I’ve expressed this many times in the past, but change is not linear. Even when we’re trying our best to make a positive change there will be times when we slip back into our old patterns. For me, there’s this guilt and shame attached to that experience that really hinders my return to skillful behaviour. I recently found myself in this position and I came up with this plan to help me get back on track. I cleaned it up and turned it into a post in hopes that it might help others in the program who are struggling and ready to give up.
Step 1 – Forgiveness
Often times I’m way harder on myself than the people around me would be. Usually, if I stop spinning the supportive people in my life will come in and help me pick up the pieces. It is likely that a conversation that comes from wise mind might be able to correct most incidents. In cases that it won’t forgiveness is even more important, it allows me to create peace in circumstances where I can’t get closure. The constant beating ourselves up isn’t going to help us recover and learn from the experience. I use radical acceptance to help myself come to terms with the fact that the breakdown happened and it is up to me to not let it define my future.
Step 2 – Please skills
I think of this stage as the equivalent of treating a wound. Skills breaks are usually followed by a spiraling depressive episode. Forgiving myself is usually followed by a whole lot of self-care. I clean up myself, my apartment, and my car. I do some laundry and go out and buy fresh foods to cook a decent meal or at least attempt to make something healthy out of what I have around.
Step 3 – Life worth living goal.
A lot of times when I have a breakdown it is when current emotion blinds out what my ultimate goal is. Watching or reading something that reminds me of why I chose this path is usually enough. In times when it isn’t, I refer back to core values worksheets and identify where I can put my energy into building mastery. This helps me to identify more healthy ways to deal with the pent-up energy emotions can create sometimes.
Step 4 – Cope ahead
Now that I’ve cut myself a bit of slack and have dusted myself off it’s time to establish my plan of attack. If I was fine with things the way they were, I wouldn’t be in DBT. I try to develop a strategy for whatever damage control or stressful interactions that lie ahead. I prepare dear man and give fast sheets for difficult conversations. I identify which items need to be put on the “avoid avoiding” list and break them into the. smallest. chunks. imaginable.
And 3… 2… 1… GO
This is where I put on my sunglasses and go outside. I have a plan to implement. I try and practice mindfulness more deliberately during this first week. I keep physical tangible copies of everything I’ve prepared on hand to ease any anxiety rises. I try to work some “what would be helpful next time” speeches into my preparation for those who ask for them. Then I focus on one task at a time until the DBT programming goes back on autopilot. This usually happens once skillful deliberate behaviour yields positive results for the first time. My faith in the program and myself gets restored and I can execute my strategy with less energy.
Sometimes I forget that wallowing is willfulness. Sometimes I forget that even though problem behaviours feel good we’ve identified them as such for a reason. Sometimes I forget to fact check the lies my mind tells me.
I feel like I need to sign this one off by mentioning that I understand that’s everyone’s experience with depression and DBT is different. I made this post to help myself remember what is effective for me. I only hope it will help someone else because I find these concepts sink in better for me when they’re tied to real world experiences.
DBT® Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, contains all the materials that my group uses. I find it’s handy to be able to refer back to these if we’re working on a different module.