In order for therapy, DBT, or anything else to work, we have to put in the work! Here is a beautiful young client of mine who has taken that to heart. It has done amazing things in her life. Anyone can do it!
When I was in middle school, my parents became addicted to methamphetamines (meth). The happy people I knew growing up became frightening monsters, fighting constantly and violently. At 12 years old, I began self-injuring. Because my parents didn’t really take care of me or my brothers, as the oldest, I was the one who had to be responsible. I stayed awake all night, nearly every night, while my parents were gone. I never knew where they went, and I didn’t want anything to happen to my brothers, so I stayed awake until they came back home.
When I was 13, our house was raided. Six in the morning, my parents were gone, and my brothers and I opened the door to ten or so SWAT team members, fully decked with guns. My father was arrested later that day. Throughout middle and high school, I tried to escape from that life, living my grandparents, friends, and boyfriends. In high school, I was very suicidal.
I continued self-harming as a coping mechanism. I wrote a note, a cry for help. The note ended up getting turned into the police, and I was sent to a mental hospital across the state. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after my six day stay, and released into the wild with prescriptions in hand. Needless to say, this did not actually help. I went off meds regularly, as I had no stable place to live, let alone any stable access to medicine.
Then in late 2012, at 21, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I began seeing a therapist, and much to my distaste, a psychiatrist. In February of 2013, I shut my therapist and my psychiatrist out of my life. I felt as if the label “BPD” was just dollars signs in their eyes. I felt neglected, and felt they didn’t think I was worthy of help. The more I read about Borderline Personality Disorder, the worse I became. I battled constant anxiety, and I fought with my partner all the time.
I became triggered over the smallest words or feelings. I would scream at my partner, filled with rage I didn’t know what to do with. I would notice something insignificant, and believe that this small detail meant a plethora of things (my partner doesn’t love me, I am broken, I am worthless), completely freak-out at my partner, start crying, immediately get more upset and self-critical for freaking out in the first place, and begin begging my partner to forgive me because I love him. This happened daily. I thought I was doomed to this exhausting cycle forever.
I wanted to get help from someone who really understood me and BPD. By some chance, I found Teresa’s website in early 2014. I was so terrified of starting the process with her, but I knew that I had to try something to stop the constant pain I was in. The first call with Teresa, I was so anxious and I had no idea what to expect. Teresa was so kind and so different from any therapist I had ever met. She gets it because she goes through the same stuff that I go through. I began her group Dialectical Behavior Therapy class not long after we began individual sessions.
I was so anxious my first class. Teresa and my classmates were extremely kind and supportive. I remember crying into the phone during one of the first classes, and my classmates were so encouraging. It meant so much to hear kind words from people just like me. My experience with “BPD” was reading online forums, where people with BPD are described as monsters. I realized my classmates were not monsters; in fact, they were some of the sweetest people I had ever known. The DBT phone-class gives me an opportunity to meet and interact with a huge variety of interesting people. I have always been a little shy, and I think an in-person DBT class would have only exacerbated my anxiety.
I have been working with Teresa for eight months. In the beginning, I was resistant. I didn’t want to be responsible to make changes. I learned that in order to have the life I want, I need to put in the work. I had to accept that I had the power of choice in how I handled things. I also began to read about how food is extremely important to mental wellness. If I am giving my body nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, and meat, my hormones will level and balance naturally, helping me to feel better physically and mentally. If you have tried DBT and you’re still not where you’d like to be, look at your food choices. Be mindful of what you are feeding your body and your brain.
Although I am still working out some issues, I am so much better than before. Prime example, a coworker recently told me that I am one of the most even-keeled, consistent people they had ever known. Last year I would have laughed at that joke. Eight months ago, I would have never though my partner and I could have gone a week without a fight, or without me crying and screaming over something. Every month, things are getting easier, and I am so happy to have made decisions that have changed my life.