Today I finished up my time at ERC insight. And if I’m honest I’m a little nervous about leaving. It became a part of my routine. Something that was consistent, and now it’s gone. Throughout my summer I learned a lot. I learned my way through the Loop like I’ve lived there forever. I learned how to survive the wonderful CTA. But most importantly I learned a lot of skills and lessons about myself that will help increase my quality of life as I leave insight behind.
Before I jump into what I learned I’ll give a little bit of background about Insight. It is a group therapy program that specializes in mood and anxiety disorders, they use a type of therapy called dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) basically DBT says nothing can be all good or all bad; every thing is on a spectrum. The skills that I learned were skills that would help me get out of the black and white thinking and start to look at things on a spectrum again.
DBT skills are broken into four ( I’m only going in detail about 3) modules: mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. While I was at insight I was able to spend time learning skills in each of these modules.
Interpersonal effectiveness skills are skills that we use when we are not in much distress and things are pretty calm. These skills are used to help assert our needs, or to set boundaries in a respectful way on of my favorite interpersonal effectiveness skills is called DEARMAN ( Describe, Evaluate, Assert, Reinforce, Mindful, Appear confident, and Negotiate) for those of you who know me, you may know I am not one to assert myself or say what I want. My favorite ways to answer questions are ” I don’t care, or you can pick.” but after learning this skill I have noticed that it is becoming much easier for me to ask for and state what I need from others.
Next we get into the emotional regulation skills, which do exactly what they sound like… regulate our emotions. I have two faves from here because I just couldn’t decide! The first one is called checking the facts. With this skill we are taking emotions out of a situation and strictly looking at what we know to be true. A lot of times our emotions can make us respond in ways that are not the best, but if we take a step back and evaluate the situation it helps us see the entire thing instead of looking at it through our emotions. then there is cope-ahead. This skill is great for anxiety. Basically before going into a situation that may provoke some type of emotion ( for me anxiety) I imagine the worst case scenario and figure out what coping skills I could effectively use if the worst case scenario did happen. This can alleviate some of the anxiety I feel because it allows me to have a plan.
The last module is distress tolerance. It was very difficult for me to pick only two skills from this module. At first distress tolerance skills were the only ones I was using because I wasn’t aware of the fact that skills can be used before we get into crisis mode. But if I do end up in this mode TIPP and pro and cons are two skills I swear by. I normally use TIPP (Temperature, Intense exercise, Paced breathing, Progressive muscle relaxation) when my primary emotion is anger. This skill allows me to get out that bottled up energy in a healthy way; specifically the T and the I. With temperature we learned that when we take something cold ( like an ice pack or a cold shower) the shock of going from body temperature to cold tells the brain to reroute the blood flow to the major organs, specifically the heart. It is difficult for me to explain exactly how it makes me feel, but holy cow does it work. The intense exercise is also great. When I cut out of anger it was typically to feel that release. I can get that same feeling though by running sprints or doing climbing, and its healthy! then we have pros and cons, which is pretty self explanatory. It is listing out the pros and cons of engaging in the target behavior (cutting) when I am able to see it on paper I am also able to see that there are usually more good things than bad, or if there is more bad the few good things I have weigh out all the bad things I have.
Now that I have given you all a crash course on how to deal with your problems ( you’re welcome :P) I want to share some of the things I am walking away with from this summer.
I have learned that it is okay to make others away of my boundaries and tell them what I need. It is not the easiest thing for me, but it is soooo important. If I am not telling others what I need or when the do something to frustrate me how can I expect them to change, I cant. I also learned its okay to ask others to validate you. Sometimes things can be pretty crappy. I get into a shame spiral where all I believe is that I am a bad person, or I am worthless or unlovable, when I am in this place the best way I am ask for help is to ask those close to me to counteract those thoughts, to tell me that I am loved and cared for. Sometimes I feel guilty for doing this, but it goes back to the first point of asserting my needs. I know the people in my support system want to support me, but they cannot know how unless I am explain what I need in a certain situation.
self-compassion. This is a HUGE one for me. It is something I never really had much of, but throughout my time at Insight I am slowly learning to grant myself compassion. A lot of times I wouldn’t give myself compassion because I didn’t feel I was deserving of it, but then someone said to me ” if this situation was happening to a friend would you show them compassion?” That got me thinking. “of course I would!” if someone else deserve compassion is a situation, chances are I do too. For right now I still have to ask myself that question when I feel undeserving, but slowly I am starting to have to ask myself less and less.
Everything isn’t black and white, in fact most of life isn’t black and white, it is in the grey area, the area that I hated spending time in. Before treatment I viewed things as all good or all bad. Emotions, people, situation it didn’t matter what it was, there was no grey area. DBT is all about the grey area, and teaching us how to understand that not everything is black and white, which I have definitely been able to see.
Last but certainly not least, I have learned first hand just how bumpy of a road recovery really is. some times I have really good days, which turn into good weeks, and good months, but I also have bad days, which turn into bad weeks, and sometimes bad months. The important thing is that I just because I have taken a few steps backwards does not mean I am all the way back to where I started. This is where that self-compassion piece can play a role. I can acknowledge that I have stumbled, but I don’t have to dwell on it and make it the focus of my day. the more I am able to acknowledge and let go the more good days I will start to have. Even when the bad days come I am able to know that they are just days; they don’t have to become weeks or months.
I have learned so much about myself the last 103 days, none of that would have been possible without the amazing staff member that are apart of insight, or the amazing people I met along the way who supported me in ways no one else could. I am beyond grateful for all the support I have received from friends and family as I have shared my journey with you all. As I go back to school I am excited to see what the Lord has planned for me, as well as to see how he will use this summer to impact the lives of other students.