Saturday, 31 March 2012

Where are my VALUES!

I really just need to get the jumbled mess of craziness out of my head. I feel like I am simply existing, not for myself, not for any purpose but simply roller-coasting through life. I feel so empty and scared. Of what? I have no clue. I am just afraid of life in general.

The fear really started after SKILLS GROUP on Tuesday. We are still (read my frustration) doing EMOTION REGULATION. And this week the group focused on CREATING A LIFE WORTH LIVING.   The exercise we were doing is about LONG TERM ACCUMULATING POSITIVE EXPERIENCES. I guess I find it hard to see the point in building a positive life when I have very little hope of ever achieving said life. Its like I am doing it for someone else and not myself, hence why I feel like I am just enduring this prevailing hopelessness. It makes ending my life seem like a really god option right now.

The specific exercise I am talking about which scared me out of my semi functioning state is IDENTIFYING PERSONAL VALUES AND GOALS. I was presented with a horribly long list of equally vague and ambiguous list of values from which to choose from. It was hugely overwhelming. I stared at it for far too long. Which in its self made me uneasy. I mean, who doesn't know what their own personal values are? It compounded my feeling of inundated failure.

After ALLOT of pondering, head scratching, and a whole individual session given over to this exercise, I still had a horrible lump of fear in my throat. I am still so afraid that I have no values. Surely I need to know these. Will they become more apparent as time goes on? How do I know?

Needless to say I had to switch to DISTRESS TOLERANCE MODE all this week, namely the CONTRIBUTE part of ACCEPTs. I have been spending time getting to know my wee cousins again. Its keeping me out of trouble. Stopping me from ending this void and valueless life of mine.

Has anyone else had this experience? How did they get through the emptiness it brings up?

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Facing my fears

Many therapists talk about the wisdom of walking towards what is difficult in our lives, rather than away from it. Feel the fear and do it anyway. We peek at the monsters under the bed, and they're not as terrifying as we thought they would be. If we can get closer to the parts of ourselves that feel ugly and hateful, we can begin to understand them and feel empathy towards them. Once we can start to sit with the knowledge of impermanence, we can stop expending all our energy on running away. Our eyes and arms open up. We approach everything with calm equanimity. We can welcome it all in.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

One Thousand Paper Cranes

Paper Crane!
I want to do something positive for my recovery, something which does not involve therapy, or food diaries or skills group. I need something more holistic, more spiritual and meditative. I need a project and I need a wish.

An old Japanese legend said that anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes so pleases the gods, the folder is granted a wish.  The well known story is Sadako and her 1,000 paper cranes.

Sadako Sasaki (January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) was a Japanese girl who lived near Hiroshima, Japan. She was only two years old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.  As she grew up, Sadako was a strong, courageous and athletic girl. In 1954, at age eleven, she became dizzy and fell to the ground. Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia, the "atom bomb disease".

Sadako's best friend Chizuko, came to visit her and brought with her some origami (folding paper). She told Sadako the legend of the crane. It is Japanese legend that folding 1000 paper cranes (senzaburu) so pleases the gods that the folder is granted a wish. Sadako wished to get well. So, after hearing the legend, Sadako decided to fold 1,000 cranes.

After she folded 500 cranes she felt better and the doctors said she could go home for a short time, but by the end of the first week back home the dizziness and fatigue returned and she had to return to the hospital. 
Sadako continued to fold cranes. Even though she was in great pain, she tried to be cheerful and hopeful. Not long afterwards, with her family standing by her bed, Sadako went to sleep peacefully, never to wake up again. She had folded a total of 644 paper cranes.

Sadako's story had a profound impact on her friends and classmates. They completed her thousand cranes and continued to raise money from school children all over Japan to build a statue to honor Sadako and all the children affected by the bomb.

This is my project, my ambition. Wish me luck friends.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Regular Eating Pattern

I am having a rough time with my BULIMIA this week, but really, I don't want to dwell on negativity and destructive behaviors in this post. You are an intelligent reader and hence I assume you can understand what devastating effects an eating disorder has on anyone unlucky enough to suffer from one, without the need for me to point out the finite and mostly dirty details. 

Instead, I want the spotlight of this late-night post to shine on a combination of resources which can be used to combat the BINGE/PURGE cycle. I am not saying that I have mastered them all, far from it, but I have tried some with great success. And the way I look at it, at least trying some of these suggestions has to be better than continuing to destroy my body and mind with self-inflicted agony.

The first thing I have (tried) to do is introduce a pattern of regular eating. It is the single most important element of overcoming Bulimia in my opinion. Its different for everyone, but for me it means containing my eating to three planned meals a day plus three planned snacks between main meals. By eating this way it displaces the urge to and action to binge. My approx daily plan looks like this:

 8.00 A.M.: Breakfast

10.30 A.M.: Morning Snack
12.30 P.M.: Lunch
 3.00: P.M.: Afternoon Snack
 6.30: P.M.: Dinner
 9.30: P.M.: Evening Snack

I have left no more than 3.5 hours between meals/snacks as I know that that is my limit when trying to curb binges, and also the ideal time frame to  master EMOTION REGULATION. Any longer and I turn into the wicked witch of the west. Fact. Although this is set in stone, and has to be for my recovery, I do change it up a bit a weekends and if I am out and about at a commitment. Sorry therapist, I have a life. I try my hardest, (but don't always succeed) to not skip any meals or snacks though.

Where possible I do make eating my number one priority each day. My food diary and meal plan also take time, but I realize the importance of monitoring my food intake and being mindful to my emotions around food. I try to plan, plan and plan to plan! This includes having ample amounts of my "safe" foods in the house such as oats, fruit, skim-milk and rye bread. I am comfortable with these foods. I tend to plan the night before what I will eat the next day and jot down some ideas on my food diary. For example, tomorrow I am having Salmon, peppers and quiona for dinner.

I also restrict eating to the kitchen table or sitting room. Never my bedroom. Crumby bed sheets are really not attractive. I try to eat at a table which is out of arm's reach of further supplies of food. And while it might be tempting, and I am so guilty of not following this one, It is important to focus on eating and not distract with TV or internet. 

Limiting my amount of "trigger food" by not having any in the house it a safe bet to stop me impulse bingeing  So I plan my shopping, make a list and stick to it. 

The best thing I find to do when that niggle of an urge comes on me is to get out of the house and not take ANY money with me, and stay out until the urge goes away. This really is my 'go-to' STOP method. But everyone will have something different.

Friday, 9 March 2012

For Rhiannon

Rhiannon Anna Lee
13th December 1988 to 14th September 2007

In this one you are my flame-haired hero
A shocking beauty with no regrets
A vault of treasure and talent
An assembly of wealthy memories

You conquered the crowd
With eruptions of left-winged interpretations.
I could listen to you all day
And now, I wish, with retrospect I had listened to you more

You astounded me, outwitted me, scared me almost
Nobody could prepare themselves for you
Nor predict what might pour out of that witchy mouth
I was jealous of you, as were the bullies that tormented your soul

I long for just one more day in the company of you
To feel the silent, energising punch of adoration
I want to rub the lantern and reverse time
To study your mannerisms, to submerge myself in your identity

So that I may never forget, so that I may ransack your memory
So I could pledge my friendship, so I could tell you everything I never said.

Copyright of A. Colgan 2012

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Why do we need emotions anyway?

Before fully engaging in therapy, I honestly thought that if I could just 'turn off' my emotions, then all would be fine. This is seemingly a very common request with BPD sufferers according to my group facilitator. Greenberg and Paivio (1997) capture nicely the generally agreed upon functions of emotions, which are that they;

      1. Prompt and organize us for action
  1. Give us important information about whats going on in a given situation
  2. Are for motivating
  3. Are for communicating to others
  4. Are fundamentally adaptive
So I now realize that my emotions are like a motion-detection or warning system telling me that something is happening that I should know about. Another important lesson I have resonantly grasped is that my emotions never last forever, even though some may last longer than others and I tend to be more sensitive than my peers to emotional stimuli. It also depends on my current level of skillfulness in handling emotion and other factors such as sleep, health, stress, and support.

As Marsha Linehan explains so wonderfully in her book; 
'Emotions are like tides of the ocean, they ebb and flow, they come and go; they're transitory.'
When I forget this simple piece of advise, I am more inclined to act impulsively when in the throws of an intense emotion. But when I can tell myself calmly in the heat of the moment 'This too will pass' I am so much more able to open up a variety of options and not feel so helpless.

When emotions do what they are supposed to do, they are called PRIMARY EMOTION. They are unlearned and fundamental to human functioning. When you hear a loud noise, you jump, you feel afraid. Its a perfectly normal response. They are helpful. 

The problem lies in what are called SECONDARY EMOTIONS. These are complicated, non adaptive patterns of emotions about emotion. You feel shame for jumping and feeling afraid at the loud noise. 

When I learned about the different levels of emotion, I felt relived. It all started to make sense. I had never understood why I felt such random emotions in reaction to a situation. My secondary emotions were very often generated and intensified by judgments I had about how I was supposed to feel rather than how I actually felt.

My 'Judgement' Counter
The best thing I did to help me OBSERVE the judgments which lead to SECONDARY EMOTION was to get a counter. I found one in my local knitting shop, and its actually a stitch/row counter. A tally counter can also be used. I carry it in my pocket and click it every time I realize I am having a judgement. I observed how critical I can be of myself when i catch my reflection and I noticed how cruel I am with my self talk.

Try it out for yourself. I bet you will be surprised at the results of you judgement monitoring.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Dance of Life... ZUMBA vs BALLET

Yes you read that right... I went Zumba dancing this morning! Finally a form of exercise where curves actually HELP you get fit! Apart from the fact I am far too 'white' for this class, I found I wore a gentle smile for most of the class. I struggle to recall the last time I smiled so unenforceable and with such genuine enthusiasm. It reminded me of happier times.

Dancing has been part of life for as long as I can remember. These memories are both sweet and sour as any classical dancer will dearly  understand. Being tall and awkward did me no favors in Ballet, and compounded my body hatred, yet the freedom that comes from dancing is hard to express in words. It was an emotional release for me.

In terms of size and shape, my dance class was like a school classroom; there were girls of all different weights and sizes, gifts and talents. There were the tall girls like me,  shorter ones,  skinny girls and larger ones, and then the spot in the middle average girls... the list goes on. When we were younger, we were the size we were  due to hereditary inheritances and the lifestyle we have grown up with. But as we got older, we  became more aware of size and shape, and then constantly worried more and more about it. 
It wasn't easy developing before my classmates, and having to strip off to tights and a leotard certainly made me feel worse. I was put at the back of the class because of my height, and I remember staring at the small frames in front of me, still petite and childlike, and compared my budding breasts and forming hips to theirs. I thought I was fat. No-one told me it was normal, if just a bit early for a girl's body to change that way. I still felt like a child, but looked like a woman and it affected my self esteem drastically.  Did it give me my disorder? the long and short of it is no, but it didn't help me to feel good about my body.

For all the negative aspects to ballet, I still loved it. I was good at it too, passed all my exams and preformed in shows. Not only did it keep me fit, but it stimulated my creative nature and mind. At one stage I was dancing 4 days a week. I would dream of it at night, and made good friends from it. Dancing is a unique form of exercise because it provides the heart-healthy benefits of an aerobic exercise while also allowing you to engage in a social activity. It is also especially stimulating to the mind, and one 21-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Click here for the full link) even found dancing can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in the elderly!

This morning brought back the positive internal feeling I loved as a child when I danced, and along with all the benefits listed below, I had fun! 

Why dance? Here's why!

 1. It gives strength to the lungs and the heart.

2. It strengthens the body's muscles.

3. It minimizes the chances of the disease osteoporoses as it makes the bones stronger.

4. It increases the flexibility, agility and the coordination in the body.

5. It increases the spatial awareness. 

6. It enhances physical confidence.

7. It enhances the functionality of mind and the nervous system.

8. It enhances the expenditure of energy and its flow in the body.

9. It can help you loose/maintain weight.

10. It enhances overall well being.

11. It increases levels of self-esteem and confidence.

12. It improves your social-life



This has been a good week. I am feeling more 'me' again. Its not that the black cloud has gone away, its just I feel like I am better able to cope with the next storm life throws at me. Almost like I am prepared to fight now, posed and ready with my armor of skills and SELF-COMPASSION.

I returned to a meditation class on Tuesday and Thursday evening and it was simply wonderful. It was inspiring to listen to others stories of how meditation helps them in their daily lives. The inner peace they radiate really is infectious. I truly get the importance of MINDFULNESS in DBT this week.

When emotions wreak havoc, it helps to “get it out” — ranting to a therapist, friend or partner, or writing about your feelings in a diary, or blog like this one. Sitting down on a cushion to meditate is seemingly the polar opposite of this catharsis. But could it be that the two approaches are helpful for similar reasons?

Talking or writing about your feelings forces you to call them something. And one technique taught in mindfulness is naming your emotions. It’s part of noticing and detaching from those emotions vs. letting them hijack your bliss. I like to imagine it as 'the mindfulness wedge.” It’s about developing that pause button,' so you can observe emotions from the outside.

The main focus of DBT for me is gaining control over my emotions and it is now known that simply labeling my emotion promotes detachment, providing a stop-gap and the opportunity to choose of a healthier coping mechanism.

It’s very challenging to bring what you practice on the meditation cushion out in a real-life situation, when you’re actually in that moment — say someone is yelling at you — you have to remember to step back, say, ‘Oh, that’s anger I’m feeling,' and change what you do with that emotion, all in a millisecond. It takes a lot of practice. To help with this, I try to extend my meditation to everyday activities like going for a walk, having a shower, or drinking my morning coffee.
Often when you feel something, you don’t acknowledge it, and by avoiding that feeling, you perpetuate greater pain. Meditation helps me realize that I create my own feelings. If I’m in a state of frustration and I stop and observe it, I realize there’s another way to deal with the pain. Acceptance is key to dealing with distress, and it is without a doubt the hardest part of mt therapy, but each journey starts with a single step right!