Help me develop a DBT-based parenting program!

This program will be based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If proven successful there is a high possibility it will be moved online to support moms from around the world!

Here is the link for the survey! Thank you for your help and support ūüôā

Experiences of Mom’s with Borderline Personality Disorder/Borderline Traits

 

Motherhood & Madness: How Radical Acceptance is Changing My Life

Motherhood&Madness

 

It has been awhile! So many things have happened aside from giving birth to my son that I have really struggled to prioritize everything that needs to be done.

My son is almost 2 months old. These have been the most wonderful and challenging 2 months of my life. Around the third week after my son was born I found myself feeling very frustrated with the changes that were happening. I was sitting in the rocking chair around 3 am trying to get my son back to sleep. I was finding it very difficult and I sat in the chair saying to myself, “I hate this! I want to go to sleep!” I was coming closer and closer to tears. It suddenly dawned on me that I need to radically accept that the situation was happening. I needed to accept that I would find myself up at 3 am a lot (and I am every single morning without fail) and that my son would be fussy for various reasons. I needed to accept that my role as a parent involves sacrifices to ensure my child is fed, comfortable and safe. Radically accepting this doesn’t mean I’m ok with waking up at 3 am, it means that I am going to accept this is my reality because fighting it will do nothing except cause me pain.

I realized in that moment I also needed to change the narrative in my mind. Instead of thinking about how much I hate being awake at 3 am I decided to start thinking that these are bonding moments. Every moment I spend with my son is an opportunity to bond with him. I can see the positive effects of the hours I spend with my son such as getting his first real smiles and him looking to me for comfort when other people are holding him and he is upset. It’s an amazing connection that is worth the few months of broken sleep.

Radical acceptance and changing the narrative have made the past 7 weeks more enjoyable. I am not always successful since lack of sleep can increase emotions like sadness and anger and I am still successful most of the time as I acknowledge that this is allowed to be hard, I am allowed to be upset and that regardless I am doing the best I can for my son.

My DEAR MAN was great, the response was not: Accepting that I cannot control others

Please check out my recent blog post in Dialectical Living about my first time using DEAR MAN. It did not go over well but I still came away with a very valuable lesson about not being able to control others.

I have found it frustrating over the years that I have learned so much about how to become a more improved version of myself and yet these skills do not always translate well to others due to their inexperience with them. It has always fascinated me that I have learned self-reflection, mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal skills because I was deemed to have a deficit and yet I am surrounded by people daily who demonstrate the same deficit, they just are just not labeled as “mentally ill”.

Have there been moments when you have practiced a skill with someone and it didn’t work out? What about moments of when the skill does work?¬†

I can be a counsellor now!

I finally have liability insurance and can start counselling individuals! I am trained in DBT and use DBT myself so being able to work with others who have BPD or emotional regulation issues is pretty amazing!

I find myself filled with a great fear that I will ultimately blow it as a counsellor and make people worse rather than better. While I do not want to devalue my experience of supporting friends, family, strangers and even my peer support work, I do not feel it is the same. In all cases, I was really not responsible for the overall wellbeing of the person. I was a listening ear that then suggested they seek counselling if it was needed or wanted. I was the person that knew where to get counselling. Now, I will be the counsellor. It’s scary.

I believe that once I have my first client and get things going I will feel ok. Extra responsibility is nerve-wracking at first. I do believe I can make a difference in someone’s life and I’m so happy that I was given the chance to be ¬†counsellor!

I will be working at Dialectical Living which specializes in providing DBT individual therapy and skills groups to people in Toronto and the surrounding area who experience BPD and other mental health issues that involve emotion regulation issues.

“Attention-Seeking” Behaviour: Because I can’t get attention the regular way

Image: A cartoon person wearing a reflector vest and earphones and holding a glowing marshalling wand in each hand. Text says, “Look!! At!! Me!!”

I’m currently going through training to become a DBT counsellor. We were going through an example client to demonstrate how to use¬†chain analysis¬†in an individual counselling session. This client had been experiencing loneliness which was amplified by her boyfriend not coming straight home after his business trip and going to a wedding without her. The client ended up self-harming and going to the hospital where they called her boyfriend and he came to pick her up. The facilitator asked if the example client’s behaviour was successful. The answer is yes. She wanted her boyfriend’s attention and through self-harm she got his attention. The facilitator went on to say that some people have learned that the only form of communication others will listen to are when they hurt themselves or, in some cases, dying.

Behaviours exhibited by the example client are known to many as “attention-seeking”. I was labelled as an “attention-seeker” in high school because of my cutting. I then, as I do now, believed that¬†the negative association we have with attention-seeking behaviours is wrong but not necessarily because of the individual exhibiting the behaviours. Something is wrong with the person’s environment that drives them to hurt themselves or threaten to hurt themselves in order to receive the attention that they feel they need. At some point, I believe that everyone who uses “attention-seeking” behaviours has tried to communicate using their words. “I am in pain, can you please help me?” or “I really need you right now.” Somewhere along the way one too many people or the same important person too many times said, “no.” Still needing help, these individuals think of other ways to show others that they have an unmet need: cutting, suicide attempts, substance use, threats to harm others etc. It is unfortunate that many of these behaviours are reinforced as people rush to help the individual in need.

On my journey to emotional wellness, I find myself learning to communicate in ways that are new. These ways involve describing how I feel, identifying my emotions, empathising with others and soothing myself. I struggle with telling myself that yelling does not mean I am being heard or that harming myself brings me the understanding that I need. It is especially difficult when I use my words, a calm tone, and understanding of others and where they are at and I still do not get what I have asked for. I know I cannot always get my way but it is very stressful to tell someone you care about that you need their help and they say no.

I think the important point to take away is that we all need to listen. It can be difficult for some to express when they need help so when they do, having a listening ear can make a difference. “Attention-seeking” behaviour means something, it matters and decreasing it can only be done when we have learned other ways to communicate and that others will care enough to hear it.

Image: “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best to understand people is to listen to them.” Dr. Ralph Nichols

DBT Skills: How does a Distress Tolerance Box work?

I recently wrote a post about my new and improved Distress Tolerance Box. I shared a picture and a list of what I had inside. It occurred to me, after I received a comment from a fellow blogger, that explaining how the box works and why it works is and an important component of this skill (dur!).

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My Distress Tolerance Box

A Distress Tolerance Box (DTB) is a box filled with objects that help you distract and calm yourself when you are in distress. These boxes may also be known as a Self-Soothe Box/Kit, Safety Box/Kit, Distraction Box/Kit and Recovery Box/Kit. The objects but into a DTB compliment many of the Distress Tolerance skills taught in DBT but also make sense when not in a DBT context. Every object in a DTB is unique to the box owner. This is because everyone finds different things distracting and calming. A DTB is kept in a place that is easily accessible by you. This means that it is in a memorable and visible location to act as a reminder that it is there for you in your moments of distress.¬†The only rule with DTB is that the objects you put in it must support positive coping. Including items that could promote self-harm, substance use or negative thoughts should not be included as this is counter productive. DTB’s are not only supposed to distract and calm you but also act as a replacement to negative coping behaviours.

The theory behind a DTB and distress tolerance, in general, is that distracting your mind from physical or emotional pain makes the pain more bearable. The pain DOES NOT go away but it becomes less intense. When your body and mind are calm you are able to think more clearly which allows you to engage in problem-solving and you are more receptive to hearing about concerns and possible solutions.

A DTB is great to use when you notice the early signs of distress (ie: racing thoughts, chest tightening, heavy breathing etc.), when you are moderately distressed (upset but are still moderately in control) or even as a preventative measure (ie: if you know that taking exams gives you anxiety so you use something from the box before you write an exam). A DTB probably will not be effective if you are in deep in crisis. This is most likely when your prefrontal cortext (which controls emotion regulation, reality testing etc.) has shut off and a different approach needs to be taken. There is still no harm in trying! This might be a good time, if you are not alone at that moment, for someone to bring you your DTB and help you engage with the materials.

When I put together my box I thought a lot about the significance of each item, including the box.

The Box: I chose a pink box because it is a colour that makes me feel happy and hopeful.

ACCEPTS Skill Items:  Activities I put in my box include, string for making bracelets, a colouring book and Wreck This Journal, nail polish. Objects that support other Thoughts include a word search, The Happy Book, affirmations from a friend, personal love notes and snowflake building blocks. Objects that include Sensations are War Head candy, shea butter lip balm and anti-stress hand lotion.

Soothing with the 5 Senses: Vision objects include, the colouring book, nail polish, bracelet making, personal love notes, glitter silly putty candle (the flame). War Heads candy support Taste and silly putty is great for Touch. Smell objects include the candle (my favourite scent, Apple Cinnamon), shea lip balm and anti-stress eucalyptus spearmint scent. My Hearing object which is not in the picture and is my cell phone which has music on it.

A DTB can constantly evolve. When you find a new item that helps you, add it! If an object stops working then remove it! I really do find the personalization part of this box to be it’s best feature. For example, I recognise that have use of all 5 of my sense and that not everyone does. If you have low or no vision then skip those objects and add more of another! Only include tactile items that feel good to your skin!

Have fun with your DTB! If you have one, what has been your experience with it? If you make one, share what you put in it! If you need more inspiration go to YouTube and type in distress tolerance box, self-soothe kit etc., you will find a lot of examples!

 

DBT Skills: Distress Tolerance Box

A few years ago I created a Self-Harm Safety Box that generally went unused and unappreciated. Last week’s DBT class¬†asked that, for home practice, we create a Distress Tolerance Box. Today, I did just that!

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The objects I chose help with mindfulness and/or address self-soothing with the 5 senses.

What’s inside?

Shea Butter lip balm

Anti-stress Eucalyptus Spearmint hand lotion

The Affirmations Colouring Book + pencil crayons

Affirmations from a friend

Silver glitter silly putty

Love notebook with notes from myself

The Happy Book

Wreck this Journal

Word Search book

Nail polish

War Heads candy

Embroidery floss (make bracelets/keychains)

Apple Cinnamon candle

Snowflake building blocks