My Quest to Fit In

I started seeing a private social worker 2 weeks ago. I am enjoying the sessions as she values past experiences and how they play a role in our present. I have not experienced this before despite how obvious it feels to me.

We were talking last week about my first memories, my family, the church that I left and my friends growing up. She pointed out to me that majority of my younger years were spent trying to find out where I fit and going to desperate measures to ensure that I fit in or cope with not being able to do so. I knew all of this about myself but for whatever never noticed the pattern.

Family: My sisters stuck with activities (sports, gymnastics, dance) but I never stuck with anything. People were always asking me if I was the “lacrosse player” or “the dancer”. I could only reply, “No, I’m Kristen.” And to myself say, “I’m the daughter that does drugs, drinks, has sex and tries to die.” Who wants to brag about that daughter? I did feel there was favouritism, I was jealous. My response to this was to get angry and stay away from my family. As I grew older this all changed. I do not believe any of this was done on purpose by my family. I love my family and they love me. I am known as the activist in my family and I proudly wear that title!

Church: I didn’t behave like a regular Mormon girl. I didn’t look or talk like one either. I questioned everything, noticed that sexism and other issues in how we were being taught. I dressed to hide myself at church (wearing black, a big hoodie). My friend’s mom frequently shot me dirty looks when she saw him with me. I was also experiencing all of the depression and so angry that God would make me go through this. How my depression was manifesting was pushing me away from church as I saw it was not the right place for me. I also disagreed with the churches stance of same-sex marriage/relationships, abortion, sex before marriage etc. I coped with this by not going to church. Church is not for me. If there is one thing I did take away from the Mormon church it’s the importance of family. I can also spot a Mormon Missionary before I see their name tag :P

Friends: This was the worst. When you are young, you are already trying to figure out who you are and where you fit in. Adding my issues on top of that made it very difficult. My friends frequently stopped hanging out with me or talking to me. If they didn’t cut me out then they were threatening too. “If you don’t stop cutting I can’t be your friends anymore.” It was so stressful. I coped by doing what I thought was cool or what was cool, always making sure I was one-upping everyone. It was very destructive. I think this may be why the majority of my closest friends also have mental health issues. I accept them and they accept me.

All of these categories have improved or been dealt with. I still find myself trying to find where I fit in. This is probably why I fear rejection, why I am hard on myself when I can do something for someone, why I act different ways in public, just why I am currently me. I feel like I don’t fit in, yet, I have many examples of finding these places and people for myself. I need to realize I can stop searching and that it is now time to enjoy myself.

DBT Skills: Wise Mind ACCEPTS

During our second Distress Tolerance class, we went over the skill Wise Mind ACCEPTS. ACCEPTS is an acronym for different ways to distract ourselves in times of crisis. I already use some of these skills, but I think, no, I know, I need to put more emphasis on using them.

Wise Mind ACCEPTS

Distract using ACTIVITIES: A hobby, read, watch a video, listen to music, go for a walk etc.

  • I tend to read, colour, blog, poke around Facebook and watch funny shows to distract me.

Distract by CONTRIBUTING: Volunteer, do something nice for another person, help someone who needs it etc.

  • My volunteering is huge for me. I have been volunteering with the same organization for almost 4 years!

Distract using COMPARISONS: Have you improved from where you were 2 years ago? 4 years ago? (This distraction actually suggests you compare yourself to others who have it worse which I think is horrible. I NEVER want to make myself feel better by thinking, “Well, so-and-so has it worse.”)

  • I readily acknowledge that each year I greatly improve. I am not even close to being the person I used to be!

Distract with EMOTIONS: Get yourself feeling the opposite emotion of what you are feeling by listening to music, reading a book, watching shows that encourage the opposite emotion.

  • I started listening to dance/electronic music years ago because it made me feel happy. The rock music I was listening to usually made me upset so making the switch to music that made me want to dance was a smart move.

Distract by PUSHING AWAY: mentally leave the stressor for awhile, put up a mental wall and come back to it later.

  • I’m not good at this and rarely consider leaving something that is bothering me. I need to work on this.

Distract using THOUGHTS: count, write, do puzzles etc. Anything to distract your thoughts.

  • I should do some of this more!

Distract using SENSATIONS: hold ice to your skin, pet an animal, take a hot/cold shower/bath, listen to music, taste your favourite food etc.

  • I used to take a lot of baths with scented candles lit or bath salts :)

DBT Skills: Rules of Crisis Survival

When you are a very emotional person, everything is a crisis. I know we read, watch or listen to the news and hear about people around the world in horrible circumstances that we would call “being in crisis”, such as the recent earthquake in Nepal, but many of us experience a crisis every day because we don’t know how to handle the situation. For the purpose of this post, I am talking about the everyday crisis’ many of us find ourselves in.

In my DBT class we defined a crisis as:

  • a stressful event or traumatic moment.
  • something that is short term.
  • we want to solve it now.

I completely acknowledge that for some of us our crisis is possibly long-term (an ill family member that needs your support, experiencing an abusive partner etc.) but we are still able to find ways out of these crisis’ or make them more tolerable.

2 Main Rules of Crisis Survival1

 

A few nights ago my partner, B, spontaneously decided to go to a friend’s house. I immediately became panicked and started being passive aggressive to try and guilt him into staying (this is unskillful but I swear it gets better). My thought process in these moments is that he is abandoning me. I believe he won’t come back, that he doesn’t care about me (or else he would stay) and maybe he’ll go find another girlfriend while he’s out. I am very afraid when he is not with me. After 20 seconds of sass from me, B told me he would come back, that he loves me and gave me kisses and hugs (we have talked about how I need love and reassurance to currently feel better in these situations so I am happy to see that he can support me in this).

After he left I knew I had a decision to make. I could either curl up in a ball and hate life OR I could do something skilful about the situation. I remembered the above two rules about crisis survival: 1. Solve the problem if you can, and 2. If you can’t solve the problem, survive it. I knew I couldn’t solve the problem. Solving this problem would possibly mean B doesn’t go out or I go out with him. B is allowed to go see his friends and see his friends alone. This was not an option. I decided that it was best to survive the crisis. How did I do this? I distracted myself with a few episodes of my favourite shows (South Park, Girls, The Mindy Project), painted my nails and completed a presentation for an upcoming conference. By the time this was finished (about 4 hours) B was on his way home and we watched an episode of Daredevil before going to sleep.

What I feel is most important about this is not that I found ways to distract myself but that the distractions made me not care that he was out. I was avoiding feeling horrible but since I was busy and enjoying what I was doing I was able to tell myself that B has a right to be with his friends and that I have a right to not be bothered by it. This wasn’t a case of distracting myself where I am still thinking about why I’m upset; it was full of acceptance that the crisis was happening and that I could get through it successfully and be happy.

3 Lies We Need to Stop Telling About ‘Negative People’

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook called, 3 Lies We Need to Stop Telling About ‘Negative People’. I could relate to the 3 lies the author pointed out and have spoken before (on this blog and in presentations) that the idea of constant happiness and complete emotional control is ridiculous and that there is value in our negative experiences.

Below is just bits from the original article. Please click the link above from the full article.

3 Lies We Need to Stop Telling About ‘Negative People’

Source: Huffington Post

1.  There Are Positive People, Who We Should Aspire to Be Like, and Negative People, Who We Should Avoid Being Like

This is code for “Depressed people are terrible. Here are their mistakes for you to learn from so you’ll never be like those people.

2. We Would All Be Happier If We Just Cut ‘Negative People’ From Our Lives

It’s one thing to cut out someone who is abusive or puts you in immediate danger. It’s another matter entirely to cut someone out of your life because they aren’t happy enough for you.

3. ‘Negative People’ Are Only Unhappy Because They Choose to Be

It’s unfair to tell someone who is struggling to just “think themselves out of it.” Mental health is far more complicated than that.

DBT Skills: Self-Destructive Coping Strategies

The first activity in my DBT workbook for this weeks class was to identify my main self-destructive coping strategies.  I did complete this activity a few years back when I first purchased the workbook and the strategies I use have not changed since then. I will list all of the strategies for your benefit and highlight the ones that I currently use.

Self-Destructive Coping Strategies

  • You spend a great deal of time thinking about past pains, mistakes, and problems.
  • You get anxious worrying about possible future pains, mistakes, and problems.
  • You isolate yourself from other people to avoid distressing situations.
  • You make yourself feel numb with alcohol or drugs.
  • You take your feelings out on other people by getting excessively anger at them or trying to control them.
  • You engage in dangerous behaviours, such as cutting, hitting, picking at, or burning yourself or pulling out your own hair.
  • You engage in unsafe sexual activities such as having sex with strangers or having frequent unprotected sex.
  • You avoid dealing with the causes of your problems, such as an abusive or dysfunctional relationship.
  • You use food to punish or control yourself by eating too much, not eating at all, or by throwing up what you do eat.
  • You attempt suicidal or engage in high-risk activities, like reckless driving or taking dangerous amounts of alcohol or drugs.
  • You avoid pleasant activities, such as social events and exercise, maybe because you don’t think you deserve to feel better.
  • You surrender yourself to your pain and resign yourself to living a miserable and unfulfilling life.

I actively engage in the red coping strategies. By actively I mean some are used every day. Do they work? NO! So why keep using them? I have other strategies I can use so why not use those? I’m not entirely sure. I guess I am currently programmed to prefer my self-destructive coping strategies, but that is why I am in this DBT class; to uninstall that part of myself.

I can say that one of my current strategies has been on its way out for several years to the point of where I could technically not include it. And I can identify at least 3 other strategies that I used when I was younger that I no longer use at all. That makes me hopeful about being able to replace my current self-destructive coping strategies :)