I can remember when I was sectioned once whilst down south and my Mum told me about a phone call she’d had with a member of staff from the psychiatric hospital I was admitted to. During the call he’d asked whether I’d had Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and when my Mum told him she hadn’t heard of it, he explained his surprise as it is the recommended treatment for someone diagnosed with a Personality Disorder (I had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder). After that, my Mum questioned my Community Mental Health Team as to why I hadn’t had it yet and why it hadn’t even been suggested.
On admission, all of the other Service Users told me that DBT was ‘rubbish,’ ‘pointless’ and ‘nonsense.’ Their opinions, unfortunately, made me reluctant to join in during sessions and I often refused to do any of the activities or use the coping skills that I was being taught through DBT. Looking back, I can see that those Service Users were poorly at the time and weren’t ready to accept help or admit that their own coping strategies (often self-harm) weren’t working.
One of the key coping skills that DBT teaches you is distraction.
It sounds like something so simple and obvious but when you’re mentally unwell, and your instinct to negative thoughts and feelings is self-harm; it isn’t something that you even consider to be a coping strategy.
But it is.
And it works.
For me, at least. I’ve developed further tools as a result of learning distraction techniques and often, if I have thoughts of self-harm, I’ll use delaying techniques. I tell myself, ‘I’ll watch this programme and if I still want to cut after it, then I will.’ 9 times out of 10 the urge/feeling/thought has passed and the distraction in the meantime has helped to keep the thoughts at the back of my mind.
This, is one of seven skills that you learn in the distraction element of DBT. The seven, come from the acronym: ACCEPTS.
A – Activities
e.g. going for a walk, watching Netflix, playing on an App, checking Social Media, reading etc.
C – Contributing
e.g. volunteering, babysitting, making something for someone etc.
C – Comparison
e.g. realise that you’ve felt worse and come through it
E – Emotions
e.g. read emotional books, listen to music that brings on certain feelings in you etc.
P – Pushing Away
e.g. leave the situation
T – Thoughts
e.g. count how many windows there are, do a jigsaw, write poetry
S – Sensations
e.g. snap a rubber band against your skin, hold onto an ice cube etc.
The inspiration for this post was that although I’d self-harmed and struggled massively on Saturday night (April 21st), I knew that going ahead with a visit to English Heritage site: Brinkburn Prioryand Manor House in Rothbury. And I am SO glad that I did! It was absolutely beautiful; there was a point where you walk down the tree-lined lane and come to a corner that you turn and are immediately facing the Priory. It was a ‘wow’ moment!
Finally, we went to The Coquetvale Hotel for lunch and it was absolutely beautiful inside with impeccable service from one of the Senior Managers; Steve!