Coping With Christmas Using DBT Skills

Now don’t get me wrong I love Christmas; the music, the decorations, the feeling of the world being happier than usual but, as great as I think the holidays are, there are problems that many of us face during these times; especially those of us with mental illness, since problems everyone faces on the holidays can be exacerbated by our symptoms. I once had a panic attack on Christmas day because I was so worried people wouldn’t like the gifts I bought them. I recently listened to a podcast about using DBT to help cope with the holidays and thought I’d share what I learned as well as some of my own ideas.

Societal Pressures

It’s in the songs and adverts, the push to make this the season to be jolly, the pressure to be happy and have a perfect day with the family. While it is a nice notion, encouraging people to be nicer and happier, it doesn’t consider the realities of life. Mental illness doesn’t decide to take the day off because its Christmas. If you have depression or anxiety the pressure to be normal for family and trying to be happy can just make you feel worse about being sad or scared on the holiday.

When you feel “bad” especially when everyone else seems to be cheerful it can be tempting to push away your emotions and lose patience with yourself for not feeling how you think you should be. I recently wrote about Self validation which is a key part in the treatment of bpd, I do think its useful for anyone as well. A good way of self validating with DBT is to observe your emotions using mindfulness. This allows you to attend to these feelings without judgement or making yourself feel worse by trying to fight them off. After observing you can describe your emotion, how it feels in your body,what triggered that emotion and what that emotion made you want to do. For example, I was home alone and heard a noise this made me feel scared/afraid that someone was in the house. I had butterflies in my stomach as well as a fast heart beat and tense muscles. This fear made me want to hide in my room. I find this skill useful as it encourages me to bring more awareness to how I’m feeling and how that affects me so I can validate my experience.

Above was an example given to me in the dbt worksheet for observing and describing emotions. Here are some worksheets I found online to help you;

https://dbtselfhelp.weebly.com/letting-go-of-emotional-suffering.html

If you find that your emotions get too overwhelming the distress tolerance skills can be useful. STOP, which stands for Stop Take a step back Observe the situation Proceed mindfully, is good for when you don’t have a lot of time on your hands and can be used anywhere at any time so if you feel yourself about to react to a situation remember to STOP. TIPP (Temperature Intense exercise Paced breathing Paired muscle relaxation) can help you calm your emotion mind by changing your body chemistry, It may need more time and a way get away from the situation unlike STOP but is just as useful. Safe place visualization can be useful if you can’t physically leave the situation but need an escape.

Some handouts for each distress tolerance skill I mentioned:

https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/SafePlace.pdf

http://edencounseling.com/resources/dbt_distress_tolerance_group_3_handouts.pdf

https://www.theroottherapynyc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/distress-tolerance-2.pdf

Family issues

As I mentioned before, Christmas is a time that you’re expected to be together with family and be merry with them. However this isn’t always the case for a lot of us with mental illness, family is the root of our trauma so being around them in a place where the trauma likely happened (childhood home or an extended family’s house) can be triggering. Even if you didn’t experience trauma with your family sometimes they can ask you pressing questions, criticise you or start a row all are things you’d rather not deal with especially on Christmas.

So how can you keep your cool when your dysfunctional/ triggering family are surrounding you? There is a skill in DBT called Cope Ahead which is where you sit down and go through in your mind the possible scenarios that may distress and plan how you will cope with them.

For example you may have an aunt who asks a lot of questions about your life and criticisizes/scrutunises you and your responses. This makes you feel judged or like you can’t do anything right. You know you will have to face her on christmas day so you write down possible coping strategies for when the situation arises. You may use distress tolerance skills, plan to excuse yourself from the conversation asap or, if you have to put up with it, think about your accomplishments and practice positive affirmations to make yourself feel better. Once you have decided what will help you best, visualize yourself in that situation again but imagine coping more effectively and feeling like you did well despite the struggles. Below is the step by step method for Cope Ahead from https://bayareadbtcc.com/cope-ahead-part-1/

How to Cope Ahead: 5 Steps

Cope Ahead involves five steps.

1. Describe the problem situation (and check the facts). Are you in your wise mind when you’re looking at this situation? Are you keeping a neutral distance? Name the emotions and actions that you anticipate you will feel that interfere with you responding effectively. For example, will you feel angry if someone criticizes you at work, or panicked if a friend is late for dinner?

2. Decide what skills to use. Which skills do you want to use in the situation? Get specific. Does taking a timeout work if you’re coping ahead with anger? Do you want to distract yourself with another activity when you feel like engaging in an addictive behavior? Or call a friend, or go for a run? Get creative about what exactly you will do to cope.

3. Imagine. Now that you know the situation and the skills, imagine the situation in your mind as vividly as possible. Be sure to picture yourself actually in the situation, not watching it. Imagine it happening in the present, not the past. Bring details to mind: Where are you? Who is around you? What are you thinking or feeling?

4. Rehearse coping in your mind. Once you’re in the situation, practice coping effectively. Picture what you will do. What are your actions and thoughts? What will you say and how will you say it? If you anticipate a potential new problem arising, imagine coping with that as well. Rehearse coping with the things you are really scared of.

5. Practice relaxing after rehearsing. Finally, go easy on yourself after your rehearsal. Doing this kind of mental imagining of a hard situation is stressful on your psyche and body. Relax after you’ve run through all the steps! Stretch, take some deep breaths, or do whatever feels relaxing to you.

When dealing with anyone, even difficult family members, interpersonal effectiveness skills can be very helpful. FAST is good for maintaining self respect while resolving conflict, it stands for Fair (no)Apologies Stick to values and (be) Truthful. GIVE is good for helping you communicate in a way that settles the other person down in a disagreement in order to keep the relationship if it’s of importance to you. GIVE stands for Gentle Interested Validate and Easy manner. Below is an article providing more details of each skill:

https://www.sunrisertc.com/interpersonal-effectiveness/

Loneliness

Sometimes you may not even have friends or family to celebrate with, you may be on your own. While loneliness more commonly affects the elderly it can be found in nearly all age groups. No matter the reason for being alone on Christmas day it can be hard not to feel low with all the push for families and friends to get together and be merry. In Dbt there is a skill called ACCEPTS one of the Cs in this analogy is Contribute, if you are spending Christmas alone and have time on your hands you could contribute to the community by volunteering yourself for things like helping in a soup kitchen or being a listener on a helpline for people who are facing similar problems to you, not only can this help you fill up the time but you can also use it as an opportunity to connect with new people with similar problems/interests to you.

If you don’t feel that volunteering is for you and you would rather stay in on Christmas that’s okay too. There is another skill called Accumulating positive events, this skill encourages you to plan ahead to do things that you enjoy and make you feel better. You may use this skill to plan how you could spend your Christmas in a way that’s positive for you, you may want to have a movie marathon, spend the day cozying up with a good book or whatever floats your boat.

Tolerate Distress with A-C-C-E-P-T-S

https://www.sunrisertc.com/abc-please-skills/

Loss & Grief

Whether you’ve lost a loved one through falling out, a break up or them passing away, Christmas can be a difficult time without that person there to celebrate with. Although approaches to healing are different for each type of loss, you still grieve the loss of that person or relationship. Depending on your situation you may use different skills, if you’re grieving a break up with a partner it can be tempting to reach out to them during the holiday season, this however may not be good for you or them, a good skill in this case would be opposite action. Opposite action is where you deem the action the emotion is tempting you to do as unhealthy or ineffective, in order to quell the emotion you do the exact opposite of what that emotion is telling you to do. In the case of a break up, you may feel sad or jealous causing you to want to reach out to them or stalk their social media, while Christmas can be a time of goodwill and forgotten trespasses, if you know that reconnecting with your ex could cause some problems for you then here are some opposite action ideas for you:

  • Focus on spending time with others you love and care about
  • Avoid communication platforms such as text or social media, block/unfollow if you need to.
  • Practice gratitude for gifts, people and other things in your life that don’t involve your ex
  • Radically accept what has happened and try to let go of that person
  • Go out and do things to build your confidence like go to a Christmas party or try something new.

When you’ve had a fall out with a friend or family member what skill you use could depend on your situation as mentioned before Christmas can be a time where people reconnect and if your fall out wasn’t anything too major you may want to reconcile in the spirit of christmas. Before deciding what action to take its best to Check the facts and consider some of the following: Do you value the relationship? Why did you fall out? Is it better for you to make up or be apart from each other?

Depending on the facts and your answers you can either use problem solving skills or opposite action. If you feel that trying to fix the situation is right then here are some ideas to problem solve:

  1. Reach out to the person and apologise if you were in the wrong
  2. Use interpersonal effectiveness skills to communicate respectfully

If you feel that reconciliation isn’t an option or you tried problem solving and it didn’t work out how you’d hoped then it may be best to use opposite action to cope with the hurt. Opposite action ideas for fall outs are pretty much the same as what you’d use after a break up: celebrate the good things you have instead of dwelling on what you’ve lost, allow yourself to have fun and build new connections, etc.

Losing someone you love through death can be harder to deal with as there is not even a chance to see or hear from them again and you may not have closure. Grief is normal and trying to suppress it especially at a time you feel that persons absence the most can end up hurting you more. Practicing radical acceptance can help at these times, this means not denying the fact that this person is gone and accepting your feelings of sadness anger or guilt. It doesn’t mean you think that this reality is good without them but it’s about understanding that this is your current reality and it feels like crap instead of pushing away the facts and how you feel about them it can be tempting to pretend that you’re okay and everything’s fine for friends and family on Christmas but not accepting and allowing yourself time to grieve can hurt you and your loved ones more. Some ideas on how to grieve during the holidays are: Visiting their grave, leaving an empty chair at the dinner table, lighting a candle in their memory or talking to others about good memories you shared with your deceased loved one.

Money

It’s no secret that Christmas can be quite a commercial holiday, pretty much as soon as Halloween is over, adverts for gifts and deals start popping up everywhere. If you’re like me, an impulsive overspender, managing your money can be even harder when you feel the pressure to buy gifts for everyone you know as well as “treat” yourself. A useful DBT skill for this can be Wise Mind, this skill requires you to access a part of your mind that is a balance between emotional and rational. Emotion mind is more impulsive and causes you to act based on how you’re feeling which can lead to problems such as overspending. Whereas Rational mind is based on logic and a lack of emotion, an extreme on both sides is not helpful, on the one hand you want to show you care but you don’t want “overdo” your gifts to the point its detrimental to your bank account. Wise mind is the balance of both sides or “the middle path” as its sometimes called, connecting to your wise mind can help you make gift decisions that benefit those you’re buying for while also looking after yourself.

Making Mindful Money Decisions From Your Wise Mind

Thank you for reading, I hope this post helps you if you are struggling with loneliness this Christmas on twitter there will be #joinin which is a hashtag you can use to connect with others over the Internet who are also lonely on christmas. @mhcrisisangels are hosting a “Christmas sanctuary” which is a group chat on twitter for those struggling with their mental health to gain support through Christmas. If you find yourself in crisis the samaritans phone lines are open 24/7 as well as @crisistextline which provide numbers from USA, Canada and the UK which you can text if you need help.

https://www.crisistextline.org/

https://www.samaritans.org/

https://mobile.twitter.com/mhcrisisangels?lang=en

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/uk-42477266

DISSOCIATION

Trigger Warning: This post discusses traumatic experiences

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, the information provided is based on my lived experience of bpd and online research. If there is any misinformation on the matters discussed (flashbacks, DID, PTSD etc) then don’t hesitate to let me know. Thank you 🙂

I started working on this blog post a while back but found this to be a topic that was quite complex for me and I couldn’t quite articulate my experience with it. I’ll try my best now though as I feel dissociation is very important to talk about as it can have a detrimental affect on your life and its not very understood . I believe I started dissociating in childhood, there is a lot I don’t remember about that time, only bits and pieces but even they are hazy. You see I had quite a traumatic childhood that I won’t go into detail about now but it greatly affected the rest of my life.

dissociation

I find myself getting frustrated as I can get severely triggered by something but not remember why I’m triggered by it. For example when I’m with my dad I feel constantly on edge like I can’t please him but have to try and keep him happy so, when he starts getting angry, I panic and try to fix the situation (even if its something out of my control). I don’t remember my dad being abusive, at least not consciously, I do remember him yelling at me once and hitting my sister a couple of times but my reaction to him now does make me wonder if more happened that I blocked from my memory…

When I get angry myself I sometimes forget what I did soon after, my mother told me I once tried to stab my cousin with a fork in rage but I don’t remember that. I believe these blocks in my memory is the result of dissociative amnesia which is where your brain blanks out traumatic experiences to protect you from the distress of it or it can protect you from your own emotions which, in my case, was rage. In high school I started experiencing a form of dissociation called derealization,where you become detached from reality and everything around you doesn’t feel quite real, I’d describe it as feeling like you’re in a dream instead of real life. School was an extremely stressful time for me so I think my brain started trying to soften the impact of that environment by making it seem unreal.

Hannah Daisy

A third type is depersonalization which is much like derealization but it means experiencing a detachment from yourself, your feelings and such. I sometimes feel unreal or that my body isn’t mine. You may also feel numb or like you’re observing yourself from outside your body. This usually happens when extreme feelings of panic, rage or depression arise. It’s most likely why people with depression can find themselves feeling numb, the brain tries to protect you from emotional harm by detaching from your feelings and body.

Dissociation is something the brain does for protection however, ironically, it can have a negative impact on you and your life. Recently I took on a job that was very unfair and overwhelming. On the first day I found myself dissociating so I wouldn’t have a panic attack, problem is when I dissociate I tend to lose concentration more and function slower. My head feels fuzzy, everything doesn’t look or feel real, I’m detached from my body and emotions but can’t seem to get grounded. I quit that job now, I only worked two days but it felt longer and I still haven’t managed to come back to reality, this past week feels like a blur and I highly doubt I’m going to remember much when I finally do get grounded but I don’t think I really want to remember this time anyway. So thanks dissociation for making my life both easier and harder.

Dissociation and Identity

image (1)

Dissociation may not just effect your, thoughts, emotions and environment, it can also impact your sense of self. Dissociative Identity Disorder is where someone experiences switching between different identities, they dissociate from themselves and don’t usually remember what happened while another identity (alter) has taken over. They may speak with a different voice, have different personalities and even memories. This type of dissociation is called identity alteration and people who experience this likely suffered abuse and severe trauma so their brain creates these alters so they don’t have to experience so much pain.

With BPD you may also experience dissociation through your identity but in a different way. This other type of identity dissociation is called identity confusion, with this type you may not have a clear sense of who you are and how you think or behave can change depending on your mood or your environment. You may struggle to define what your sexuality is, what you’re interested in, how you feel about religion and politics or what career you want. Your stance on things can change easily as well as your interests and ambitions, you may find yourself “trying on” different identities to see what fits or have a strong case of the chameleon effect. I’ve struggled with this identity confusion pretty much all my life to the point I relied on other people to define me.

Dissociation and memory

As I mentioned before, with dissociative amnesia, dissociation can affect your memories and your experience of them. Someone with PTSD can experience dissociative flashbacks which is where the person feels that they are experiencing a past traumatic event in their present. Usually a flashback is in response to a trigger (something that reminds you of a traumatic event) and causes you to mentally relive that event and respond as if it were currently happening, completely dissociating from the present reality and experiencing the past all over again.

Lonely sad red-haired girl at field

Another type that affects your memory is called dissociative fugue, also known as fugue state. This type entails a person temporarily forgetting important details of their life and who they are, this fugue state can cause someone to impulsively travel or even take on a new identity. I’m finding this one difficult to explain so below is a snippet of an article where someone explains their experience with dissociative fugue;

The first episode took place when I was 13, after months of fearing my Maths teacher. She had a habit of getting right up in your face when she told you off, and was known for dishing out brutal punishments if you didn’t do your homework.

One day, I’d forgotten to hand in my mobile phone at the school office, which was a strict rule – if we were caught with our phones in class, even if they were just in our bags, we’d get a massive telling-off.

During a maths lesson, I opened my bag as she walked past – and my phone was inside. When she spotted it, I knew I was in for it. I got hauled to the front of the class, and yelled at. It was so intense, I could feel her breath. Flecks of saliva landed on my face as she shouted. It was horrible.

She told me to hand my phone into the office right that minute – so off I went, feeling cold with fear. After I handed it in, I couldn’t face going back to the classroom – I was too scared of her.

What happened next is part of a memory that isn’t too clear, but I do recall feeling that I had to get out of the reality I was in, because it was filled with so much fear. I simply ‘switched off’, and I don’t remember much after that feeling.

I do know what I did immediately after deciding I wasn’t going to deal with my life – I simply walked out of my school. There is then a gap in my memory – I know now that I was missing for around 6 hours.

When I came back to reality, I was sat in a field down the road from my school. It was pitch black, and there were cars zooming past directly behind me.

Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2017/03/26/what-is-fugue-state-how-i-ended-up-forgetting-my-life-and-taking-on-a-new-one-6535260/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

Related resources;

https://www.gulfbend.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=55734&cn=109 – Flashbacks, Dissociative reactions

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/dissociation-and-dissociative-disorders/#.Xch7ITNKjIV

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9789-dissociative-amnesia

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2017/07/complex-ptsd-dissociation-and-reclaiming-lost-memories

http://www.hannahdaisy.com/2018/04/dissociation-explained-in-short-story.html

About Dissociation

Thank you for reading, feel free to let me know what you think by either commenting on this post or tweeting me @Addict2L 🙂

NI2M ❤

Why We Need Self-Validation

Everyone needs validation to feel understood and accepted, as someone with BPD, I find that I may need/ seek it more than others. There is a theory that the disorder may be caused by an invalidating environment. This means that, those with BPD, may have grown up having their feelings and thoughts disregarded by family members or close friends. The thing about emotional invalidation is, it doesn’t make the feeling go away, in fact it can cause more distress in someone and amplify their “difficult” emotions.

For me, I most need validation when something really makes me scared or angry but no one else seems to be reacting or notice. I always worry that I’m just “being moody” or that I’m “over reacting.” This fear that people will judge me for my feelings often causes me to internalize my emotions and try to fight them off within. However this usually makes me feel frustrated with, ashamed or even scared of my own emotions thus leading to things like self harm. Because of our intense emotions and mood swings people with BPD often face invalidation, others may have good intentions when they tell us to “look on the bright side” “others have it worse” or “you’re just overreacting” but this can make us feel like our pain is being trivialized or that what we’re experiencing is being denied as reality thus creating a vicious cycle of needing validation and then not getting it

I think this can affect anyone, not just those with BPD, if you grew up in an invalidating environment you may have low self esteem and feel a strong urge to seek reassurance from outside sources that how you feel is acceptable and valid. These outside sources may include friends, family members, therapists or people on the internet but what happens when those sources fail to validate you? I’ve found that no one can truly understand your experience without being you, so you may not get the reaction you’d hoped for as, some people, can be very compassionate and understanding while others may scorn you and make you feel worse for feeling or thinking a certain way. Being around those who invalidate your thoughts, feelings and experiences can cause a sense of loneliness and mistrust in yourself and your emotions which is why self- validation is so important and is actually a key skill taught in DBT.

validation

What Is Self validation?

Self validation is the ability to accept your internal experiences such as your thoughts and feelings; this doesn’t necessarily mean the thought or feeling is justified though. For example you feel guilty over something you can’t control, you can accept that you feel guilty but not believe you actually are guilty because what happened was out of your control.

Ways to self validate:

Mindfulness of emotions– The core skill in Dialectical behaviour therapy is mindfulness, its taught as the best way to manage “out of control” emotions and reduce emotional suffering. With  Mindfulness of emotions you learn to observe how you’re feeling, describe that feeling by naming it and decide the best way to react with it. This practice teaches us to let our emotions be as they are, without trying to fight them but accepting them to quell emotional distress.

https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/MindfulnessEmotions.pdf

EFT– A friend of mine taught me an exercise in EFT tapping. Which is where you tap certain parts of your body, such as your temple and heart, with two fingers while saying things like “I feel angry” “this is okay” “my anger is valid” “thank you, anger”

Affirmations– Much like EFT tapping I’ve started learning self validating affirmations for when i find myself conflicted with feelings and thoughts. These affirmations are phrases you repeat to yourself to help improve your mental state in a situation. Affirmations such as “I am Enough” “I Matter and so do my feelings” “My feelings are valid” or any phrases you know that can help you feel better.

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Self Compassion–  You’ve probably been told to “talk to yourself as you would a good friend” and that’s pretty much the gist of self compassion, as I mentioned before only YOU can truly understand your own experiences so its good to be able to be as understanding to yourself as you’d want someone else to be.

Workheets– While doing research for this post I found a “self validation” manual with information and worksheets on validation for yourself and others. Its a free printable so here’s  the link; https://dbtselfhelp.weebly.com/self-validation-skills.html

Other Helpful Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/pieces-mind/201407/self-validation

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-emotional-validation-425336

The Importance of Validation in BPD Treatment

How to Give Yourself the Validation You Crave

Thank you for reading this post, I hope you found it useful, feel free to let me know what you think or share your own story by commenting on this post or tweeting me on twitter @Addict2L

Thanks again,

NI2M ❤

Triggers – What they are and how to handle them

I recently attended an online webinar led by Debbie Corso, author of ‘stronger than BPD’ and creator of the website ‘Healing from BPD’ the webinar was about triggers and how to handle them, here is some of what I learned in that webinar along with my own ideas and research, I hope you find it useful.

What are triggers?

Triggers are something that reminds you of a traumatic event from your past. Causing you to react like it is currently happening even if it’s not. You tend to hear the term commonly used with PTSD but triggers can be linked to any sort of mental illness. For example A depiction of suicide can be triggering for someone who has depression. It may not just be anything so obvious, anything could be a trigger. External triggers are things like a certain smell, something you hear or see in your environment but triggers can also be internal, a thought or feeling can trigger you. Basically anything that reminds you of your trauma can be a trigger. An example of mine is I was once grabbed by a man that had a certain pungent smell my brain remembered so, when someone walked near me with that smell, I would recall that night and feel how I did then, causing me to panic.

What happens when you are triggered?

Everyone’s experience of being triggered can be different, you can react with an extreme emotion such as panic or rage or you can completely shut down emotionally causing you to feel numb or empty. You may also have a strong urge to do something such as do drugs, drink a lot of alcohol, self harm etc.

Triggers and the brain

The amygdala is the part of the brain that is associated with memories and is connected to the nervous system, it’s function is to protect us from danger. This part of the brain is activated when we are triggered. This part can be especially heightened in those that have been traumatized or have a mental illness such as BPD. The prefrontal cortex is the rational/ logical part of the brain and balances out the emotional reactivity of the amygdala, however when we are triggered the amygdala can take complete control and make us act out in ways that seem irrational. When dealing with triggers the aim is to strengthen the pre-frontal cortex to achieve equilibrium and better manage distress.

How triggers help us.

Triggers are messages, sent by the brain, telling us that something is wrong, something in our life or ourselves needs to be addressed and dealt with so we can move on. They can also be a signal that we need to take extra care of ourselves. For example, I can be more sensitive triggers when I haven’t eaten or slept enough, if I find things that people are saying or doing more triggering than usual then that usually means I need to spend time to myself away from everyone. Triggers and how they make us feel can tell us what we need thus they can be useful when handled in healthy ways.

How to better cope with triggers

Journaling – writing down your triggers can be useful for keeping track of them. describing where it happened, when it happened and what happened to trigger you can help you predict potentially triggering situations so you know whether to avoid or, if avoiding isn’t an option, plan how you will cope in that situation. This skill called ‘cope ahead‘ and is taught in DBT, it involves describing a potentially triggering situation and planning how you will handle it effectively.

Communication- Talking to someone you trust about what has triggered you and how it made you feel can help you feel less alone and isolated. It’s best to talk to someone who knows a lot about you and your problems and doesn’t judge you, someone who could give you advice or just listen to you whether that be someone on a helpline like Samaritans, a friend/family member or your therapist, basically whoever you feel most comfortable sharing these type of things with.

Distraction- If possible, get yourself away from the situation that has triggered you to do something you enjoy or something that requires a lot more concentration such as completing puzzles or reading. If you can’t get out of the situation, try distracting yourself mentally by daydreaming of nice things for a bit or using ‘safe place visualization’ as learned in DBT.

Self care/self soothing- What I mean by this is doing anything to make yourself calmer and feel less overwhelmed. For example I have a ‘self soothe’ box which is filled with stuff to help me calm down when I’m triggered, the box has various things such as scented moisturizers, a puzzle and coloring book and a small cuddly toy but your box could be filled with anything you like. Another way of self soothing could be practicing calming mantras such as “I am safe” or “everything is going to be okay” this can be useful when you struggle with intrusive thoughts like me.

Distress Tolerance skills- In DBT the first unit you cover is ‘distress tolerance’ these are a series of skills you learn to cope effectively when you are distressed.  Distraction and safe place visualization are a part of this but there is also, STOP, TIPP, ACCEPTS and more. I will leave links to videos and articles about these techniques below to explain further.

Thank you for reading, I know its been some time since I last wrote and I’m honestly not sure when the next post will be as I seem to have lost the drafts but thank you for being patient with me and hope to be back soon, until next time ❤

Useful links/videos:

Cope Ahead: The Power of Planning How to Cope in Advance

The Safe Place part 1 (guided imagery)

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/trigger

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-does-it-mean-to-be-triggered-4175432

Mental Health Triggers Explained and Tips

 

The C in ABC PLEASE stands for cope ahead, I couldn’t find a video with cope ahead alone but I think its useful to know the rest of the skills in the acronym 🙂

Growing Up With BPD

Trigger warning: This post talks about self harm and suicidal behaviours

When I was diagnosed with BPD at age 18 a lot of things fell into place. When I showed my mum a leaflet about the diagnosis she was able to link a lot of my behavior to the disorder. Fair to say we both agreed with the diagnosis, in hindsight the signs were there all along but professionals are reluctant to diagnose children and teens with BPD as the mood swings and unsure identity could be put down to growing up. They tend to wait until you’re 18 or older to diagnose you but I think if someone had picked up on the signs at an early stage I might have got better but instead the symptoms got progressively worse.

For as long as I can remember intense emotions have affected my life. When I was in nursery and primary school I would get so distressed about going and being separated from my mum that I would cry, scream and put myself at risk to avoid going. I’d run away from home or undo my seat belt in the car in the hopes that we would crash and I would get hurt or die so I wouldn’t have to go to school.

I would cry out of nowhere even if, like a minute ago, I was laughing I could suddenly start crying or get angry at the drop of a hat. Attachments were an obvious issue for me as well, not just being overly attached to my mum but I would get attached to toys and games, getting incredibly upset if they broke. At the age of 10 I was in therapy for anger management problems. I only got six sessions with the therapists but when they “dropped” me I felt unwanted, unimportant and abandoned.

I used to go horse riding every week which I enjoyed but from one week to the next I could feel completely different about it. I remember looking forward to this special riding party with other kids but on the day of the party I was crying and screaming like I was being forced to go to school.

My friendships were very unstable in my primary school/early high school life. I would get angry easily for reasons that not even I knew sometimes but it meant a fight nearly every other day. We would always make up and be good friends until the next time I got upset with them. Being friends with me was like trying to handle a ticking time bomb that could go off at any minute or with even a slight wrong touch. There are a lot of diary entries from my first year of high school talking about this one girl and each entry would be either about how bad of a friend she was or how we made up after a fight… Again.

Suicidal ideation was around from a young age too. I wrote in my diary about how I hurt a friend and how I felt so guilty that if she didn’t forgive me I might as well end my life. This may all sound dramatic but this was how I was genuinely feeling at the time. I was considered a drama queen and a crybaby for years because of this emotional intensity.

I was bullied as I wore my heart on my sleeve and it was obvious there was something wrong with me as I was able to go from laughing to crying to lashing out in a matter of minutes. I was aware of how my emotional sensitivity was a problem but I didn’t know how to control it. In my teen years these erratic emotions morphed into severe depression and anxiety.

I was crying almost every night and having a panic attack nearly everyday, I’d also learned how to self harm and that became my way of releasing my emotional pain and self hatred. I eventually got counselling and group therapy for these things which helped a little but as the disorder could not yet be diagnosed, the issues were still there. I just became better at hiding/suppressing my emotions at school and with family, saving my “meltdowns” for when I was alone.

I changed my mind a lot too, picking my subjects to take at GCSE was a nightmare as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be when I got older. My aspirations would change nearly every week and I went to the office multiple times to change my options, I eventually settled for Drama, Art and Child development as, for a short while, I wanted to be a social worker,that dream changed quickly though.

In college things seemed to be looking up, I was happier there but underneath the cheeriness was the fear that if I let my “true” self show everyone would hate me and I would be bullied again so I played up the happy/hyperactive persona as that is the side of me people seemed to prefer. However, this escalated into mania that would last a couple of hours but by the end of the day I was emotionally and physically drained from all the hyperactivity. If something went wrong during the day or I perceived someone as being upset with me, my mood would quickly change to depressed and distressed.

So you see, when I was a child, I had no pause button on my emotional reactions. Whenever I felt overwhelmed I didn’t know how to stop the tears or the rage, I didn’t know how to react to these intense emotions in a healthy way or communicate how I was feeling to others appropriately so very soon a wedge was driven between me and the other kids. It was when I started being bullied more severely in high school that I learned to not let my feelings show, bottling them up and suppressing them as much as I could but even then some of it would show, especially the rage.

The emotional intensity, mood swings, unstable relationships, attachment issues and lack of identity were there with me from a very early age. Things have improved since I got neurofeedback, DBT therapy and medication but there are definitely things I need to work on like resolving my trauma and coming to terms with the way my life is now because of said trauma. I understand why professionals are reluctant to diagnose people with the disorder before 18 but I think early intervention is key for BPD. I think there is a term called ’emerging personality disorder” that identifies symptoms of a personality disorder in young people without actually diagnosing them. I think this would have been useful for me as it would have got me treated sooner and improved my school life but alas that was not the case. I do think it would be a good idea to teach children about how to deal with difficult emotions and how to look after their mental health, not necessarily if they show signs of mental illness but in general.

Hope you liked this post, do feel free to let me know what you think or share your experience with a personality disorder in childhood. Thanks for reading.

NI2M ❤

19 Signs You Grew Up With Borderline Personality Disorder

18 Signs You Grew Up With ‘Quiet Borderline Personality Disorder’

https://thetab.com/uk/sheffield/2018/10/11/this-is-what-it-is-really-like-growing-up-with-borderline-personality-disorder-36588

BPD Obsessions

A while ago I was really into the sims and I’m talking OBSESSED with it to the point that I could barely think of anything else. I couldn’t afford the actual PC version but I made do with the Create-A-Sim demo, the mobile version and youtube videos. It got to the point that, when I tried to do something else, I would get agitated and itch to get back to the sims like withdrawal symptoms of an addiction. I would daydream about owning The sims on PC and create storylines for my characters. When my phone got stolen I became really distressed as it meant I lost all my Sims mobile progress and the characters I created and loved were gone. It’s sad I know but I think at the time the game was the only thing making me happy.

This happened other times as I grew up as well, when I was in year 10 I became obsessed with this online game called Poptropica, I would play it for hours in my spare time and then talk about my adventures in the game with my friends the next day. It was actually one of them that pointed out how obsessed I can get with things. I didn’t think anything of it at the time and just put it down to me being my weird self but once I was diagnosed with BPD a lot of the behaviors like this started making sense. The sudden attachment I would get to these things that made me feel happy the way I couldn’t seem to control and got addicted to the euphoric feeling, spending as much time on that thing as possible until I eventually got bored of it.

disorder-personality-4I guess, for me, these things are a form of escapism, especially if I’m going through a time where I feel particularly lonely and depressed. When I found something that made me feel excited and happy I would cling on to it and consume my life with it. It’s not just games I can get obsessed with but also ideas, TV shows, books and even people.

With people though it tends not to be someone I know in real life as I’m afraid of intimacy or overstepping boundaries so I tend to get attached to far away people I won’t ever meet like celebrities and youtubers. I had a crush on Jacksepticeye for a while and would watch his videos for hours a day until I just found I lost interest again. I do this with other youtubers, but I don’t usually develop crushes, just rather enjoy their content and enjoy how happy they make me.

About a year ago, I became obsessed with crystals, angels and general spirituality. Whenever I went out I became fixated on buying everything I ‘needed’ to be spiritual. I spent a lot of money buying as many books about crystals, angels, etc as possible. I collected things to put on my altar/sacred space. I joined online groups about witchcraft and other such things. I even attended workshops to learn to read tarot and changed my diet. After a few months, when my contract for my first job ended, my obsession seemed to die down however I felt guilty for buying all the things and not using them so I still practice when I feel the need to.

There are other obsessions I had that are still part of my life today. When I was about 14 I got really into the music of the band EVANESCENCE. I learned all the words to nearly all their songs, Idolized Amy Lee and got my dad to take me to see them in concert… twice. I found Evanescence and Amy Lee could put words to how I was feeling in a way that I couldn’t and, even though their songs were dark, it made me happy to pretend I was on stage singing their songs. I’ve got nearly all their albums and some merch, some recent as I still love them over 5 years later.

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Around the same time I developed an interest in Evanescence, I started watching BBC Merlin and loved it. The show was about three seasons in when I joined the fandom so there were school nights spent having Merlin Marathons to catch up and, while I waited for the fourth and fifth seasons, I’d watch sneak peeks of the new episodes, watch and read fan-made content and get as much memorabilia as I could. Even though it was cancelled years ago I still come up with my own fan stories, own everything I bought for it and even still dream about the show!

Its fair to say that although my obsessions with Evanescence, Merlin and spirituality have died down they are still a part of what makes me who I am. Not all of my obsessions have continued this way though, like I mentioned with the sims, I can be really into something for a while until I exhaust myself day and night with it and lose interest. I think this has a lot to do with ‘all or nothing’ thinking where we either really care about something or have no interest in it at all. When we do care about something we can be incredibly passionate and go overboard with our interest as we struggle to regulate our intense emotions. When obsessed with something like a hobby it can consume our minds and lives so much that it feels like our identity as well.

I hadn’t realized, until I did research for this post, that as BPD sufferers we can become obsessive over thoughts and memories. I always put this down to having a bit of OCD or an overly analytical mind but it’s actually a BPD thing. Where if something particularly distressing happens I will overthink, analyze and obsess about it until my brain seems to finally let go. For example, when I fall out with friends I obsessively think and write about what happened from multiple angles, picking apart the event, what they said as well as what I said. How they made me feel and how I imagine I made them feel. Its basically like beating a dead horse but my brain can’t seem to let go until I’ve exhausted all realms of possibilities or it gets distracted for a while.

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There are also obsessions with a crush/romantic partner we can have but I don’t really have experience in that department. I guess my brain just feels safer attaching itself to fiction and things rather than real life people but if you have any experience with BPD obsessions romantic or otherwise then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Thank you for reading, take care ❤

BPD and Obsessions

When BPD Makes You Obsessed With Trying New and Interesting Hobbies

13 ‘Obsessive’ Things People With Borderline Personality Disorder Do

The OLLIE Foundation

I’ve recently started a #charities of the month on twitter where every month I have a theme revolving around mental health and I find 3-4 charities to promote (for about a week each) based on that month’s theme, the theme for this month (April) is SUICIDE PREVENTION and I thought I would start with the charity that I’ve been working with and the one that  actually inspired me to start this campaign… The OLLIE foundation, so below I give a quick summary of what the charity is about and what it does and I leave links to it’s website and important pages, please do check them out and help in any way you can. Thank you ❤

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OLLIE stands for One Life Lost Is Enough and it is a charity based in St Albans, England revolved around spreading awareness of suicide in young people. Founded by Stuart Falconer, Jane Johnstone and Chris Sibley, each of them a parent to suicide victims, they founded the charity to prevent other families suffering like theirs.The charity provides training on how to talk safely about suicide and how to handle a situation where they think someone may be suicidal. here are some of their training programmes;

ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) this course trains people 16 or older in suicide prevention and first aid. A two day interactive course that teaches you how to help someone in immediate risk of suicide. Through this course you can become an ASIST trained caregiver.

Safe Talk  -a half-day course that teaches you how to spot the signs that someone is at risk of suicide and how to guide them to life saving intervention resources that they work with (e.g. ASIST trained care givers) through this course you can become a Safe talk trained helper.

For more information and to see their other courses please visit this page: https://theolliefoundation.org/training/

The Ollie website also provides information on suicide and how to support yourself or help a loved one cope with suicidal feelings, they are not a crisis service themselves but they provide links and connections to many crisis services such as Samaritans and childline.

Supporting You

Supporting Them

The Ollie Card

The Ollie card is basically a discount card that works with independent businesses. The card costs 20 pounds which goes towards the Ollie Foundation and the training it provides when you buy the card you can have access to discounts ranging from 10-25% off certain products with local independent businesses who have signed up to accepting the card and working with OLLIE.

I recently have actually helped out at one of their events and helped sell OLLIE cards. The charity is very personal to me as it’s local to me and I have attempted suicide in the past so believe that the skills these training courses can provide are invaluable.

for more detailed info about the charity, the card, and the training please check out their website linked below:

Home

Hope you don’t mind this little promo but I’m helping out the charity whenever I can and really like it and think it does some good. It’s still quite a small charity as it was founded in 2016 but it’s growing fast. Thanks so much for reading!

Take care ❤

My photos from the event:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coping With Nightmares

It’s all well and good people telling you that all you need to do to feel mentally better is “sleep better” “get a good night sleep” etc. But when you suffer from insomnia and nightmares, that sleep can be a lot harder to get. I don’t struggle so much with getting to sleep thanks to mirtazapine but staying asleep has been an issue recently. Nearly every night this past week or so I’ve been waking up in the night from nightmares. Some about demons and ghosts, others based on my life, things that have or could happen.

My therapist tells me I shouldn’t think of these realistic nightmares as nightmares but more of my brain trying to process what I’ve been through and what it could mean for my future, which I understand but when you wake up at three in the morning with your heart racing, terrified of your worst fears haunting you in your sleep I can’t help but consider that a nightmare.

I guess its because of my focus being on therapy and recovery that’s resurfacing past trauma and anxiety. I just have to take it as my brain trying to make sense of things but it doesn’t stop them distressing me. Settling down and getting back to sleep after waking up from a nightmare can be hard so here are my tips and ideas on how to cope and calm down after a nightmare;

  • Deep breaths– There are different breathing techniques you can try such as 7-11 and square breathing or there are guided breathing exercises you can find online such as this one below.

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  • Get out of bed/leave the room– when suffering from nightmares your safe haven of your bedroom and bed can seem fear inducing so I suggest taking a time out away from your room, perhaps go to the bathroom and wash your face to ground yourself.
  • Self care/self soothing– I have a self soothe box full of things to comfort me from soft scarves to scented candles. If nightmares are a regular occurrence for you I suggest keeping things you find comforting in your room and near your bed so you can access them easily when in post-nightmare anxiety. You could also make yourself a warm drink and watch/read something that cheers you up.
  • Write down your nightmare– This may seem terrifying but often dreams and nightmares could be our brain telling us something that we don’t address in daily life, so getting it out on paper can not only be releasing but can help you analyze what could be causing them. If you don’t feel comfortable having your nightmares recorded then you can destroy the paper afterwards.
  • Talk to someone– Especially if your nightmares are related to past trauma, its good to talk about what’s bothering you to someone you trust; this can be a friend, family member, therapist or if you don’t feel you can talk about it with someone you know and need help with the distress urgently I suggest getting in touch with a mental health crisis/helpline such as Samaritans.
  • Getting back to sleep– as I said before getting back to sleep after a nightmare can be hard so once you feel safer/calmer you could try listening to a meditation/ calming music or try a muscle relaxation exercise to help you settle back in bed to sleep.

I hope these tips help you and please feel free to let me know if you have any ideas of your own that have worked for you 🙂 thanks for reading, take care ❤

More to read on Trauma and Nightmares;

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-trauma-can-affect-your-dreams

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/when-trauma-follows-you-into-your-nightmares-0708144

https://karinsieger.com/cope-with-nightmares/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201311/five-steps-conquering-nightmares

REJECTION WITH BPD

I’ve lost count how many jobs I applied for and times I got rejected before I finally got a really good job. It was a temporary contract though so now I’m back on the market looking for a new job. After my previous success I had high hopes for the next application I made, only to get rejected again. I found it hard to cope after that, I felt like my world had been rocked but I didn’t really pay attention to those feelings until my most recent job application.

I’d wanted to do some prep before the interview but when I tried to research and prepare my answers thoughts such as “this is pointless” “I’m not good enough” and “what’s the point in trying if they’re just going to reject me” started invading my mind. I got really upset and abandoned the mission. I struggled to understand why I was suddenly so depressed when just a month ago I was so hopeful and happy to get a new job. Then after my latest interview it hit me. Rejection.

I hadn’t realised until then just how much my BPD still affects me. The reason I was so hopeful back in January was because of my previous success but then I got rejected and that affected my mood.

You see, people with BPD try so hard to be accepted, to avoid rejection from people as well as abandonment. I knew that application rejections happen all the time to everyone but that didn’t stop the hurt. Feeling like I wasn’t good enough or disliked. It was worse when the interviewers would reject me without giving a reason or feedback, so I didn’t know what I did wrong and how I could fix it to be accepted next time.

The job applications, interviews and rejections were a long, disappointing, depressing process. I imagine it would be rough for a “normal” person but everything seems X10 worse when you have BPD. I’m happy I had at least that one successful time though, it has helped me feel more optimistic that someone somewhere will like and accept me. It just feels like finding a needle in a haystack and the harder and longer I have to look the more hopeless and frustrated I get.

Every rejection feels like a slap in the face, even though I know it can’t be personal and questions start swarming my headspace “why didn’t they like me?” “Why do I even bother trying?” “What did I do wrong?” “Why do they hate me?” And on it goes. The other side to how I would react to rejection was blaming “the powers that be” in the company, I remember getting rejected after a trial shift and thinking “that shift leader was a bitch, she probably talked shit about me to the managers” even though she would have been reprimanded for doing something like that so she probably didn’t. I still held a grudge against that poor girl for months.

The first company I ever applied for also rejected me after a trial shift, not long after that they ended up being shut down and I celebrated like “that’s what you get for rejecting me, assholes” as if they rejected me because of some personal vendetta they had against me. I used to take job rejection way too personally so how have I managed to not crumble from all this rejection?

Well, firstly, I’ve been trying to change my concept of rejection, instead of thinking “I wasn’t right for the job” I try thinking “Maybe the job wasn’t right for me”. Thinking this way has helped heal the hurt I felt after being rejected so many times. I also use my free time to plan and do other things I enjoy so I don’t get too bored or isolated. I’ve been going to groups at my local wellbeing centre as well as attending DBT sessions weekly and doing voluntary work on Saturdays. I’d like to start doing more soon to prepare me for paid work again as, when I worked as a Christmas temp, the time and the energy required was overwhelming considering it was my first paid job. Recently I’ve come to accept that I may not be ready for paid work and I should stop pushing myself so hard for a while. For now I think I need to focus on my recovery and hopefully I’ll be able to work in the future.

Read how Val Prozorova overcame anger and fear of rejection while dealing with BPD:

https://themighty.com/2017/06/bpd-borderline-personality-disorder-rejection/

and check out Recovery Mum’s videos on BPD and Rejection:

More videos to show some love:

COPING IN A BPD CRISIS

TW: The contents of this post may trigger so please read with care

Last Friday I was in the hospital, dissociating badly, I was only partly aware of where I was and what was happening. I was very detached from reality and wrapped up in my thoughts of death and self harm. It had been a long time coming, you may remember in my previous post (A crazy life update) that I was experiencing a lot of stress for some time, not to mention that march is a tough month for me anyway as referred to in my post “the curse of march”so it was kind of inevitable really. I spoke to a lovely member of the mental health team that night who referred me to the crisis team, they visited my home on Saturday and discussed getting me an assessment for a care coordinator (which would be great) as well as a review with the psychiatrist about my medication.

That being said, although this crisis was expected I didn’t know how to stop it so instead I kept spiraling down and descending into derealization. On sundays there is a #bpdchat on twitter that I like to take part in when I can. This week I asked what people do to help themselves in a bpd crisis here are some of the responses, I’m @Addict2L btw if you want to follow me 😉

 

Just recently (yesterday in fact)I was heading for another bpd/pts meltdown, I found it hard to engage in therapy as I was so distracted by my emotions that were exhausting me, all I wanted to do was go home and cry myself to sleep as something had triggered me that morning, I wanted to self harm and started having thoughts about dying or acting out violently, I was basically a mess. When I got home though I decided to log my mood in a mental health app called Pacifica, it suggested a meditaton for me so I went to my Self-Soothe box and lit a scented candle, wrapped myself in a scarf and played the meditation. I wasn’t a 100% okay by the end of those few minutes but I didn’t feel as overwhelmed as before and I was able to keep myself safe that day.

A self-soothe box is another idea I got from twitter, its basically a box of stuff that can help you feel comforted and calm you down in a crisis. Mine is made out of a really nice gift box and inside is…

  • A Puzzle & Coloring book
  • Coloring pencils in a fluffy pencil case
  • A small soft toy
  • Scented candle with holder
  • a big scarf I use as a comfort blanket
  • Leaflets with information from MIND on how to deal with stress, anger and loneliness
  • A number for my local SAMARITANS
  • A book of positive mantras
  • Hand lotion/cream
  • A handout from DBT about “Riding the wave”

I do suggest making one yourself as it helps me feel more prepared for a crisis and safer when a crisis comes, yours may be totally different from mine, its just whatever helps/comforts you.

Thanks for reading and please do check out everyone’s twitter (@017kat @LadyAngrr @tothehospital) these people and so many others have been very helpful, remember that the #bpdchat is on every sunday 9pm UK time/ 4pm US time. Hope to see you there sometime and here’s a useful website for more ideas on coping with bpd: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/borderline-personality-disorder-bpd/self-care-for-bpd/#.XIFU-PZFxlY

and this post on supplies to pack in case you need to check in to hospital: http://wtfisbpd.tumblr.com/post/96439585776/bpd-crisis-kit

Hope you found this helpful,

NI2M ❤