Back in the leadership role in my dance: a call for understanding

In the last post I mentioned the psychiatric treatment that I received. It was called DBT or Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

I knew that in my past blogging, I talked about DBT and what it had done for me. I had to go back to 2008/2009 to find those blog posts, but it was worth it…I saw, yet again, how very far I have come in my living with depression and being the leader in my dance.

To give you some background, DBT therapy was designed by Marsha Linehan in the late 1980s to treat borderline personality disorder and is now being used for several different mental health diagnoses. This article is a wonderful description of the therapy. The therapy progresses through a series of skill development modules over the course of 8 weeks. NO, it is not a miracle quick fix program; it takes commitment and a lot of work AND you really do need to move through the cycles more than once. I was in active therapy for two full cycles (for me, that meant being in therapy three days a week- both group and individual therapy). AND, if you are honest with yourself, you do NEED to go back periodically for what I like to call “tune-ups”.

I STOPPED taking medications and began the DBT treatment in 2008; Here is what I LEARNED from this therapy:

I have learned to live every single minute in the here and now and to be MINDFUL and focused. This is hard people. It is so easy to look back at things and get disturbed by memories or to look forward in anticipation of things that may not even happen. IF you stay in the moment, you can use all kinds of skills to maintain your mental and physical health.  #1 skill-BREATHING, solid meditative breathing. Nothing centers you faster and makes you feel better faster, for real!

I have learned to use what DBT calls ‘Wise Mind’…equal amounts of emotion and logic…you don’t get overwhelmed when you use ‘Wise Mind’.  You can make decisions that follow your heart AND your head. Again, this can be so challenging. It is so easy to get wrapped up in an emotional response over an event or to be so headstrong stupid in a response. It takes mindfulness to be aware that you are responding in that way and then calm resolve to use the ‘Wise Mind’ skill to stop the inappropriate response patterns.

I have learned to use EMOTION REGULATION strategies. When I begin to think about something stressful, I DISTRACT myself by listening to a great song on the radio or a CD. When I feel myself becoming stressed I SELF-SOOTHE by petting my kittens, chewing a piece of cinnamon gum, listen to relaxing music, getting out my coloring book and crayons, and BREATHE. These strategies immediately reduce your heart rate and reduce anxiety and stress. This is a biggie for me. When I get stressed adrenaline surges through me almost instantly (something I learned about myself through mindfulness) and it is especially important for me to breathe and self-soothe immediately. Once I get calm, I can distract myself and get past whatever triggered the response.

I have learned more effective INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS skills. I always thought I was pretty good at these skills, and I am. But there is always something you can learn.  DEAR-MAN is an acronym for a sequence of behaviors that are very effective in getting what you want and need out of relationships with others. NO GUILT, NO FEAR, NO EMBARRASSMENT.

I have learned DISTRESS TOLERANCE skills that allow me to stay very calm in the face of activities or people who I used to allow to cause me tremendous distress. The best strategy I learned here is RADICAL ACCEPTANCE or another way of saying it is: It is what it is. For me, that meant learning how to walk away; how to say no to requests and not feel guilty about it; how to really accept that there are things that cannot or will not change and move on. Radical Acceptance is a skill that I find a need to re-tune with my therapist. Sometimes, I have tremendous difficulty dealing with things in my life that are completely out of my control (I already admitted how much I need to control the things that CAN be controlled  to keep me in my happy dance), and Radical Acceptance is THE major cog in my wheel for distress tolerance.

These skills were literally life changing.  I  found a wholesome natural way to really gain control of my life and my depression. I have been MEDICATION FREE since 2008. I recognize more quickly when I start to slide towards a trough and can see when my responses to situations are out of line. I know that I need periodic tune-up sessions with my individual therapist and call her for the help. It actually improved my communications with family (better than isolation).

So, this brings to a close my series of posts about depression.

What do I want you to get from this series?

  • PLEASE know there is a real need for people to understand what those of us with depression deal with, how we feel, how we try to help ourselves and need help (read that as compassion) from you as well. We can’t just pull ourselves up by the boot straps and tally forth! It takes a village!
  • PLEASE know that this is an illness that does not go away but can be well controlled and that doesn’t make us bad people or problem people or selfish people or disgusting people. We are just people like you!
  • Please know that there are likely many, many people in your lives who have some form or level of depression and that

your willingness to understand and offer help may just save a life one day.

Thank you, for taking the time to read these posts. I am back in the lead position with  my dance partner, heading for my latest tune-up, and ALL is good in my world! Here is a little giggle for you…I was featured (2009) on a local television program whose focus was on DBT…be kind in your reviews (I have already corrected the “ummm” issue…LOL!)…



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