Who doesn’t know about the movie “The Fast & The Furious” where it was full of high drama, action and incredible driving? It was one of the movies that kept you on the edge of your seat and entertained for the entire show. Well, lately, I’ve been feeling like my emotions are like this movie – fast, high drama and furious in their intensity. The swings in mood have been very difficult to cope with and it’s required every ounce of strength, courage and will to control the fury inside. My moods range from intense lows of self-hatred to an almost surreal kind of mania and these moods can shift from moment to moment. With Borderline Personality Disorder, we tend to feel things more intensely than most do and this can wreak havoc on our stability. So how do you cope with the intense swings? Here’s what I’ve been doing.
- Accepting the Emotions – Instead of fighting what I am feeling and getting caught up in a spiral of denial and confusion, I accept that my moods are going to swing and that the emotions are going to be intense. I cannot change what I feel, but I can accept that I feel it. In the past, I would deny what I was feeling as I thought there were “good” and “bad” emotions, and I believed that I could only express “good” emotions and even feeling the “bad” emotions meant that I was bad. Getting to the point where I could accept the emotions took a lot of therapy and individual work, but it has proven to be one of the most beneficial skills I have learned from all that. I learned emotional awareness, radical acceptance, and emotional regulation.
- Letting Go of Judgement – Again, because I had attached good and bad to emotions, that meant that I would constantly judge what I was feeling and if it was a bad emotion, I would then shame myself for feeling that way. So, for example, if I was feeling sad about something, I would then chastise myself for feeling sad, saying to myself “What did I have to be sad for? I should be grateful and never express sadness…that’s selfish”. So instead of just saying, “Oh, I’m sad….I wonder why that is?”, I beat myself up with the negative talk and the sadness would get stuffed and not dealt with in a healthy way. With the therapy that I’ve taken over the years, I’m learning to let go of that judgement and remind myself that it’s ok to feel ANY emotion that I’m feeling and doing so doesn’t make me a bad or a good person. It makes me human.
- Practicing Self-Care – During this time of intense emotion, I’m doing my best to practice self-care. That means trying to make sure I eat properly, get plenty of rest and put my own well-being front and center. It also means being able to say no without feeling guilty if I cannot do something. I’ve reached out for support and compassion from my loved ones and asked for help when I needed it. I’m not judging myself for not being able to handle everything……I’m doing the best I can right now. In the past, during times of emotional crisis, I would always forget to practice this skill and it would always lead to things spiralling out of control very quickly. If I remember to do my best to look after myself and ask for help when I need it, I may be able to avert things going out of control.
Emotions are fast and they are furious. But with therapy and a resolve to gain the skills you need, you can learn to better handle the ride. Specific therapies I have taken include:
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) – This was taken in a group setting and involved me attending a partial hospitalization program where i attended 24 hours a week for 16 weeks at a hospital. There were approximately 20 of us that started the program together as a group and about 14 of us completed. It was hard work and some people were just not able to complete the whole program. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on it. You just try again when you stronger. I gained emotional awareness skills, learned about distorted thinking and why I might have those thoughts, and mindfulness. Would highly recommend this therapy if you can get it.
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) – I have yet to take the “entire DBT” skills program, but am planning to do so as one of my goals in therapy. I have taken a 12 week group therapy course that gave an overview of what DBT is and really helped develop the skill of mindfulness. It was done at the hospital once a week. I also took a 30 week program called DBT “lite” that was offered through the community mental health office. It was broken down into three modules, each one being 10 weeks long. This program taught Mindfulness, Emotional Regulation, and Interpersonal Relationship skills. It was done in a group setting as well and you had access to speak individually to a mental health counselor. I would highly recommend this therapy as well, as it is the leading treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder.
- WRAP – Wellness Recovery Action Planning – this was a 10 week group session where we designed a plan for ourselves that would be useful if we faced another crisis. At the time of the group, I was feeling healthy and stable and was able to develop a plan that would address what needs to be done if things start to go off the rails for me. This included making a “wellness tool kit” and even outlining legal decisions and plans that I would like to have done while in crisis. This therapy helped me feel like I was in control of my illness instead of my illness controlling me. I would recommend this group, but would advise that you be in a place where you are feeling stable and healthy to get the most of it.
I’ve also done several hours of individual therapies with various therapists, depending on where the resource was located. I accessed my employer benefits, my union benefits, community resources, private resources, and on-line resources.
So, be fast and be furious, but be in control.