Mindfulness is at the core of DBT. We learn the what skills (observe, describe, participate) and the how skills (one mindfully, non-judgementally, effectively). Personally I find these formal labels really confusing and tie myself up in knots trying to figure out which mindful skill I’m using, or trying to use.
Anyway, at the end of each module we revisit mindfulness. None of us in group like this. We all bitch and moan and roll our eyes about fucking mindfulness. Still, yesterday’s session (week 20 I believe) was about revising the how skills.
So, I still find DBT group extremely stressful and I’ve discovered that if I sit and colour in then it allows me to concentrate on what is being said, stops my mind wandering and allows me to participate much more effectively. I am calmer and remain an adult. This is good. Everyone in group gets it so they’re fine with me doing it. So yesterday I was sat colouring in, participating and all was going well. Psychologist Amy then says the whole group are going to do some colouring in and we are each going to focus on this work one mindfully. Awesome! There is an initial scrabbling for pictures, pens and pencils. I have my own so I just carry on and internally have a rueful little smile to myself; they remind me so much of the students I used to teach. Amy is teacher so gets everyone settled and instructs us all to focus and be one mindful. And we do. The room falls silent. The only sound is the rhythmic ticking of the clock.
Amy, being teacher, is now a bit lost. She doesn’t want to disturb the silence, the focus, the concentration so she starts getting bits out ready for the next bit of the session. I know exactly how she feels. I have felt that way countless times in front of my classes when they are absorbed in a task and I have become surplus to requirements. Yes I know that feeling very well and I see it in Amy. She is the teacher and I am the student…the child. Uh oh.
I won’t have that sensation of leading a class because I am not a teacher anymore. A great sadness arises within me. A sense of loss. I used to be a teacher but now I sit and colour in. I let the sadness come, acknowledge it and try and focus back on the colouring one mindfully.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Just like my gran’s grandfather clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. It’s warm like my gran’s house too. Gran’s house; a place of safety. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Focus: which colour for these berries? Gran was a teacher too. I wonder what she’d make of this. She’d probably quite like it, she liked arty stuff.
Then the smell – the smell of gran’s house. Comforting. A place of safety. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Sometimes when things became too dangerous at home I would take the kids round to my gran’s and we’d stay there. She only had a tiny flat and the grandfather clock was in the hall. Sleeping there was always so special. She would make tea and toast before bed, she would make us brush our teeth and wash our faces, we’d be tucked into a warm, cosy and clean bed. We’d say our prayers (like that helped) and then I could read. Gran had loads of books. They were old. Old book smell (yum!), tucked up in a safe bed listening to the tick tock of that grandfather clock. The rarest of moments for me, feeling safe, feeling cared for.
But I wasn’t at my gran’s house. She is dead. Long dead. More sadness at the loss. Made so much more bitter by her dying 5 days after my son’s birth. This prevented me attending her funeral. I never said goodbye. I was given nothing of her possessions. Our relationship not even acknowledged by the rest of the family. I was out of sight, out of mind. I am no one to anyone. Every year the family travels back to where gran is buried, to remember her and to keep the family ties. I can never go because I have my son’s birthday stuff going on, which no one thinks of. To be honest I often wasn’t even invited. That hurts. A family gathering of my parents, 3 aunts, 1 uncle, their partners, my 3 brothers, my 11 cousins (and their partners and children too as they’ve grown) – but not me. And no one misses me.
And I know it’s all part of the fucking Universal balance thing. I fucking know it. Every year I am punished. Special was she? Ha ha ha. Take her away in a way where you can never say goodbye and be always excluded. Ha ha ha. Know your place. And not to be outdone, exactly 7 years after she died (5 days after my son was born) my daughter was born. Her birthday is my gran’s date of death.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
I’m supposed to be colouring in. Pick up another pen. Focus one mindfully. Fight the flashback; my vision is going dark and grainy and I feel faint – this is often how flashes come for me. But I fight it. I breathe deeply and mindfully. I fight the urge to run out of the room. God, the sadness. It’s overwhelming. If I start crying I won’t stop. I look at the chimes they use to signal the beginning and end of each mindfulness practice. I’m willing Amy to chime them. Please, please, please.
Finally she does. With a peaceful smile she asks how we found that. I speak up. I share the sadness, the wanting to run, the near flash but I don’t share the details. Amy asks how I am now. I shyly bring my hand out from under the table. It is shaking violently. I feel faint and sick. I’m sweating. This is fear. I know this. There is no insight or conclusion about what happened and I manage it skilfully.
When group finishes I am still shaken. Another ghost has been awakened. And I feel alone with it. Again back to the psychotherapy argument – why won’t anyone help me with my ghosts? They awaken them with their stupid mindfulness bollocks and then I am left with them. As if I didn’t have enough to manage already.
At home that night I want to obliviate everything. Instead of taking all the meds that I want I make, what I consider to be, a wise mind choice. Instead of taking an amount of substances that would be dangerous I take 2 cocodamol, drink one beer and pop my quetiapine. Good night.
No doubt I can look forward to being bollocked for doing that later today. Sometimes I think…wilful? Wilful?! You have no fucking idea how wrong you are. Since when is fighting for survival wilful?