This is a series in which I talk about my experience with DBT. I am not naming any names or institutions that the therapy is associated with. I am not a professional in this field, this is all purely based on my experience and impressions. If you are interested in DBT or other therapies, please talk about it to a medical professional.
I was not doing well at all.
In recent weeks I have been telling you guys about my experience going to DBT, as it happens, honest and raw (Find Part 1 and Part 2 here), and I’m not going to sugar coat anything. I feel terrible, I feel flat, and I feel depressed. Is that because of DBT? I don’t know, if I’m honest.
Actually, if I’m honest? I feel like I came out to have a good time and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now.
Here’s Part 3, week 4.
Still Going Downhill
So… the last time I left you, I had left my last session feeling distressed and called in late to work. I didn’t feel too differently this week.
They started the session as they always do, by practicing last week’s methods. I was actually a couple minutes late (damn you TTC) so I blissfully missed this part. I really don’t like practicing last week’s stuff. I feel silly, doing something like closing my eyes and thinking nice thoughts in front of multiple people. Yes, I know there’s no judgement and everyone is busy worrying about how silly they look or are just focused, but that’s just that. I feel silly.
I got there just in time for when we go around the table and talk about how we did in the past week. Okay, I’m going to sound like a total tool right now, but I judged other people. I’m sorry to say it. I’m not a generally judgmental person at all, and when I catch myself doing it, I stop. You never know how someone is actually doing in life, so it’s not my place to judge.
But I was in just… such a crap mood that day. I was nervous about going to work later, worried that it was going to go badly. Despite discussing changing my availability to a later time on Tuesday after having called in late last week, I was still scheduled earlier because that was done before the discussion. I spent most of the session worrying about that.
I talked about my week. Pretty uneventful. I had a talk with someone close to me that got to me a little bit, and when I started talking about it, I started bawling, because of course. I essentially expressed how I have been trying so hard to be a better person and this past week it’s been really hard getting through it without giving up.
The point is, I didn’t. The session leader reminded me of that, and that was a small comfort. But again, my nerves were frayed that day.
We discussed how I used last week’s methods. It was all about radical acceptance and turning the mind, which is actually something everyone does sort of instinctively when they’re in distress: you have to accept your situation for what it is, decide not to react immediately, and approach the situation with Wise Mind from week 1 – to be clear, this doesn’t mean saying your situation is okay, it’s more like just letting go of how you may feel and approaching it more logically. The point of this exercise was to do it with the awareness that it’s happening.
We had also talked about willfulness vs willingness. Essentially, willfulness is when you don’t make an attempt to change a certain behaviour or do what is necessary to make yourself feel better, while willingness is to try to do what’s right. (These are my interpretations of it, you can find more info about what these methods really are and how to practice them with the attached hyperlinks).
I did practice that a little bit, and I’ll give you an example. During that very session as we were talking about this week’s new lesson, which was about labeling emotions (trust me, it’s harder than it seems), I started to feel distressed. I started to silently cry, I couldn’t hear what was going on around me, and I felt the eyes of everyone there boring into my head. I don’t think anyone was actually aware that I was panicking, in hindsight, that’s just how I felt.
So I practiced radical acceptance. My thoughts went like this: I’m feeling anxious about going to work today. Anxiety is something I’ve had to deal with most of my life, I can deal with it now. Breathe in, breathe out. Wise mind. You’ll be okay. If I change my attitude, and tell myself that it will be a good day instead of just deciding it won’t be, I am more likely to have a good day. Relax, breathe. Wise mind.
I felt better. Really. I stopped crying, wiped away my tears, and grounded myself again. I started listening to what was going on, maybe not fully absorbing it, but still, I was present.
I’m proud of myself for that. A month ago I would have totally zoned out, called in sick, and spent the rest of the day sulking. It felt empowering to ground myself.
Again, these methods are not a cure. I didn’t feel any less anxious than when I had started, but at least I was talking to my self constructively instead of talking myself down and spiraling.
By the way, I did end up having a good day. I started my shift rocky, but by the end of it, I felt better. Happy, actually. I didn’t see that coming at all, so there’s a reminder to you, person who’s reading this. DBT can make you feel crap, but it also empowers you to tackle feeling crap. Eventually, the feeling crappy part will fade away. Or at least, I hope it will.
Either way, I know I’ll be okay.
So, like I mentioned, this week is all about labeling our emotions. This sounds like kindergarten stuff, but it’s actually really useful. Doing my homework last week, I took a peek at this week’s stuff and I was really looking forward to it. Why?
We had 10 sheets, each of them talking about a single emotion. It discussed what the emotion is, other words for that emotion to get more specific, how that emotion effects our behaviour, our mood, our relationships, etc.
It also gives reasons why we might feel that way, which I find most useful. It talks about emotions like guilt and shame, fear and anger. It also talks about happiness, excitement. This is good because I deal with the two former, but the latter is something of a double edged sword. It’s important to identify how we feel all the time, not just when we feel negative, and analyze why we feel this way.
Doing this we recognize what exactly is making us feel underlying and obvious emotions, and whether or not they are for the right, healthy reasons.
For example, should I really feel shame if I don’t exceed expectations every day? Shouldn’t I feel satisfied, happy that I met expectations, or even just tried? On the flip side, am I really feeling happy after binge shopping, and is that a productive feeling? Or am I just coping unhealthily to a different underlying emotion, like depression or anxiety? What can I do to cope with those underlying emotions to feel happy in a more productive way than spending money?
You get my gist. By analyzing how we feel and why, we become more aware of how to regulate those emotions, and get them under control. I look forward to practicing that in the coming week. Hell, I practiced it during that session, worrying about going to work that day! Was I really doomed to fail, or am I just feeling anxious? Why am I feeling anxious? What methods that I’ve learned previously in DBT will help me get that anxiety under control?
I’ll tell you all about how I do next week. For now, here’s a little reminder, reader, whether or not you are doing DBT or any other therapy:
It gets worse before it gets better. Every chart dips before it shoots up to the sky. Endure those downs for the sake of enjoying the highs, otherwise you’ll just weigh yourself down instead of flying.
That’s something my dad told me ages ago. I remember it now, to this day, and it applies. Therapy isn’t going to heal you immediately. Hell, most times it won’t even heal you. But it’s important to remember that therapy is like learning how to ride a bike. It sucks at first, you’re wobbly and fall down a lot, but once you learn, you’ll never forget it. It’ll become part of you and come so naturally to you one day, and that never goes away.
Head up, and truck along. I assure you, if I can do it, so can you.
Let me know in the comments how you guys are doing and getting along as well. I’m as much there for you as I am for myself, and that’s beginning to really mean something. ❤