It’s easy for me to get caught up in thinking how much better it would be if I had done xyz last week, or years ago. But the second best time to do it is right now! And it’s better than doing it tomorrow, or next year! I can take positive steps today. 🙂
Affirmation #27 — DBT Magic
I have a DBT magic inside of me.
Sometimes I get out of my healthy habits and stop using skills. But I can always go back to them. There is knowledge and muscle memory in my body, and I have diary cards and lists in my folder. I am capable of using skills again. I can use the DBT magic within me to make my life better.
My DBT magic makes me powerful and capable. With it, I can confront difficult situations.
I’m angry (a rant)
Note, this contains: anger, talking about covid-19, hand washing imagery, talking about death, and swearing without some of the letters.
I’m angry that my friends don’t check in with me as often as they did when I saw them at school. I’m angry at one friend in particular for, not once but twice, not offering any sympathy or “I hope you feel better” or “what’s wrong” or “<3” when I said I wasn’t doing well.
I’m angry at the internet and how lots of people are talking about what other people “should” do. You don’t know someone’s situation. You don’t know where that person lives, what that person does, how that person’s doing. I know that the quarantine works best if the most people follow it, and I am following it in the ways I can and I hope others (in the US, at least) follow what the CDC says… but… the messaging to stay home comes from everywhere. I can’t attempt to peacefully distract myself by watching youtube without being bombarded by ads telling me to stay home and popups reminding me that COVID-19 exists. Every email I get ends with reminders to stay home and wash your hands. One email I got requested that everyone “wash [their] hands til they chafe.” I personally do have painful, red skin on my hands most of the time (past year or so, pre-corona) that worsens when I wash my hands a lot or for longer times. I do not want to make my skin itch and peel. That is an awful thing to ask people to do.
Plus, not everyone can stay home. Some people don’t have homes. Some people need to work. People need to get groceries. People need to go to the emergency room for many reasons and pick up medicine at the pharmacy.
Then there’s the other advice that literally everyone seems to be giving to others, like to keep to a schedule, to try Yoga with Adriene on youtube, to watch Tiger King on Netflix, to pick up food for your neighbors, to make a homemade mask. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been spending more time on the internet recently since other forms of interaction have disappeared, and maybe I happen to follow things/people on the internet that share similar views (not intentionally), but it seems to me like everyone is spewing the same things.
I get that people are trying to help each other, and that’s very nice, but people are not the same!!! Personally, trying to keep to a (timed) schedule makes things worse for me, and has for many years. I’m at just as much of a health risk as my neighbors are. Plus I don’t know my neighbors. Personally, I’m not interacting with anyone that’s not in my family, so I don’t need a mask (at least for now). (though I might try making some for others, once I get my own life together) And I don’t have f-ing netflix. (and probably wouldn’t like the show anyway)
People are not the same! There were SO many different people on this planet, living different lives, doing different things, in different places, before covid-19, and guess what, those differences haven’t evaporated. People’s experiences are not the same.
I am still a full-time student. I do not have more free time than I did before!
Personally, I’m struggling. But I was struggling before all this. My struggles haven’t changed a ton. I still have nightmares, I still procrastinate my schoolwork and then get mad at myself, I’m still insecure in my friendships, I still don’t always get along with my family, I still struggle with eating, I still have physical health challenges that I worry about a lot.
Another thing I’m mad about is how people weren’t there for me when I was struggling my most. This is not the worst time in my life. Other times have been much worse. I have seen people expressing things about this situation that I felt so strongly during other traumatic times in my life and that were invalidated by those around me. I did not receive the amount of support or recognition or validation that people now are receiving.
I think that part of the reason I’m not that worried about people close to me dying is that they’ve literally all already died. All my grandparents are dead. The entire older generation in my family is gone. They died last January (my grandmother and my great-uncle. my uncle also died last January, though he was in his 50s.). The oldest person in my living extended family is 59. I’ve already suffered through and mostly gotten over those losses. And now I’m expected to be patient and validating with everyone else the way they weren’t patient and validating with me.
Last year, I had to email my advisor a picture of my grandmother’s obituary to prove that she had died, because I couldn’t get extensions on assignments or excused absences without it. Because it was the policy that she couldn’t just take my word for it. She couldn’t trust that I was telling the truth when I said that my grandmother died. She needed her f-ing obituary. And now, classes are pass/fail at my school. Teachers are sympathetic and very willing to grant extensions with zero proof or even explanation. I appreciate that they’re doing this, but at the same time it seems so unfair that even though I was struggling more in the past, it was harder to get help. Where was all this when I needed it?!
I’ve also struggled with being at home, on winter breaks and summer breaks, for years (due to being around my family, lack of privacy, lack of control, feeling trapped, trauma anniversaries, not having motivation, etc.). I have expressed this many times to many people (friends, teachers, advisors) over the course of years, but this is the first time I’ve been taken seriously. This is the first time people have agreed with me.
Now everyone seems to not have motivation. I’ve had to deal with this for years (hello, depression), but now everyone else gets the sympathy and support.
Honestly, I’m writing all this while angry, and I’m aware that it’s not exactly how I truly feel. I feel badly for my friends who are struggling. I care about them and want to help. I’m sad about the state of the world, and it alarms me how many people I see struggling who weren’t struggling before. I’m glad people are supporting each other and being kind.
I think probably another reason why this situation angers me is that I beat myself up for so long and invalidated myself for feeling the way I did while everyone else seemed to be fine. And now it turns out that it’s not that they had skills that I didn’t have; they just didn’t have struggles. I’m doing better than some of them now because I do have lots of really healthy, effective, coping skills that work for me. Other people were fine before because they hadn’t been challenged, not because they knew some secret I didn’t, were magically born better, were stronger, smarter, more assertive, or more resilient.
In my lab group last semester, I constantly compared myself to other members of my group. I didn’t think I was doing as much work as them or contributing as much. I saw myself as the mentally ill one that they had to support. Well guess what’s happening now. I’m the only one that still cares about lab reports in my group. I’m the only one that knows from experience that we have to work on it before the day it’s due, even though we don’t have motivation to. I’m the one being responsible and reminding people of deadlines and creating google docs and submitting reports and doing the calculations. Because I have the skills to deal with lack of motivation and being at home and lack of structure and still get on with my life. I’ve dealt with this before. They were only able to do more work than me in the past because they weren’t struggling. They weren’t trying harder than me; they were just lucky.
And again, the non-angry, wise mind part of me would like to clarify that there’s nothing wrong with being lucky. There’s nothing wrong with not having struggled or developed ways to get through tough situations. I’m glad that most of my classmates and friends have gotten to be 19/20/21/22 years old without experiencing life-changing trauma and without needing skills to deal with distress and to keep yourself going when you don’t want to. There’s always time to learn and develop skills or whatever is needed now to get through this.
And I know that people can struggle now even if they’ve been through bad stuff before, too. I know I’m struggling. There are days I’m not motivated either (or experiencing other bad things). There’s also nothing wrong with having gone through bad stuff and not developed good skills for dealing with it yet. Again, there’s always time.
I’m sorry if I offended or hurt anyone in my anger or by things I implied. Please let me know and I’ll try to make it up to you. It was not my intention.
Writing this helped me get some things off my chest and feel better. 🙂 And made me feel more valid, I guess. It’s valid to be angry when I see people getting support that I didn’t get in the same situations because that’s not fair, and I was missing out on stuff that would’ve helped.
Structure! Today’s Accomplishments and Tomorrow’s Goals
This is a thing that helps me to add some structure to my days and life when I’m lost and kinda depressed.
I’ve been using these Today’s Accomplishments / Tomorrow’s Goals sheets recently, and they’ve been helpful. I recently moved out of my college dorm and am back at home with my family. Online classes haven’t started yet, so I don’t have much to do, and I can’t go anywhere or see people. So, filling out these sheets at the end of the day has been helping me to stay focused and do things. Doing things makes me feel better. Waking up to a plan for the day makes me want to get out of bed.
On the left side, I write what I accomplished that day! It’s often “little” things and big things: ate breakfast, called my friend, took a shower, emailed my doctor, unpacked my clothes. If something was especially hard, like getting out of bed or eating a meal, I’ll make sure to write that down and give myself credit for it, too. 🙂
Then I can also write some good things about the day at the bottom! “I’m grateful for my friend calling me, I’m proud of figuring out how to do therapy over Zoom, I saw beauty in the sunset, I am responsible, prepared, and caring.”
On the right side, I write out what things I want to do the next day. Unpack the rest of my clothes, take vitamins, eat 3 good meals, go for a walk, do yoga, start homework for x class, plant pole beans, etc.
Then I say what, among those things, is my priority (e.g. unpacking and eating 3 good meals) and how these expectations look (are they reasonable? a stretch? do-able?). These steps are especially useful when I have lots of things to do and it’s just not possible to do it all. In that case, I can state what my priority is and plan which things I won’t do in advance, instead of realizing at the last minute that I can’t do everything and panicking.
I also write something that will be true no matter what happens (e.g. I’m at home). This gives me at least one thing to count on when I’m not sure what else I can rely on. And then I write what I’m looking forward to! 🙂 If I’m not looking forward to anything, then I try to go back and add something good to my to-do list. 🙂
I’ve been using these off and on since middle school (!) as I’ve needed them. I’ve improved them over the years, adding the positive parts to fill in at the bottoms. I find that they are good at getting me back on track.
If you are also cooped up in one place, out of school or a job, feeling unmotivated or depressed, or in many other situations, maybe this could help add structure and positive things! 🙂
You can open the pdf file here. I print them out double-sided and cut them up so that I can get four accomplishments/goals out of one piece of paper. (Today I am proud of figuring out how to add a pdf to wordpress haha because that’s something that I’ve been meaning to learn how to do for a while!)
Wishing everyone the best ❤
Affirmation #12 — I can remember AND stay in the present
I can REMEMBER and stay in the PRESENT.
As part of the prolonged exposure therapy I’ve been doing, I do imaginal exposures, which involve talking through a traumatic memory. I tend to dissociate when talking or thinking about the trauma, so it’s sometimes hard for me to continue thinking about the memory because my mind goes blank with dissociation. However, I need to engage with the memory in order for the memory to make me less scared in the future, so I can’t just block it out. I have to balance not dissociating (by grounding myself in the present moment) and remembering the memory (which brings me a little to the past).
This affirmation is to remind me that it is possible to do this. It is possible to remember without having a flashback or dissociating. I can remember non-traumatic events and still know where I am in the present. With time and hard work in treatment, I am gradually able to do the same with traumatic memories.
Affirmation #11 — Steadily pushing forward
I am confident in my ability to steadily push forward and improve by cultivating my healthy habits, reflecting, and asking for help when I need it.
Affirmation #13 — I can adapt
I can adapt.
Plans can go wrong, and I can adapt.
Things that I didn’t expect can come up, and I can adapt.
Everything changes with time, and I can adapt.
Affirmation #10 — Good AND Bad
There are good days AND bad days. Keep going, and you’ll find both.
When I’m not doing well, it sometimes seems like these bad things are all that have ever existed and all that will ever exist. But that’s not true! Good days will come again.
Conversely, sometimes when I’m doing well, I think that I’m finally at an idealized “better” place and that my life will be perfect from now on. That’s not true either. There will always be hard times, easier times, neutral times, happier times, sadder times, etc., throughout life. When I expect things to be more perfect than is realistic, it a) makes me stressed about the good times ending because I know deeper down that I won’t be able to keep up with these expectations, and b) makes me crash harder when I start to feel worse again.
Reminding myself of the duality and accepting both the good and the bad helps me to keep a more balanced perspective.
Affirmation #9 — Be reasonable, be realistic, let it be good enough
Let it be good enough
Affirmation #8 — I’m a survivor
I’m a survivor
I don’t won’t give up
I will survive
Keep on surviving
I am strong enough to handle this
Life is still worth living even when there’s pain
I am going through a rough time, and I will make it through
I will get back up again
Not giving up today
I know that I’m really really really gonna be okay
Credits/citations: The first four lines are from the song “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. Those aren’t quite the lyrics because I misheard them, but I like them. “Life is still worth living even when there’s pain” is a line from the radical acceptance part of my DBT handbook, DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, second edition, by Marsha M. Linehan. The last three lines are from different parts of the the song “Get Back Up Again” from the movie “Trolls.”