Never Thought I’d Be Here – Part Two

My experience at the clinic was a positive one, excluding the Friday of course. Once I settled in, I started feeling better. Friday evening I slept straight through, as well as every night I was there. Which isn’t normal for me. Usually my first night sleeping out I barely sleep at all. What made it different this time? Maybe it’s because I felt taken care of and safe. That could be it.

The first night I got room service, since I had a lot of social anxiety, and didn’t want to be around so many strangers in the dining hall. The food there was better than I thought it would be. I lost a lot of weight last year, and from a healthy weight, I’m now underweight again. I’ve always been small built and skinny, and I hated it. I’d get mocked about it in school. While others were worried about gaining weight, I was desperately trying to pick up weight for most of my life. Four years ago, I finally achieved a perfect weight. But last year, I lost it all, and more. For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to go back to that weight. I’ve started eating 4 meals a day (including a protein shake). So the 3 big meals a day and 2 snack times (and hot chocolate in the evenings) at the clinic have made a difference.

I had two awesome roommates. One of them was a lot like me … The two introverts. We’re still in contact, and she refers to me as Psychologist, which I secretly love. The other one (Roommate #2) is a complete extrovert (I’m still in contact with her too), and would drive me and Roommate #1 crazy (but she knew that and was proud of it). Being in that environment, no one judges, and no matter how ‘weird’ you are, they accept you. After all we’re in the same place together, and there for somewhat similar reasons. I liked most of the people there. So many different characters. It felt like a big family. I miss the environment and the people there. Even the nurses were great.

Then there were the groups. The groups are focused exclusively on DBT, so I went to a few of those. We also had art therapy. I miss the routine there, so I’ve been trying to stick to it at home now. Lot’s of self care, eating better, having a mug of hot chocolate before bed (strangely enough, it helps me sleep), and a host of other things. It’s bound to become habit as long as I keep sticking to it.

If I could, I would have stayed for the entire three week program. At least I know that when I really need it, I can go back again.

Here’s what I learned from my time at the clinic:

It’s okay to reach out for help, and accept it when offered. It’s not a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength.

Just because I feel ashamed of doing something I never thought I’d do, like going into the clinic, doesn’t mean that I have to give in to that shame.

Support groups are valuable.

A non judgemental environment, where I’m accepted, is so important. I want to surround myself with such people, and spend more time with those who make me feel like I matter, that I’m accepted and loved just the way I am. I need to find those types of people too.

I need to keep my heart open. Because the most unlikely person, might just become someone really important. Go out and meet more people. You never know who might be going through similar challenges.

Routine is valuable and important to me.

I can’t just help and support others all the time, I must also allow others to help and support me. I can’t be responsible for everyone to the detriment of myself (thanks for this revelation Therapist).

Some people are just draining. Spending more time with those who lift me up and make me feel good, is so healing. Limit my time with people who deplete my energy. I say “limit” because I don’t want to not spend any time with them, as there’s a difference between those who drain my energy due to a difference in personality (introvert vs. extrovert), and those who are a negative force in my life.

And most important of all…
The clinic isn’t as scary as I thought it would be, hence my avoidance of them my entire life. Making assumptions and judgements about things, from other people’s accounts, or from what I see in the media, is a recipe for disaster. Everyone’s experiences are different, so why fear those things that might end up not being scary at all.

Broken Hearts

If you’re reading these words…

I wish I could take your tears away. I wish I could take away your hurt.
I need you to know, that just because I wasn’t crying, didn’t mean I didn’t feel anything.

I felt so much inside. I felt it all. I still do. I just didn’t know how to release it without falling apart. You say that I don’t always have to be the strong one. But I wanted to be strong for you. I still do. But the truth is, I’m not all that strong. And I’m so sorry.

When I first met you, I didn’t know that you would become my deepest love. You crept into my heart and became my world. I won’t forget how it felt to have your hand in mine. How it felt to kiss you and lie in your arms. To hold you in mine.

When you held onto me this morning as we said goodbye, I didn’t want to let go. I wanted to beg you to stay with me, and for things to remain the same. I hoped that I would wake up and realize it had just been a nightmare. But it isn’t, is it? I didn’t ask you to stay and come back with me. Because I knew we are doing the best thing for us both. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Watching you walk away, broke through every defense I had.

No one is to blame. Time just wasn’t on our side. The connection we share will never fade away. Time can’t take that away from us. I’ll never give up on you. I’ll always be close.

You’re my best friend. My soulmate. I love you. Forever.

Making Progress Even When You Can’t See It

A few sessions ago, I told my therapist that I finally felt like I was making progress. That therapy is finally helping me. She jokingly asked me if I was saying that therapy hasn’t helped me before that? I told her that the seeds had been there all along, but I just hadn’t been aware of the growth until now.

Often, we don’t see the progress we have made. Hell, we may even feel like we’re just moving backward. And sometimes that’s the truth. We take a step forward, only to move two steps back. But that’s okay. That’s the thing with mental illness. There are no quick fixes. The road to recovery isn’t straight and easy. It takes a lot of work, and there will be relapses and set backs. It’s completely normal, even though it can be extremely frustrating.

When I do something different to how I would have done it in the past, Therapist will point it out and tell me to look at the growth I’ve made, and how far I’ve come. Most of the time I don’t even see what’s right in front of me, due to the negative way I tend to see myself. Other times when she points these things out to me, it fills me with a sense of pride. Because at that moment, I can see it. All the little things I do differently. All the ways in which I have improved. They’re there. I just need to open up my eyes.

If you feel like you’re not making any progress, take a look back, and you might be surprised to find that you have indeed made progress. Small steps in the right direction. When I’m in crisis, and I feel I’m getting worse or therapy isn’t working, and I just want to give up, I like using the DBT skills from the Distress Tolerance (Crisis Survival Skills) module. The Distract Skill, which is broken down into ACCEPTS as follows:

Activities – Find an activity you can get lost in.
Contribute – Help someone else. Contribute in any way you can, such as smiling at a stranger.
Compare – Compare your past self with your present self.
Emotions – Try to find a way to switch into a different emotion. Through music for example.
Pushing Away – If you can’t solve a problem right then and there, pick that problem up and imagine putting it into a box. Place it on a shelf until you’re in a better space to deal with it.
Thoughts – Name things around you. Or breathe in a word, and choose another word for the out breath.
Sensations – An ice cold shower, or lying on cold tiles seems to do the trick for me. Or if it’s raining, I stand in the rain until I’m shivering. Eat or drink something bitter or sweet. Anything that engages one or more of your senses is helpful.

I use the ‘Compare’ part quite often now. Looking at my past self, and comparing that to how I am now. It’s a very good way to see the little bits of progress I have made. It helps get me out of that crisis state, and into what Marsha Linehan (the creator of DBT) calls Wise Mind. Writing down all the improvements. It’s not easy in those moments of intensity, in the midst of the emotional storm, but once started, and written down, I usually find that storm start to slowly die down a little. Because then my mind is engaged in the current task. A positive task. Something that isn’t harming me.

Just as a side note. Using these skills in the heat of an emotional storm is difficult. Mostly because you won’t always remember them. At least that’s the case with me. So it’s important to write these skills down, along with a list of what you feel would help you in each of those ‘catagories’ during these difficult moments.

Right now, I’m treating myself to a delicious, creamy mug of hot chocolate to celebrate the ways in which I have grown over these past few months. It’s my special treat for a job well done. And even though I still have a long way to go, that doesn’t mean that I can’t celebrate the little steps I have already made.

So go on and treat yourself to something you enjoy, or that warms your heart. You deserve it.

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