Getting There

Yesterday was a better day.

This roller coaster I’ve been on seems to be slowing down. I’m not off the ride just yet, but the slower speed is a relief.

I’m proud of myself for one thing at least. Instead of doing what I would usually do, which is self-medicate with my benzo’s (more than what’s prescribed), I used the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of Urge Surfing and Riding The Wave. Just allowing myself to fully experience the urges for self-harm, medication, and alcohol, and feel the emotions that I so desperately wanted to numb.

I managed to cope with those intense feelings and urges by doing some physical activity right in my room, such as push ups. Something I find really soothing is lying stomach down on my fitness/exercise ball and slowly rolling back and forth, stopping for about 30 seconds every now and then to just breathe and feel the pressure and support against my stomach and upper body. It may sound weird, but it helps. I had to use a lot of my coping skills and tools, and I realized again just how important it is to have those.

Another urge I’ve had is to quit therapy (next session and the first of this year is next week Wednesday). Not because of my therapist, but because I’ve been wondering whether therapy in general is still worth it for me. Feeling like I’m sick of doing the work and still having these bad mental health days, to this extent. But I managed to avoid sending those emails and messages.

My main goal during times like these is to get through these moments in less destructive ways as far as possible. And I think I’ve managed that quite well so far.

Group Spa Therapy

Group was lovely tonight. So different/weird-but-nice. It felt like a combination of time spent in a spa, and therapy. D, the OT, had lit candles in the room we were having the group in. There was even a light vanilla scented air freshener thing going on. Very romantic! We spoke about self-compassion, self-soothing, and the ACCEPTS DBT skill (Distress Tolerance). D passed around a variety of hand lotions, and showed us a hand massage video, which we had to follow along with, using whichever lotion we had chosen. Now do you get why I said it felt like I had spent time in a spa?

As usual, we ended off with a meditation/visualization, before we were sent on our merry way.

I’m linking to another video that D had shown us tonight as well. I found it so cute!

Now, I’m off to go roll myself up, and follow the video’s instructions.

It Was Okay

On Monday I phoned the OT who lead the group last week. I’m going to refer to her here as D from now on. I told her how hard I had been taking the events of last Tuesday’s group. That I’ve been holding onto this feeling of shame. Side note: I don’t really know how to let go of shame, other than to try to bury it. But that’s not helpful either, as it keeps coming back. I told her that I don’t want to go to group on Tuesday, but at the same time, I do. I asked her what I should do. She didn’t tell me what to do, but instead, gave me the tools I needed in that moment to make my own decision. She reminded me of a skill I “learnt” previously. Doing the opposite action to how I’m feeling. So if I don’t feel like coming to group because of the emotions I’m experiencing, then the opposite of that would be to go. Something like that. The moment she said that, it fell into place and I made the decision that I’m going to go in. For some reason, she has a strong influence on me (along with my therapist and the OT I’m working with individually). Their words hold more power than anyone else. I felt better after that call.

Walking up to the clinic last night and going inside, my heart was racing, and I felt nauseous. In our session on Thursday my therapist told me that she’s concerned about how often and how many of my Benzo’s I’ve been taking recently. So after that session, I decided to lay off them for a while. Last night was the first time I had it again, and just one, the lowest dose, just as prescribed (even though that dose barely takes the edge off). I had taken it before I left for group. Walking into the coffee shop (where we usually meet), I didn’t even look at anyone. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to stay, but I had already ordered my coffee. Which, by the way, is my weekly splurge. Who thought cappuccino was something to get excited about? I look forward to that cup of coffee every week… Don’t know what I look forward to the most. That or the group. I know, that’s sad. As I held the warm cup in my hand, and heard D’s voice in my head, I suddenly felt this calm come over me. Like a soft, comforting cloud.

It was then that I felt I could face everyone again. That it was okay. So I joined those outside, and that feeling of calm stayed. None of them seemed to look at me any differently… Like I had assumed they would. Assumption really is the mother of all fuck ups, isn’t it? Thinking that they were all judging me, when I was just projecting my own self judgement onto them. At some point I somehow (I have no idea how it happened), spilled coffee all over me. I’m one of those people who always falls over things, spill things, etc. I’m never without bruises (and never just one). My friends joke that when I get my own place I must child-proof it. Thanks guys. When these things happen when I’m around people (other than my friends), I get so embarrassed, turn bright red, and try to cover it up with a joke or two. But this time, I felt… Nothing. It didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t even care that it had spilled on my phone as well, whereas other times I’m paranoid about anything happening to it. Even a drop of water. Yes, I’m that protective over my phone. With all my stuff actually. Even my books. I could have read them twice, but they still look brand new. I look after my things because I can’t afford to replace any of it, and I only keep things around me that serve a purpose in my life.

One of the clinic psychologists was leading the group last night. I’ve always been somewhat wary of him. But the past two times that he’s run the group, I’ve been slowly warming up to him. But I’ll never talk to him or open up to him outside of the group. It was a small group last night, which was actually nice. The psychologist asked who wanted to check in first. One of the guys shared his week. When the psychologist asked who wanted to go next, I actually raised my hand! What?! I hadn’t gone in with the intention of sharing anything. But now, here I was, ready to do just that. I didn’t hold anything back. I told them about my struggle regarding last week’s group, and the aftermath of it. The shame, embarrassment, and fear, I’ve been feeling since then. I didn’t talk down to the floor this time, but looked at everyone as I spoke.

They were all so supportive, kind and validating. I felt relieved, like I could breathe again.

In the second half, we were going through the Barriers to Interpersonal Effectiveness. One of the guys was explaining how he experiences one of those barriers. I had noticed that he used the word “should” a lot. For example, “this person should support me”. I kept hearing my therapist telling me that she doesn’t like the word “should”. So I somehow managed to find the perfect time to jump in and give my input. I told him (and the others) how my therapist catches me when I say the word “should” (and all those other “have to” words and phrases), and has me rephrase it. Such as “I would like this person to support me”, or “I would prefer to have their support”. So I feel as though I at least contributed a little bit. And I still felt so calm. It’s very rare that I feel proud of myself. I’m way too self-critical. But last night was one of those rare times. I did it! And it was okay!

At first I thought (and said) “it’s probably just the meds that’s making me feel so calm and able to talk about this now”, but the psychologist was quick to point out that I can’t attribute it all to medication. That it was me, and that I did well. Thinking about it, I know it’s not “just the benzo”. Because last week I took three of them before the group, and I was still anxious. So one couldn’t have made such a big difference yesterday. I wasn’t dissociated either. I was fully present. At least that’s how it felt.

I felt relatively good driving home afterward. But at the same time, I had this subtle feeling that all was still not okay on the inside.

I’ll write about that in another post. I’m all out of writing fuel for today.

Practicing Acceptance

For the past two weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about Radical Acceptance during our group sessions. I felt as though my mind was fighting against this idea. It wasn’t until Friday morning that it grabbed a firm, positive, foothold in my mind. Since then, I’ve been working through the concept, trying to understand it better and just basically thinking about it from every angle.

One of my biggest challenges is in accepting myself. I’m my own worst enemy. Aren’t we all? No matter how many compliments I get, what kind words come my way, I struggle to believe them. How can I believe that which I don’t feel is true? I’m still trying to get to that place of being able to accept compliments without feeling embarrassed and like I don’t deserve them. Or that people are just saying these things without actually meaning them. I have become better at this over the past year, but still have a long way to go. I also struggle with the concept of being accepting of myself, the way I am, while also working on changing that which needs to be changed.

Then there’s acceptance of others. It’s easier for me to be accepting of others, than of myself. But of course, I said “easier” not “easy”. One of my biggest irritations is having people cancel plans with me, too close to the time. The reason I feel so strongly about it, is because keeping commitments is very important to me. I stick to my commitments, unless of course, there’s a very valid reason for cancelling. No matter how depressed or tired I may be, or how much I want to cancel, I will keep that coffee date with a friend, for example. But I need to accept that not everyone is like this. We all have our own values, and what’s important to one person, might not be important to someone else.

In Thursday’s support group, near the end, I awkwardly shared a tiny bit of where I am in life. Living in an environment in which my boundaries aren’t respected, but unable to get out due to a lack of financial resources. One thing that stuck in my mind since then is when they said that I’m doing the best I can. But I can’t get the inner critic to stop telling me that I could do more. I feel this constant pressure to do better, be better, and I get so angry and frustrated with myself because I can’t think of how to do that. This constant striving and fighting is exhausting. Adding fuel to the fire is the feeling of excessive guilt. That maybe I’m doing something wrong, did something wrong, or just not trying hard enough.

I need to accept that I’m doing the best I can with what I have. The circumstances in which I find myself. But I still need to be aware, and open to anything that comes my way (including ideas or solutions that cross my mind) that will allow me to change these circumstances. I just don’t need to fight so hard anymore, which hasn’t accomplished anything worthwhile anyway, and just keeps me in a constant state of high anxiety.

Something else that came up during Thursday’s support group, is how much I tend to compare myself to others. Everyone there had such positive things to share, and seemed so mentally stable. While I was struggling, and in a very dark space in my mind. On Friday I realized that I need to accept that I might not be as far in my healing journey as some others are. Just like there are those who are not as far along as I am. We’re all dealing with different problems. Our lives don’t look the same. Besides, just because someone is having a good day (or seems to be), doesn’t mean that they’re not still struggling. Healing and growth looks different for all of us. There’s no mould for this.

As the writer of a good article I came across yesterday, says:

“Radical acceptance takes lots of practice. And understandably, it might feel strange and hard. But remember that radical acceptance is about acknowledging reality – not liking it or contesting it.”

You can read the article here.

The Inner Child & Teen

I had a DBT session tonight. My OT says I’m making good progress, which was nice to hear. But I feel like I’m not doing well enough. I can just hear my therapist telling me that I’m too hard on myself.

We spoke about a few things, and then started getting into the core emotions. She then focused on one them. Fear. She chose that one for a reason, which I won’t get into here. My memory is a little hazy, so I’m not sure about the order of things, or everything that we spoke about. But at some point, I regressed back to my 14 year old self for a few seconds (I think it was seconds).

This is a fairly new inner part I discovered back in December. This part holds a lot of secrets (that I don’t have access to- but I know they’re there), pain, confusion, fear and shame. The instant I felt her come up, I just shut down. I didn’t want to go there. I just couldn’t. I have no idea what will happen if I allow that part to express herself when someone else is present. In December when I first discovered her, it knocked the breath right out of me. I was back in the place she had been in, and it was excruciatingly painful. I cried for hours, experiencing the physical (I could actually feel it in my body) and emotional pain that she had felt. I wrote her a letter that day which I’ll post here at some point. I first want my therapist to read it, once I feel ready to get into that topic with her again. But since that day in December, I don’t want to explore that part. I don’t think I’m ready yet.

When I was in that disassociated place during this session, OT asked whether it was too much (the territory we were in). I appreciated that she asked me that, and didn’t push me to continue. She helped me through a grounding exercise. It seems and sounds easy, but doing it during those moments isn’t easy at all. I’m still struggling with it, so I’m grateful that she’s there to help me. I’m glad that I get to have these sessions. I’m learning a lot from her. I especially like the consistency. Weekly sessions at the same time, same place. It gives me a sense of stability.

When I got back home, I started feeling really young. I felt like the 5 year old was emerging. I’ve been learning how to work better with this part, how to soothe her, thanks to my therapist’s help.

In a therapy session last year, I had to write a letter to this younger self, and reply to that letter from the adult me. I still find this concept strange and confusing. I know these “parts” are all me, yet they feel so separate. It’s easier to work with if I refer to them as “she” and not “me”. Otherwise it just becomes overwhelmingly complex. My brain overheats. I know that the goal of this work is to eventually integrate these inner parts, so I can be a fully functional adult. Because as it stands, I don’t even know who the adult me really is, and if “she” even exists. I don’t have a stable identity at the moment. I’m all over the place.

The Little One (as my therapist calls her), the 5 year old, wrote a letter to Therapist one day, and she replied with her own letter to that little part. It felt very soothing and comforting to that younger child. I’ll explain how I came to “discover” this youngest inner child in a separate post.

Tonight, every now and then I feel the inner child taking over, and I revert back to my comfort objects (I didn’t have comfort objects as a child). My therapy jacket, and a little blanket. It’s the softest blanket I’ve ever felt. When I’m in this mode, I just want to curl up in bed with these items and cry. There’s a lot of confusion, sadness and fear inside.

I’ve been missing my therapist so much today, and there’s a bit of panic going on too, from the little one. I’m scared of losing the connection with Therapist. I wish I could just phone her and hear her voice. But I know I can’t. So instead, I’ll read the letters she wrote me.