Tag Archives: DBT skills

True Peer Support

I’ve recently started going to a DBT skills peer support group. I’ve only done about three sessions but already I’m seeing the effect of true peer support. And yes it is positive.

I’ve come across peer support before; both online and in real life, as they say. I’ve had mixed experiences. Some have been extremely positive where as others seemed to drag me further down into my suffering.

My first experience of peer support was on an online forum for people who self harm. At the time I had no diagnosis and no one in my everyday life knew what was happening. Reaching out on this forum felt positive. It felt like a place where people understood me. It also gave me advice on what to do next. It was great. I made some really good friends who I’ve since met and they are still in my life over ten years later. There is a group of us who quite often meet up. We’ve seen marriages and children born. Most of us have graduated through university. We are all a similar age so I think that is why we’ve clicked. We also talk about other things than our mental health but the option to talk about it is always there. This is all positive but there was a darker side to the forum. Things seemed to become competitive for some users. I felt myself being dragged downwards. People were comparing who had it worse or seemed to one up people. It started to become a toxic place for me. Therefore I removed myself from the forum. I still keep in contact with the friends I have made through it though and in that way I still have peer support.

Another place I did peer support was through a local charity. They offered a recovery course run by people with their own experience of mental illness. It was a useful place and much was discussed about mental health and what we all found useful or not. There was a sense of comaradery among us. We bonded and shared many laughs. Again I made friends who are still in my life now.

A major place for peer support that I have found is the Twitter mental health community. Everyone is so supportive of others and it is a great place to get information about many different aspects of mental health and mental illnesses. There can be trolls on Twitter so you have to be careful but the block button is there for a reason. I have made great connections with people on there and found it a great sounding board and a place I can ask questions when I’m unsure.

My latest foray into the world of peer support has been through my local Mind charity. I started by attending the young person’s group and although we don’t really discuss our mental illnesses it is nice to know we all understand when someone is having a tough time and we work together to make the time fun. It is also a chance to be creative and work as a team. I’ve also started attending the DBT peer support group recently, which I mentioned at the beginning. The people have been so lovely and supportive. I’m so grateful for them. I feel I’m making some great friends there.

Overall my experience of peer support has been positive. Of course, as with anything, there have been negative experiences but I believe it has a vital role in helping us learn about our mental health and mental illnesses. However it should not be used in place of professional support, as can be the case, but alongside it.

For more information on peer support you can look on the Mind website here.

If you have any experiences or questions about peer support feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Am I Happy?

I’ve been feeling good which has been an unusual feeling, especially as last week I was nearly admitted to a psychiatric ward. But is it happiness I’m feeling? What else could it be?

There are many different definitions of happiness. These include phrases such as feeling joy or contentment. These definitions all seem very abstract to me. How do I know from this if what I feel is happiness?

DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) teaches us how to identify emotions as part of emotional regulation. I guess the idea being that in order to regulate your emotions, you first need to know what you’re feeling. Identifying feelings/emotions has always been a weak point of mine. Most of the time I can say an emotion is either good or bad. I might be able to describe what it feels like in my body but not always successfully. It is something I’ve been trying to work on and DBT has some skills that are useful to help with this.

As part of my DBT skills therapy we were given a booklet of about 10 pages identifying the core emotions and how to recognise them. It covers different ways of identifying the feelings from looking at physical reactions to situations where it has arisen. It is a useful guide but very chunky and not ideal for carrying around with you. This means working out how to react at the time is difficult.

But back to whether what I’m feeling is happiness. It’s hard to tell. It seems to start out as a feeling of great energy. I feel I can do what I want to do and nothing will stop this. I have energy. My appetite fluctuates. I’m trying hard to make jokes and make people smile. I’m trying desperately to look after people. And then it becomes irritable.

In my mind this isn’t happiness. It doesn’t seem to fit with the feelings that are linked to happiness. There are no obvious events linked to these feelings. None of it fits. So what is this?

Some people would call this a kind of mania. There are similarities. But to me it is a high. It might be fleeting or it may last longer. This time it’s lasted a few days and is dwindling. The irritability has definitely kicking in. For someone with BPD this can happen. A huge mood change, from one extreme to another. It can be exhausting to live with.

For help with identifying emotions these worksheets may help. It’s a skill that can be worked on and is definitely something I am still working on.

To discuss further please use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Screwing Up

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some of the content may be triggering.

I have screwed up majorly. I have pushed people away and withdrawn from others. I didn’t mean to. I just am either too much or not enough. There is no balance. I warn people and they say they can’t see it and then when it happens they recoil in horror. I tell them they need to tell me as I’m not skilled at picking up social cues but they don’t and just ignore me. I know it’s my fault but it hurts.

All that is going through my head is how much I must of hurt these people. I hate myself for it. I’m not excusing my behaviour but I don’t always realise when I’m doing or saying something wrong. If people let me know I could try and talk to them and make things right but I don’t always get the chance. I understand that maybe they get too hurt by it but when they just ignore me without telling me I’ve hurt them I feel worse. I know that’s selfish as it’s not really about me but it would help others too as I could learn what I’m doing wrong instead of just guessing. Also I really want them to know how sorry I am and I dont get the opportunity to let them know.

People say I’m being paranoid. That I need to understand that people might be busy or not well. I understand this I do but I can’t help going through everything I’ve said and done to the point I make myself sick. It makes me push away further if they do come back. It also makes me try to not get too close to new people. Though I fail at this massively. I get caught up in it all too quickly. My feelings for people go to an extreme and I’m desperate to talk to them and help them. It all becomes too much again and again people ignore and hate me.

I want to ask what is wrong with me but we all know. I’m just not cut out for friendship. I deserve to be alone.

It’s not just friendships I screw up though. It seems I destroy my support systems and the help I’m being provided. I reach crisis point and they say its too much. They can’t help me. I trust them and ask for help and it backfires. I’m pushed further away when what I need is reassurance. They wonder why people don’t talk when they’re suicidal but what other option is there when you’re scared you’ll lose everything anyway. Why try to make yourself better? For people that say they are good at working with people with BPD they seem to forget the fear of abandonment part that can cause further crisis. It feels like they’ve helped me hit self destruct again. But then at the end of the day it is my fault. I should never of asked for help instead of acting on the thoughts I was having.

So there you have it. Why I’m a screw up. Don’t worry I hate myself more than anyone else.

For further comments please use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Ashamed

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some of the content may be triggering.

Today I had a melt down. Not just a little one but a major, uncontrollable show of emotion. I was in the DBT peer support group that I’ve started attending and I got triggered and that was it. My mind started turning over everything. Memories came back with full force. The voice started. It was overwhelming. I started by sitting quietly with tears going down my face. We were doing an exercise and everyone was focused and I just couldn’t ask for help. Then someone noticed me. They asked if I was OK and I got asked if I wanted to take a moment. That’s when things just nose dived.

I practically ran out the room. I wanted to slam the door behind me but couldn’t do it. This infuriated me and I hit the wall and ran to the stairs. At that point I just sobbed and emotion overtook me. There were so much emotion that I have no idea what it was I was feeling. All I know is it was horrible. In that moment I wanted to die. Everything was so intense. It felt unmanageable. I felt nothing was going to be OK again.

Luckily the peer support facilitator followed me. She was amazing. She got down to my level. I think she grabbed my arms. It’s a little hazy. I can’t remember what she said. All I know is she got someone else to go in with the group and took me somewhere quiet.

When we got in the office I just wanted to curl up small and hurt myself. I hated my reaction as well as still feeling the heightened emotions. Also everything was still going through my head. I couldn’t look at her. I was so ashamed of myself for so many reasons. For my reaction. For my feelings. For the thoughts of what had happened in the past. For what the voice was telling me. I started to hit myself as I was asked to stop. I hadn’t even realised I was. Things were hazy. It was like being in two different places.

The facilitator started talking to me. The conversation is a little bit of a blur. But it started to calm me. She got me to focus on my breathing to bring me back to the moment. She then had to leave me to go back to the group but someone else sat with me. They talked to me about nothing in particular but it helped. I started to be able to respond and the tears seemed to stop. The intensity of the emotions slowly eased.

When the facilitator came back we decided to have another talk. I opened up about a lot of things from my past. It all kind of blurted out. There were things I had never really spoken about. It just felt, well not easy but, OK to talk about. I felt listened to. I felt understood. I felt I mattered. But this was also contradicted by other feelings of shame (of what had happened in the past and of needing to ask for help), of being selfish, of guilt. I hated myself. As much as I was told it was OK I couldn’t believe it. I was (and am) an awful person. I couldn’t stop apologising.

Eventually I left, apologising as I went and promising to email her and contact my care coordinator. I decided to text my friend. She was the only one I wanted. I explained to some extent what had happened and she was concerned about me. Immediately guilt started to escalate again. But I kept talking (still apologising). She kept me calm. She was great. I’m so grateful for her. I’m so grateful for the facilitator too.

When I got home I got into trouble for being home late. It started as soon as I walked in. Immediately all the negative emotions started to rise again. I tried to explain I had a melt down and the questions started. They were things I found difficult to discuss but they wouldn’t leave it alone. Even when out walking with mum she brought it up and told me I just need to get over it. Maybe she is right but it added to how bad I’m feeling. Shame came forward again.

Since then things have been hard. My mind has been going over things. The voice has played its role. I’m trying hard to stay afloat. But its tough. I hate myself.

If you have any suggestions on dealing with shame feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Rock Bottom And Below

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some of the content may be triggering.

Things feel rubbish. I’m struggling. Heading downwards yet again. I’m highly stressed at the moment which isn’t helping. Whoever said keeping busy is good for your mental health doesn’t have a mental illness. It makes me worse. And it doesn’t stop the thoughts or the voice. All the time I’m doing things I’m thinking about how useless I am or hearing the voice telling me to die or hurt myself.

The thought of socialising at the moment is just hard to contemplate. I don’t want to talk to people but at the same time I do. I guess its more I don’t want to talk about banal things and want to discuss what is going on. I don’t want to be selfish though.

I feel so alone with everything. There is no easy solution to what is going on and I know that frustrates people. I’m just being a burden. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I don’t want to be that person.

I’ve been crying a lot as well. I’m not a big crier but it has all been overwhelming and it has got to me. Self harm has been my coping mechanism. It’s not ideal but it makes me feel more in control and gives me some relief from what’s going on in my head (I’m not advocating self harm at all here, it’s just how things are for me at the moment).

I had a message from the DBT peer support group that I’m attending’s facilitator where I shared some of what I’m going through and she said she was proud of me. I keep listening to the message. I can’t believe it though. I don’t deserve people to be proud of me. I’ve done nothing to be proud of. In fact I feel I was such a pain to everyone there and so unfair to all of them. I hate myself.

The suicidal thoughts are also strong. I have no plans and I’m safe but my mind keeps going over how much better for everyone it would be if I was gone. People would be better off. I’m just a useless waste of space. Noone needs or wants me. What is the point of my existence? There isn’t one.

I’m really sorry for this negative post. This is my reality. It’s also the reality for many people battling mental illness. Rock bottom is a scary place to be.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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6 Months From The End Of DBT

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some content may be triggering.

It’s been roughly six months since I finished my DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) skills group, therefore I thought I’d reflect on how things are going.

In all honesty I found the DBT skills group difficult. It revealed a lot more areas that I need to work on than I thought I did. I learnt a lot about myself and how BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) effects my life. It is a lot more than I thought. I think I thought some of the things I thought were normal, when actually it’s far from normal.

DBT gave me some ideas on how to cope with the self harm urges and things to do instead of self harming, as part of the distress tolerance module. While I’ve tried to practice these, I’ve not found them that effective. The urges don’t go away like I hoped. Instead I’ve found myself fixating on the idea of self harm and how much damage I could do. The only thing that seems to relieve this is to self harm. This isn’t a failure on DBT’s part, it’s mine. Although I do feel I would of benefitted from a revisit to the skills, I also feel I needed some individual help to go through the problems that lead me to self harm and someone who could help me find what’s effective for me.

I knew I always had problems identifying emotions. The most I could do was say whether it was a good or bad emotion. I used to use cues from others to put a name to the emotion. It was something I started working on in art therapy as a teenager as before that I could barely express how I was feeling. I think with DBT skills I learnt some more ways to identify my emotions and the 10 page handout on ways to decide which emotion it is you’re feeling was comprehensive. I just wish I had it in the form of an app on my phone as you can’t really carry a thick A4 handout around easily.

I also learnt through the emotional regulation module that emotions aren’t wrong to have. It’s something I’ve always said to others but never applied to myself. Anger has always been a tricky one for me to deal with. But I’m working on accepting it. I punish myself less for feeling angry though I do still struggle to express it outwardly. I think at the moment I’m not in a safe enough space to allow this expression so hopefully with time that will come.

The biggest learning curve for me came with the interpersonal relationships module. I thought this module would be a waste of my time. I thought I was doing OK. How wrong was I? I came to realise that I was allowing people to treat me like dirt and accepting it too easily. I learnt that there were ways to try and change this and that I didn’t have to accept it or just go into a rage over it. I must admit that most of my time doing this unit I was trying to figure out my relationships and which needed working on rather than the skills to tackle this. Over the last six months this has continued but I’ve lost my grasp on what skills to use. I feel I would maybe benefit from repeating this unit at a later date. I’m not ready at the moment still.

In the core mindfulness module of DBT skills I learnt a little about how to make myself be in the present moment. Before DBT skills group I had a tainted view of mindfulness as something I was no good at and would never master due to previous experiences in therapy. What I learnt was that for me I need to approach mindfulness in a different way and that there are many more ways to practice mindfulness than I had been taught before. For me, mindfulness wasn’t about sitting in silence breathing. I needed to do activities mindfully. This was a revelation but it was, and is, useful.

Overall I’m in two minds about whether DBT skills have been useful. I think there is potential for them to be useful in my life but I don’t feel the course was long enough for me personally. I also feel full DBT, which includes individual as well as group therapy, would have been more useful. I feel that one of my psychiatrists agreed with this also (he’s left now but it would of been good to have him on my side). I am also hoping to attend a DBT skills peer support group that is starting as part of my local Mind. Hopefully this may help a little with the gaps in my knowledge.

For more about my therapy you can click here or you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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BPD Awareness Month Round Up

May is BPD Awareness Month so throughout the month of May I shared facts and information about the illness on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But I thought I would share them all on the blog as a round up.

1st May

This was my introductory post to announce that I would be sharing information about Borderline Personality Disorder.

2nd May

I thought it was important to share what BPD is and this seemed like a good explanation.

3rd May

Many people mix up BPD and Bipolar disorder. They are have similarities (mood switching, intensity of moods) but are two separate illnesses. For more info check out Mind’s website.

4th May

BPD can be diagnosed when at least 5 of 9 criteria are met (see image for the 9). There are many different combinations and each criteria is on a spectrum.

5th May

This was just to give people an overview of some yes’s and no’s.

6th May

A lot of people say BPD isn’t a real mental illness but it is. There are a lot of theories about what causes BPD, but this doesn’t make it less real.

7th May

A lot of people think that people with BPD are manipulative. We are not and this image explains why. All the people I know with BPD are awesome.

8th May

BPD is exhausting. Unstable moods are a major part of this illness and don’t just change daily but even from 1 minute to the next.

9th May

This further explains the extreme moods that we go through.

10th May

Just a letter many people with BPD would like to write.

11th May

A lot of people think that people with BPD are sensitive. In some ways we are but there are reasons for it. We notice every little thing and if something is wrong we blame ourselves and wait to be abandoned. This makes any kind of relationship hard.

12th May

Many people with BPD have their feelings invalidated because people can’t understand the extreme nature of our emotions. We know to you it may not be a big deal but saying we shouldn’t feel that way makes us feel worse.

13th May

We shouldn’t lie to people in general but lying to someone with BPD can be catastrophic. It can fuel all sorts of thoughts, generally against ourselves. We start doubting everything. Everyone feels unsafe.

14th May

Little things can cause a big reaction for people with BPD but we also know that people will not understand why we have reacted as we have so we tend to hide our feelings. This can result in using negative coping strategies such as self harm or eventually exploding at someone.

15th May

Self harm is one of the criteria for a BPD diagnosis. There are misconceptions about why people with BPD self harm but it is not to be manipulative or for attention generally.

16th May

Some people doubt the seriousness of BPD but it has a suicide rate of 10%. 70% of people with BPD attempt suicide.

17th May

This is my medication that I take in a month. Most of it is for my mental illness. There is no medication that is made for treatment of BPD but it can help us deal with some of the symptoms. Each day I take two antidepressants, one mood stabiliser and an antipsychotic. I also have a medication I can take when my anxiety is overwhelming.

18th May

This statement may sound a little reactive but it has some truth. People with BPD don’t only feel negative emotions strongly, we feel positive ones just as intensely. This means we may come across as quite intense in relationships. But we genuinely love you lots.

19th May

Anger can be a problem for those of us with #BPD. With the intensity of emotions, our anger can be an explosion of rage. It can burn for a long time even after the other person/situation is over it. It will play on our mind. We may do or say things we regret. Sometimes we will turn it inwards.

20th May

I hate this about myself. People with BPD do get jealous of friends hanging out with other friends but we do not do this because we feel you should only hang out with us. We actually feel we are not good enough for you and are scared you will leave us.

21st May

People with BPD are very aware that they are responsible for their actions. Maybe too aware as they are constantly judging their words and actions. But sometimes, and we are not using it as excuse more an explanation, our illness causes us to act in certain ways that are difficult to deal with for others and ourselves.

22nd May

Quite often people with BPD have trouble naming their emotions, which when you feel them so intensely and act out on them can be a problem in getting others to understand you. It is also frustrating as we wish we had the words for what we’re experiencing so we can get support.

23rd May

This is something that is currently hitting me quite hard as I turn 30 in just over a week. This isn’t exclusive to BPD as many people who have a mental illness but I just wanted to share what kind of impact BPD can have. It is a serious illness.

24th May

People with BPD struggle with their sense of self. Part of that is taking on things from other people and our sense of worth often comes from other people too. This means we do our best to be liked so we feel worth. We also put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect and is part of why when we make a mistake we take it so hard.

25th May

People with BPD may struggle with a se se of self. In response to this they take on bits of other people depending on who they’re with. Therefore when they are without someone it can be a struggle to know who they are so they cling to people and may appear needy.

26th May

Living with BPD for me makes me feel like I don’t belong. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. The world feels like something I can’t navigate while others seem to just get through. Little things are big. Relationships feel like a huge effort. Even simple socialising is a huge minefield waiting to explode in our faces so everything gets analysed.

27th May

It is a myth that people with BPD are all abusive. In fact we are quite likely to be the victims of abuse and get stuck in abusive situations as even when someone is toxic we are scared of being left by them.

28th May

I’ve talked about the struggles of BPD a lot because they are a huge part of the illness but these same traits can have some positivity. We are passionate and empathetic among other things.

29th May

Apparently BPD gets easier to deal with, with age. And in some ways I’ve seen this myself. My mood swings when I was younger were much stronger and I was more reactive. I think things have got easier in some ways because I’ve learnt about myself and ways to cope. I’m not saying it’s easy, and there are times when it really catches me by surprise but it can be manageable.

30th May

The main treatment for BPD is Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). The full course involves group and individual therapy. It focuses on dealing with the symptoms of BPD to make life easier. It is hard work.

31st May

I’ve shared a lot about BPD and the difficulties and differences it can make, but people with BPD are more than a mental illness although it can be hard to distinguish the lines. Please remember that the person who tells you about their diagnosis is the same person they were before they told you.

I hope this has been useful. For more information on BPD check out Mind website. You can keep up with me via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.