'Yes' was described by James Joyce as being the most positive word in the English language. It is. Unfortunately, as with many elements in my life with BPD I often counteract the positive attitude inherent in the word by adding a massive and unnecessary 'But'. Recently, I've had a bad case of the 'yes buts'. I have been enjoying the stability of recovery, but have been in danger of trying to run ahead of my own progress by trying to short circuit the waiting and consolidation period. When I am reminded of the skills which have enabled me to continue to manage my condition on a day to day basis, or of my progress towards a more positive future, my automatic response is 'yes, but'...
'Yes, but... here I go again. I have done so well, BUT I keep struggling with depression...just proves I'm a failure
'Yes, but... I am weary of having to keep 'managing' my symptoms...just proves I'm too weak...
'Yes, but... I deserve to keep suffering...and getting on with life, feels wrong somehow...
Running a group has reminded me that I am not alone in the 'yes, buts...' When everything inside you tells you that you will fail, positive steps forward sound, difficult, foreign, too hard to achieve. It takes perseverance and determination to listen to the 'yes' without tempering it with the 'but'.
Two aspects of DBT are needed here and I have found it all too easy to forget them. The first is 'participation'. This is part of core mindfulness and says that I will participate fully in what is happening in this moment. If I am going to self soothe, then I will do so with gusto, if I am going to use opposite action and dance or sing, I will do so with gusto. There are times when I don't have the energy to even consider using any skills, that is when I need to say 'yes' to the effort of engaging and participating in one moment at a time. If I can say yes for a split second, then I can say yes for a whole second, if I can say yes for a second, I can string them together to make a minute. This brings me to the idea of willingness. Having decided to choose to live, then I am by my actions saying 'yes' to engaging with the people and the world around me.
It is all too easy to allow the 'But' to swallow the 'Yes' and prevent myself from overcoming my difficulties and suffering. 'Yes' is a springboard to a meaningful life - 'but' keeps me weighed down in the mud of the past.
When I first started DBT therapy I spent a lot of time learning to 'uncurl' physically. I was curled in on myself physically as well as emotionally. This was my way of saying 'No' to the whole of life and experience around me. 'No' kept me safe, but also cut me off from life. I was neither willing nor able to participate in anything let alone the positive in life. It was an important battle to fight - one memorable one to one session,my therapist spent the whole 50 minutes trying to get me to lift my head. I eventually managed it towards the end of that session for a short time. Eventually, after a lot more battles and many months of practising the acceptance and mindfulness skills, I was able to sit tall and look people in the eye. There are still moments when I curl in on myself - that's ok, there are still moments when I need to protect myself, as long as it doesn't become my default again.
In that moment when I lifted my head I started to say 'Yes'. 'Yes' is being open. 'Yes' says I have hope that I can recover. 'Yes' says I am ready to enjoy my life, without those things which rob me of recognising the positive in me and my relationships. 'Yes, but' is a step along the road from 'No', dropping the 'but' takes me even further along the road to recovery:
'Yes, I want to enjoy this moment'.
'Yes, I can...'
'Yes, I am worth putting the effort in to my recovery and building my life from this moment on...'