For nearly five years, I have attended DBT on a weekly basis, rarely missing a session, and eventually turning the skills I learned, into a daily practice. Last week, I attended my last DBT group. It was bittersweet in so many ways. Having to say goodbye to one of the most amazing therapists/facilitators, as she embarks on the next chapter in her career and life, letting go of the security and familiarity of our group, and stepping out into the next chapter of my own life, this time fully confident that I have the ability to move forward successfully.
I joke that I'm addicted to DBT. My fellow DBTers call me the DBT Queen. In all seriousness though, DBT has just become a way of life for me. It is the reason I was able to start this blog, and I believe, it has been the foundation of my recovery. My DBT book is my personal Bible. It always has all the answers I need. I just have to find the right verse, and interpret it so that it applies to the story of my life.
As we ended group for the very last time, we went around the room sharing moments of mindfulness, which is the very core of what Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is. It is what every other "skill" is based on. There were varying degrees of mindfulness among us, beginning with a meditation where we focused all of our attention on clenching one hand, feeling the warmth and energy in our fists before slowly releasing and letting it go. I shared about being at my cousin's concert, and taking in all the smells, sights, and sounds. Someone else mentioned noticing and recognizing when they were having negative thoughts, so that they could consciously let them go. We talked about how, while being mindful, we were also using other DBT skills. Emotion regulation. Distress Tolerance. Interpersonal Effectiveness. We were mindful in being aware of our accomplishments, no matter how big or small.
Being the sap that I am, when it was time for our last session to end, I could feel the tears pushing their way to the back of my eyes. I had promised my Therapy Bitch I would try not to cry, but that wasn't looking possible. As our facilitator said her goodbyes to each of us, letting us know how special this group is, and how far she knows we all will go if we keep practicing what we've learned, her eyes began to well up, and her voice cracked. That was it for me...the flood gates unleashed, and she and I sat sniffling as we finished up our farewells. Instead of ending in tears though, I asked to read one of my more recent blogs, to lighten the mood and send everyone on their way with a smile, and laughter. In DBT, we call this "opposite to emotion action." It was also another form of mindfulness, as my fellow DBTers sat listening, and I focused on the screen of my phone.
I walked home realizing I was facing another dialectic, or juxtaposition. I was terribly sad to leave the group that had become the very foundation of my wellness, while at the same time, excited and proud of all that I have overcome, accomplished, and look forward to achieving. As I stood at the crosswalk, smiling while tears ran down my cheeks, I took a deep breath and remembered the only way to move forward is to put one foot in front of the other. And also, be mindful, and look both ways before crossing the street.