This All-Inclusive Moment (Mindfulness, DBT)

When you are emotionally sensitive or have Borderline Personality Disorder, sitting with uncomfortable emotions or situations can be very difficult -- excruciating, even.  But, there is a way to reduce our suffering and better cope.  Stick with me here...

A concept in Dialectical Behavior Therapy and in Mindfulness practices that are thousands of years old, is Radical Acceptance.  This means fully accepting and embracing the moment, exactly as it is. Even if we don't like it.  Even if we wish it were different. Even if we want it to change.

The paradox of change is that the present moment is something we must fully accept the way it is before we can make any type of shift or change.

In my experience and my observations of other humans, a piece that gets in the way of truly accepting the moment is equating acceptance with approval.  But the truth is, we don't have to like, approve of, or condone something in order to take the first step of looking it square in the eye, saying, "I see you. I know you're there.  I accept that this is the reality of this moment," and then deciding what to do from there.

I read recently one of the most brilliant articles I've come across on Radical Acceptance in quite some time.  It's called, "Being 'In' The Moment When We Don't 'Like' The Moment" by Nancy Colier, LCSW, Rev.  In this article, Nancy talks about something that I have personally struggled with when it comes to acceptance: Not liking the moment.   It has been very difficult for me to reconcile how to accept a moment if I do not like what is happening in it.

Nancy says:

"...Not wanting is simply included in the “what is”... Our dislike of the moment is part of and not a contradiction to our presence. Being able to be in the moments we don’t want is a challenge that requires different skills than being in the moments we want (which also takes skill). Experiencing what is, as it is, along with our dislike of it, forms a base of compassion for ourselves—that we are living this hard moment and it is painful and we want it to be otherwise and it is what is so right now. All are true—all at once. This self-compassion, of diving into the whole of what is, regardless of the difficulty that inspires it, is always healing and always carries the feel of a loving embrace."

I am going to be working on this practice and remembering that not liking what is happening in the moment is part of what is happening in the moment. This is an all-inclusive moment.  Deep stuff!

Thank you for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,

Top 3 Reasons to Turn off Malaysia Airplane Story (If you're emotionally sensitive)

I don't know why I do this to myself.  If you are emotionally sensitive, have emotion dysregulation issues, or have Borderline Personality Disorder, I wonder if you can relate.
Over two weeks ago, I, like much of the world, was shocked and confused to learn that a commercial Boeing airplane carrying over 200 international passengers vanished.  Knowing from past major news story coverage that I could count on CNN to be talking about this at any hour, I tuned in.
Although not much was known factually about the whereabouts of the plane, like so many others, I became fascinated with the story, intrigued by the theories, and glued to the screen awaiting any breaking news.
I noticed myself becoming quite emotional during the segments on the human side of this story -- the profiles of the passengers....their photos...their names... loved ones with hope and despair simultaneously consuming their hearts, talking about their missing loved ones in a mix of past and present tense.  I cried.  I even sobbed at one point.  I imagined what it must be like to be in their shoes.
As a human being, I was empathizing.  As an emotionally sensitive person who is prone to becoming dysregulated if triggered or overwhelmed while otherwise emotionally vulnerable (as I have been recently), I found my own mood being drastically affected by my routine of plopping on the couch and watching CNN each night since this story broke.
When my sleep became disrupted with bad dreams and my mood became ever more funky, I had to make a choice to change my habit and take better emotional self care.  Here are my top 3 reasons why we need to stop watching the Malaysian Air story if we are emotionally sensitive and/or easily emotionally triggered and dysregulated:
1.)  Your compassion and empathy can escalate into dysregulation.  Emotionally sensitive people tend to care deeply for others. Repeated exposure to images of grieving and distraught family members can cause us to feel those emotions on some levels and disrupt our emotional well-being.  It's okay to care. It's okay to feel for others. When it crosses the line of causing us to feel unbalanced and unwell, we must take care of ourselves.  Only we can do this, and we must make it a priority.
2.)  Not all of the facts are in.  CNN and other stations are providing interesting theorizing and education on various aircrafts and flying, but the same emotional ups and downs that the families of these passengers are experiencing with the every changing and often contradictory news reports also has a psychological affect on those of us invested in following the story.  It's okay to want to understand.  It's okay to be curious.  When it crosses the line into preoccupation or you are sacrificing other enjoyable activities because the story has sucked you in, it's time to bring back some balance and focus on things in our own lives for which we are grateful.  Turn off the TV and self-soothe with a funny or cute video, do some art work, watch The Voice or whatever upbeat shows are on your TV or Neflix queue.
3.)  In DBT, we learn a set of skills called Distress Tolerance.  These are sometimes referred to as Crisis Survival skills.  These skills are used when you cannot resolve an issue in the moment, and the issue is causing you distress.  You employ these skills to help you tolerate the uncomfortable emotions while not making matters worse and while not sabotaging yourself in any way.  We cannot resolve the issue of this devastating news story.  If repeatedly watching this type of program is causing you emotional distress, some of the DBT strategies that may be effective in reducing your suffering are:
  • Activities:  engage in activities that take your mind off of the distressing matter, including housework, going for a walk, playing with a pet, doing some crafts, exercising
  • Contributing: do something to help someone else
  • Comparisons: count your blessings and note all that you are grateful for.  While it may seem insensitive, remind and reassure yourself that you are not the one going through this crisis personally
  • Emotions: Elicit opposite emotions to any anxiety, sadness, fear, or apprehension you may have.  Watch funny tv shows, movies, and YouTube videos.  Play upbeat music.
  • Pushing Away: Tell yourself you will not think about this issue or watch anything on it at this time in order to improve your mental well-being. Distract and soothe yourself.
  • Thoughts: Consciously and deliberately focus your thoughts elsewhere
  • Sensations: Soothe through your five senses
    • Taste
    • Smell
    • Sight
    • Hearing
    • Touch
Have you been caught up in this or another news story?  Has it affected your mental well-being?  How can you better take care of yourself during this time?
Thanks for reading.
More soon.
In kindness,

Blocks To Listening When You Have BPD or Are Emotionally Sensitive

Whether you have BPD or are an emotionally sensitive person, you might be able to relate to some of these "blocks to listening" that are the topic of discussion in one of the online Interpersonal Effectiveness classes that I co-facilitate over at DBT Path.
I have to be honest and share that when I was in the thick of Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms, I was unaware that I had many of these blocks.  In retrospect, I can see them now.  I am also aware that I currently still engage in/experience some of these blocks.  Awareness is a very important first step to shifting patterns and growing.
I hope to help save a lot of you much pain by asking you to consider whether you experience any of these.  If someone has pointed them out to you and you do not agree and become defensive (as was the scenario that played out with me many times), I ask that you again consider whether there is any validity to the accusation.
In doing this, please have compassion for yourself. It doesn't mean you're a bad person. In fact, people without any type of mental health diagnosis experience these blocks from time to time and varying degrees.  We can work on becoming better listeners and communicators -- essential ingredients for creating and maintaining strong relationships and building lives worth living.

Here's the video:

Thank you for watching and listening.
I look forward to your comments!
More soon.
In kindness,

The Nuts and Bolts of DBT Self-Soothing: Guest Post by Rachel Cooper

Please welcome Rachel Cooper and her second guest blog piece at Healing From BPD! 
From Rachel:
In my last post, (Top 10 DBT Skills for Overcoming Alexithymia & Depression (#8 is my Favorite right now!), I mentioned that I use the Self-Soothe skills from DBT’s Distress Tolerance module to help me when I’m feeling acutely distressed or dysregulated.  In this post, I’m going to break down the skill and relay some nuts and bolts strategies for using the skill in a moment of difficulty.
Self Soothing involves using the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Utilizing this skill might involve using one (or more) of these senses to feel a sense of reprieve from the tug of distressing emotions.
I often look at pictures of people, places and things that are meaningful to me. On
my phone I keep pictures going back a year of all sorts of pleasant memories. My
screensaver on my computer is a picture of me at the beach during a recent vacation
to a warm climate.
I really like post-it notes – I like that they come in different shapes, sizes and colors
and over the last number of years I have copied my favorite quotes and sayings
on to the notes and posted them throughout my room. I find the color of the paper
soothing – particularly the pastel colors, and also my star shaped post-it notes
perfect for a smiley face or other small reminder. Post it notes are also great to keep
in your wallet or daytimer too.
Sometimes I’m too distressed to watch TV, or I feel so amped up that focusing on a
movie or TV show means that my mind races too quickly. When that happens, I have
a couple of tricks. I subscribe to a cable TV package that features the sunset channel,
the fireplace channel and the aquarium channel. All three have one stagnant picture
that changes very slowly. Watching these channels also helps with mindfulness. I
can choose to focus on the sound of the waves on the beach as the sunsets, or to
focus on a particular fish in the aquarium. Couple this channel with soothing music,
and you have a double-dose of soothing stimuli!
If you don’t have access to these TV channels, you can use the visualizer option in
your iTunes or computer music player to display different colors and shapes on
your screen. You don’t even need music for this feature to work!
Candles are my go-to for using smell to self-soothe. Take the time to find a brand or
flavor of candle (or incense) that you like. If you can’t afford to purchase a candle,
you can have explore bath and body shops that offer candles and take a trip there,
taking the time to smell all the flavors on offer.
If you live in a place where you can’t burn candles, consider getting some body mist,
body lotion or shower gel that smells enjoyable to you. You can build on this form of
self-soothing by using the great smelling product during or after a nourishing bath
or shower.
There’s something really soothing about walking into a bakery and smelling fresh
baked bread, cookies or cake. Take a trip around your local neighborhood and
browse the local bakery and enjoy the smells wafting from the oven.
I also love the smell of vanilla, and so from time to time, I will break into my supply
of vanilla extract and dab some on my wrists and neck.
One trick that real estate brokers use to sell homes is to boil some cinnamon sticks
in a pot of water on the stove on low heat. This technique diffuses the scent of the
cinnamon. I have not tried this trick myself, but I’m looking forward to doing so
when I’m settled in my own home.
There are certain foods and drinks that I really enjoy to eat and drink. Coffee is my
by far my favorite drink, and I self-soothe every morning with a freshly brewed cup
of coffee. I like to explore different cafes and try different coffee drinks and this is a
way for me to leave the house and mingle with other people and people watch.
I also like many flavors of tea. There are lots of specialty teashops where you can
sample different types of teas before purchasing. Smelling tea at these shops is also
a form of self-soothing through smell!
In terms of food, sometimes I need to balance two different skills – the Emotion
Regulation Skill PLEASE (Balance Eating) and self-soothing through taste. In order
to get the most of a particular flavor, I try to eat mindfully, savoring every bite of
whatever I’m eating. I also find that the more variety I have in the foods that I’m
using to self-soothe the less likely I am to over-indulge in any one particular food.
Touch can be a very powerful form of self-soothe, and there are endless options for
materials and textures.
The clothes that you wear are a simple but powerful way to self-soothe. I keep a
collection of favorite shirts, sweaters, pants and socks in my closet – when I feel
upset, I will put on one of my beloved items of clothing and the feeling of the clothes
against my skin instantly soothes me. Similarly, a favorite blanket or pillow can
bring much comfort too.
I’m not ashamed to admit I sleep with a stuffed animal. I bought my green, corduroy
stuffed crocodile when I was in a dark, depressive place, and during those days,
holding him and stroking his nose and tail seemed to decrease the severity of the
distress I was experiencing. Stuffed animals provide safe, healing cuddles anytime,
Hugging a trusted friend or family member can also be a great way to self-soothe – it
also helps that that person can lend a listening ear while they’re at it!
For many people water is very nourishing and soothing. Bubble baths and long,
hot showers have become a staple of my self-soothing routine. I used to think that
I needed to set aside an hour for a bath, but I’ve discovered that even 15 or 20
minutes in the tub is enough to calm me down and ground me.
A lot of people tell me that when they feel emotionally dysregulated, there is a
particular piece of music or a sound that they like to listen to. Music is very healing
for me. I have playlists for different emotions and situations, and I make a point of
keeping them updated so I don’t get bored. When I was at the beach on vacation, I
made a point of recording the sounds of the waves so that I could listen whenever I
needed a soothing sound and I play that recording back sometimes too.
Occasionally I will receive a voicemail on my answering machine that’s really
meaningful to me. Perhaps it was the timing – the right person called just at the
right moment. Maybe it was the content of the message and the caller said
something that really touched me. When I get those voicemails, I record them and
save them as an mP3 file so that I can come back and listen to them. One of the best
voicemails I ever got was from 10 years ago, when my chiropractor cousin called me
to remind me to ice and stretch a sports injury. When “Ice and Stretch” plays on my
iPod I always smile wide because it was a fantastic message to get – and catchy too!
I listen to a lot of public radio and podcasts, and believe or not, talk radio is the most
soothing sound I can think of. In fact, I fall asleep with my iPod on every night, and
sometimes wake up to it too! One of the keys to using voice for self-soothing is to
know that I’m not paying attention to what the voice is saying, just the sound of the
voice itself. This way, I don’t feel anxious about falling asleep in the middle of the
recording – I know I can listen to the content when I am more awake and focused.
And finally, sometimes I need to hear the sound of my own voice. It’s one thing to
hear my voice in my head. But it’s another thing entirely to talk to myself. In a calm
voice, I tell myself that I’m loved, I love other people, my recovery is intact and I am
a good person. Sometimes I tell myself to settle down, that everything will be ok and
that this too will eventually pass. Sometimes I sing to myself, just as toddlers will
sing to themselves as they fall asleep. Most of the time I use this self-soothing
technique, it’s very effective.
In conclusion...
It can be daunting to think about self-soothing as an effective technique to use when
in the midst of acute emotional distress. Like all other DBT skills, incorporating self-
soothing techniques into your daily routine, regardless of whether or not you feel
distressed, will help you learn and discover what feels good to you. Then, when you
experience a difficult moment, you will feel more confident about your ability to pull
a self-soothing tool out of your proverbial toolbox and use it.
Thanks for reading,
Rachel Cooper is a passionate advocate for mental health. She has participated in discussions with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and at the University of Toronto. In recovery from depression, Rachel strives to live a meaningful and balanced life. She believes that everyone is capable of learning and using coping skills to create a life worth living.   Rachel tweets @rachbcooper.

Help Wanted: Men Have BPD, Too

Just this morning, I received yet another comment from a male reader on my post, "Resources: Men and Borderline Personality Disorder." Yes: Men have BPD too, and they are reaching out for help. 
I was so pleased to see that Dr. Robert Fischer of Optimum Performance Institute (you've probably noticed that they've collaborated and partnered with me here at Healing From BPD), spoke up about this issue in an article today entitled, "Men Can Have Borderline Personality Disorder, Too," with Richard Zwolinksi, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski of Therapy Soup at PsychCentral.  Dr. Fischer's work with the Roanne Program allows him to help BPD sufferers of all genders, so I have always considered him an expert on this topic.
In the article, the truth about how BPD is mistakenly considered a "women's disorder" even among the professional community is discussed as well as how Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and other types of treatment have been giving hope to people of all genders who suffer.
Dr. Fischer gets into how BPD typically manifests differently in men vs. women, how the causes for the onset of the disorder may differ as they would from person to person (rather than being gender-specific),  and how help is available to those who seek it -- but we need to do more.
I was really moved to see this piece and encourage others in the community, including male sufferers of Borderline Personality Disorder to begin to come forward, speak up, and receive support while advocating for access to services that can help them recover.
Give it a read by clicking here.
Are you a male who suffers from BPD?  What has been your experience with reaching out and receiving services?  Are you a loved one of a man who suffers?  What has been your observation of this issue?
Thanks for reading.
More soon.
In kindness,

PLEASE take care of Physical Health for Emotional Resilience (DBT)

Physical pain and illness -- you've suspected it, and you're right -- affect our emotional resilience and can cause us to be more emotionally vulnerable.  Fortunately, there are specific DBT skills to help cope effectively when we are not feeling well.
So what DBT skills did I end up following, and how can they help you if you are dealing with physical pain (whether it is a migraine, jaw pain, chronic pain, or other sickness) if you also have Borderline Personality Disorder or are an emotionally sensitive or dysregulated person?  Read on...
Lately, I've been dealing with a lot of physical pain.  I'm awaiting test results for related medical issues, and in the meantime, I also unfortunately popped my jaw.  Between TMJ from clenching my teeth at night from stress and a medication that made me so hungry that I attacked a vegan sub like a cheetah on the Serengeti, I added a lot of pain to an already difficult physical situation. 
Even though my dentist wisely recommended that I use a hot compress and take something to help with the inflammation and pain, but I didn't take it too seriously.  I did unfortunately NOT listen and did NOT attend to a physical need. 
I was on heavy duty medication for another issue. When I came off of it, it was clear it had been helping to mask the pain of my jaw, which at this point was brutal. 

I began having very intense panic and anxiety attacks. I wondered if the pain would ever go away. It was interfering with sleep and eating, which led to more intense anxiety, which exacerbated all of the physical symptoms -- a very vicious circle.
Last week after a long work day of three online DBT groups, I broke down and went to see an urgent care doctor.   I told her that Tylenol did nothing to help. Neither did Aleve.  I was very concerned.  She prescribed something stronger.  I began to take this in conjunction with treating the area with a warm compress according to my dentist's instructions and also lots of rest and a soft food diet.

I began to feel better physically.  I'm still in pain, but not nearly as much.  I'm managing it a lot better emotionally, too.  Far less anxiety.
The set of Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills that I used primarily was: PLEASE.
The acronym stands for:

from Dr. Marsha Linehan's Training Manual for Disordered Emotion Regulation

The other skill I used comes from the Distress Tolerance module, and it is prayer. (I wrote this post, a while back about using this particular skill.)  I am not a religious person but felt comfort in reaching out to a higher power while feeling unwell.

Being stubborn and not attending to our physical body's needs can have a negative impact on our ability to tolerate distress and regulate our emotions.  Our emotional resiliency is reduced. 
By being willing to address any physical concerns we have by using the skills above and any other DBT skills that we find supportive and comforting, we give ourselves the advantage of not having our emotional strength compromised in this way.

I hope this post helped you or someone you care about today.

Thank you for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,


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