All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us, it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. (The Message Bible, 322)
It's hard to believe that I started my third Dialectical Behavioral Therapy class six months ago, but it's true. I wish I could say that my life is magically stress free now, but that would be a big, fat lie. What is true is that I am able to handle my stressors a whole lot better than I could before. Now, when I am stressed out, I try to focus on the moment. When that doesn't work, then I cheerlead myself by repeating mantras to myself that make myself feel better.
Everything's gonna be alright.
Things will eventually work out.
Everybody gets in trouble sometimes.
This situation/emotion is going to change.
I know now that my recovery/sanity absolutely cannot withstand putting myself down anymore - my goal is wellness and when I put myself down, I instantly start spiraling into an anxiety that is out of control. I really try to check myself and turn my thoughts around when I realize that I am putting myself down. Fortunately, I have many supporters who help me check myself too.
Besides being able to handle stress better, my energy is a whole lot improved too. That's because of many factors:
- I recognize my sadness now. DBT got me more in touch with my emotions - I had no clue how much sadness I was carrying around! When I first took the class, all I knew was that I was always exhausted. I was tearful and miserable. The therapist asked me what I felt and the only feeling I could identify was exhaustion, so imagine my surprise when she told me that exhaustion is actually not a feeling but a physical state. I learned that sadness often shows up as tiredness/exhaustion. Of course, this is not always the case, but it is a helpful thing to remember. When I become tired and there's no logical explanation, then I look inward to see where my sadness lies and I meditate on it. Confronting and exploring my emotions helps relieve them a lot faster than just shoving them down does. Similarly, I have begun to work on recognizing my anger also - another emotion that I am used to just shoving down deep.
- I pace myself better now. I do still have chronic fatigue syndrome - no amount of emotion exploring is going to negate that, so I have become a lot more conscious of how I spend my time. I take more naps; I spend more time in quiet. I am still very, very busy but in order to be happy amidst the busy-ness, I have to factor in moments of stillness.
- I go to bed a lot earlier now. I know that probably seems like a very obvious solution to the problem of tiredness but I had to do a lot of inner work in order for me to feel ok going to bed at an earlier time. I discovered that I had a lot of harmful preconceived notions around the idea of going to bed early - that I would become a boring person or would miss out on something great. What I have replaced those harmful notions with is the drive to be well. I do not want to dwell in exhaustion, panic, and negativity anymore - I want to be well from the depths of my being.
Like I've said, just because I handle stress better now, does not mean that I don't still have it in my life. It is a wonderful thing though to no longer feel controlled by the effects of stress. It still gets me down but I no longer feel totally crippled by it. To support me in my transition from a weekly DBT class to none, I am increasing my individual counseling sessions and I am continuing to track my progress using the The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Wellness Planner by Amanda Smith. It's a shorter, easier diary card that is helping to keep me motivated.
I hope that hearing about my progress gives you hope if you are struggling. Change is the only real constant in life and I do believe our lives will change for the better if we work hard for it. We cannot eliminate stress but we can increase positive ways of living with it. I am very happy and proud of myself for my hard work and subsequent change in my personality and life.