Starting My Own Little DBT Journey

After my suicide attempt in late January of 2015, I was referred to an outpatient program offering something called DBT (short for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy). I had never heard of it before. If you’re interested in what DBT is and it’s origins, Google can help you. I didn’t attend the program for long because it wasn’t a good fit for me, but now it’s been a few years and I am still struggling more than I’d like with emotional regulation.

I’m not talking about the bipolar episodes of depression and hypomania, I’m talking about when my bipolar is in the “balanced” phase of things and I still seem to feel things more intensely than most people would – which is nice when it comes to the positive feelings but creates a lot of suffering for myself & others when I’m experiencing negative emotions. I also have a tendency to overreact and have a tough time bringing myself back to baseline once I am in what Edward refers to as one of my “spirals.”

So I bought this book, The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, with the idea that I’d work my way through it and see what coping skills I could pick up without being in a formal DBT program. I have a few other books on mindfulness I am planning to read too.

I really like the subtitle: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation & Distress Tolerance. I like practical. I like exercises. I could certainly use to learn some mindfulness. My emotional regulation could certainly use some work, as well as my distress tolerance.

I wrote in a previous post about how I’m just kind of wired to have “wild weather patterns,” meaning my emotions, but I’ve been given some hope lately about my borderline personality disorder or borderline tendencies or whatever you want to label it as. I heard a statistic a long time ago that 80% of people with bpd naturally recover from it on their own as they grow older. This made me hopeful at the time. But lately I’ve heard some stories from people who say they have actually fully or mostly recovered from BPD using DBT skills. I was hopeful I’d grow out of my emotional regulation problems as I got older – but why not hurry along the process now, you know?

At the end of the introduction, the book asked me to think about why I was reading it and three patterns I have that are not helpful and that I’d like to change. It didn’t take me long to come up with my three goals:

  • Getting stuck in worries about the future (it’s like an endless rabbit hole I can fall into, so many things could go wrong and I come up with ALL of them)
  • Black & white thinking
  • Feeding into/not knowing how to get out of negative emotional spirals

Right now I am only on page 23 of 227 in the workbook. I am going through it very slowly, a little bit each day, and taking the time to re-read different parts because I have a poor memory and if I really want to make these skills a part of my life (which I do) I need to really absorb the ideas and exercises.

To end this post on a less serious note, I’m a big fan of this video series and related a bit too much to this one: