At a major crossroads in my life, I had a complete mental breakdown that ended up being the best thing to ever happen to me. I suddenly, and impulsively, left a relationship I wasn’t sure I was happy in or not, quit my job and opportunity at yet another promising career for the same reason, and proceeded to lay in bed in a deep bout of depression without eating for two weeks. I had been suffering intense splitting where I loved and hated my relationship and my job constantly, and I was confused to say the least. I didn’t realize I was suffering “splitting” or what that even meant, so for me I just felt confused as hell. I felt I was going to completely lose it. And I pretty much did. I lost 20 lbs off my already slender physique. I wasn’t going to kill myself, but I was done trying to live. My family intervened and found a DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) program that is our last hope of me ever getting better. A year prior to this, we had strongly considered the idea of me having BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) after stringing together some patterns of behavior I’ve had almost my entire life. The therapy seemed to be hard to come by; it was not offered anywhere in my area, so I relocated to a city six hours from my hometown. We wanted a program that had been certified by the Marsha Linehan Institute, otherwise it couldn’t really be considered DBT. Marsha Linehan is the founder and developer of this lifesaving treatment, and my personal hero so far! Having had a long history of depression, anxiety, panic, substance abuse, self-harm, rocky relationships, fear of abandonment, disproportionate anger, and identity issues… I met most of the criteria for a diagnosis of BPD and was eventually diagnosed with the disorder by a psychiatrist shortly after starting the DBT program. (**After more evaluation, my diagnosis has changed to CPTSD or “Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” —an anxiety disorder commonly misdiagnosed as BPD because they share many of the same traits.) In the later stages of the development of my mental illness, I had frequent suicidal ideation, no will to live, paranoid delusions regarding my job and relationship, and started dissociating while under severe stress, which was becoming more and more frequent.
I had a sliver of hope upon arriving to the city where my DBT began. It took two more weeks to get settled into the new living situation after the plan had been set, and in that two weeks I lost 10 more lbs and continued to have severe emotional dysregulation ranging from panic to rage to uncontrollable crying, sometimes within a few hours. I had done a good amount of research on the therapy prior to leaving (I had a lot of time in bed to do so!). It seemed promising. It seemed different than anything else I had tried before, and this gave me hope that maybe it could work. I tried everything else. It had to work. Because nothing else had. DBT was my last hope at ever having “a life worth living”, as Marsha Linehan puts it.
I had gotten my substance abuse issues under control, for the most part, with diligent efforts in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) in the several years prior to starting this treatment, however, the AA program does “not have any opinion on outside issues” such as coexisting mental illnesses and outside solutions such as therapy. Mental illness other than alcoholism is basically not talked about in the rooms of AA. I do understand the reasoning for this, but it nonetheless is hard for me to talk about my struggles in meetings, as they are always considered to be due to “untreated alcoholism”. The solution I found through trusting in a Higher Power in AA proved to be the bedrock and foundation of my continued recovery from drugs and alcohol, but I have sometimes been pegged a “chronic relapser” when my extreme emotional dysregulation continued to send me “back out”. I actually have AA to thank for my final discovery of my underlying (or coexisting) mental illness! Without putting together some length of sobriety, I would have never realized my behavior patterns were more than just a side effect of drug and alcohol abuse. It also became clear, as I worked the steps, they were more than untreated alcoholism. I can honestly say that I was working the program to the best of my ability, and I was still at a loss. I have continued to be an active member of AA, and will always know that my sobriety comes before ANYTHING else, because without it I will lose everything, including the progress I have made in therapy.
This blog is for anyone struggling with alcohol or other related substance abuse issues, emotional dysregulation, suicidal ideation, self-harm, toxic relationships, and all of the other debilitating manifestations that come along with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, BPD, CPTSD, PTSD, (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), Panic Disorder, Dissociative Disorder…you name it… if you’ve got a mental health condition, I can almost guarantee DBT skills can help! After only a month and a half into treatment, I have already made leaps and bounds in the right direction. I plan to blog every week (sometimes more often) going over the skills I have learned. I want to share everything I can with you so that you can join me on this path to a life worth living!
I can say without a doubt, the skills I have learned in DBT can be extremely helpful for anyone suffering from the aforementioned conditions, however, I must note that there is not much research on the effectiveness of just applying these skills without going through the very structured therapy as set forth by Marsha Linehan. Not everyone can afford or can even access DBT therapy, and everyone deserves to have a life worth living, so regardless of the lack of research on the effectiveness of teaching these skills outside of therapy, I intend to share what I can of what has freely been given to me by my parents, who had so desperately wanted me to get better for over two decades.
I look forward to sharing my experience so that it might help someone else, even if only one person. This has taken a lot of courage to bare my soul online to the world, but I’m guessing if you made it to this blog, you are a trusted friend or family member of someone just trying to survive like me.
Join me as I continue learn and share my experience, strength, and hope. –A little line I stole from AA 🙂