Therapy Success – Checking the Facts

Well, I brought a written copy of an emotion regulation skill that I had used in a situation to therapy. My therapist was very impressed and we ended up teasing through the issues that were outlined including talking about things that perhaps weren’t issues, but more worded awkwardly.

This was the check the facts skill to see if the emotions that I was feeling matched the prompting event. First, I described the emotions as feeling alone and insecure. Then, I went through the event that happened when these feelings came up without emotion or judgment. I went through just the facts stating where I was at the time and the fact that I was speaking to my husband about something and his responses. This wasn’t an argument, but he had simply said that he didn’t know what to say.

Then, I went through my interpretations, thoughts and assumptions while giving other scenarios. I gave my point of view which was that I felt disconnected from my husband because he didn’t say the words that I was hoping to hear. I felt alone and like I wasn’t able to communicate what I needed to him or like we were on different pages. He doesn’t understand how that feels. I know that he doesn’t understand the disconnected feeling that I get when certain topics come up. He says he never feels that way so he just doesn’t understand. Based on this, he wouldn’t necessarily know what to say when I’m feeling that way. He’s also just plain not good about talking about subjects having to do with physical attraction. This went on a little bit going back and forth.

Next, I labeled whatever threats I felt would result from this particular situation if it just hung around. I felt like I could feel rejected and resentful. This is a real threat. It could happen; however, the likelihood is slim as this will be dropped. If it is something that is worth bringing up further, it is something that could be discussed in marriage counseling again preventing or reducing feelings of rejection and resentment.

It goes on to catastrophe and I really had trouble coming up with one. I think that’s a good thing. I suppose the worst possible thing would be ending up alone. There would be nothing worse than losing my family.

The last asks if the emotion and the intensity are warranted and gives examples of when emotions are warranted. Well, for me, this was warranted, but the intensity didn’t match the event. In the end though, the intensity of the emotion was significantly reduced just by writing this stuff out.

This morning, I was ruminating over something that happened in the past while I was in bed. I couldn’t go to sleep so I got up. The change of scenery helped. Then, I did the same exercise. Somehow, I went from bad morning to great day. My therapist wants me to do this all the time and I’m excited because it has been successful for me so far.

***The Check the Facts is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skill which was developed by Marsha Linehan.

 

Father’s Day is Here

Father’s Day is a trigger for me due to the history I have with my father. I got through today by honoring the fathers that serve as examples to others.

Last night my husband and I got a date night and saw the Barenaked Ladies. We almost missed it because we had some serious issues with a sitter. I accidentally asked our sitter for Friday night instead of Saturday. It worked out in the end though. I had a blast and it was my 9th show and my husband’s 4th. I don’t know why I have so much fun, but I do. It’s not the same since Steven Page is gone because the other guys singing his parts doesn’t sound as good. I just found out Steven released a new album though and I have heard little blips and I love the content. It’s dark and it’s about recovery.

Father’s Day and my father

I don’t have any contact with my father so for me Father’s Day is a trigger to all of the verbal and emotional abuse that I experienced at his hands as a child. This year, I have used mindfulness and maybe a bit of the wise mind ACCEPTS skills today. I’m focusing on what is going on today, at this very moment, and today I see how loving my husband is towards our children. I see how happy they make him and how good of a father he is to the boys, both setting boundaries and comforting them.

I’m also making a special dinner to honor him tonight. I’m making baked ziti with salad. I also bought bread and ice cream cake for dessert. My 2 year old egg allergic son can eat it which was one of the reasons I bought it instead of a different cake. The sauce for dinner has been on the stove since about noon. I simmer it low and slow for hours. My oldest even helped me make it and he’s so proud of himself.

We have to call my father-in-law to wish him a happy Father’s Day and sitting here thinking about it is making me sad. It’s not the same wishing him a happy Father’s Day as it would be to my biological father as there should be two people that I’m wishing this to.

My four year old didn’t know I had a father for a while. He just assumed that I’d been born without one. I was doing our family tree and I had to explain that I had a dad, but he was mean and he hurt grandma. I told him that he’d never have to meet him. He has seen him thought at a family event. My father has never seen my youngest child, at least not in person.

This day makes me wonder whether or not I will regret not seeing him before he dies. Hubby says that I will never know how I will feel at his death, but he knows that nothing good will come of his re-entry into my life. My siblings have also cutoff contact with him and my husband rightfully feels that there’s a reason for that.

He gave me by bipolar diagnosis. I can trace it back at least 3 generations on his side of the family. One of my relatives was diagnosed as insane and wasn’t allowed to enter the US. My father is still in denial that he has bipolar disorder though which is one of the reasons that his children avoid him. Untreated, he is abusive and cruel.

I have two blessings to honor today though. My husband is the best father that I have ever known. He is loving, fun, kind but sets boundaries, and he makes time for them, even when work and other things get in the way. We also honor my father-in-law who raised my husband.

Mood Update

I got a big chunk of sleep though I still only got 6 hours which isn’t typically enough for me. I feel good today though. I’m neither up nor down. Right now, my anxiety is in check as well. Perhaps, last night’s fantastic date night is just what I needed to get back on track. I have also been consistently busy, but it was low stress. Structure has always been helpful. Hopefully, the pattern will continue. My husband and I agreed to a check-in tonight to determine if I need to call the psychiatrist to quickly nip any potential episode in the bud early. At this point, I think this weekend has warded the call and kept the demon in hibernation.

Thinking About the Dialectic

DBT, or dialectical behavioral therapy, has been a huge part of my therapy for the past 7 years or so. It has been the main therapeutic module that I have used and it has been the one that has shown the most success for me over the course of my lifetime.

A main idea of DBT is that of the dialectic. That idea is that universe is filled with multiple opposing sides and forces and that also leads to the fact that there’s also more than one to view a situation or solve a problem. It also has this idea that change is the only constant. Those two things, which I believe to be true, may seem a bit too philosophical; however, for me, they have been a big factor in my ability to adapt even when I am symptomatic. It’s something that my therapist and I walk through when things come up.

For example, I have two young sons, which is why this blog is called Being a Bipolar Mom, and there are times where things happen around them where we will test my perception or my problem solving abilities. For example, someone in my family will say something about my son’s speech sound disorder and tell me that he needs to have that fixed by kindergarten. I get angry because they make it sound like my son has something where it has a natural progression and we can say exactly when it will be “fixed”. I saw this as a shot at my son initially and I felt that they were placing way too much pressure on him.

Talking to my therapist, we were able to tease out details of the conversation that I may have misread because I was in mama bear mode protecting my son. I had the feeling of who the hell are they to say what my son should and shouldn’t do by such and such time and how the hell do they know if he is going to be able to do it or not?

The part that was missing was that they were trying to help. They told us they wanted us to send him for private speech therapy, which my husband and I were in the process of doing already, and that they were willing to pay for it. My mother-in-law used doctor google and informed herself of the horrible perils of a speech delay in K and how he won’t be able to learn to read, etc. Of course, she doesn’t know that my son can spell phonetically. He may not be able to say the sounds, but he sure as hell knows what they sound like. He can sound out some words too and he’s 4. Neither myself, my husband, his speech therapy team (2 SLP-Ts and a SLP-TA), nor his teacher think that he’s going to have any trouble reading as a result and think that we’re doing a great job with sound awareness.

Basically, in all of this, I learned that there was a disconnect. She was seeing his speech disorder as this horrible thing that was going to cripple him and that we should get him all the help that he needs. I heard it as you need to do more or he’s going to be illiterate. Part of that was that I let my mommy bear get out in front of me. I didn’t want him to hear any of what she said. The other part was that our communication was not clear. Instead of asking us about our son’s progress, she assumed that it was holding him back in ways it wasn’t. Instead of me asking her what she meant by paying for whatever it takes to get it fixed, I shouldn’t have bottled it all in getting more frustrated. We both wanted the same thing though.

Therapy and DEAR MAN

Last night, I had therapy and I spoke of some communication breakdown issues that I have been having. Of course, I didn’t actually KNOW that was the issue until we sort of teased it out. We did some role playing using the DEAR MAN skill primarily. So, this is how it went:

D – Describe the situation using a non-judgmental stance. (We through a little GIVE in here with gentle manner.) It’s important to us that we get to see you and we appreciate that we have the opportunity to stay with you when we are there. The house is 2 bedrooms though and there are four of us. It can get crowded and we are also on our family vacation making memories.

E – Express. We appreciate your hospitality, but feel like we are putting you out. It gets crowded after some time and this really is our only trip so we really want to make some family memories. Plus, the boys don’t really have playgrounds or any areas to play because you live in a 55 plus community.

A – Assert. Ask for what you want. We really would like it if we could spend half of the time in your home and the other half of our trip in a hotel. It is rare for us to get the opportunity to stay in a hotel and the boys enjoy it.

R – Reinforce. Tell them what’s in it for them. It must be difficult for you to have 4 additional people in your home. This will give everyone some space while we get to spend time together. Plus, if we stay at a hotel we are more likely to spend more time in town.

M – Stay Mindful. Be a broken record and stay on track if the subject is changed. We really appreciate the opportunity to stay with you and we really love spending time with you and we really would like some space for some of the trip.

A – Appear Confident. Maintain eye contact. Use a strong voice. Go in believing that this is going to be a success.

N – Negotiate. We are flexible as to how we split the time between the hotel and your home. Lets figure out what works best for everyone. (If they don’t agree to splitting the trip 50/50.)

So, now I have roleplayed a scenario with DEAR MAN that can be useful. My above example isn’t really perfect because I’m not going off our exact words unfortunately. It’s close enough though.

My adventures, failures, and successes

It has been a long time since I have written about myself. In the past 3 years, I have not only had a second child while seeing my other son grow, but I have also had my share of ups and downs with my illness.

After O, my youngest, was born, I ended up with serious mood issues. In fact, I started having hallucinations and I was so depressed and anxious. I got sent to this AMAZING partial hospital program for women with perinatal mood disorders and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I brought my baby with me and the therapists helped me bond with my son and gave me the skills that I needed in order to be the mother that I wished to be. It is one of 2 programs of it’s kind and I cannot say how grateful I am to have had that opportunity. They also tweaked my medications while I was there.

My son had some serious issues when he was first born. He had too much amniotic fluid because he was born via c-section and he didn’t get to have it all squeezed out during birth. He couldn’t be laid down flat without gagging and choking. Well, my husband ran to get food the day after he was born and my mom was changing his diaper. He stopped breathing and began turning blue. The nurses didn’t respond to my page right away because they were busy with other patients so my mom ran into the hallway yelling that my little guy was turning blue. Then, after sort of failing to really get food allergies, we discovered that he was allergic to milk and soy. We later discovered that he’s also allergic to whole eggs, not just the protein that most people are allergic to. So we had an interesting start.

I didn’t have a therapist for part of this time and when I did go back we went back to focusing on DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, skills as they had been so helpful in the past. This was definitely the right decision for me as they have helped me through many tough times.

Most recently, I have been using GIVE and DEAR MAN quite a bit. GIVE is for maintaining a relationship while DEAR MAN is a skill of assertiveness for asking for what you want or saying no to a request. Using them together has been very beneficial, especially for my marriage. I can word things in a way so that I’m not being aggressive with my husband, but I can ask for what I need. My husband tends to default to I always screw up and this has sort of prevented that in some instances so we can actually talk about a situation.

We also renewed our vows for our 10 month anniversary last month. That also required some self soothing skills to get through the anxiety the few days before when things were still being prepared. I was finding things that I found calming and relaxing and doing them.

Oh – and I’m recovering from a concussion that I suffered 4 weeks ago. Things are finally so much better, but taking care of the boys and grocery shopping and a few other things bring back the symptoms so I’m doing the things that don’t cause symptoms to flare and avoiding others. I have a babysitter until Friday in the hopes that everything is A-OK starting next week. I’ll have a positive update on my condition soon hopefully. When I had my CT scan 2 weeks ago, the doc said it was going to take time and rest so time and rest it is.