Sunday, 26 January 2014

Taking off the Training Wheels

I've never liked endings. That's because I've always been very bad at them. In the past, due to the 'push-me, pull-you' emotions of BPD I'd never managed to maintain any relationship for longer than three years. So when my CPN and DBT Therapist are giving me actual dates for 'discharge' my natural suspicion of my ability to cope raises its ugly head. Especially as I started working with my CPN in 2010.

It's not that this is a shock. After all, from day one on DBT they prepare you for life after DBT and emphasise the fact that the therapy will end. The problem is that most of my endings in my life have been accompanied by some form of relationship, or other, trauma. To be honest, one of things I am getting used to is the lack of trauma in this ending. I mean, suddenly I am aware that I am coping better with all sorts of new experiences - stable friendships and lack of crisis in my family relationships. Or should I say, I am not allowing my emotions about these relationships to overwhelm me - one result of the DBT skills I have learned and practised over the past 18 months.

I still have anxiety about the future - will I ever be employable? When treatment ends, will I continue with my recovery? How do I cope with the realisation that some very key relationships with my CPN and Therapist are ending? I'm bound to have anxieties because I have never travelled this road before and certainly never been equipped with the tools to manage my overwhelming responses to the world before.

What I have learned is 'do not worry about tomorrow, because today has enough troubles of its own' (Matthew Chap 6 v 34 The Sermon on the Mount). Rather than racing ahead in anticipation of everything coming crashing in round my ears, as it has so many times in the past, I have learned to accept each day as it is right now. It has included ups AND downs over the past 18 months. Treatment has not changed my life into an amazingly problem or crisis free road.
Rather, I have changed, I have learned not to trust the extremes of my thoughts and feelings - the Black and White thinking symptomatic of BPD. I now check out some of my knee jerk reactions to life and have moved from the rocking to and fro of a small boat tossed about in stormy seas, to being able to wait for the storm to pass, as I have learned that both thoughts and emotions come and go. The most important thing I have learned about my feelings is that they won't kill me, no matter how intensely I feel them. I have also learned that my thoughts and feelings, alone are not reliable enough to build my life responses and choices on. As the serenity prayer says: 'Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The Courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.' This is a summary of the DBT skills I have learned. Learning to manage BPD depends on a balance between acceptance and change. Acceptance of the things that are an essential part of my experience and character. Ability to change those things which are in my power to change in my response to my environment and relationships.

Given that it is over a year since I last self harmed, I have been managing my BPD with the skills I have learned. The training wheels came off a long time ago. My therapist has been coaching me from alongside, having pushed me off to balance on my own some time ago. The problem at the moment is that the impending end date has made me suddenly aware that I am moving forward with only myself and my new skills to keep me balanced. Wobble I may well do, but I am moving forward and, (to carry the bike riding analogy to breaking point), as long as I am moving forward I will keep my balance and I am unlikely to fall off. However, I have also learned that even if I do fall, it is not the end of the journey. I can pick myself up and continue on my way.