Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Mindfulness, take 2

A long time ago (when the earth was green . . . sing along everyone!)–actually 10 years ago, I was struggling with severe self-harm and did a three-month inpatient Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) program and a three month DBT outpatient program, followed by a year of a weekly DBT skills group and individual therapy with a DBT therapist. I can honestly say that I was an extremely resistant patient at first.  It’s not that I didn’t want to stop cutting; I just hated the program. The structure, the modules, the skills sheets, the homework, the behavioral analyses if you self-injured or went against treatment protocol.  Everything felt so forced.  I felt cornered.  

Who would have thought that ten years later I would willingly return to DBT for individual therapy, not because the self-harm was out of control, but because the anxiety and depression were out of control.  I knew DBT had helped me once before–after I had my session of telling my therapist off followed by a session of complete breakdown that resulted in me saying, “Fine.  My way’s not working so I’ll try things your way.  But I’m not promising anything.”  (The program was a life-changing program for me and I don’t regret taking a full year off of college to do it.)  I figured I’d give DBT another shot.  So here I am filling out my diary cards every night, rating emotions and checking off skills. 

Last week, I was told by my therapist that I needed to “embrace the back of my therapy card more.”  The back is the side that lists all the DBT skills and you check off what ones you used that day.  I would maybe check off two or three.  Max.  So he said, “Let me tell you what skills you’re using,” and proceeded to list a whole lot more that two or three.  At the end of our session, he gave me a refresher cheat sheet of the skills to look at as I’m filling out the cards. And, like the good little student I am, I’ve done so.  And I discovered two things: A) I’m paying more attention to my day–the positive aspects of my day, the things I do well rather than critiquing what I’m “failing” at, and B) I’m paying more attention to skills again.

There are two skills that are difficult for me: Mindfulness and Nonjudgmental Stance.  Mindfulness, or “one-mindfully” means that you are allowing yourself to focus on one thing–letting go of distractions and being aware of the here and now.  Nonjudgmental stance is, as it sounds, when you accept something as it is without labeling it or judging it.  

As I was walking today, I was thinking of these things.  And how I get stressed about school and if I’m going to be able to keep up this semester because of health problems and what am I going to do if I get overwhelmed and what if I have to drop a class and and and . . . And I realized that I am always multi-tasking.  Always.  I eat while reading for school.  I drink coffee while doing school work.  I knit while watching tv.  I am never just doing one thing.  Except maybe when I’m sleeping.

But I like drinking tea.  And I’ve decided to try a little experiment.  I’m going to make a cup of tea every day and sit and drink it. Not while reading or doing the dishes or walking around putting things away.  I’m going to sit down and smell the tea, taste the tea, and breathe.  I’m hoping that if I do this now, before school starts, it will become a habit for after school starts and then all the “what if” questions might not need to be asked.


August 10, 2009 - Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, self harm, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. being mindful is one of my biggest challenges. i always multi-task, too. I usually like to ignore the “here and now”

    I’m glad that the DBT is helping

    Comment by Andi | August 10, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi A,

    This is so true, I’m always so preoccupied with getting to the outcome with as little difficulty and problems and by the time I get there, I forgot to enjoy it along the way. And usually things turn out okay and I should realize this for the next time I’m distracted. It’s like walking through a beautiful garden blind folded, you don’t walk the garden just to go through it, you have to stop and see the bright colors, smell the lovely scent.

    We all need to slow down and enjoy

    Have a good day!

    Comment by Nichole | August 11, 2009 | Reply

  3. Wonderful story and blog. Thanks so much for sharing this. I will direct others here, whom I know will benefit from your words.

    Comment by dbtcounselor | April 10, 2010 | Reply

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