Often when we are in a heightened state (especially when we are emotionally sensitive), the actions we feel like taking – those immediate fixes to quell the pain and calm our nerves in that moment – end up being things that hurts us – either physically or by sabotaging our relationships and life circumstances.
I need to take my own advice, and quite often. As person who lives with and is healing from Borderline Personality Disorder, there are many heightened moments that are so difficult to experience and bear. I’ve learned in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) that what I am experiencing in these states is called “distress,” and unless you are in immediate harm’s way or danger, there are Distress Tolerance skills that you can use for “tolerating painful events and emotions when you cannot make things better right away.” (Marsha Linehan, 1993, Skills Training Manual). These are considered “Crisis Survival Strategies.”
I practiced some today. I was triggered yesterday after watching a film about Borderline Personality Disorder. The film was well-made by a credible source and had lots of great, accurate information about BPD. It is ideal for doctors, graduate students, social workers, and other who treat or love a person with the disorder. Some who have BPD may experience comfort watching the film. They get to see people from all walks of life who talk about their struggles and triumphs and doctors talk about research and findings.
For me, I was particularly triggered by one man’s story. It really shook me up. I couldn’t get his words out of my head, and I kept ruminating. Being that I am also diagnosed with OCD, I recognized a lot of the symptoms showing up (as often happens when I am very stressed or triggered.)
Last night, I kept telling myself that “this too shall pass.” I told myself what I tell others: no matter how intense, extreme, or strong a feeling or emotion it is, it will pass. I don’t have to flip out and cause a scene, even though I really, really want to.
I watched some TV, tweeted some, and spent some quality time with my significant other and cats. It all helped, though the anxiety and unsettled upset lingered, and I could still feel it, even on a visceral level.
It wasn’t until this morning that I was able to focus on the fact that what that guy was talking about was HIS story – not mine. I didn’t have to take it on, make it about me, or worry that what happened to him would happen to me. I realized that I needed to do something to take my mind off of it and take care of myself.
I distracted with a drive down to have lunch outside where some birds were chirping. That was nice. It also served to self-soothe (vision: the birds, hearing: their songs).
I picked up a CD of Whitney Houston and listened to only the songs that make me happy (distracted by changing emotion with music, and self-soothed the hearing sense.)
Now I’m relaxing and writing this post. Emotions and thoughts still lingering, but I’m feeling a lot better. In the past, I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate the type of emotions and thoughts I’ve been experiencing. I would have ended up in the crisis clinic. This is progress. I hope this helped you in some way.
Thanks for reading.