Affirmations, Coping Skills

Affirmation #27 — DBT Magic

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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. 

Life

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.

Coping Skills

Examples of DEARMANs: Asking for what you need

When I was learning the dearman skill (a DBT skill) for the first time, I looked online for examples and found approximately… one. So, now that I know the skill fairly well, I am putting some more examples out there into the searchable world. 🙂 I find it easiest to understand how to do something when I’ve seen it done several times, so I’m sharing some examples of real dearmans I’ve used in my life!


Here is a quick summary of the skill if you don’t know it (feel free to skip). DEARMAN is an interpersonal effectiveness skill from DBT. It’s useful when you want to ask for something or say no to something (set a boundary). Each letter stands for something. The “DEAR” part is what to say, and the “MAN” part is how to say it.

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D – Describe (the facts; set the stage with something they can’t argue with)

E – Express (your emotions, feelings, opinion, or wants)

A – Assert (ask clearly and specifically for what you want)

R – Reinforce (say how this will benefit the other person)

M – Mindfully (be aware of how the other person might feel and react; be aware of your own emotions; stay focused on your goals)

A – Appear confident (be sure of yourself so that they’ll take you seriously)

N – Negotiate (be prepared to compromise if necessary)


And here are some examples of real dearmans that I have used in my life! (or that people I know have used) I’m going to highlight the parts that correspond to the different parts of the dearman — D – “Describe” is in orangeE – “Express” is in greenA – “Assert” is in blue, and R – “Reinforce” is in purple. (I think the colors don’t appear in wordpress reader; try going to the website)


Situation: I saw a nurse practitioner at my student health service. She gave me a referral to a rheumatologist for joint pain and wrote on the referral that I had a history of depression and disordered eating. I didn’t want those words to be included on the referral, so this is an email to her.

DEARMAN: “…Also, on the referral you gave me, it said that I have a history of depression and disordered eating. I don’t think that this information is relevant to my care as someone seeking help for my joints. (I also think that the disordered eating part is inaccurate.) I also think that writing those things on the referral would probably bias whoever read it, and it’s important to me to have an unbiased opinion from a new doctor. Could you please remove “with pmhx depression, disordered eating” from the comments section of the referral? I’d really appreciate it, and I think it would help me get more thorough care.

Result: “Good Afternoon <my name>, I have updated your referral on your portal with the updated provider and no previous medical history. Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns. Best, <her name>”

Comments: I was really trying to make this a good dearman because the outcome was really important to me, so I stuck to the order of dearman. I like that I included the “express” part by saying “it’s important to me.”


Situation: One of my classes is a lab that meets on either Mondays or Wednesdays. I received this email saying, “You will be randomly assigned to one of the 12 groups. A group are either in the lab on Mondays or Wednesdays. If you are prevented to work on either weekday, please let me know by replying to this email by Friday. Note, requests without justification will be disregarded.”

DEARMAN: “I don’t have a strict conflict with one of the days, but I would greatly prefer to be in one of the lab groups on Wednesdays instead of Mondays. If I had lab on Mondays, I would not have a chance to eat a meal from 11:40 until 6:15 due to classes and other commitments on Mondays. I have health issues that are very affected by how often I eat, so having a chance to eat more frequently by not having lab on Mondays would help me a lot (and likely make me healthier and better able to learn!).”

Result: He approved my request. 🙂 

Comments: The “express” part wasn’t very expressive, but I think that’s okay and appropriate for a professional-ish email. I was proud of how I snuck the “reinforce” in there. 😉 If people care about your wellbeing, then they will generally support things that will improve your wellbeing if they can see how the two are connected. That’s why it’s “reinforce” even though it’s more directly benefiting me instead of him. But as a teacher, he probably wants his students to learn!


Situation: This was an email to my professor asking for some items back.

DEARMAN: “Hi Professor <name>! I hope you had a good break! It was nice to see you at the <school event>! I was wondering if I could get my lab notebook from last semester back at some point? It has a lot of blank pages, and I’d like to use itAlso, do you have my equation sheet from the final exam? I was hoping I could get that back at some point, too. I took the exam with <my school’s disability services>, so they might have it, but I don’t know where it ended upThank you! <my name>”

Result: “Hi <my name>, Stop on by and I can find your lab notebook.  I’m around today for a couple more hours, otherwise I should be around at 12pm tomorrow.  I don’t have your formula sheet unfortunately, they didn’t include it in the packet that <my school’s disability services> sent to me.  Best, <my professor’s name>”

Comments: Since this was a simple request that I thought he was likely to agree to, I didn’t try using reinforcement or stronger language for expression. That might have been overkill and come off and too strong. Also, I tried to keep a lighthearted attitude and use the “GIVE” skill (another interpersonal effectiveness skill) because I like this professor and want to maintain a good relationship with him.


Situation: Someone that I used to be good friends with in high school stopped texting me suddenly on the day we were supposed to hang out. I sent her a couple of texts over the course of two months, thinking maybe she was just busy or had something going on, which she has not replied to to this day. This was a text I sent her over winter break.

DEARMAN: “Hey <her name>! Are you doing alright? I haven’t heard from you in a while, and I’m not sure if you’re kinda ghosting me or if there’s something else going on! But anyway I’m going back to school in about a week, so if you want to hang out before then, let me know! I’d love to see you. 🙂 ”

Result: She continued to not reply 😦

Comments: I wasn’t trying to make this a full dearman, but I did want to be skillful when I texted her, so I turned to DBT for help! That made me think to include the describe parts (in orange). I didn’t really express my negative emotions here (I was feeling pretty hurt, sad, and angry for a while), and I’m not sure if that was the right choice. Maybe if she saw how I was hurting, she would have wanted to respond? But I don’t know, and at this point I can’t change that. Also, it’s important to remember that it’s possible for someone to be skillful and still not get the result they want! That happens sometimes and is kinda out of my control. 😦


Situation: I had a crush on a guy, but I wasn’t sure if he liked me back. My friends said it looked like he liked me and was flirting with me, but I wasn’t sure. I texted him this.

DEARMAN: “Also can I ask you something? I know we’ve been spending a good amount of time together, and we’re good friends… I am sometimes bad at interpreting social things and I also just want things to be clear… so, I think I kind of “like” like you…like in a romantic way… 😬☺️🙈 and I’m wondering if you feel the same way about me? ? If you don’t then that’s fine because I like you as a friend too, but I want to know either way… thanks… :/ “

Result: He replied very sweetly and told me all the things he liked about me but that he wasn’t sure about romantically. I took that as a “no,” and we continued being friends. (We’re more distant now, but that’s for other reasons.) My goal was to get an answer, and I did.

Comments: I wasn’t really thinking of this as a dearman exactly, but starting off with the facts was helpful.


Situation: Last February, I was really struggling, and my physical health collapsed (or at least that’s my impression) under the weight of all my distress. I went to health services at my school when things were particularly bad. I went as a walk-in, so I didn’t have an appointment, and I waited over two hours to be seen. Finally, someone took my vitals and then asked me to go home and come back the next day (!) because they were closing soon. I felt angry and protested a bit, so the nurse went to get the doctor to talk to me about coming back the next day, and while she was gone, I frantically wrote the following dearman in the notes app on my phone.

DEARMAN: Describe – I’m already here and I’ve been here since 4:30. Express – Everything hurts, and I wasn’t able to go to my classes today, and I don’t feel like I’m getting better. Assert – I would like to be seen now and to get a note saying that I am sick and was here today because I couldn’t go to classes today and ended up missing quizzes. Reinforce – This way, it’s more convenient because I’m already here. 

Result: I said roughly what I had written down (not while looking at my phone though; I thought that would be weird). I had to explain my thoughts and symptoms more thoroughly and be insistent, but I did eventually get an appointment that day.

Comments: It was a helpful format to organize my thoughts in.


Situation: I was running an unofficial DBT skills group for my family at the kitchen table. We agreed that we would spend 30 minutes on it. We ended up talking for much longer, I don’t remember how long. My sister, who was young and not participating in our group, said the following.

DEARMAN: It’s 10:00 [pm], you said it would only be 30 minutes, I’m tired, and I want to go to sleep!

Result: We all realized that we had broken our agreement, stopped soon after, and went upstairs so my sister could get ready for bed and go to sleep.

Comments: I remember this clearly because I was trying to teach my family the dearman skill that night, and then, without having been taught the skill, my sister used it very effectively! She’s somehow naturally good at this sort of thing. The dearman is very simple but clear and effective for the situation!


Situation: I had to do something important at a specific time that happened to be during class. I sent this email to my professor the day before.

DEARMAN: Dear Professor <name>, My housing selection time is at 1:50 pm tomorrow, during class. It’s when the other person in my housing group and I choose our rooms for next year, and ideally I’d like to choose it as close to that time as possible so that we can get rooms that we want. Would it be okay if I leave class for a few minutes tomorrow to do that? Thanks, <my name>

Result: Hi <my name>, No problem, of course you can go and take care of this. Thanks for checking, sorry for the delayed reply. Best, <name>

Comments: Using a dearman can make you sound mature and polite! 🙂 (and using a dearman is a mature and polite thing to do!)


Situation: I emailed the director of a camp where I had been a CIT (counselor in training) asking about a job.

DEARMAN: Hi <name>! This is <my camp name> (<my real name>)! I hope you’ve been well! It’s been a couple years! I saw the <position> on the <website>, and I’m wondering if you are still looking for someone for that? If so, please let me know, and I will apply! I really enjoyed CITing. 🙂 Best, <my name>

Result: Hi <my camp name>, Good to hear from you. Hope all has been going well. I am still looking for staff for <position>! I would love for you to apply. See attachments and note below about the process.

Comments: Using dearmans really helped me when applying to jobs and reaching out to people.


Situation: An email I sent to my professor.

DEARMAN: “Hi Professor <name>, After class on Wednesday, you hadn’t received my <name of class> midterm yet, and I’m just wondering if you’ve gotten it now and graded it yet? <My school’s disability services> says it was delivered to your mailbox. I’m worried about how I’m doing in this class and would like to have a sense of how I did on the midterm. Thanks, <my name>”

Result: “Hi, I received your midterm yesterday. I will grade it during the weekend and give it back to you on Monday. Best <his name>”

Comments: I included the part about how I was worried because I was trying to make it more of a dearman.


Situation: I was depressed, dissociated, and not doing well, and hadn’t been able to do my homework, so I asked my professor for an extension.

DEARMAN: “Dear Professor <name>, I have not been feeling well recently and therefore, despite spending time this weekend and over the last few days working on it, I haven’t finished homework 4. Would it be possible, in light of this, for me to have a one day extension on the homework? Thank you for your consideration and support. Best, <my name>

Result: “Hi, sure, you can get an extension. Best <name>”

Comments: My friend helped me write this email. 🙂 I generally say “not feeling well” or something like that when I haven’t been doing well due to mental health issues. It was true that I hadn’t been feeling well, and he didn’t need to know the specifics.


Situation: This is a dearman that I wrote out on paper and planned to say to my mom during family therapy. The issue was something that had been a problem in our relationship for a while.

DEARMAN: You sometimes ask me lots of specific questions. For example, when I told you I was tracking nightmares on my diary card, you wanted to know exactly how often they were happening. I understand that you want to know what’s going on because you care about me, AND I feel overwhelmed when you ask so much. I feel scared that you will go into urgent problem-solving mode and go over the top to fix everything immediately. I also feel scared that you will tell other people what I have told you, and ashamed and exposed when you do tell them. I also feel scared that you will use whatever I tell you against me in the future. I don’t want to tell you much because I feel like if I give you an inch, you’ll take a mile. I would like it if you would ask less specific questions and just ask one at a time. The specifics don’t matter, and they’re pretty fuzzy, so it’s hard to pin down. I would also like it if you didn’t tell other people tings I’ve asked you not to say or personal things. This will make me feel more comfortable telling you things, so I will probably talk to you more. 

Result: It went well. She became aware of her problem-solving tendencies and tried to correct them. I pointed them it to her when she was doing it until she got the hang of it. A year and a half later, she still catches herself sometimes.

Comments: My therapist suggested I use a “DVEARMAN” instead of a “DEARMAN” — with a “V” for “Validate” after the describe.


In conclusion,

I hope something here helps someone.

I think one of the key things (for me at least) is to include the describe, express, and assert parts. The order can be changed around depending on the situation and the seriousness, and reinforcement can be added if necessary, but the most important parts are describe, express, assert.


Other posts on DBT:

And other coping skills:

Coping Skills, Life, Uncategorized

Judgments and shame about applying to jobs

I’ve been struggling lately with a lot of judgments about myself. It seems that whatever I do, there’s a voice in the back of my head telling me what’s wrong with it.

I have a lot of judgments about where I think I “should” be in life, about things I think I “should” have done already, about the school I go to, about my mental health and its effects on my life… so many.

I feel afraid to put myself out in the world for fear of people gossiping about me, thinking negative things about me, and then ostracizing me.

I’m trying to apply to internships and jobs for the summer. I feel ashamed that I haven’t had a job before. When I think about applying to certain jobs, I immediately discount them because I immediately think of the negative things my family could say. I go to a “good” college, and people seem to expect more from me as a result. If I got a “typical” summer job, I can imagine that my mom would not approve. I can imagine her stare down at me and her sigh of disappointment, and then the twenty minute speech. I think she would either tell me to “just relax,” or to get a better internship and then give me a list of names or websites and tell me to email people… (“just relaxing” and staying cooped up in the house all day has made me really depressed in the past; emailing even one person is really intimidating for me and takes a lot of work; plus, I’ve already emailed people)

My purpose in getting a job this summer is to 1) make money and to 2) get out of the house.

Making money helps my long-term goals by making me less financially dependent on my parents, as I am now. I could also start saving for life expenses after college or maybe for grad school, if I decide I want to try to go there at some point. (Right now, my parents are paying for college, which I definitely appreciate, but I would likely be paying for grad school on my own.) I could also have “spare cash” to spend on eating out with friends and birthday gifts, and I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty every time I used my parents’ money.

Getting out of the house would help me get away from my family, be productive, have something to occupy my mind with, and possibly help me to socialize with people beyond my family. I suppose a theme in this is that I want to be more independent from my family!

So, I have good reasons for wanting a job (or internship). I’m sure that this is what I want. It’s valid to want a job.

I’m still in school, so of course I don’t have lots of experience. I’m still qualified in other ways. I’ve done things in the past. I’ve had a lot of schooling! I’m an okay person. I have some good qualities.

Some of my shame around not having experience comes from the fact that I spent most of last summer doing a partial hospital program for my mental health while my friends had jobs or internships, or both. But I can’t tell that to an employer, even though I was working hard and being quite productive, even though I wasn’t just hanging out at home as I normally tell people.

Sighhh

I think I just have to do my best with what I have now, knowing that the work I did last summer on my mental health was very valuable, even if I can’t tell everyone that.

Another thing I feel shame about is general formal interactions with people. I don’t know the proper etiquette. No one’s ever taught me! So I feel shame when I think I may have done something wrong, or when I’m not sure how to act, when to send an email, what to write, etc.

Shame signals that you have broken a group’s value and could be excluded, so when I’m applying for jobs and I could be rejected, yes, shame is justified! Shame is justified, but the intensity that I feel it is probably not effective. It’s probably more effective to send an imperfectly worded email than it is to send no email at all. The intense shame would prevent me from sending any email, but a little shame could make the email better.

Agh, it’s hard! And getting rejected is hard, too! I will keep trying… maybe not forever, because this is exhausting, but for a little more…

So, skills that will help:

  • checking the facts and doing what’s effective
  • self validation
  • FAST (especially Stick to your values)
  • fake it ’til you make it / opposite action
  • being nonjudgmental towards myself, noticing judgments and saying “a thought is just a thought,” not necessarily believing judgments

I was writing (most of) this at the time that I was struggling with this issue, in more of the way I write things in my journal than how I write them on this blog. So, if this seems a little unclear, like it’s jumping from one idea to another, or like some loose ends weren’t tied up, that’s why. I did try to go back and clarify things so that it can make some sense to people-who-aren’t-me.

And, a couple of weeks after I started writing this post, I am very happy to say that I did finally get a job!!! 🙂 It is not an internship, and it’s not full-time, but it will get me out of the house and earn me money, and I think it’ll be fun, too! I’m looking forward to it. 🙂 And if I find some unpaid, part-time internship, I could potentially do both things and still accomplish my goals of earning money and getting out of the house. Wooh! It actually worked out! 🙂

Coping Skills, Life

What to do when things aren’t working

I’ve heard other people on blogs and in person express the sentiment that they’re trying everything they know how to do, and it’s not working. What do you do when nothing seems to work?

I’ve been struggling with feeling like nothing’s working recently and then feeling even more hopeless as a result. I’ve been having a tough time since my uncle and and grandmother passed away. I’m grieving and being reminded of past trauma and the recent trauma of their deaths in intrusive and unpleasant ways, all the while being apart from my family (away at college) and trying to literally survive and not fail my classes.

So what do you do??? I wish I had more answers than what I have, but I’ll share what’s getting me through so far, and if anyone has any other ideas, please let me know.

Validate yourself. If you’re trying everything you know and using all the skills you have, you’re probably trying really hard and dealing with some pretty hard stuff! Give yourself some credit and acknowledge that you are struggling.

Think about what you mean when you say “things aren’t working.” Sometimes the skills I use do work; they just don’t solve all my problems. For example, the goal of distress tolerance skills in DBT is to get you through the moment without worsening the situation. They’re not supposed to make you feel happy or to get rid of whatever was causing the strong emotion. If I hold ice up to my face (the TIPP skill) in place of acting on crisis urges, then the skill worked. Even if I am still really upset and the crisis urges come back soon, the skill got me through that moment. I expect that skills will help more than they are able to. Having more realistic expectations here would help, I think.

Make sure you’re doing the things that have helped in the past. Personally, I know that I have to eat enough and sleep enough and get exercise and see my friends and have time to myself regularly in order to maximize my okay-ness. Sometimes I get frustrated thinking, “But I slept so much! I ate three meals! I did so much good work and tried so hard! Whyyy am I not feeling better?” and maybe it’s because I’m avoiding my friends and haven’t had a real conversation with anyone in a week. Not doing one essential thing, even when you’re doing all the others, could be the missing piece.

Ask for and accept help from other people. You don’t have to do everything alone! Friends, family, strangers, online friends, old friends, therapists, doctors, etc. can all help! For example, my mom visited me at college this past weekend. She has offered to do this in the past, but this was the first time that I accepted her offer. She was willing to help, and I knew it probably would make me feel better and was desperate. Her visit ended up going great, and I felt much better afterwards deep down.

Still on the topic of asking for help, I sometimes know that I need help but don’t know what I need. When people ask, “What can I do?” or “How can I help?” I don’t know how to answer. I’m still working on learning what I need, but here are some things that I have asked for: a hug (many times), for my friend to let me vent, for my therapist to reply to my email, for an extension on an assignment, for someone to eat a meal with me, for a friend to send me something in the mail, to schedule an appointment with a doctor, to set up a time to facetime a friend. These are things I can ask for! People can always choose to say no, but asking doesn’t hurt and often helps a lot!

Maybe consider bigger changes in your life. I know that if I keep on feeling this badly, taking a semester or a year off of school is an option. Dropping some classes is an option. Going to an inpatient, residential, or day treatment center is an option. Changing my therapist is an option. Transferring schools or switching my major are options. There are lots of options!

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Radically accept that 1) you are having a tough time right now, and that 2) there are things you can’t change and have no control over. This can allow you to see a situation more realistically and therefore make better decisions about the things you can control. I can’t change the fact that my uncle and grandmother died, but I can celebrate their lives, think of fond memories, and strive to embody the qualities I admired in them.

Have patience. I know that this can be really hard to do. But giving things time and just pushing forward can work. Hold on. Time may not heal everything, but it can help with a lot. I have a saying that I like: “There are good days and bad days. Keep going, and you’ll find both.”