News for May 2011

Poem: Darkness, Darkness, All Around

When times are dark, I often find my muse and turn to writing.  My writing during those times turns toward the dark side of life, an outward reflection of my inner pain. Here is one of my poems from a time like that:

Darkness, darkness all around,
No light to be found,
Nothing but an endless void,
No one to care, me they all avoid.

Each day more pain and sorrow,
I fear every tomorrow.
Nothing but a dark and lonely sea,
Not one to need me.

Further and further I slip,
Starting to want to embrace deaths grip.
Would any cry,
Were I to die?

This is I doubt,
For all from my life have slipped out.
Not one to want me in their life,
My life filled with nothing but strife.

 

Edited: May 31st, 2011

From twitter

Jason M Punko (@punkoj) has shared a Tweet with you:  “natasha_tracy: New Bipolar Burble | Psych Meds Kill Creativity and Artistic Thought: http://bit.ly/mKIgYG #mentalhealth #amwriting #unsuicide” –http://twitter.com/natasha_tracy/status/74253805478346753

Edited: May 27th, 2011

What is Love?

The short answer, love is complete, total and unconditional. Love is something very beautiful and powerful. It doesn’t hold any grudges or judge people. Love accepts a person for whom and what they are. It accepts the good, the bad and the indifferent of the person.

Nor is love just there when it is convenient or easy, it is always there. It is there during the hardest of times. It is warm and tender; it wraps you in security and tenderness and it shatters the darkest darkness and shines a guiding light.

Love lets you know that everything will be ok and supports you when during the hardest times. Love doesn’t turn its back on you ever it is caring. Even when you make mistakes, it is still there. It doesn’t retreat EVER, not for any reason. Love is multi-dimensional a pure.

Even when we think there is no one that loves us, there is always one to turn to, the only one whose love is always pure and perfect. That one is God.
Love is the reason to live.

Edited: May 23rd, 2011

Triggers

What is a trigger? A trigger is simply defined as an event or thing that causes something to happen. When we talk about triggers in respect to psychological topics, we talk about triggers in respect to the emotions they cause to arise.

Now that we know what a trigger is, the next thing we need to understand is what kind of things can be triggers. The answer to that question is anything can be a trigger.

A trigger can be something you see (e.g. a painting, a sunrise, an accident, etc). It can be something you hear (e.g. a poem read aloud, a song, a baby crying, etc). It can be a smell (a cologne, a food, the scent if new leather, etc). It can be something you feel (e.g. the touch of someone’s hand on your arm, a warm breeze on your skin, the rain on your face, etc). Or it can be something you taste (e.g.  Sweat, a food, etc.) The only requirement for something to be a trigger is that it has to be taken in by one of the senses, for now.

The things that are triggers for us are as unique we are. We each have our own distinct set of them. Everyone has triggers, not just people with mental illnesses.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t common triggers, things that invoke responses in a wide amount of people. It just means that different, things affect each of us differently; even things that are common triggers can cause very different reactions with different people.

One of the most important things that need to be learned when recovering from any type is mental illness is what the person’s unique triggers are. Once a person learns what triggers them, they need to learn to recognize when a triggering event is occurring. These are key steps in recovery. Once you realize something is triggering your reaction, you can use other techniques to regulate your response to the trigger. However, those techniques are a completely different topic.

Edited: May 20th, 2011

Emotional Dysregulation in the Workplace

Emotional dysregulation can be one of the biggest challenges for people in the workplace. Even when a person is an otherwise top performer, just one bad episode can haunt them for years or even destroy a brilliant career and stellar reputation.

It is not the fact that we have emotions that is the problem, but it is how we express them, both in nature and intensity. The workplace, especially in a professional setting is a place where your managers expect you to react within societal norms in all ways. It is rare to find a place where being outside the norm is accepted.

Part of the problem when dealing with this trait in the workplace is the stigma attached to mental illnesses. This leads to so many people hiding their challenges from everyone around them. Then when they have an episode people label them with cruel words or think they are troublemakers or people who cannot get along with others. This can so often lead to them losing their job, not because they cannot do the job, not because they are bad people, but because they have trouble regulating their emotions.

Another major contributing to the above scenario is that so many people do not understand what it means to be bi-polar or to have borderline personality disorder or any of the host of other conditions that have emotional dysregulation. This misunderstanding is one of the things that leads to the existing stigma about people who have mental illnesses.

This can be very hard for those of us who struggle to regulate our emotions on a regular basis. Even those of us, who like me are typically ‘functional’, can struggle with this trait.

The good news is that we can learn to control our responses. We just need to work harder at it than the average person. There are always new advancements in treatment types, both with and without medication. Every day we learn more about the human brain. In the meantime, we can learn to regulate our emotions better through techniques such as mindfulness.

My advice to you is to learn about your condition, understand it, accept it, embrace it, and make it work for you not against you.

Remember do not let your condition define you, but don’t deny that it is there.

There is hope.

Edited: May 20th, 2011

On Relapses

Today something I read made me realize that a relapse is not completely a bad thing. The reason I say that is that in order to relapse you first had to have achieved something to relapse from in the first place. Since you have already accomplished something, you have learned something you can use again. So even though you relapse you don’t have to start from scratch you can build on what you know. This means that each time you recover from a relapse and move forward, you can do so easier and go further. In some ways, we need to relapse in order to go forward. Not only that, but by relapsing we gain an appreciation of what we have accomplished. It can help us put things in perspective. We do need to be careful though. When we relapse we cannot let the feeling of failure consume us. When we look back at where we were, we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the sight, rather we need to take pride in what we already accomplished, remind ourselves that if we did it once, we can do it again. Plus, we now know the terrain so the path is easier.

Edited: May 7th, 2011

Focus

FOCUS.

Focusing in life is so important no matter what we do. Staying focused allows us to accomplish more, to soar to greater heights. It helps us soar higher and higher by blocking out all the things that would distract us from our goal. When we are distracted, we are not able to give our full energy to our task.

Focusing also helps us to remain mindful of our world and us. When we focus on our task, we see only what we are focusing on; nothing is able to distract us. Focusing is also good for those of us with mental illnesses that are characterized by racing thoughts, bouts of mania, emotional dysregulation, just to name a few. It helps us ground by focusing ourselves on controlling our reactions, our feelings, our impulses.

Staying focused is not easy. It takes a good deal of training through a number of different exercises. The same things do not work for everyone.

The first example I have would be to choose a task and repeat it repeatedly, but the part that makes it useful would be that every time you get distracted, you stop and restart the task. Keep doing this until you complete the task based on a pre-determined goal. Then start over again, but now add a distraction. Once you have mastered that, add a bigger distraction or more distractions. Keep repeating this pattern until you feel confident that you can keep your focus no matter how bad the distractions are.

I remember that someone I knew once was having trouble staying focused on what they were supposed to do, so I asked them if they were up for a little ‘assignment’ so to speak. Since they’re lack of focus was causing them a number of problems they were willing to give just about anything ‘sane’ a try. I told them to choose a topic, open a word document and start writing on the topic. Once they became distracted, they were to quit the program without saving, losing everything they had done. They would keep repeating this until they were able to get through a pre-established goal of paragraphs without letting themselves be distracted. Once they accomplished that, they should try again, but adding a small distraction, e.g. a radio playing softly in the background. They would keep the pattern going adding more distractions until they felt they could stay focused even in challenging situations. I am not sure how far they ever got with this training exercise, or if it even worked.

Then of course there is classic meditation, there are so many techniques that are out there, ways that I know little to nothing about. The best advice I have there is to research them if you have an interest in them.

Another option is to go somewhere outdoors and quiet, e.g. mountains or woods, and just listen to the sounds, feel the feelings, smell the smells and let it all draw you in slowly. Focus on savoring the stimulations of your senses. Just absorb nature.

There are so many other ways, but ironically enough, I am having trouble focusing right now. Since I can’t focus, I will end this entry for the night. Hopefully I will revisit it soon.

Always,

J

 

Edited: May 6th, 2011

Mindfulness, Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT), Buddhism, BPD and Recovery

A few years back when I started my journey into learning about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and continued my reading of the Dalai Lama’s teachings my life took a huge turn for the better. It was also at this time that I first learned about Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It was during this time, that all the pieces of the puzzle of my life started coming together in a tightly woven net. You see, all these things fit together neatly.
Let me explain, I had already been reading and trying to incorporate the teachings of the Dalai Lama into my life. While I am not a Buddhist, my family raised me as a Roman Catholic; I found that his teachings brought about a large degree of calming to me. Even more, I saw that his teachings melded nicely with my Christian background.

How does this fit in with any of the other things? Be patient, I am getting there. In 2007, an amazing young woman came into my life, a woman that would change my life forever and in a very positive way. Not long after we met, she was diagnosed with BPD. I will not go into any details beyond that on that, but because of the diagnosis I threw myself head first into learning about BPD. I started reading about it, attending conferences, talking to my friends about I (who just loved me for it) and talking to my own therapist about it. I had to learn everything I could about it.

As I continued to learn about it, and its treatments, I came across a treatment type called DBT. Here is the first place that things start to entwine. You see, one of the core components of the teachings of the Dalai Lama, and Buddhism as a whole, as well as the foundation of DBT are mindfulness.

What does mindfulness do? It allows a person to self-regulate their awareness of their thoughts, feelings and surroundings. This in turn allows a person to take control of their life. When we are aware of our thoughts and feelings, we can develop and learn techniques that allow us to control them rather than let them control us. It can help us ground ourselves during times that our emotions start to try to control us.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool, and to think, two roads led me to this place. Two roads at the same time led me to mindfulness, two roads from very different worlds, one the world of science, psychology, and the other from the world of spirituality.

Now, that is how I got to mindfulness, but why does it help me any when DBT was originally designed to help with the treatments of people with BPD, not with people who are bi-polar. Well you see, as I read more about BPD, I started to see so much of myself in it as well. I came to realize that had my past been a little different, that maybe I would have fallen into the category of having BPD instead of being bi-polar. I was able to see how I could apply these things to myself, how they could help me as well.

One of the things that were key was that I finally found my purpose in life. I had long known that I had more purpose to life than just living, working and loving someone. I knew that there was something I needed to do, but for years, I never knew what it was. The more I learned about BPD, the more I knew I had to do something to try to help raise awareness. The more I learned, the more it tore me apart understanding the kind of things that people with BPD face in their lives.

These things let me start working with my therapist in a new way to guide me to the places I needed to go with my treatment. They let me work on building the skills necessary to gain control over my life.
So ultimately, it was my study of BPD and my study of the Dalai Lama’s teachings that helped me regain my life and recover.

Edited: May 6th, 2011

Thoughts on Emotional Dysregulation and ‘Drama’

First off, let me say that this oversimplfies things – a lot. My thoughts are clear in my head but I feel that what I am writing below does not accurately reflect them.

While at my doctor today, I suddenly came to a realization that a lot of my problems stem from my emotional dysregulation. I got on that track because I was talking about how dramatic I can be and how much of a drama magnet I am at times. She commented that a lot of her bi-polar patients seem to be drama magnets. As soon as she said that my thoughts went to emotional dysregulation.

Emotional dysregulation is one possible cause of ‘being dramatic.’ It involves emotional responses that do not fall within the ‘normal range’ of emotional response. What does it mean to be dramatic? Is not ‘overreacting’ and making something small seem to be the end of the world. Isn’t this something that is shared between the two things? People who have emotional dysregulation may at times come across as,or in some cases may well be, dramatic. Most untrained people cannot tell the difference between an episode and someone simply being dramatic.

When a person has a disproportionate emotional response to an external stimuli, it can often lead to negative feedback and results. This of course can continue to exasperate the situation and build on the initial response. It can draw similar reactions from people around us. It can pull them into our reaction, behavior, and our world. This is where the negative feedback and results comes in to play. People often act negatively to what they perceive as drama, they don’t like being around it or people who they feel are overly dramatic.

GRRR.. I am having trouble properly focusing my thoughts and saying what I want to say. I feel like my thoughts are jumbled, chaotic and disorganized.

As you know, I have a few ‘small’ anger issues at times. This of course is in itself often a result of emotional dysregulation. Most of my rage comes from situations where I take things to the nth degree and make way more out of them then I should. I react in a extreme way, well outside of social norms, in these cases the reaction is characterized by intense anger and rage.

The sense of ‘being a loser’, ‘being a failure’, that I have at times, is often initiated by a small event, something that should not invoke the reaction that I exhibit. Again, my emotions are out of control and I am not responding in a way that fits societal norms. I take what is something small and make it into an end of the world type scenario, with myself as both victim and villian, mostly victim though.

My anger outbursts and rage are mostly entwined with situations where my emotions are out of control. The more threathened or attacked I feel, the more I feel like a failure, the more likely I am to lash out in rage. The more intense dysregulation the more intense the rage will be.

I think I am on to something. Something that I will need to focus on going forward. I think controlling this part of my problem will help more than getting control of just about anything else.

Edited: May 6th, 2011

A Look at Emotions

The other day I was reading an article. I don’t remember if it was about a specific disorder or just in general, but it was about emotions. This article is written primarily based on traits related to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and/or Bi-Polar Disorder.

It made mention of a very important thing to remember, emotions are normal we all have them. The difference between the ‘average’ person and someone who suffers from a disorder that involves emotional dysregulation is that we have trouble regulating our emotions. Our response to our emotions is something we have trouble with handling.

The following comes from a book on BPD; however, the concept can be applied to many other disorders that involve emotional dysregulation.

We all experience negative emotions to some extent. People with BPD just seem to experience stronger negative emotions than some other people do. ..Having intense emotions can be a plus in that it can make our live feel fuller, richer and more exciting.” (Chapman & Gratz, 2007, pp. 36-37) . Emphasis added.

It is not that we have emotions. Emotions themselves are normal. Not only is it normal to have emotions, it is essential to have them. When we try to block out and deny our emotions, to try to say that they are ‘bad’ and need to be repressed, we are doing ourselves more harm than good. We are denying part of what it means to be human.

When we try to deny ourselves the right to feel and have emotions we start to bottle up things like anger. When we bottle them up, we internalize our emotions. The more we bottle things up, the more the pressure builds up, the more intense our reaction will be when things become more than we can handle.  Eventually we need a way to release the pent up emotional pain. At this point, we risk self-harm as a way to release the emotions that we have denied ourselves for so long.

So don’t try to deny your emotions, don’t try to bury them and pretend they do exist, rather acknowledge them and the fact that is only the response to emotions that is the problem, not the emotions themselves. Acknowledging that is a step in the right direction, it will allow you to work on learning to gain control of them.

You can learn to control them. You can learn how to make use of them. Here I can speak from personal experience. I myself have bi-polar disorder and share some traits with people who have BPD. One of my biggest problems is emotional dysregulation, specifically when it comes to rage and depression.

I bottle them up and then one day they explode. I also at times just explode over the smallest things. However, a few years ago, I learned control over them. They did not control me, I controlled them, unfortunately in my case a very traumatic event set me back and I am once again working on regaining my control.

It has not been easy for me, but I know I can and will get there again. I accept my emotions and that I need to control them. I know I am allowed and need to have my emotions. It is not that I have emotions that is the problem, it is my response to them.

Bibliography

Chapman, A. L., & Gratz, K. L. (2007). The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide: Everything You Need to know about living with BPD. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

 

Edited: May 6th, 2011

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