Thu, Jun. 15th, 2017

scarlettina: (Reality Check)
Some of you may know that I've been doing a rather intensive therapy called dialectical behavior therapy (known as DBT). If one can be said to "come out" as depressed or suicidal, then I guess I qualify for "coming out." I've never attempted suicide, but for 8-9 months last year into this year, it was a primary thought pattern for me. The darkness got pretty bad; it was a daily phenomenon. I didn't think that my presence on Earth mattered, that it would be easier for everyone if I disappeared. I didn't think I was worthy of love. And, surrounded as I was by friends and relatives so many of whom were suffering with cancer (very specifically, six people--friends and family--were all dealing with it at the same time, all different flavors: brain, prostate, pancreatic, breast; it was awful), I couldn't bear the thought that life was nothing but sickness and devastation and loss. Cancer was the primary trauma of my teen years; to have it come roaring into my environment so aggressively all at once was horrifying, especially with the prelude of Jay Lake's journey. I thought about what I'd do to myself, how I'd do it. Three things kept me from taking final steps: the thought that I didn't want to put my brother into the position of explaining to my niece what I'd done or why I'd done it, the fact that there's still too much of the world left to see and too many people to love, and the anti-depressants I've been taking. It still peeks through occasionally, but I have the tools now to deal with it.

DBT has helped pretty significantly. It's a combination of cognitive and behavioral methods that address thought and behavior patterns in a very systematic way. It actually requires the use of a workbook! But what the workbook does is concretize the internal work that one does as part of the therapy. It draws on evidence-based therapies and a little bit of Buddhist philosophy to foster specific coping skills:

Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment
Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations, not change it
Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others
Emotion Regulation: how to change emotions that you want to change

Mindfulness is a separate skill that is emphasized and practiced hand in hand with each of the other three skills. I've completed two of these modules so far, and they have definitely been helpful. Two friends, independent of each other, have observed that these days I seem more centered and grounded. That's what I've been working toward. I have one more module to go. I need to decide, after that, if I'm going to do the course again. It is expensive and it is a lot of work, but it's clear that the work has made a difference.

I've also started to do heartbeat meditation for 20 minutes every morning. This is a relatively recent practice, and I have a lot of work to do. But what I've found is that it helps me start my day in a more balanced, mindful way. I'm not as angry as I've been (and I've been very angry for the last two years), and I'm finding that it's helping me in other ways--but I'm not prepared to talk about them yet because I need more evidence before I'm sure that what I'm experiencing is substantial and consistent.

I've been wanting to write about these things for a while. I have refrained from doing so because I was concerned about "how it would look" or "what people would think." This morning, I've decided I just kinda don't care. These are issues that I have been dealing with and the things that are helping me cope. I wanted to be honest about what I'm feeling, thinking, and doing. It's been a big part of how I've been spending my time this year, and not writing about it seemed like corking up something very important. If there's anything here that can help other people, then I'm glad for that.

I also wanted to say, mainly, that I'm glad I'm still here. I'm looking forward to what I hope will be a good summer.


scarlettina: (Default)

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