For a week filled with extreme emotions and tear stained streaks down my cheeks, I am feeling lighter. Clichéd as it may sound, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my mind, well actually, it’s been yanked off my mind by harsh but powerful words and my own realization that I am the only person who can ‘fix’ me.
If I was to summarize my experience of this last week of intense treatment, it would be in two simple words ‘PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY’. I have been jolted back into reality being on this programme. No-one is going to do the work for me, no matter how much I want it; it simply is not going to happen. No prince is going to ride in on a shining white horse and save me from the BPD monster, but I can get on my own horse, learn how to ride it and trot away into the sunset myself. Personal responsibility in my recovery involves taking action and doing what needs to be done to get well and stay well. It involves problem solving, making goals and sticking to them. It involves making promises to myself, not my family, not my team and not my friends. It involves taking ownership of my life and my future. I must remember that am an expert on myself and gain back control of my life.
I have been given a wonderful sense of empowerment, while still validating my emotions. I am so afraid of what my life will bring now that my future is so uncertain. I feel it in the pit of my stomach; I have noticed the inability to catch my breath and the hot sweats I break out in when thinking about what I will do. Yet although these emotions wash over me, and I feel them, they are not going to change or improve my situation.
I have been really trying to use the core skill OPPOSITE ACTION in response to the anxiety. My action urge is to avoid, not thinking about options, not to get advice and not to apply for opportunities. That way I can’t be disappointed again, I can’t be rejected. Yet I am also not helping the problem, I am not giving myself a chance at a LIFE WORTH LIVING, and am pilling more misery on top of misery. More fear on top of more fear.
To go ALL THE WAY with this skill, I have to stop procrastinating and ‘just do it’ as the Nike ad tells us. One of therapists always tells me that ACTIVATION PRECEEDS MOTIVATION, so even if I don’t feel like applying for the internships, jobs, courses or voluntary work I just have to do it, then I will feel the benefits of my labour after.
It’s so hard in real life though, so the way I have tackled it is by making small little steps. The number one reason we put off improving our lives is because big changes feel so scary and unattainable. Which is why breaking goals down into small steps is the secret of success. There’s less fear when you’re just concentrating on what you need to do that day, and as you stick to your good intentions, you’ll be motivated to carry on until your new habits become a way of life. I was told to write your goal down on several pieces of paper. Hang them up everywhere. This is my first step to focusing on my commitment. Then make lots of smaller easier to achieve goals for each step of the bigger goal.
So here it goes; I want to get back to university. I want to do a health science related degree. I either want to study occupational therapy or midwifery. It’s been my dream since I was a teenager, and I was two years into my OT degree when I had to drop out due to BPD.
Step 1: Find out what I need to achieve to get onto course and what university I can study in.
· I need to have the skills to stay in university for 4 years,
· Be able to endure 8 hour days of lectures/study.
· I need to have communication skills to be able to interact with other students.
· I need to be able to manage stress and have good time management.
· I need to have the finances in place to support myself for the four years.
· I need to be physically healthy and emotionally fit.
Step 2: Finish DBT and fully engage in therapy to learn new skills.
· Attend DBT skills group and individual therapy every week.
· Complete all homework and be willing to learn new behaviour patterns.
· Adhere to DBT contract to create a life worth living
Step 3: Attend a less intense course/internship/voluntary work in order to build up skills and confidence.
· Research opportunities online with voluntary organisations and apply for any that interest me.
· Talk to and ask others about different opportunities.
· Update CV and write cover letters.
· Follow up on all leads and correspondence.
Step 4: Get finances in order
· Talk to social welfare office
· Find out about financial aid for going back to university.
· Continue to babysit and pick up small manageable jobs
· Set up credit union account.
· Try to save when I can.
Step 5: Work on personal relationships
· Stay in touch with friends, and be appreciative of their love and support.
· Reach out to family; be considerate and patient as they are also learning new skills.
· Make efforts to create new friendships.
· End destructive relationships.
· Be honest
Step 6: Foster and develop creative talents and interests
· Make regular time to write/attend writing classes
· Listen to music daily, sing.
· Keep art supplies stocked and ready to use
· Make cards/collages/draw/paint
· Learn new things as often as possible.
This is all I can think of right now, but I know that more steps and action plans will emerge from these rudimentary goals. It feels good to have a plan, something to work towards. i don't feel so empty ans lost.