Thursday, October 15, 2015

Scared of dogs you say?

As many of you already know I have Borderline Personality Disorder, "BPD".  To keep it very simple for you not in the know, it's an emotion regulation mental disease where my emotions have not always been on point with the matter at hand.  As an example, I often get angry instead of feeling shame or fear .  That is a very simplified description of a very complicated illness.  What BPD is not, is 17 different personalities.  When people hear BPD they often think that.  BPD is not multiple personality disorder.  For the record, there are only 5 of me living on up in this here noodle.  Shut up, no you shut up, no you.... 

The treatment for this disorder is called DBT, Dialectual Behaviour Therapy.  This psychological treatment was derived originally from CBT, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.  The basis for CBT was that anyone could change how they feel about something. If you change the patterns of thinking and behaviour then the result would be that you change they way they feel.  DBT was created because a doctor realized that perhaps it's not that easy.  Perhaps there must be an acceptance of one's feelings before anything could be changed.  And even if not changed, there could be this acceptance and set of skills to function and thrive with mental illness. 

I have done DBT since my stay in a mental health and recovery hospital in the summer of 2014.  I have been so occupied with the study of my own thoughts, the acceptance thereof, and the simple feeling of my emotions that I haven't been writing much.  Today, in DBT, I realized I had something I wanted to say.

I have struggled with the concepts behind both CBT and DBT in that I perceived the treatment to be of  the "fake it until you make it" ideologies and I detest that.  I do not believe that you can be a true, honest, real self while faking what you may not actually believe, think or feel.  I especially struggled with the idea that one can simply change the way they think or feel.  People often say, "be happy" and if you pretend it enough, it will happen.  I find that harmful to say because there are people out there with real mental disorders, chemical imbalances, perhaps addictions and they struggle to find any happiness.  How dare we make light of their struggle by saying the words, "be happy" like it was that simple.  I wasn't entirely wrong, nor was I entirely right about that. 

DBT often speaks of things like distraction, to take yourself away from the subject that's making you unhappy.  Or opposite action, the watching of something funny for example when sad.  I struggled with these.  How am I being honest with myself or anyone if I live life by distraction or pretending I wasn't feeling sad?  My doctor would say, "no, you use those tools when feeling the honest emotion isn't the effective option".  What now?  Pardon?  Do I change the subject and pretend I am happy or do I feel the sadness? Define "effective"? "It depends on the circumstances", I was told.  FUCK, what, when? 

Today, the bells and whistles sounded.  The heavens opened up and my doctor and I communicated on a level where I considered something called a hug I've heard people do when they find themselves connecting with someone. 

It goes something like this for example, and bear with me. 

If you are someone who is scared of dogs, what do you do?  You avoid dogs at all costs likely. 

By avoiding dogs, you prolong your fear of dogs. 

In fact, the avoidance of simply feeling that fear of dogs, will typically make the fear of dogs that much greater. 

It makes sense of the saying, "fear of the unknown".  

You avoid dogs because you are scared of them and the longer you avoid dogs the more scared you become until you can't even hear the word "dog" without wetting yourself. 

The idea of DBT is to face that fear while using skills to help you through it.  DBT says that until you actually sit in the pocket of that fear, until you feel it, it will always have a hold of you.  You must actually experience that fear, full on.  Your avoidance of your feelings, will perpetuate them.  Using practised DBT skills you face your feelings. 

Think safety precautions when I say "DBT skills".  Think professional dog trainer with a very well trained dog.  With those two things in place, your skills, you go and meet the dog.  When facing one's feelings one must be safe.  Frankly if you face an unknown dog with urine running down your leg shaking like a leaf the dog might act up.  You need to be in a very regulated environment where you can sit nose to nose with a dog and face your fear.  That safe environment would be a skill you learn in DBT. 

You might need to meet this dog for months, week after week.  Over and over again you sit facing that dog and feel the fear.  You might find yourself crying, breathing rapidly, heart racing, perhaps filled with irrational fear.  Those are simply moments in time that you must experience only to realize that.  They are just moments in time.

The dog and/or (vice versa) your feelings, will not harm you.  The fear will ebb and flow.  Climb and fall.  Come and go.  It will never last forever.  At some point the dog is going to leave right?  Or you will.

Once you find yourself accepting that you are indeed scared of dogs but that those feelings of being scared will not hurt you, then you might find yourself changing.  Your auto pilot thinking that dogs are scary might change.  Maybe not.  Maybe you will see a dog for the rest of your life and think, "they scare me".  That's your auto pilot thinking but that thought will no longer own you for longer than a nano second in time.  And by not owning you, it will no longer guide your every step.  It's just something you think.  It's not a fact.  Our thoughts are not facts.  Dogs are not all scary.  

Maybe you will no longer be scared simply hearing the word "dog".  Maybe you can walk past a dog on the street without peeing yourself.  Maybe not.  Some of our deepest thoughts and feelings aren't necessarily (see above right or wrong comment) changeable but our behaviours as a result can be. So you invest in Depends and go about your life no longer avoiding dog parks. 

What you can do now, is know that your fear of dogs is not going to actually hurt's just a thought, and maybe even a feeling, but that doesn't hurt you or cause you pain. 

Not changing that diaper, that will cause you pain.  *chaffe*