accuse ourselves of being so. Consider this the next time you judge yourself in this way.


Thinking you are being non-productive by disconnecting from the distress and doing something to distract and soothe yourself

This couldn't be further from the truth.  Engaging in activities that help take down our emotional intensity for a while when we are in great distress is actually PRODUCTIVE.  Think of your resting and restoring as a way of recharging your batteries so that you can cope from a place of strength and wise mind for the long haul.  Of course if you take a friend's offer up to go for a mani-pedi while something terrible is going on, you are not doing anything to solve the terrible problem. Chances are, that's exactly why you're getting the mani-pedi -- to take a respite, a much needed break from the intense emotional dysregulation that can come with feeling distressed.  Getting your nails painted won't solve your problems, but it can provide a needed break to recharge and at least feel "ok" while difficult things are going on in our lives.

The bottom line is: It's OKAY and ENCOURAGED to take breaks and practice distress tolerance skills in order to support our mental health and get through difficult times.

It may seem selfish or unproductive to others, but that's THEIR story.  It doesn't need to be part of yours.


Thanks for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

*Since I began drafting this post, my Grandma has passed away. I continue to cope skillfully and effectively.

Another Contributing Idea: Distress Tolerance Application



In life, it's often the little things that matter and that end up making the most difference.  I am a big drinker of Zevia soda (this isn't a promo for them, but in brief, I turned to it from Diet Coke years ago because I no longer wanted to consume aspartame and caffeine, and theirs is an all natural cola. It's the only soda I drink.)  

Whenever you purchase 6-packs of soda no matter the brand, they come with plastic rings that hold the pack together.  I remember someone telling me years ago how important it is to break up these rings by cutting all of the loops.  The reason being is because birds in landfills get caught in them, and it can be tragic. Same thing if these end up in the water or in other places where wildlife can come into contact with them.  So, I have a little box next to my soda stash and when I have a few built up, I cut the rings before disposing.

This is an example of how you can practice the Distress Tolerance skill of Contributing.  We often think we need to do something massive or grand in order to be practicing  this skill, but it can really be something simple, like helping someone with their groceries, opening the door, helping with a chore or task, or cutting up 6-pack rings, which most likely saves the life of a bird, and that's pretty big! :)

Contributing works to help us tolerate our emotional distress because it's something we can do and have control over, even if we have other problems over which we have no control in the moment.  It is a way to skillfully distract ourselves.  And, in helping others, we get two positives: witnessing their joy as well as ours as a result of seeing that we've made a difference.  All off this can elevate our mood and help us to get through rough times. 

Often the urge or impulse is to retreat and hide when we're feeling badly.  What if we, instead, found a way to be of service to others?  Imagine the potential benefits.

What are some ways you can contribute to improve your mood and a moment in someone else's life?

I look forward to your ideas.

Thanks for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,
Debbie

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