Happy Sunday, y’all. By the time I made it to Friday of this week, I found myself emotionally drained. I had been doing relatively well up until Thursday. There were a few conversations on Thursday that I found really triggering, and I really struggled to bounce back. The emotional instability that characterizes BPD means that I can go from joyous and spontaneous to extremely depressed with a snap of the fingers. This is exactly what happened. I found myself really depressed, and reverted back to self-harming behaviors. Friday morning, I peeled myself out of bed at the last possible moment, and found myself googling ways to commit suicide. I was experiencing dissociative behaviors on and off during this 48 hour timespan. Living with BPD is sometimes like an episode of Wipeout-if y’all remember that show. One moment you’re running along, conquering life. The next, you’ve been smacked with one of the bill red balls.
This weekend, I’ve been taking the time I need to emotionally recharge. Specifically, I’ve been practicing mindfulness and radical acceptance. Mindfulness is the practice of living in the present moment, without judgement, and without attachment to the moment. You can practice mindfulness anywhere, at any time. It can be as simple as looking at the trees, observing the colors of the leaves, counting the branches, ect. The key is to focus on the colors, numbers of branches, ect., and not let your mind wander. When it inevitably does, without judging yourself, just bring your mind back and continue to observe the yellow leaves. The key to mindfulness is using descriptive terms that are objective. For example, “That tree is pretty” is subjective. I may think the tree is pretty, but you may not. However, “the leaves are yellow” is relatively objective.
Last week for homework for my Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), I had to check-off various activities I did to practice mindfulness. They included fun activities such as singing in the shower and playing with my puppy. The key is to focus only on these activities while doing them. If you’re thinking about things you need to pick up at the grocery store, or emails you need to send, you’re not present in the moment.
Part of DBT that goes hand in hand with mindfulness, is radical acceptance. As a history nerd, when I think of the word radical, my brain jumps to dissenters in Soviet Russia. Radical acceptance, however, is about accepting life the way it is, before judgement. For example, when I walk to work in the mornings, if it is raining, I acknowledge that it is raining. I don’t try to argue with mother nature and say that it is not, in fact, raining. I won’t walk without an umbrella, and get drenched, because I refuse to acknowledge that it is raining. I instead, get out my umbrella. I may hate walking in the rain (which I do), but I don’t deny that it’s raining. I accept the rain, and then judge it.
Radical acceptance can be applied to most aspects of life. Think of any relationship you have in life. Start by acknowledging what their actions have been. Then, place a judgement on that action. For example, I’ve shared in previous posts that I recently received a flurry of hateful text messages from my mother. I accept that I received these messages. With this acceptance, I can place judgement on the text messages. I’ve decided that these messages are very hurtful, and furthermore, I do not want a close relationship with my mother.
Essentially, it’s a two-step process. Step one, accept. Step two, judge. Not only does radical acceptance help me think clearer, I also strive to use radical acceptance to encourage me to avoid rash judgements. Just slowing down the process of responding to a situation can help live a more intentional, better informed life.
Whether you struggle with mental illness or not, I implore everyone to try out these skills. Below is a video that takes a stab at explaining mindfulness. It’s not a skill to be mastered overnight, but a mindset to work towards.