The mountain climber in me...
It has been quite some time since my last post. I have several in my drafts, like at the beginning of the year etc, but they just didn't seem to have the umph that I am used to, so I bailed on them. Not entirely sure why...
OK - so maybe I do know why!
It has been hard to keep moving with this blog. The skills are there, but since I am on this whole new path with PTSD and an all new target behavior that I hadn't realized was there with the whole noisy mess of suicidal idealization going on (on what seemed to be a weekly basis) I suppose I felt that since I had actually gone an entire year with only 2 incidents of target behavior and neither of them life threatening, I felt like I was "better". And although I am better in so many ways, I certainly don't want to take away the celebration in knowing and seeing how far I have come, I just wanted to be OK with having gotten better and I really was (and a bit still am) reluctant to see that this path to recovery was not a mountain but rather a mountain range. I sometimes feel like I am on an endless range with dark crevices and steep, crumbling walls. You can picture it, getting to the summit of the mountain only to see that another mountain lay ahead. You work like hell to get to the top of that mountain with great eagerness and anticipation and guess what? ...
Another mountain. I was sort of feeling knocked down a bit to see another one. I even rejected the idea that it was there...as if you can close your eyes and start walking and not fall into a crevice or run smack into a cliff wall. It was definitely denial.
But - here I am...facing the beast. In all reality this "beast" isn't that bad. At least compared to what I have been through. Using DBT I can set a broken record comment to that effect, recalling that I have been through worse and that I can get through this too.
So I broke out the journal (dusted it off) and checked my:
V alidate - I validated how I was feeling like this was an endless battle and this is OK. I am not failing because I feel that way.
I magine - I imagined what getting over that next mountain would feel like and instead of looking at the next peak, I imagine that I will look behind me and see the mountain I have passed!
t ake small steps - I keep this letter in the lower case because it helps me remember to keep those steps small. Seriously, you will burn out and give up on the whole mess and decide to stay exactly where you are if you make those steps too big. Imagine though, if you will, what is it like to stop rowing a boat when you are heading upstream? Are you really staying still? Are you just hanging tight where you were...sort of keeping it on an even keel? No way! If you aren't rowing, your boat is going backwards! The scary thing about this is if you are looking down at your boat and admiring how beautiful you have made it:
"Wow, look at this paint job! I have really made a difference in my life, I have 'painted' a new me!"
Or if you are looking directly over the boat into the water right around you, you are missing the danger! You need to look to the shore - then you will see that you are in fact going backwards! Keep those steps small, take the rest you need by rowing with less gusto - and when you have caught your breath come at it with full force...but never stop rowing.
A - actually there are several A's, the one I most recently learned, and I liked tremendously, was ALLOW imperfection. Again this comes down to that pesky little radical acceptance. By the time your taking a second go-around or by the time you are tackling that second, third or fourth mountain, you may already be more comfortable with this skill, but also by these times you are in need of it the most. Along with this "A" also comes another skill that many have a hard time with...failing well. Take some time and search this blog for those skills and familiarize yourself with them. Because honestly, this is where we sharpen them. If this is a first time around, read about them, try and understand them and make it a goal to try and use them, but understand that as you graduate to the next step you will be learning how to be adept at them, and try not to be too intimidated by them!
L ighten the load - get rid of any extra crap. I had to stop over-extending myself. It is amazing how quickly you go back to some of those old habits when you stop rowing. Sure DBT had taken hold enough for me not to go down this "everyday is miserable and I want to die" - but I readily started finding it difficult to not over-extend myself. I wanted to help everyone, I wanted to be there for everyone, I wanted to do everything. I had a new lease on life and I was taking it by storm. Of course there really isn't anything wrong with this per-say, and that attitude can go a long way in fueling your well-being. The danger of course is not taking into account that mental illness is not transitory...it doesn't come and go. It won't pass without addressing it. If you are in a funk and it passes without your doing anything or it comes and goes, chances are you are not dealing with a mental illness, rather you are dealing with what's called life. A mental illness is a whole other ball of sticky, gooey wax that requires work...all the time. Sure, that work load gets lighter, but mental illness puts vulnerabilities on you that simply do not exist with persons without a mental illness and to deny that reality is to essentially be denying a recovery. In the case specifically with Borderline Personality Disorder, there is no "cure". You do not "get over it" I don't say that to discourage anyone, rather, as with any mental illness, you can be symptom free with BPD. But symptom free does not mean it isn't there. For example, some of you may never be able to adjust your sleeping pattern, for if you do, the mental illness no longer is symptom free. It is merely understanding what your limitations are and accepting them. Sometimes Radically...yikes! I know this is a hard one for many.
S weeten the pot - for crying out loud have a reward for yourself! Make the effort worth it! This is the part of V.I.t.A.L.S. that I am still checking...I can't seem to figure out what special treat I will treat myself with as I take those small steps. Ordinarily I would treat myself with a yummy dessert...there in lies my mountain...(ssssh...an eating disorder!) And I shutter at the idea of spending any amount of time with myself naked, other than what is necessary of course... so baths are out of the question. So what do I treat myself with? (I know there are a plethora of others, I just need to find something that works)
What I was unwittingly doing was feeding a target behavior (literally.) In the short-term it was effective, in the long-term, not so much. And the devastating thing with it is that while I was engaging in this disorder, either starving myself when I did badly or rewarding myself when I did well and purging to stay the weight I wanted, I was "stable." I was blinding myself to that mountain on the other side. To some degree that is OK, because another DBT skill is to know what target behavior you will attack first, and the way to triage them is to check the ones that are life threatening first. Once you have gained control of what threatens your life, then you attack the ones that are just ineffective and if you look over the mountain ahead to another one you will only overwhelm yourself.
Again though, it depends on which way you look at it, because my path was effective then, but life threatening now. Once I stopped and admitted to my loved ones, well I admitted it to AJ - he admitted it to my circle of supporters (that stung a bit) - the point is that once I stopped and took toll of this, I opened a can of worms I wasn't expecting. That was the other mountain, I didn't create it, it was there, just shrouded in this mass of an eating disorder that I thought I had created myself. Blaming myself would only be defying the DBT law of "Feelings Follow Focus."
My self-blame is ineffective, therefore I would be focusing on that negative emotion and I would feel negative...all the time. I would be denying the very essence of DBT....two opposites can and do exist at the same time...I can have an eating disorder because of A) my mental illness and B) the trauma in my life and I can be responsible for it.
So there you have it. That is my trek and I intend to regularly post to keep me on the straight and narrow (or windy and curvy, or steep and staggering...)
Thanks for hanging tight with me and going through your struggles with me. I would love to hear from anyone on their own experiences with this or any other thing that is their "mountain" because peer support only comes in the form of each sharing, even if it is silently...