Today I decided to participate in Yoga Camp. It was both spurr of the moment and not, a very dear friend pointed me towards it. We both have fucked-up backs and those fucked-up backs are helped by yoga. Only I’d lapsed, back to the position I was at the start of the year – if not worse – where walking or standing for small periods of time very quickly leaves me in agony. Now I have the space and floors of my flat to myself I was aiming at pushing myself to get back into it.
And this is an excuse.
The first email and accompanying video informed me there would be mantras. And the first mantra was about acceptance.
And then I wanted to blog. Because acceptance is important.
When I started doing Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, they gave us a black-and-white photocopy of a house. The basement was hell, there were two more floors, and an attic where we could be considered happy.
The point of the exercise was to mark where we were on the house. Some of diligently placed ourselves in hell. Others creatively placed themselves outside the house, wandering through the garden, expressing their reluctance to even be in the room at that particular moment.
This, they said, was so we could work on accepting where we were at that moment of time. Accept what a bad, horrible and scary place we were in – you had to be to get into that program, there was only one program with ten places and a two-year waiting list, for most of us this was a last-ditch attempt at saving our lives – so we could work on getting out of that place.
I was one of the people who marked myself down as in hell. Trapped in the basement. I had behaviours that were life threatening, treatment threatening, quality of life threatening.
But the thing about accepting how bad things are is suddenly you notice it. Most of us took a nosedive before we climbed. Some of us didn’t climb.
The way I prefer to think of Borderline Personality Disorder is that it’s a structural abnormality in my brain. Because, well, it is. Studies have found smaller and over-active amygdalas, smaller hippocampuses, less active prefrontal cortexes, stuff they think explains why we’re hyper-emotional people with a focus on the bad and a difficulty reigning in how we behave.
But it also means the odds are stacked against me. Being ill was never my fault. This isn’t something I can wish or want or cut away.
The biggest thing about being diagnosed was that the focus changed. There were no cures. Recovery became a far-flung goal with a full-out slog to get there, not something that could be achieved in eighteen easy sessions. And the word recovery began to mean “management” not “take your bloody meds and get back to work”.
I mourned for a while. I mourned for a life I never got to live. A life where I did as many of my peers did – go to University, get a degree, work, marry, have children. Every now and then I stop and I grieve. I don’t think it’s wrong to mourn. Mourning is still acceptance. It’s accepting those things that are gone and giving yourself some time to be sad about it.
I started to use the sentence, “I’m disabled”. Some people told me off for this. They said, you’re saying you can’t do things, but you can do things. That’s right, I can do things. But things are harder, getting up in the morning and getting dressed is sometimes bloody hard, let alone the rest of the day. It gets easier when I have support – when I’m enabled. Disability and enabling go together, they balance each other. When something is hard, someone coming along and helping you makes all the difference.
In my mind, “I’m disabled” means “I can do the thing, I just need support”. To say “I’m disabled” is again acceptance – and this acceptance can allow me to wave my hands around and ask for support when I need it.
If, today, I was asked to put myself in the House of DBT again, I would put myself on the first floor – stage III. Maybe I hover around the stairs, but I’ve climbed out of hell. I’ve learned how to decrease my suffering, sometimes I need to go back and rework the skills into my life, take a moment to realise I’m not looking after myself properly, but who doesn’t lapse sometimes? Now I’m able to work on my personal goals. I enjoy life and it’s an ordinary enjoyment.