Motherhood & Madness: How Radical Acceptance is Changing My Life



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.

DBT Skills: Barriers to Emotion Regulation

After finally finding some wifi (back on up at B’s parents’ house), I have watched my DBT class from this past Monday. Debbie and Amanda discussed barriers to emotion regulation. Without recognition of these barriers, we will not know why or when it may be more difficult to use skills. When these barriers arise we need to be kind and compassionate to ourselves!

We were asked to keep track of the barriers that occur for us this week but I have lumped all of mine as resulting from the move I made a week ago into a new apartment. The barrier I identify with that is making emotion regulation difficult is Emotion Overload. In one week I have gone from super excited, feeling like an adult, to feeling like I made a huge mistake moving into this building and that I am stupid. I am overwhelmed, uncomfortable, frustrated, lonely and afraid. As a result, I find myself getting snappy, falling into negative thoughts easier, clenching my jaw and I am losing motivation (especially around work).

The emotional result of all of this occurred yesterday afternoon. I  expressed to B that I needed help getting things ready for my friends to come over for dinner. He didn’t get home from work until 5:30am so he needed to sleep which was fine. Around 1pm though, I started getting nervous because everything that I had left to do required his help. I was trying to be skillful by expressing that I needed help, what I needed help with but I guess when things didn’t move at the pace I wanted them to I became snappy which resulted in B becoming upset. I then began to cry and the next thing I know I’m emotionally listing off everything that is stressing me and the emotions they are making me feel. At one point, I was starting to have difficulty breathing because I was crying so hard and B comforted me and I was able to bring myself down. While I do see this as a moment of dysregulation caused by emotion overload I also see this moment as being skillful. I needed to cry, I needed to share why I was upset and I did so in a more controlled manner than I would have done in the past.

So, what are the next steps for me? B is handling some of the issues regarding the unit. I have reached out to a friend,

Trying to see this moment like this!

Trying to see this moment like this!

who is also a mental health professional, to provide me that voice of reason I feel I need right now. I am going to write more even if I cannot post it to my blog yet (my journal is being used more which is good). I am going to take it one day at a time and notice the good things that happened that day. I want to use radical acceptance and be ok with things not being 100% right now and take comfort in knowing that they are on their way to being close to 100%. I will do what I can with what I have to self-soothe and distract.

DBT Update #1

I haven’t posted anything DBT related lately and it’s because it’s all becoming a blur. I admit that I haven’t been practicing much and I am trying to get back on track.

Last week I set a goal in class to be more positive about my living situation. I have been living with my partner at his parent’s house since July 2014. I do not want this, but we have no other option. My goal was to use radical acceptance and remind myself, when I become down about it, that the living situation is temporary. I have a promising job interview within the next few days that could help solve the problem. I haven’t really completed my goal because it hasn’t been bothering me this week so I guess that doesn’t count.

We also talked about colouring and how it can help calm you down during stressful moments. While I have not done this activity yet I plan on doing it.

Tomorrow we are going to be discussing boundaries. I am nervous about this. I am not good with boundaries, setting them or respecting others boundaries unless I agree with them. I think it will be most difficult for me to set my own boundaries. I am terribly afraid of hurting people’s feelings and I have seen many times (including an incident yesterday about money) how my boundaries and saying no hurt others. I guess I need to not care if others are hurt when I am respectfully and rightly setting boundaries.

I will have more skill based posts coming up!

A Success in a Failure

I am furious and still furious about a situation I found myself in last Sunday but it was a good test for me.

I had a job “audition” last Sunday for basically a summer camp version of the job I currently have with the City of Toronto. Sunday transit is horrible and my schedule was totally thrown off so I was roughly 10 minutes late. I thought that at the least I would have to apologize profusely and really bring my game! I was wrong. I was fucking locked out of the building along with someone else who was late. We walked around and tried all the doors before finally going back to the main entrance where I banged on the window (I couldn’t just leave). A young woman opened the door, let us in and went and got the guy who was leading the pre-selection group “audition”. He came down and told us that they had already started so we couldn’t join but that they would keep us in mind in case they didn’t fill all
the positions. I held it together, apologized, thanked them for the opportunity and went home.

I called my Mother as I walked back to the subway and cried. She suggested I send them an apology email so that even though being late made me look bad the email would help me later if they did need to have more “auditions”.

When I got home I cried to Michael. I was so ashamed, angry, sad, embarrassed and at a loss for words. “I’m never late!” I kept saying. (It’s true! I’m not!) Michael just hugged me. I told him that I wanted to hurt myself but reminded myself in my head that I should just cry. One of the distractions I checked of in the DBT workbook was that I’d cry. So I cried.

because you learn from it!

Eventually I decided that I was done with crying and had to calm down (the crying was keeping me from cutting but I wasn’t calm). I walked away from Michael and leaned against the wall. “This sucks but I can’t do anything about it,” I said, mostly to myself. “I can only write that email and then it’s out of my hands.” I took deep breaths and went to write my email.

Monday afternoon I received a response to my apology email saying that my apology was appreciated and my maturity respect. It was reconfirmed that they would keep me in mind if they needed more people.

I did it! A situation that would normally have resulted in devastating self harm, a complete freak out and a lot of emotional pain was over in about 20 minutes and even though that job may be gone for this year (I still have a job interview somewhere else in early May) I came out on top! I put myself to the test and I passed!

A co-worker of mine who has worked in City camps for about 6 years wrote to them also just saying that I would be a great fit so hopefully if they need more people his email will help also (it was so sweet of him to write the email for me!).

DBT Workbook: Radical Acceptance

As I wrote before I was having issue understanding radical acceptance and maybe it was just because the exercise didn’t chose good examples to teach me how to do it. Radical acceptance is something that I have been doing for a little while now but just didn’t have a name for it. It was just acceptance to me.

One task from the radical acceptance exercise that doesn’t make me feel complacent is: Review a non-upsetting event that happened in your life many years ago and use radical acceptance to remember that event without judging it.

About 3 and a half years ago I left yet another controlling boyfriend. We had been together for 14 months, which was my longest relationship at that time. I found myself upset that I had wasted that much time on someone who wasn’t going to change his controlling behaviours. So how to radically accept this moment?

I can’t take back that the relationship happened. i’m out of the relationship now and it’s time to look forward. I only have control over my future.

The concept of radical acceptance isn’t very difficult for me. In the upsetting moment it is hard, and I know that this strategy is for the beginning of those moments so I don’t have a full blown angry one, but I don’t really hold on to things the way the woman in the example did by being mad at her friend for 3 days and starting up the argument again. I do let things go….until we fight again on a possibly unrelated topic….so I guess temporary or hidden acceptance doesn’t count.

Work in progress!

Next in the chapter on Basic Distress Tolerance is “Distract Yourself from Self-Destructive Behaviours” (this is what I need)

DBT Workbook: Problem’s Already

I got to the first exercise and I don’t understand it….Maybe some of you can help me out?

Distress Tolerance: Radical Acceptance

Being overly judgemental or critical can lead to more pain. Radical acceptance is about acknowledging your current situation without judging events or criticizing yourself. Recgonize that your present situation is the result of a long chain of event that you cannot change. This does not mean that you condone or agree with the bad behaviours of others but it does mean that you are going to do something about the present.

The exercise is to use my pre-selected coping statements to my pre-selected situations without being judgemental or critical.

  • Read a controversial story in the newspaper without being judgmental about what has happened.
  • Watch the world news on television without being critical of what’s happening.
  • Review a non-upsetting event that happened in your life many years ago, and use radical acceptance to remember that event without judging it.

The problem is that I don’t really understand what I’m supposed to do. Am I supposed read something and accept that it’s happened and the only thing I can do now is move on from it and not dwell that it’s happened?

For example: Mitt Romney wants all mothers who receive federal benefits to be required to go to work to receive the benefits.

Radical Acceptance Statement: “This is the way it has to be.”

Cause that sounds horrible to me!

Or is it more like, “This is the way it has to be. How can I go about making sure that mothers experiencing poverty are helped?”

We’re off to a great start…..