“How long have I been asleep? Surely I must have dozed, because I see no other way that so very much time could have passed me by. 2,025 days- to be exact. 2,025 days of falling through that rabbit hole, lulled to sleep with promises of Wonderland. I’ve only 8 days until it’s time to wake up. 8 days, 14 hours, and 6 minutes, to be exact. But who’s keeping track? All but .00395% of the sand has trickled down to the lower half of this hourglass. And once the last tick of the clock slips through my grasp, the world will be pulled out from under me once again.”
Yesterday my therapist asked me how long I’d been in DBT, and I couldn’t tell her. I recalled a previous session where I’d simply pulled out my phone, checking the two countdown timers taking up the majority of my home screen. Down to the second, I knew exactly how long I’d been in DBT, and how long I had until I was free. Until I was quote/unquote, cured. “My six month commitment ends in October, so whatever six months before that to now is,” I shrugged. I saw the corner of her mouth turn up slightly as she nodded.
For some reason, I had this fanciful idea that starting DBT meant I would experience this grandiose change in perception– night to day, as if I once were blind and now could see. My metaphor-dependent mind could only equate it to “waking up”. The first, second, third session came and went. I waited, but there was no grandiose revelation. At first I concluded that the grand finale would come on the final day of the six months (XX Days, XX Hours, XX Seconds away). THEN I would be better. Then I would be a functional adult, everything at long last falling into place as the world righted itself, allowing me a place in it.
Somewhere along the line, I abandoned this idea. I took down the timers, stopped playing “are we there yet” every time I begrudgingly filled out my diary card for yet another day. I started putting more effort into the homework assignments. I read through our packets in their entirety, making copies of the “emotional record”, “negative judgement record”, “weekly mindfulness activities record”, “pleasant events diary” realizing keeping track of these things actually did help. I saved every piece of paper handed out to us, buying a bulky trapper keeper in attempts to sort through the madness. I learned to dissect my thoughts and emotions, my own mind becoming an sort of neuro-archaeological dig site. I excavated all my fears, anger, sorrows, and found their roots. I learned to look at things from an objective standpoint, asking myself if this thought/feeling/reaction was justified* and, if not, how to go about resolving it in a healthy manner.
They say you’ll get out what you’re willing to put in. I’ve finally stopped dipping my toes in the water and immediately retreating. I’m wading a little deeper every day, working on submerging myself in this new understanding of myself and the world around me. “Just go up to your knees,” my therapist had told me at our last session. “Just try.” And so I did…
I’m a notoriously impatient person– no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. So naturally I laughed when my therapist asked if I thought maybe I expected too much, too soon of myself. I told her I felt I was doing well. That I was up to my knees now, and I felt that I was ready to try going a little deeper– perhaps mid-thigh, up to the tip of the tail of my fox tattoo. I told her about how I planned to attend the local community college’s open house on Saturday to speak with an adviser about signing up for classes in pursuit of a Graphic Design certificate, “…maybe even go for an Associates Degree…”. I told her how I was going to the doctor to discuss having a permanent birth control procedure done– an appointment I have mere minutes to run out the door for.
“Good,” she said. “Good, good, good. You’re doing really good.” The need for validation won out over the need to correct her grammar. “I’d like to move you to biweekly appointments, instead of weekly. Is that okay?” I felt my heart skip a beat. However seemingly small, I’d reached a checkpoint. Everyone started with weekly individual therapy sessions, changing to biweekly once they felt you were in the swing of things enough to handle things with fewer and further between meetings. “I’m hearing a lot of good things. You’re finding balance, and that’s really good.” The training wheels were coming off now, but I knew she’d be right alongside me in case I lost that balance.
I’m not cured. I’ll never be completely cured. I’ll always be a little bit different– just slightly off kilter. But I’m beginning to embrace that and realize that what I’ve for so long perceived as flaws and shortcomings are part of my arguable “charm”. I’m learning to embrace radical acceptance, and appreciate the little things. It’s not that I’m not scared anymore. I’m still utterly terrified, don’t get me wrong. But I’m finding myself and in turn finding my voice. I’m getting there, slowly but surely.
And I’m loving the journey…
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*”Justified” has a different meaning in DBT language than in day to day use. DBT considers an emotion justifiable if the emotion itself, the duration for which it lasts, and the intensity of said emotion match the facts of the situation which prompted it.