Monday, 10 March 2014

My DBT Validation Treasure Box

This is my 'treasure box' full of positive things to remind me that when I am having a bad day, the whole of my life has not been bad. The box is full of little things and big things, achievements sometimes, but mostly little notes of thank you and appreciation. It has been said before and will be said again, why is it that the most appreciation we give to people is reserved for when we lose them? A few years ago a friend challenged me about this and since then I have tried to remember to say that I appreciate what other people have done, or mean to me, when I can. I used to think it was cheesy, but I know it means so much to me, when I receive little notes of cheer and encouragement and hope it can be an encouragement in turn to others.

In my box, I have:

1. A programme from the first school play that I was stage manager in.

2. A 'Certificate of Adoption' as an honorary Auntie to my friends' children. This was lovely at a time when my own nephews and niece have grown out of childhood, so I'm able to extend my role as 'fun aunty' for a good ten years more! This was all the more meaningful as both boys are themselves adopted and so they know the value of the 'Adoption Certificate'.

3. Emails, letters, cards saying thank you for little things I've done - reminds me that I'm not as selfish as my depression tells me I am.

4. Photos of different groups and clubs I have belonged to - reminds me that I do belong, especially when I'm feeling isolated.

5. Ticket stubs, maps and information from special days out with special people who lift me up. I can read through them and remind myself that I can be good company and people enjoy spending time with me.

6. Some of my first published blogs - someone else was interested in reading my story!

7. Leaving Cards from previous employers - often full of specifics about what my managers were going to miss about me - again why wait until I'm leaving to tell me I'm good at my job? Still very much appreciated since my redundancy to remind me that I was once useful and can be useful again.

8. Letters from important people like my uncle and aunt who really helped me to survive my childhood - much of their wisdom was written down when they were able to, I still read their letters to remind myself of important truths that counteract my negative experiences in life.

9. During my time on DBT I started writing down little positive comments, that usually I would ignore or discount. I have a little rainbow post-it note pad which I use for this and add to my treasure box. This was a form of 'exposure' to counteract my internal negative running commentary of invalidation and is taking time to filter through. It works in much the same way as the jar of coloured beads, two for each positive experience, comment, event etc, one for any negatives. Often with BPD it is easier to discount the positive and it is important therefore to keep an objective tally of positive versus negative.

10. Tickets for my first Graduation Ceremony - this was so precious because I had suffered my first breakdown in my final year and had to repeat the year to graduate.

Above all, this box is amazingly uplifting. It is so easy to focus on the people who have hurt us and the times when we have failed in relationships or work situations. How often do I pore over photos of lost loves and memories that are painful, why not instead focus on the relationships I still have and memories that will build me up? So often I'm my own worst enemy - anyway,another reason why my Treasure Box is so important to me.

So seldom, especially when struggling against the invalidation of childhood, do we appreciate ourselves as members of teams, groups, friendship groups or even just as we are. As much as we are touched by the lives of others, we bring something to the lives of those around us. If we can learn to listen to the positives we can begin to balance the negatives of our memories with the positives. Life is, after all, light and shade. No life is all good, or all bad. Often our emotional struggles strand us in waves of negative thoughts about ourselves, but little tools like this can help us bring balance back to our perspective.

Do you have something similar? What sort of things are you able to put in? How much weight do you give to positive comments about you? Try something new, just saying thank you and accepting it at face value - it's starting to make me feel better.

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