DBT Stories

We collect stories about how DBT has impacted lives in order to share hope and inspiration with those who may need it. Whether you are a DBT therapist, someone who has received DBT treatment, or are a friend or family member of a DBT client, we invite you to share your DBT story.

Disclaimer: All DBT stories are the authors' original submissions and are posted here with minimal editing. The details or statistics within individual stories have not been verified.

Shannon

Diagnosis: borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Before DBT, I was in all kinds of therapy for 12 years, including regular therapy, meditation groups, acupuncture, OCD therapy, hypnotherapy, and EMDR. All kinds helped me in some way.

"Don't give up! It took 12 years for me to find therapy that really got to the root of issues for me. Before that, therapy helped me survive, and now I'm thriving with DBT."

I survived in a state of continual anxiety and mild depression until a couple years ago, when I found myself running away from issues I didn't know how to solve by making my life incredibly busy. Any time I had a free moment, incredibly painful emotions and thoughts overwhelmed me, so I lived my life at a breakneck speed to avoid having any free time. To outsiders I appeared to be a high-achieving, hyper-responsible person (working full-time, in a master's degree, juggling 4 non-profit service roles, constantly out with friends, etc.) but in dating relationships, I felt like a monster. I really struggled to maintain stability because of my lack of inner peace. I went through the hot-cold, let's break up, let's get back together behavior with many boyfriends and caused myself and them pain. With some boyfriends, I didn’t know how to resolve conflicts and so would simply let problems grow until we broke up. Alternately, with others, I didn’t want to break up with them even when the relationship was harmful or didn’t match my values. I didn’t think I could survive as a single person.

Then came what I call "almost rock bottom." Mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted, I would wake up in the morning and drag myself through another day at work only to return home completely weak and lifeless, and just crawl in bed. My entire body and soul was screaming at me to slow down, but I was terrified of what issues I would have to face if I slowed down. Finally, I really hit "rock bottom" when a doctor measured my hormones and lots of other things and said I needed to quit my job and sleep as much as I wanted. I quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend, and moved home with relatives. The first 3 months after quitting my job, I slept 15 hours per day and cried almost continually during the hours I was awake. I really wanted to die most of the time, and felt overwhelmingly that I had "failed at life." I also paradoxically started to experience small glimpses of joy that I hadn't felt in years. Just the joy of waking up after a good nap was incredible. I hadn't slept well in years. After coming to a place of less intense crisis, I started to work part-time again. However, anything that reminded me of past painful events triggered immense suffering, rage, and terror. I knew I wanted a more stable life and looked into OCD therapy before finding DBT. An integrative medicine doctor referred my mother to [DBT], and she passed along the advice to me. I'm so grateful she did.

I feel very grateful for DBT. I used to spend hours a day beating myself up (in my thought process) about my "failed" relationships, my health problems, and my "failed" jobs and school paths and felt like it was all my fault, that I was "the worst person in the world" (to quote my brain). Any situation that reminded me of past events could trigger hours of angry crying. Interestingly, the thing I was the most afraid of were my thoughts and emotions. They seemed to rule my life in a way that hurt me. By slogging through hours of using DBT skills that didn't seem to work at first, I've learned that the hard work is paying off in miraculous ways. For example, the other day I was able to read an article about someone's spiritual journey, and instead of spiraling into guilt and anger and feeling "not good enough," I felt peaceful and actually wrote down some questions that led me to learn new things about myself and my spiritual beliefs.

Here are five things I'm grateful for from DBT: (1) I've come to have more choice and influence over what I think about and feel. (2) I love myself more and feel a sense of identity and wholeness that exists independent of external circumstances. This has brought a sense of freedom and hope much greater than before. (3) I see an emerging sense of competence in how I handle problems. I am becoming more skilled at identifying problems and emotions, and then moving onto problem-solving. My own shortcomings, people's shortcomings, difficult situations, sad events, conflict, and emotions and thoughts used to terrify me because I didn't know how to deal with them. (4) I experience more joy, more frequently, along with the regular painful events and the difficulties of life. The joy of seeing a cute dog, the joy of cooking for someone, the joy of sticking with a difficult work task, the joy of sharing what I learn with others, the joy of listening more carefully to the people I love. (5) My therapist and DBT group. It's been a privilege to see how brave and honest they are. I feel grateful to have a group where we can share such vulnerable things and get support and encouragement and see each other progress.

The most difficult concept for me has been acting opposite to love. There were a few people I loved who treated me poorly despite years of continued efforts on my part to maintain and repair the relationships, and I thought my therapist was crazy when he helped me look at the facts and it became clear that I was hanging onto harmful relationships. "But I love them!" I said. I dealt with a lot of shame, grief, and despair upon starting to avoid these people, and felt like it was morally wrong to ignore love (I erroneously believed that love always made sense and could never lead me astray). However, after several months of time and space, I have come to see those relationships with clarity, humor, and even gratitude for what they taught me--I can keep the good things I learned, let go of the pain, and move forward with a greater understanding of how I can develop new, healthier relationships in the future.

What advice or information would you like to share with others who are struggling with mental disorders and have not yet found the treatment they need?

Don't give up! It took 12 years for me to find therapy that really got to the root of issues for me. Before that, therapy helped me survive, and now I'm thriving with DBT. Maybe DBT will be the therapy that works for you, too, or another solution will come as you keep looking, reading books, seeking for new perspectives and new people and new eyes/ways of looking at things. It takes hard work and a lot of practice. It's like learning any new skill—the violin, a new language, or a new sport.

Jill Sundheim, Texas, USA

Many people take for granted waking up every morning knowing who they are, going to a steady job, and having positive relationships with family, co-workers and friends. I can now count myself as one of those people. At age 62, I consider this to be the miracle I thought was never going to happen. The book I am writing, Building a Self; My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, describes how I found my way past borderline functioning.

"The turning point for me was my encounter with the police officer who came to my apartment. He told me that his sister had committed suicide. As he spoke about this, I looked into his eyes and I could see that he was in intense pain. I realized that if I killed myself, my son, like this police officer, would be deeply hurt."

The treatment I had received for borderline personality disorder (BPD) during much of my adult life had been ineffective. I had given up on getting better. So when, late in life, I finally started to recover from serious mental illness, it felt like a miracle!

After many years of struggling with a severe case of BPD, I finally got help in 2009 at the age of 56. An occupational therapist, I had lost several professional jobs due to my instability. My marriage had ended after two and a half years. And my family had little to do with me at that point. I was excluded from weddings, birthdays, and holidays because of interpersonal conflict and being "high maintenance."

Although I had a few friends, whom I saw occasionally, I was isolated and shut off from the world. I had been in psychotherapy from the late 1970s through the early 1990s; however, I had not gotten better. In fact, I fell apart in traditional psychotherapy, regressing, losing my sense of self and going from crisis to crisis. Treatment over the years had left me feeling more hopeless.

I felt like a leper in a mental health system that didn’t know how to effectively treat people with BPD and, therefore, didn’t seem to want to help. I would enter treatment with a therapist expecting to fail. I was afraid to share my diagnosis. When do you tell your doctor you have leprosy for which there is no known cure?

I finally hit bottom in January 2008 after the loss of a close relative and my best friend. I had spent years trying to cover up my failures to friends, employers, and to my high-achieving Jewish family living on the northeast corridor.

Unable to endure the pain of these losses and multiple failures, I decided, at age 54, to kill myself. As the primary caregiver following my divorce, I lived alone in an apartment with my fourteen-year-old son. One day my son refused to attend school, afraid of coming home and finding me dead.

The following weekend, after my son left for visitation with his father, I left a message on my therapist’s answering machine, stating my intention to kill myself. She called the police.

The turning point for me was my encounter with the police officer who came to my apartment. He told me that his sister had committed suicide. As he spoke about this, I looked into his eyes and I could see that he was in intense pain. I realized that if I killed myself, my son, like this police officer, would be deeply hurt.

I ruled out suicide, even if it meant living out the rest of my life in isolation, humiliation, and misery. Without the option of suicide, I decided to try, once again, to get better.

I continued in treatment with my psychodynamic therapist. As in previous therapeutic relationships, I regressed and was in continual crisis. When my therapist indicated that she could not continue the treatment without support, I went home and curled up in bed in a fetal position, terrified.

The support we found consisted of my attending a weekly Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training group, and calling one of the group leaders for weekly skills coaching.

The work I was doing with DBT helped me repair my relationship with my individual therapist. This was critical to my recovery as it provided a blueprint for navigating all my important relationships. I learned how to use skillful thinking and behavior to impact & and eventually halt & my cycle of job and relationship failures.

I am writing Building a Self; My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder in order to share a path to this miracle with others.

Jill Sundheim, author of the upcoming book, Building a Self; My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, is currently living in the Dallas Ft. Worth area, where she works as an occupational therapist. If you’d like to contact the author with questions or comments, please send a written request to info@linehaninstitute.org.

Anonymous, Brazil

This client is a current member of a DBT skills training group.

"It may seem like a silly thing, ... but I would never have done it at another time living in a similar situation."

Last night, I exposed myself to a situation of living with certain people that I was not prepared [for] emotionally yet, because they are people who have disappointed me very recently. As I was coming at a good time, I thought that I could, but, actually, I really could not. Because these people still could not apologize and I do not know if they think they should. Anyway, I ended up quite sad and had a kind of emotional "relapse."

Today, I woke up very late and did not want to get out of bed. [This is a] common behavior of mine in situations like this, it has always been like that. Normally, I'd stay in bed for a couple of days until I come back again. I even canceled [my] first appointment. But then I remembered everything I've been learning in the group. I looked at the tree [through] my window, I breathed a little. Even without strength, I went down to lunch and decided I had to leave and go. I went back on the canceled appointment. It may seem like a silly thing, it was just tidying up my hair, but I would never have done it at another time living in a similar situation. I'm feeling better, and I'm going to the gym soon.

What I mean by this trivial experience is that even in the best of times, we will never be totally immune from "relapses," and that should not frighten us. We will always be able to make wise decisions and change, albeit minimally, at least a little bit of our pain, our suffering, and that may even change the course of our history for the better! This learning I owe a lot to the group, to all of you, and to DBT. Undoubtedly, [these] were one of the most important things that appeared this year in my life.

Emily, Washington, USA

Emily is a therapist practicing in Washington state.

I am currently teaching a DBT skills group at my clinic. I have been using the skills myself so that I can demonstrate them for the group. I have been specifically practicing mindfulness.

"I use DBT skills with not only my group but my individual clients as well. I practice it myself, too. I have noticed significant differences in my own life, along with seeing changes in my clients' lives."

I noticed that there are very few options for taking a DBT class/group in my community. In fact, there are few DBT classes available in the county. Some of the places that do offer groups require that you attend their facility for counseling as well as the group. While I understand this, most of my clients do not have private insurance and cannot afford the full costs (or even sliding scale costs) to take the course. That is why I decided to enroll in the Behavioral Tech DBT training and teach a group. I wanted to bring DBT to clients that are of lower socioeconomic status. As these are people that have severe mental health issues and typically are unable to pay for private treatment. It is my goal to assist as many clients as I can in learning these extremely helpful skills.

I use DBT skills with not only my group but my individual clients as well. I practice it myself, too. I have noticed significant differences in my own life, along with seeing changes in my clients' lives. It is great to hear that they are putting their skills to use.

I noticed that after a lot of practice I am able to utilize mindfulness even when I have high emotions. It has taken a lot of work to get there, but I have been able to reduce emotions at the moment when using mindfulness. I also tend to use the TIP skill when upset, and distraction. I have a distraction box that helps me when I am upset. I have used many of the worksheets offered in the newest skills manual by Marsha Linehan, and I typically lead with real life examples. I also ask group members to volunteer examples in their lives of when they effectively used the skills, or where they would like to use skills in the future. As a group we discuss ways different problems/situations could be solved if they used DBT skills instead of their current skills that are not effective. We do a lot of planning and even role playing.

Marja Bergen, Vancouver, BC

A Person Like Any Other

I’m 70 years old and have lived with Bipolar Type 1 disorder for 50 years. Last year my sensitive nature brought an additional diagnosis – features of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). A more accurate description of this condition is Emotional Dysregulation. It’s an illness that involves strong emotion.

Although I haven’t been able to work at a regular job, I have accomplished much. For many years I’ve given support to people with mental illness, forming peer support groups and writing articles and books from the viewpoint of someone with lived experience. I’ve done much one on one work with troubled individuals. My goals are to raise awareness and to help those who suffer know they’re not alone.

A person hurt me, who for many years been an important supporter, a trusted confidant, a person I cared about. But sometimes I form attachments that cause me to lean too heavily on supporters. I abhor this facet of me, and am trying hard to change. A person who supports me needs to set boundaries to prevent this from happening. Doing so can help us have a friendship we can both enjoy. In this case no boundaries had been set.

For years I constantly reached out to this friend, through email and in person. Every day new thoughts and ideas came to mind that I felt pressed to share and discuss. Yes, much of what happened was my own doing, unfortunate effects of my illness. I was told I was too demanding, and I can see I was.

One therapist suggested that the problem this person developed might be compassion fatigue – an inability to continue coping with me due to too many other obligations, perhaps not even aware of saying or doing hurtful things.

…Or was it a consequence of the extreme anger I displayed at being excluded from joining a group I had long needed? It was thought I would be detrimental to the health of the group. The excruciating pain this caused lasted for months. I had always thought I was a person like any other. But now?

Around this time my mental health worsened considerably. I was no longer able to contribute to the community. Who I was and who I had been was forgotten. I started being treated with disrespect.

I had been able to have good talks with my friend in the past, but talk about significant things was no longer welcomed. Though my intelligence had not changed, my ideas – at one time regarded of value – no longer received consideration. I was deeply hurt when I was refused recognition for the one undertaking I was still capable of after my illness worsened –work I thought valuable.

At times I felt I was no longer thought of as human. No regard was given as to how inconsiderate remarks might be affecting me. When I told my friend that I felt hurt by something, no apology was offered. Hurtful treatment continued.

I had lost the friend I cared about. The kindness I was gone.

As a consequence, upsetting memories came out of nowhere every day – things said to me and done to me. Each caused me to suffer emotional pain, shame, and a sense of hopelessness. My disappointment in this person who meant so much to me was intense. I contemplated suicide, seeing it as the only escape from my anguish. I often used the crisis line.

"It's painful to live with the shame of having a condition that’s stigmatized probably more than any other mental illness, even by many medical practitioners."

Questions haunted me constantly. I believed I was a good person. What did I do wrong? Why did all this happen? Why does this person, loving towards everyone, treat me so differently? What happened to this friend who once thought well of me? It was a puzzle I was unable to decipher, making it all the more painful. Today I think I’ve come to understand somewhat. Perhaps my extreme emotions had caused my friend to fear me.

The fallout from all this damaged me immensely. For many months I could not live a normal life. Memories of the trauma would not leave me alone. I believe I suffered from something I’ve seen described as PTSD of Abandonment.

When I consider what I’ve gone through, I appreciate how the many others with illnesses such as mine suffer. Our hardships are caused by the unbearable pain of strong emotion and what that does to us…as well as by what it does to the people we care about. It’s painful to live with the shame of having a condition that’s stigmatized probably more than any other mental illness, even by many medical practitioners. The damage done to our sense of self-worth and ability to lead meaningful lives is considerable. Amongst those living with BPD, 10% commit suicide.

But my story does not end unhappily. As so often happens, hardship and suffering can make us better and stronger. With the help of therapists and supportive friends, I’m learning to let go of the memories and better control my emotions. For the first few months after I was diagnosed, I used a DBT workbook, trying to apply what I learned there. More recently, I’ve worked with a DBT therapist. Distress tolerance techniques have helped me through the worst pain that I describe in my story.

Immersing myself in photography and writing helps distract me from my traumatic past. It’s something positive to focus on – mindfully creating something beautiful. Becoming part of a different community and starting a new support group is bringing me back into the present-day and all it has to offer. I’m finding too that what I’ve learned through this has equipped me with more compassion and better understanding so I can help others in ways I wasn’t able to before.


Marja Bergen is a resident of Vancouver, BC, the author of Riding the Roller Coaster (1999), A Firm Place to Stand (2008), and Reflections for our Highs and Lows (2014). She is the founder of Living Room, a Christian peer support ministry now part of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries (http://www.sanctuary-ministries.com/). On Mondays she sends out reflections on living with mental health issues in a Christian context, sharing words of comfort, encouragement, and inspiration. Her web is at http://marjabergen.com/

Disclaimer: This work is the author's original content. The web links above do not signify endorsement from The Linehan Institute. Sites of inspiration and advice should not be used in place of working with a qualified mental health therapist. If you are in crisis or need assistance, contact your local crisis line or emergency services. In the US, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Melanie, South Wales, UK

Diagnosis: borderline personality disorder (BPD); bipolar with BPD traits

My life was very erratic, suicide attempts and suicidal ideations, for many years. I was hospitalised either on a voluntary basis or, more often than not, detained under the Mental Health Act. I literally went from one crisis to another. I couldn't cope with personal life, my mind was in a constant turmoil, I ruminated about the past, and catastrophised about the future; my favourite statements were "what if" and "I can't." I found it difficult to manage to hold down a job, which was important as I have my own home and was trying to be self-reliant.

"DBT shows you to accept first, then how to change; it can give you quality of life back."

I learnt about DBT from my care co-ordinator. After another period of hospitalisation and being off work, my care co-ordinator told me about a new therapy which was being piloted in Merthyr Tydfil in the South Wales Valleys. I was put forward for DBT and saw my one-to-one therapist, who assessed my suitability for DBT and accepted me on the programme.

[Regarding the hardest part of DBT] — I found mindfulness difficult, especially the body scan / meditation, as I find it too slow for me. I also found the acceptance concepts difficult, especially being able to apply them when I was in crisis. I found it difficult just to accept my emotions to start the process of changing them.

DBT has had a dramatic impact upon my life. After the first 5 months, I finally realised that I was living again, my mind was no longer in a fog, and I could see things clearly. I no longer have suicidal ideations and I appreciate things more, I am more mindful and accepting. I radically accept things I cannot change, but change things that I can, both emotionally and literally, in my daily life.

I would advise people in my situation to speak to your health professional and try to become a participant on a DBT course. The one-to-one sessions, telephone contact, and group sessions make all the difference. DBT shows you to accept first, then how to change; it can give you quality of life back.

Sonja from Manitoba, Canada

Diagnosis: borderline personality disorder (BPD)

I am currently in month 5 of 6 of DBT. I am in Canada and I got a referral to the psych health hospital (through my GP after a brief psychiatric assessment) for short-term assessment and treatment, which utilized some DBT skills training. I was referred by that short-term program to a formal DBT class (two hours per week of training for six months, with no individual therapy appointments; it is a pilot project of the outpatient department in the psych health hospital).

"My level of emotional regulation is definitely better than ever. I am able to change harm behaviours more effectively without so much drama."

I found that the wait to access the short term assessment and treatment was not too long for me. Overall, I'm satisfied. Psych healthcare in Manitoba, Canada, was adequate for me, but I have tons of privileges.

My level of emotional regulation is definitely better than ever. I am able to change harm behaviours more effectively without so much drama. Interpersonally, I am very satisfied with how I am experiencing more stability than I've ever enjoyed. I am less ashamed of myself. I am not having urges to take drugs or drink alcohol as much as usual. I am making SMART goals and enjoying the idea of creating a life worth living, rather than being filled with the usual doubt and dread. Things do feel a bit more boring and I feel very impatient with how long it takes to get something interpersonal accomplished without throwing tantrums or manipulating others, but I'm willing to give it the time, for once in my life, because mindfulness has helped me orient towards self-respect and my true values.

Natalia from Scotland, UK

Diagnosis: borderline personality disorder (BPD)

I live in the UK, and access to DBT Standard (individual in my experience) was difficult. There are only two trained DBT therapists in the nearby city (nowhere near where I live). When I found it, I clicked with my therapist straight away.

"I want to help people to be able to see the same light as I see it now, and I want to help those who are in that same dark place I am digging myself out of."

I am currently in DBT Standard — all individual. Having [the] DBT Handouts and Worksheets book helps a lot to do my DBT Homework! I, myself, have the Manual as well. Yeah, it's for professionals, but sometimes, I look into it to learn from it. I read how a certain skill is to be taught, and I teach myself. Especially in between therapy sessions. I teach myself the Reality Acceptance Skills at the moment in between sessions and then talk about it briefly in Skills Coaching and the sessions.

... My cutting, risky, and suicidal behaviours have been reduced greatly. They happen from time to time, but I am no longer cutting every single day like I used to be. I am currently learning Reality Acceptance Skills. Willing Hands has helped me to accept that sometimes, I need to be willing to accept a certain emotion, instead of fighting it and constantly trying to get away from it. With Skills Coaching, I managed to apply the skills into my life. Sometimes, I did not feel they were effective at the time of crisis, but reflecting back, I see that they DID help me to resist urges, despite what I might try to tell myself that they did not. Crisis Survival Skills have been extremely valuable. The whole Cold Water trick is extremely effective in calming me down. Ice cubes too. [These are the TIP Skills.] All of Crisis Survival Skills have been helpful in resisting urges.

Because of my BPD, and because of DBT, I am no longer thinking my life is not worth living. I share the worksheets and handouts with my friends in an attempt to help them in crisis. I want to help people to be able to see the same light as I see it now, and I want to help those who are in that same dark place I am digging myself out of. I am determined to stay alive and determined to keep going. Determined to not let suicidal ideation or anything get in the way of me helping others.

Lindsay from Ohio, USA

Diagnosis: borderline personality disorder (BPD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression

I was in counseling for 11 years straight and needed it even longer. I tried everything and nothing worked for any length of time. Then I was hospitalized, I was tired of seeing different therapists and trying yet another medication. I had given up hope that anything would work. I [saw] myself as broken and unfixable. Then I found DBT! DBT literally saved my life.

"I know that the depression will probably come and go my whole life, but I now know that I can deal with it and have the skills to thrive."

I started comprehensive DBT a couple years ago. I was shocked the changes I was able to make. A little after one round of DBT, my therapist and I recognized how much my life had changed. We decided together to not complete the second round. I was doing fantastic for about 6 months, then some trauma struck and the depression was back. I found myself not using the skills and knew I had to go back and complete my second round. So I am back in DBT and doing much better, but this time I am sticking with it and going to implement the skills into my everyday life and not just when I desperately need them.

One of the biggest successes in my opinion is that I no longer meet the criteria for BPD. I was thinking about suicide constantly and saw it as the only real option, but now I have closed all doors to suicide and I know that is not even an option. I used to self-harm, but not anymore. DBT has taught me so many life skills that are vital to a life with living. I am now working on goals and targets that are icing on the cake. I never thought I would be at a place where this stuff would even matter. I am present in my own life, I'm a better mother and wife, I'm less judgmental, and I have feelings that are valid again. Another big thing is that I have radically accepted my depression. I have recurrent major depression. I know that the depression will probably come and go my whole life, but I now know that I can deal with it and have the skills to thrive. DBT not only saved my life, it gave me back a life that I didn't know even existed or was possible. Thank you to everyone involved with DBT.

Anonymous

Diagnosis: depression, borderline personality disorder (BPD)

I have received DBT treatment myself. I also have a teenage son receiving DBT (real DBT that is...), and my husband and I are in the multi-family skills group with him. My son has Major Depression, ADHD, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

I received treatment [August] 2013 to present ([January] 2016). My current therapist says I am no longer diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I also take meds for ADHD....for inattention due to emotional intensity. I take meds for depression and both meds are working beautifully (I'm an anti-meds person, but during the desperately upsetting times when my son and the hospitals were so unsupportive I was a mess, and so I went on meds which helped immensely, despite wonderful DBT. The combination of both meds and DBT helped so much in my case).

"When we arrived, finally, at NYU Child Study Center where they do DBT based on Dr. Linehan's model, it was like we were all talking the same language and my son's behavior improved dramatically overnight."

For myself I was lucky. The family therapist was an excellent psychopharmacologist who later I realized used tons of validation with me. Then he referred me to a real DBT therapist who was experienced (10 years). Finding DBT for my son was a nightmare. It took two years for me to find a place which was actually based on Dr. Linehan's model. All hospitals said they did DBT, but when it came down to it, months into treatment, some clinicians admitted they didn't know it (which was kind) and others were arrogant. Some clinicians were strength-based and those were the ones who had the real DBT, while the others blamed and shamed parents and invalidated in their body language, etc. And they used outside agencies as a means of control by threatening parents saying they would call CPS if our son didn't show up at treatment.

When we arrived, finally, at NYU Child Study Center where they do DBT based on Dr. Linehan's model, it was like we were all talking the same language and my son's behavior improved dramatically overnight. My son was actually acting out at the other hospitals because he was being made to choose between loved ones (parents) and strangers (clinicians) as a result of blame. He is learning DBT and when he is desperate, he uses it and is so much happier, calm.

What changes have you observed in your life or the life of your loved-one or client as a result of receiving DBT?

First off, I must say I began practicing SGI Buddhism when I was 19 years old and I'm 53 now. I use to say all the time, "Buddhism saved my life," so when I began learning about DBT, I understood why my "mindfulness practicing" helped me overcome an eating disorder and be able to do what we call in my Buddhism "Human Revolution."

But when I learned about DBT, I was having so much difficulty in my life due to an unhappy marriage and a son who was having a lot of behavioral problems. I tried to parent differently than my mom who had BPD as well, but I could not control my emotions and would scream and yell and even hit.

When I got into therapy, all that calmed down, but I was still having a lot of emotional difficulty, especially because my family environment was invalidating and I was invalidating of them and of myself. I was SO reactive and my son was doing really poorly and [was] suicidal.

"Changes I've observed [are that] I am a lot happier each day, and I've been more even-keel. I enjoy my life so much more."

The DBT taught me a ton of skills which I learned very carefully because I had so much faith in the doctor who told me about it. I really believed I would get better with treatment and I was not let down.

I figured out how each skill worked and even though my current therapist says I no longer have BPD and she sometimes says, "You're still doing that?" as if I no longer need to go. I still like going to the DBT skills group for adults (and my son has a DBT multifamily skills group we go to). I'm actually going not only because I feel DBT is something you can always deepen but also because I've decided to become a DBT therapist myself, even at my age. My mom suffered so much from BPD and I know there are a lot of people who haven't even heard of it yet.

Changes I've observed [are that] I am a lot happier each day, and I've been more even-keel. I enjoy my life so much more and I don't gossip about people like I use to at one time. I take really good care of myself, and when I feel angry, I know what to do to calm down. I actually don't interact with my son when I'm really angry. I've learned to say, "I'm too angry right now. I need to calm down." I'm much more assertive. In the past, the weirdest things would scare me, and I've learned to be assertive, not passive or aggressive.

As for my son, his acting-out stopped as soon as we got into real DBT. He likes to fight me on DBT (as teens like to do), but he gets desperate and calls his therapist and she helps him to cope with a new skill he's learning. He is a cutter unlike me (which he picked up from another patient in the hospital program where they were not doing real DBT...) and in the past we would run off [to] the C-PEP or the ER if he mentioned suicide and we'd be there 8 hours and then he would stay the night or two or four and then we'd all go home, exhausted. Now he uses his skills and we all use the skills and we talk about "building a life worth living."

Lynn

November 4, 2015

I was extremely lucky to find a partial hospitalization with DBT professionals when I was released from inpatient stay. I am lucky to live in [a city where I] found skills groups and DBT therapists. DBT was the only treatment that worked (with discovering the proper medication) when I was suicidal four years ago. I continued DBT for another almost 2 years and am currently in DBT.

The DBT skills and teachings have become a lifestyle for me. I am able to really take care of myself for the first time in 60 years. I share with others and feel so grateful with DBT. To me, DBT deserves the Nobel Prize. Over time I have become free from trauma, fear, denial of my own needs. DBT is a daily lifesaver and an ongoing learning experience.

Katelyn from Massachusetts, United States

September 29, 2015

I was hospitalized several times from the age of 18-25 and the first three years I had an OT who ran DBT groups. I benefitted from the group and her kindness throughout the difficult process. Then I was a member of a group locally for a while and now I have followed a woman through three of her groups at different locations!

When I was steadily going to DBT, I saw a big change in myself and I stayed out of the hospital for about six years. I lost 100lbs that I had put on throughout my illness. I realized that I could detach myself from harmful people. I stopped self harming, got my CNA, and have a full time job. [I] just had a relapse of symptoms after six years! [I] strayed from DBT for a year and fell apart. So I joined a weekly group again so I can get back to where I was. DBT works!

Therese from Arizona, United States

August 12, 2015

I have seen about 60 or 70 therapists/psychiatrists in my life. Most I saw only a few times, by my choice, as I didn't feel they could help. Of the few I saw for longer (up to 3 years), the relationship grew intense and was terminated by the treating professional, much to my suffering.

"I have learned to tolerate what seemed like unbearable feelings of attachment anxiety, intense grief, and longing, and [I] have discovered ways to care for myself emotionally."
A couple of years ago [it was] recommended [that I] study DBT with another treating professional, so I bought a workbook and I have been going to therapy and practicing the methods in the workbook.

I found that by persisting in going to therapy and practicing the methods in the workbook, I have been able to achieve a better emotional life. Going to therapy and practicing DBT is the one thing that has given me some relief and a sense of control over my intense mental suffering.

Over time, [by] learning mindfulness and practicing [and] doing other things that soothe me, I have learned to tolerate what seemed like unbearable feelings of attachment anxiety, intense grief, and longing, and [I] have discovered ways to care for myself emotionally.

Anonymous from Washington, United States

June 3, 2015

Sadie from Utah, United States

May 18, 2015

I was always struggling with self harm, suicidal ideation, bulimia, and didn’t ever fully receive the type of treatment I needed until I went to Utah State Hospital. Before the hospital, it was hard for me to find the right type of treatment that I really needed to help me get better. When I went to the Utah State Hospital, I attended their intensive DBT group 8 hours a week off and on for 3 years.

My doctors put me in the intensive DBT program at the hospital and gave me an individual DBT therapist named Ted. At first I didn’t care or even want to try, and kept up all my maladaptive behaviors. But as time went on, my emotions became less labile and I became a lot less impulsive. With the help of the skills training group and my therapists I can finally say I have my life back. My life worth living goal is so important to me now than it ever has [been] before. I plan on going back to school [to become] a social worker and a licensed DBT therapist. I want to help other people like me and many others.

Nina from Washington, United States

May 14, 2015

My trauma therapist recommended DBT after three years of treatment. The Olympia Center for DBT has a waitlist, but I was able to start individual [therapy] right away with the referral, and started group a month later.

Most importantly, DBT immediately gave me HOPE. The skills have been so helpful in navigating painful emotions. I have been able to improve my relationships with others and experience emotions with the knowledge that I can use distress tolerance skills if needed. I am making changes to make my life more meaningful and challenging myself to become more confident. I am not sure there are enough ways to say just how much I trust that DBT has changed, and SAVED, my life.

Jasmine from Australia

May 9, 2015

Ever since I was a child, since I could remember, I was different. I suffered intensely just living. I had no family support, thus I sought help for myself after leaving home at 17 years of age. I was put on a cocktail of medications to treat severe depressive disorder, bipolar, social anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and more. Regardless of the regular therapy appointments and medication, I was still very unwell and was essentially waiting to die. At 34, I overdosed and found myself in the psychiatric emergency ward. It was there that I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I had an answer that truly fit.

"Since graduating from DBT, I have noticed significant changes in myself, my life, my level of wellness, and my general view of life."

In the year 2011, after my third suicide attempt and innumerable breakdowns, I was finally referred for a 12 month therapy plan. This was the first time I had ever heard of borderline personality disorder or DBT. I had been in therapy for over 17 years.

Since graduating from DBT, I have noticed significant changes in myself, my life, my level of wellness, and my general view of life. I no longer spend my days planning how to end my life. I am living my dream of studying at university. I have enduring relationships that are loving and meaningful and more importantly, are free of pain. I am a BPD support group leader. I am full of hope, awareness, and true fight for whatever challenges shall come.

Anonymous from Missouri, United States

April 30, 2015

I found out about DBT in 2000 when I researched treatment options shortly after I was diagnosed with BPD. However, I wasn't able to get into standard DBT until I was civilly committed and transferred into an inpatient DBT program at Fulton State Hospital in 2008. I had two therapists try non-standard DBT (no consult team, no skills group, non-adherent coaching) with me before that, with disastrous results. I lost jobs, got kicked out of school, was in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms, and almost killed myself along the way.

"While I still experience severe urges quite often, I am more able to think things through and not act on impulse as much."

I had 18 months of inpatient DBT in 2008-2009 and then one year of adherent outpatient DBT without a skills training group (since I completed it inpatient) 2010-2011. I have recently re-entered treatment with a DBT therapist to work more on Stage 2 and 3 targets.

While I still experience severe urges quite often, I am more able to think things through and not act on impulse as much. I have lived in the same place for four years now and have held a part-time job with increasing responsibility for three years. I am now on a DBT consult team myself as a peer specialist and enjoy teaching others the skills and modeling skill use as part of my job. My family and friends have told me they enjoy being around me much more now than they did before I was in DBT, although they loved me all along. I am hopeful that I will be able to complete graduate school and work full-time in the next few years.

Amy from Auckland, New Zealand

March 31, 2015

 

I started DBT in 2009. I started the skills group twice and left because it was too frustrating for me. I couldn't let go of the notion that it was up to me to fix my life when I had nothing to do with screwing it up (my childhood I mean). I then went back to the group another two times and both times completed it with success. At the same time, I was seeing a DBT therapist one on one, sometimes weekly, sometimes twice a week.

It was pretty tough at first. I struggled to find a therapist who knew what BPD was, let alone how to treat it. I was 19 at my initial diagnosis; it took until I was 27 to find a DBT program. I live in New Zealand, [and] funding for severe mental illness is just not there because it's not recognized.

In 2010 it was like I had woken up out of a coma. I was alive. I was using my DBT skills and had a new understanding of my life.

I went from being a self-harming, suicidal drug addict to [being] happily married. When I was 25, I made the decision to end my life on my 30th birthday. I was going to put an end to my suffering, and it would work this time. Little did I know that by the time that birthday rolled around, I would have met the love of my life and have the skills to maintain a healthy relationship.

"I went from being a self-harming, suicidal drug addict to [being] happily married."

I have found a new way to respond to life through empathy. Until I went through DBT I didn't understand what empathy was. Through therapy, I came to learn that I had never been shown it as a child. Compassion also is in mind every single moment of the day - another thing I wasn't shown growing up. I feel like I have been given a gift that most people will never get.

I am living now, not just existing. I'm no longer waiting to die. DBT helped me make the choice to stay alive no matter what happens.


Kris from Seattle, WA, United States

March 6, 2015

Kris received DBT treatment less than a year ago and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and depression. "After calling many places for help, a nurse at Harborview seeing me for a broken hand finally listened." Kris observed the following changes as a result of receiving DBT: "I can better handle stresses. [I'm] living in the moment more. [I'm] better at crisis management."