Arriving into the program (besides being shit scared but trying to appear tough) I perhaps had an expectation and sense of relief that the ‘therapists’ or the ‘program’ would fix me! I had already heard about the promising results from DBT so I couldn’t wait ‘to be fixed’ and was vaguely okay about such a commitment to the program.
I very soon realised that ‘they’ can’t fix me with some easy magical wand but I actually had to put the work in myself and try to incorporate these skills in my life… and slowly but surely things started to get better.
For me it seemed to get worse before better, but so much better now on epic proportions J
So with being on the other end of DBT I wish to give some advice…
1) Let this be the priority in your life! Although a year sounds like a long time, in the grand scheme of your whole life, it really isn’t much. You have this at your fingertips now, so use it now. I rearranged my uni timetable around it. I organised babysitters. I committed. What’s my other option really? If you can understand that this will only benefit you and make your life worth living, put your ass into it for the little time you have. (I still go through periods where I’m unwilling but I have to work through that too)
2) Mindfulness – We all hate things we cannot do! If I asked you to get up and dance with me as a mindfulness activity some people would HATE it. Not really because they hate dance but they because they THINK they can’t do it. The ones who like dance would probably jump up with excitement. I couldn’t do mindfulness very well at first. In fact I was scared of it. At first I would sit and disconnect from it so I could avoid it. Then when I tried I got so distracted. My unwilling attitude would get in the way too. ‘I mean, how can observing and describing a shell/picture/scarf/insert your problematic object here, really change my life?’ But like anything you practice you get better at. Unbelievably to me, it is now the most helpful and foundational skill in my life. With it, the other skills work even more! Life is less messy when I get my mindfulness dose in. Unbelievably, it is mindfulness that ended up being panic attack curing. True story. I had collapsed once in a severe state and I did external mindfulness with whatever was there right then. In this case it was a dust pan and brush. Boring huh! Anyway, it was through the detailed description of the object I ended up slowing my breath and return to normal. I was shocked. I encourage you to learn it, practice it to be able to get to a stage where this can work for you. Keep trying, you will eventually get there
3) How to practice the skills – Do you find yourself forgetting the homework, filling it in late and scribbling something down at the end of the week? Yeh, me too. I tend to overfill my plate of things to do so a lot of the time homework became a case of ‘I’ll get round to it later’ not even remembering what it was I had to do that day. Homework is actually about helping to put the skills into your day to day, not trying to tick the box at the end of the day. It is a continuation of the skills training, not a report. If you can set an alarm in the morning for a time to check what your focus is for the day, you will end up looking for or recognising more opportunities to use the skill…… which means you will practice more, which means you will nail it quicker, which means it will make your life easier and decrease the suffering you feel! YAY!
4) YOGA – Okay this is NOT in DBT specifically, it’s a skill that I decided to employ from doing therapy but it has been so life changing I have to recommend it. It is here that I met myself (and I have blogged that experience previously if you would like to read)
So there are my top 4 tips for getting the most out of DBT. Keep going UNTIL. It took a long time for me to see a huge difference to my life. Kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You know how you can connect some clumps of pieces here and there and get glimpses of the picture? The DBT journey (for me) was like that. I could see parts of improvement along the way. It was frustrating that I couldn’t see more for a long time. But the more time I spent practicing putting more pieces together, the clearer the picture became. So don’t give up on that puzzle cos it’s a pretty picture at the end. xoxo