Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To Judge or Not to Judge

A huge part of my life right now is about therapy.  I have spent the last 21 months in every kind of therapy imaginable.  Inpatient, outpatient, group therapy, individual therapy, aqua therapy, electro convulsive therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, therapy bitch therapy... And did I mention I've been in and out of therapy since I was 2?  For those of you who aren't well versed in the field of psychiatry and mental illness, it essentially means I am a certified loon.  It's exactly like being a psychiatrist, except totally different.
Some of the terms I'm throwing out there might be a little vague, so let me break it down for you:
Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) or shock therapy-Essentially you get put to sleep, they give your brain a little seizure, and you wake up with a massive headache, and a shoddy memory.  It's used to help bring people out of deep depression.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) - learning coping skills with the goal of having a life worth living while living in the moment.
Therapy Bitch Therapy (TBT)- An incredible person you meet in DBT who encourages you as much as you encourage her.
The thing that amazes me after all the therapy I've done, is that up until about a year ago, I had never had anyone who was trying to learn and use new coping skills, to have a better life. I'd been in group therapy before, and met people who could commiserate with me about the symptoms and miseries of mental illness, but who were having just as difficult a time applying the skills to every day life.
About a year ago, I met two women in DBT who were at the same point in their life as I was.  Dealing with completely different issues, but with the same goal in mind.  We all struggled with some form of mental illness in varying degrees, but we wanted a life that wasn't completely controlled by our emotions and our trained responses to them.  We became fast friends and nicknamed ourselves "Therapy Bitches."  We saw each other more and more often, and brought our real issues to the table, I think at first to get to know one another, but it quickly became a platform to thumb through our DBT book, trying to help eachother find the skills that would help us move past our engrained responses, and move forward in life.
One of the first DBT skills we started using with eachother was non-judgmental stance.  This is where you catch yourself making a judgment about yourself, someone else, or a situation, and you make a conscious effort to not judge, but see things exactly as they are.  This is difficult in a world where everything is judged.  It's a nice day out.  Those are hideous pants.  I'm having a bad hair day.  I'm crazy, she's crazy, they're crazy.  We are trained from a very young age to pass judgement. This is good, and that is bad.
 With my therapy bitches our first goal was not to judge.  We'd meet up and the first thing one of us would say is "No Judging."  Sometimes it would be prefaced with "I'm still in my pajamas.  No judging." Or "I didn't shower today.  No Judging."   It was a simple agreement, and it opened the lines of communication. Knowing that we didn't have to be afraid of someone making a negative comment, opened the doors for discussing what was really going on.  If one of us hadn't gotten out of our jammies that day, instead of making some sort of judgement against that person, it made us question why.  And more often than not, eliminating our opinion on whether or not they should get up and dressed and out of the house, made it easier for any one of us to identify why we hadn't and what we could do to change it.
Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like we gave up judging altogether.  We give ourselves permission to have set amounts of time to judge.  For instance, one of my therapy bitches and I go walking regularly, and we make it a point to allow ourselves to judge as much as we want for an entire block.  And we say them out loud to eachother.  "That person looks ridiculous.  If I ever have a mullet, please shave my head.  No one should wear bright yellow stretch pants with Granny Panties."  Most of the time, it gets us out of our own heads and makes us laugh.  Other times, we can't think of any judgements to pass.  We simply accept every person who passes us for exactly who they are.
I imagine if we lived in a world where there were no judgements, life would be pretty boring.  But I do believe that if we lived in a world where more people made the effort to be less judgemental, it would certainly be more peaceful.  I am aware that every person on this earth has their own opinions, I think that is what makes us so unique.  But there is a difference between opinions and judgements.  There is a difference in having an opinion on how you feel about a person or a situation,and understanding that their opinion might differ from yours, and telling someone (or yourself) that they are wrong, bad, stupid, incompetent, for having their opinion or belief.
For years I told myself I was crazy, I was a lunatic, I was neurotic, I wasn't skinny enough, smart enough, brave enough, I couldn't handle life.  I beat myself so far down into depression I had only given myself two options.  You get help or you die.  Thankfully, I reached out for help.  And I keep reaching out for help.  From my therapy bitches, to my family, to my groups, right down to myself.  At first it seemed impossible.  I believed I would never get better.  I believed it was hopeless.  Especially when I developed the head tremor.  How was I supposed to have a life worth living when I was living with something I didn't believe was worth living with?  I spent a lot of time judging myself more than the people I met, who automatically judged me.  Then I judged myself for judging the people who were judging me.  It was a vicious cycle of self sabatoge and misery.  But shortly after meeting my therapy bitches, and about six months into this whole tremor thing, I made a conscious decision to stop.  Just stop.  Stop telling yourself that the tremor is what defines you.  Stop letting other people's judgements define you.  Just stop.  Take the judgement away and figure out who the hell you are, and what kind of life you want to have.  Accept that there are things in this world you cannot control and you never will control, and find the things you do have control over, and put your energy into that. 
I'm not sure that if I didn't have a therapy bitch to encourage me and remind me of our common goal that I would have this outlook.  I'm not sure if I didn't have every type of therapeutic support and familial support I would be able to maintain this.  But I do.  I go to therapy almost everyday, and I sort through all the judgements and worries and anxieties that automatically pop into my head, and let them go so I can move on.  But had it not been for all the judgements in my life, I'm not sure I would ever have been able to come to this conclusion.

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