Today I made my way back to where I was hospitalised over a month ago, the Psychiatry Department of the general hospital. They don’t exactly make it easy to find. Must be something to do with hiding away the crazy people and all… Yes, I was an inpatient there, but going in I was wheeled from the Emergency Department to the psych ward in the middle of the night, and the darkness combined with my fear didn’t make for a good sense of where I was. Walking out of the psych ward upon discharge, I wasn’t exactly looking to find out how to make my way back in again.
I had an appointment scheduled with one of the social workers from the counselling service for those who present to the ED with self harm and/or thoughts of suicide. I had spoken to R on the phone once, but had yet to meet him in person. My anxiety levels were raised when I learnt he was a man who looked to be in his 50s…he turned out to be a nice enough chap, but even so, I don’t really feel as though middle aged men can relate well to nineteen year old females like me.
We established that I was still seeing Dr T and had been referred to a DBT program, as had been discussed during our telephone conversation. Told him I was starting OT at Uni this year, which he said they had mentioned. By ‘they,’ I assume he was referring to the doctors I spoke with whilst an inpatient. He also enquired as to how things were at home, as he was aware things aren’t great with my father. Bearing in mind I had never met him before and only had a five minute phone conversation prior to the appointment, I was a little disconcerted that he knew all this about me already. I assume it’s through my notes being passed around, which makes me rather uncomfortable.
He informed me that the reason I was here today meeting with him is so that they could help me stop self harming. Right. As long as I’m not engaging in cutting behaviours, it means I’m cured.
He thought it a good idea for me to be introduced to some DBT skills as I am being referred for the very program, and so he handed me a sheet entitled ‘Distress Tolerance Handout 1’, an excerpt from the book Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha Linehan.
We went through the handout, the three sections being DISTRACT with “Wise Mind ACCEPTS“, SELF SOOTHE the FIVE SENSES and IMPROVE THE MOMENT. Unfortunately it was not even halfway down the first page that I decided it was a patronising pile of crap. It was this suggestion for distracting oneself that did it,
[…] Compare yourself to those less fortunate than you. Watch soap operas; read about disasters, others’ suffering.
R suggested thinking of those Australians recently hit by the natural disasters and being grateful not to be amongst those affected. I do feel awful for them, but really. Being mindful of the fact that there are others less fortunate than I is not going to divert from my own crisis and thoughts of self harm and suicide.
Similar cheery suggestions for distress tolerance are given throughout the handout. My favourite include; ‘call 800 or other information numbers to hear a human voice’, ‘half smile; change facial expression’, ‘go sit in the lobby of a beautiful old hotel’ and… ‘sex’.
The DBT program I am being referred to runs for a year. A. Whole. Year. If I am eventually accepted into it, how am I going to tolerate going through this useless drivel for an entire year? Maybe it is a blessing that the DBT Co-ordinator hasn’t contacted me after all…
I know I should keep an open mind and not display such terrible attitude. But… I guess I’m just way too cynical for my own good…
In any case, I don’t think I’m willing, nor do I even want to let go of self harming just yet. Which suggests if I embark on the DBT program it would be rather pointless.
At the close of the appointment, R told me he’d give me a call next week to see how I get on with these Distress Tolerance techniques and whether another appointment should be made or not. I’m thinking not.