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My Journey With DBT: Part 3

By: Allison Strong

I’m in a year-long Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program.  Many people repeat the course. More than once! They say in their first year they felt more like passengers than patients because there’s so much material to cover.

 I agree. Now that we’re at the end of the semester, there’s so much transformative information that I’m having trouble remembering it all. If I can repeat the class, I will also. Why not? I’ve come so far.

Those who see me sporadically (like the dentist and relatives) ask me if I’ve started a new medication because I seem so different- so ‘calm.’ I believe it’s DBT. I’m actually meditating every day. I can find my car in the parking lot at the grocery store. Every time. This stuff is the real deal, I feel.

Before I was placed in a group therapy module, my individual therapist and I created a treatment plan. There were three primary goals (they call them ‘skills’). The first skill I wanted was Mindfulness. The second was to be a better listener. The third had to do with being in ‘Wise Mind,’ rather than ‘Emotion Mind,’ which has a firm grip- able to hold me hostage with blinders on.

Here’s what caught my eye: The phrase, “Reduce Mood-Dependent Behavior.”

This blew my mind. It never occurred to me that I had PERMISSION to act anything other than dismal if I was depressed.

I took this ‘Mood-Dependent Behavior’ concept a step further. As if I was voting, I wrote in “Mood-Dependent ‘Cognition.’ ” 

Six weeks later, I had what I call ‘Bipolar Relapse.’ I fell into that oh-so-familiar ditch. This time around though, it wasn’t as deep, disabling.

Predictably, I had negative ideation from self judgment all the way to self harm. Being mindful of this irritated me. The annoyance spurred me to take positive action. I coaxed myself through the activities I normally enjoy, even though I wasn’t getting any pleasure from them. I turned to my books, my music, my newspapers, like never before. I dug in with my cooking. I managed to get myself to the Y, and lift weights, which is so difficult when I’m depressed.

I kept telling myself it would help me recover mood-wise.  The mind can’t think of two things at once, so concentrating on the paper or another project gave me some relief. Going through the motions opened the window to a tiny bit of sun. I got some oxygen in what’s normally a suffocating situation.    

Instead of six months, or a year, I recovered in three weeks and got six months of ‘free’ time out of it.     

Speaking of Depression…you know what? Its ears must have been burning. I’m in one just as I’m writing this blog. 

The big question is,

What am I going to do with it?

Before Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, I never even asked.

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