DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) saved my life.
Though originally adapted from Marsha M. Linehan to treat people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and chronically suicidal individuals, DBT can be used to treat many kinds of mental health disorders.
I am a young adult who has been in and out of treatment centers and hospitals off and on for roughly seven years due to mental health issues. Treatment for me has involved tackling various diagnoses, including my eating disorder, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), anxiety and depression.
During this 7 year timeline of short-term stabilization and never fully addressing the problems that could have ensured long-term progress and more solid recovery, I never thought it would get better.
2017 was actually the first time in 7 years that I did not seek treatment of a higher level of care for my eating disorder, or any other mental health issues.
Since 2009, my story has always been, “I’m throwing in the towel because I can’t do this”. I honestly believe some of my treatment stays were life-saving. I look back now though and I wish I broke the cycle of going away to get help each year, sometimes multiple times in one year, sooner. (Read a more detailed experience of this here.)
The past hospitalizations may have felt helpful for a moment, but as soon as things began looking up, insurance would cut me off, or I would not be able to continue treatment due to various circumstances. I would then be discharged from treatment, equipped with skills and lessons, and out-patient supports, but every time I slowly began reverting back to unhealthy and dangerous behaviors.
This happened to me every single time. The cycle I had a fallen into was incredibly frustrating and upsetting for me. I felt like something was wrong with me. I felt hopeless.
Finally, in late 2016, months after discharging from my most recent, and hopefully final, stay at a residential treatment center, I had a breakthrough. It could have been a spark of hope and willingness that ignited within myself as well, but I owe so much of my current stability and recovery to DBT.
Attending an out-patient DBT group and working individually with a therapist, who specializes in DBT, ended up being more helpful than anything I had ever participated in these past 7 years.
In my out-patient DBT group, we would participate in a mindful activity before beginning each group, refer to the workbook to learn about and discuss skills, share our homework, and give feedback and support to one another. The connections I have built in these groups have also reinforced my goals. Even when I was out in the real world, they held me accountable. For instance, returning each week to group to update everyone gave me reason to do the work, so it was a positive reinforcement that kept me motivated. The work I have done in both group and individual therapy have impacted me in positive countless ways. I truly believe that DBT can be incredibly helpful to anyone and everyone.
What I would like you to know is that needing more support is not something you have to be ashamed of. You are not needy, as that word holds negative connotations; you are needful — you are a human being who needs some support and guidance.
I do believe that partaking in any type of therapy, we must have a willingness to commit to receiving help. I also believe that being in a stable state of mind is absolutely necessary in order to do this work more long-term. A person’s treatment is very individual; however, I see stabilization as a requirement for more long-term work, as we may not be willing to open up or challenge ourselves when just beginning therapy or just beginning true healing from whatever struggles we may be facing.
I realize that DBT may not help you as much as it helped me. It may not be the treatment that fits your needs, and that is okay.
There is hope for you, no matter what therapy you choose. If a specific skill or treatment style is helpful to you in any way, I encourage you to take advantage of that through the resources you have.
Sometimes, the seemingly most insignificant thing can ignite a spark from within and remind us that life is worth living and we are worth it.
No matter what you find to be most helpful to you in your healing, I commend you on fighting whatever pain or struggles you may be up against today. I love DBT, but no matter what therapy option you end up choosing, if you deliberately put in the hard work, bravely share with the people who are here to help, and live a truthful life, I promise you, even if it takes time, it will get better.
To anyone struggling, I am sending a big hug and healing vibes. Hang in there.