Saturday, November 20, 2010

Despair the opposite of despair???


In a lot of ways I am really blessed. I have to admit that, sometimes it gets a little overwhelming and I forget those things, and that is why gratitude is so important. If I could make a suggestion to everyone, with or without a mental illness, it would be to set up a specific time on a regular basis to remind yourself of what you are grateful for.

What I felt I wanted to share today is OPPOSITE ACTION. Now there is one for you. I can't speak for anyone else, but I have a real hard time with this skill. By the time I need to engage in opposite action my brain is so jumbled that I cannot really make effective choices to begin with, let alone make a concentrated effort to decipher what the opposite action to what I am experiencing would be! What does one do?

This where my blessing comes into play. My children. Last night I was really sinking low in the muck. I mean these past few weeks have been horrendous. Not horrendous in the way of major triggers, crisis after crisis. Not anything like that, but horrendous in a way that I just cannot seem to pull myself out of the stuffy black cloud that is hovering over my face and suffocating me. Our dear friends have recently suffered a death of a sibling, which AJ knows, but not really well. The deceased were a husband and a wife taking a walk on a jetty at the beach and a series of sneaker waves came and took them both together, very sad really. However, the sadness over these deaths is mostly in the way of our hearts just bleeding for our friends and their pain. There has been a lot of publicity over this tragedy, which is hard because it is a constant reminder of this pain. AJ and I have a really healthy view of death and a hope after death, so there isn't a whole lot of "why, why, why?".  But there is the sense of our own mortality which I honestly think most of us think about when something like this happens. This couple did not have children, but their short lives and shockingly unexpected demise has begged the question for AJ and I, what about our kids? If something like this were to happen to us we had better have plans for the kids, and sad to say we do not. Even though this is in my thoughts, I would have to say that empathy is the main motivating ingredient to this sadness. There are so many people hurting over this.

My engine being stalled is not the by-product of just this death, but rather a long and lengthy combination of what I can best describe as "life". Being effective in my use of DBT skills lately has been a bonus. Yet, I wonder if I were better with the skills this fog would move on out. Then I start the shame game. Of course shame is a no-nonsense emotion, it ravages your energy in no time flat. Sucking the life out of you and dragging you down to the pits of hell. Again, what does one do with this ...shame?

Feeling down right desperate to get through this I look for validation. Validation goes a long way, I need to know that this will pass, I need to "Obey the Law of Impermanence". OK, so how?? Well, the simplest answer is "Opposite Action" Alright, so now I am getting somewhere, right? I mean, I have taken a detectives approach to my condition, I have observed it, put words to the experience and I am now problem solving. I am taking inventory of my toolbox. I am being mindful of my emotional dysregulation and calculating what I can expect of myself and what I cannot. I am reducing as many vulnerabilities as I can, and now it is time to participate in this experience...and that participation needs to be opposite action. I need to work with the opposite of what I am experiencing. As I mentioned at the outset though, there-in lies the hurdle. There are so many things going on, so many ruminating thoughts that I feel as though my head is spinning, but I can narrow it down to guilt having got grossly out of control and morphed into shame and despair about my circumstances. I mean seriously, I am not experiencing anything like my friends' loss. I know these skills, I have worked the program and at this point I feel I am not doing it well enough. Right? OK, OK, I know I have already established this...

But this is where my blessing comes into play. Through all of this confusion and tool box searching, by the time I have gotten this far and I come to the realization of the need for opposite action I cheated. Or at least, I found something that works. This is a skill! "Do what works" I tore myself from the couch, sat on the floor with my 6 year old and said, "Bradyn, what would you like to do?" Aha! I cheated! (I sort of giggle inside over this) I honestly know it isn't a cheat, but it was so simple, it stared me right in the face. It didn't really matter what she chose. Whatever a sweet innocent 6 year old was going to come up with was going to be, hands-down, opposite of shame and despair. Had I left it up to myself, I would have certainly unwittingly tried to fight shame and despair with more shame and despair. But with my daughter choosing, not so...and
Thank-you Bradyn!
Alright, alright, I know. Not all of us out there have children. I know that, and I even hesitated posting this for a brief moment with concern for the ones that do not. This approach can work for you too, with a few tweaks and twists. But it can work. 

For anyone with kids, I strongly suggest you give this a turn. It was fascinating and I look forward to using this again. For those without kids...I suggest first, try and use this approach with a niece, nephew, grandchild etc. But if there is a lack of children in your life, fret not. You could also try this: assert your opposite action skill with 2-3 supporters. When you are not dysregulated, come up with some activities that you and these supporters may be able to do, that cover different bases for opposite action. When you are heightened next time, give one of your supporters a call and ask them to do one of the planned activities with you. Let them do the thinking for you! It isn't exactly the same thing, but it does take the decision making out of the equation for you, and ultimately that is what worked in this situation. 

So have fun with this, give a whirl. We would love to hear how it turns out for you, give us a comment or come to the forum and share. Don't be shy about this, let us know how this works out for you. Successes or failures, what-ever the case.

Here's to making our opposites more peaceful!
MJ