Conceal, Don’t Feel

I felt very sorry for myself yesterday. The storm that had been brewing inside me gathered momentum and I was scared of it. Really scared of it.

I had my DBT one-to-one with Monica and we talked about the storm. I cried a little bit which is a sure sign I’m losing control. Growing up there was a time when I had cried on the phone to my dad and he told me not to; I had to be strong for my brothers. Although looking back I wonder who was strong for me? The upshot is that I’ve always tried not to cry (don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be, conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know*)and if I’m crying then my defenses are compromised. 

Monica told me that DBT can’t make the internal storm better. It is there because emotions are trying to communicate a message. She used an analogy: if you twist your ankle it hurts. This is a message – ease off the ankle. If you ignore the message then your ankle will get far worse. Emotions do the same, they communicate a message so what was I feeling? Anger. Fear. Hatred. I physically tried to gulp them back down. Just saying the words I was terrified that the whole storm would escape and wreak destruction. I was expending a lot of energy containing these. Monica told me that we can’t make it better, not with DBT. That was bad news. Instead we have to weather the storm. All storms pass. Yes, I thought but they can leave a hell of a lot of damage in their wake. We spoke of a technique called Improve The Moment. DBT is full of acrostics. This is no different:

  • Imagery
  • Meaning
  • Prayer
  • Relax
  • One thing at a time
  • Vacation
  • Encouragement

We went through it and, to be honest, I’m not sure how helpful it’ll be to me. There’s a worksheet on how to do it here on dbtselfhelp.com 

Part of our discussion was around self-soothing. You know, I should try and learn to soothe myself? I looked up at Monica removing my gaze from the floor: I’ve only ever self-soothed. Who do you think has ever soothed me? Because there is no one. It hit me hard: there is no one. We discussed what strategies I may have for making myself feel better. None. Well, I used to drink but I don’t do that now so I’m left with nothing. No certain textures or smells or sounds or tastes soothe me. A picture of my kids helps but that’s it. I felt self-pity well up inside me. How could I have no one? I’m 36. How can I have gone through 36 years of life and have no one. When I say no one I specifically mean that I have no one who can help me care for my emotions. No one asks how I am. No one sees me. There certainly isn’t anyone to provide the hug, support and encouragement that I crave. It adds weight to my belief: I shouldn’t be alive. It’s unnatural to have no one. Like me. Wrong. Unnatural. The sadness that comes with acknowledging that is overwhelming (later that evening I sob it out to Andy. He sits there motionless and tells me I will get better. That’s all he can do and it’s not enough). I just want someone to be here and to care for me. Like perhaps a parent would have. It is a waste of energy wishing for that. I may as well wish for a lottery win. At least there would be a chance with that.

The helpful message that I did take from Monica was that I just have to ride out the storm. Acting out on any of my impulses will not fix the cause of the storm. It will just bring me more trouble. That’s easy to say but when you’re in a lot of distress and have been for days then it just needs to end. But I’m trying to approach managing this storm with a different attitude.

And lorazepam.

Oh yes. I just took one. They’re for emergency use only. I figure it’s like protection against the storm. Batten down the hatches. 

And then I phoned my dad. Oops. That’s for another post.

*words from Let it Go from Frozen

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