When last we met in My First, My Last, My DBT, I expressed a great deal of anger and frustration about my first meeting of DBT group. Following that post, I e-mailed a link to my therapist and told her she’d have 50 minutes to convince me to go back. She replied that she had no interest in convincing me to do something I hate. By the time I got into her office two days later, I had already decided I would go back and try it again. I suspect she was secretly pleased.
Why the change of heart? After talking with several friends, it became clear that I had spent several days experiencing hints of manic symptoms. First, there was the extreme anger and irritability. Also, I was feeling superior to everyone around me. Most alarming was that I was losing my insight. It sounds contradictory, as I obviously need insight in order to recognize that I don’t have it. However, I was writing some things in my journal that I wholeheartedly believed, despite the fact that I recognized how completely irrational they were. I was convinced that therapy and medication were ruining my life. I was convinced that had I not sought treatment last February, everything would have worked itself out and I’d be fine now. The reality is that had I not sought treatment, I would be dead by now.
So when I got into therapy Thursday, there wouldn’t have been any convincing to be done, even if my therapist had wanted to. I knew I had to go back and give the group another chance. What we did discuss made me feel better about the diary card I’d been given, in that I felt I could mention that it wasn’t working for me. We also went over the myths about Interpersonal Effectiveness again and I acknowledged I do need to work on challenging some of those. Most importantly, we discussed my diagnosis. My therapist said it’s possible she’s wrong, and also that diagnoses are fluid and can change as she gets to know more about me. I admitted that it’s more likely I’m just having trouble accepting the diagnosis.
I returned to group on Monday and it was a totally different experience. Both therapists were present this time. We had the same number of members present, but two of the ones I’d met were absent this time and two new ones were there instead. As it happened, the two who were absent were the two who I thought overshared the previous week. The conversations felt much more balanced this time.
When we reviewed diary cards, they weren’t expecting me to have anything to share, but I surprised them with a summary of two pairs of skills I used that week. In the first half of the week, when I was experiencing all that anger, I used a lot of Self-Soothe and Crisis Survival Network. In the second half of the week, on a weekend trip, I used Mindful Eating and Participate. There were other skills I listed, but nothing that stood out as significant.
I solved my problem with the diary card by coming home and creating my own. My therapist had mentioned that when she led group they added the new skills onto the diary card as they were taught. So I modified the one I received for group so that it contained just the 20 skills I’ve learned so far.
As a nifty coincidence, we did Mindful Eating with some chocolate cake. That was the skill my therapist had just given me last week, which I was testing out on my mini-vacation. I found it a challenge to do in group, because I was distracted by anxiety about eating in front of other people. No need to be anxious – they were all way too absorbed in their own cake to even be aware of my presence.
We still didn’t reach any actual skills yet, just covered some information about intensity of asking or refusing. I left with a homework assignment to fill in about a recent situation in which I wanted something from someone. As it turns out, I had a situation on my trip in which I wanted something, but wouldn’t ask for it due to one of those myths – the one that says, “It doesn’t make any difference; I don’t care really.” As a matter of fact, I do care about a lot more things than I let on, but I have a terrible habit of sublimating my own desires in order to please others.
I feel 100 times better about group after this second meeting. I still don’t think it’s going to be all that helpful to me, but I at least feel capable of tolerating it in order to give it a chance to help.