The Moon is Always Human: DBT, Dreams and Demons

--Vincent Van Gogh, "The Sower"

–Vincent Van Gogh, “The Sower”

Today is May 29, 2013,  two and a half years into a life-changing course of treatment called  “Dialectical Behavioral Therapy,” a program  designed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, herself a survivor of the mental healthcare system, a system still operating under the insidious influence of a puritanical and damning western society.

And for folks who fit into the category of having been born with such an intense kind of wiring, it’s oftentimes a lonely road. “If you are overtly emotional and suicidal, then you must not be praying hard enough or trying hard enough to change” they tell us as if that kind of judgement would make a body feel any less alienated and strange.

The Way Out, or Suicidal Ideation: George Grie...

The Way Out, or Suicidal Ideation: George Grie, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For me, it’s been a chorus for years inside the walls of my brain.  Over and over to the point where that tired old tune becomes the default of all thinking, the root that strangles and rambles through every nerve and neuron. The soundtrack of my life until the day I was moved to the top of a waiting list to receive this new therapy, one born of Dr. Linehan’s own struggle and study of traditional academics and Eastern spirituality.  I know I owe my life to this treatment.  I also owe it to the doctors and team of specialists it has taken to help me move towards wellness.

It is for them I am writing this, but also for the countless numbers of other borderlines, who must not only deal with symptoms of their illness, but also each the stigma of being categorized as someone whose personality is disordered, someone  incapable of having a stable relationship, gainful employment and the list goes on and on ad nauseam, dismissed and discarded mostly by a world that would rather categorize us as manipulative as lead us to relief from the awfulness of states created by brain chemistry.

Your cries for help go unanswered.  Your desperate and imperfect attempts at connection falling into a grand canyon to echo as reminders of your utter unlovableness.  You are told to pull yourself up by your broken bootstraps and buck up.  To grow a thicker skin and endure it like the rest of us.

Don’t call if you in the hospital. Don’t tell us if you are buying the supplies to do yourself in. We cannot bear the burden of your suffering.

We have had our fill of this illness. And we are just letting go of you and letting God.

But that was then. Now, with the right kind of help, there lies hope and healing.  Help that includes validation and radical acceptance, non-judgement, inclusion, caring, compassion and kindness.

Imagine it.  The universal message of every single spiritual path in existence, the core beliefs sans the politics and hatred, beliefs that unite and empower us as individuals but also as members of the human community.

So now instead of letting my illness rule my life, I am letting the love do the work. I am letting myself share that love.  And surprisingly, the suicide attempts and the romanticism of those attempts are over.  The stashing of pills and sharp objects, the dream of death and the sweet relief I always believed it would bring.  In a life of mostly nightmares, I am beginning to dream something different.  I am learning to save my life by embracing the moment and being present for whatever is born of that moment.

Last night I dreamed I was looking at this enormous glowing harvest moon taking up half the sky and upon closer observation, I could see that it wasn’t really the moon, just a projection of a map of the solar system, one that I had fed to the imagined  overhead projector in my upstairs bedroom, the bedroom I had at eight, three years into the realization that I was so different I wanted to die.  The bedroom where the nightmares began.  The ones where I watched as the demons crawled up the blinds in flames, their pitchforks and sickles aimed in my general direction, the fake angels hovering about my bed and shaking their forked fingers at me in my sleep.

But last night, I made a new memory of what dreams can do.

The moon in the sky had my first name on it, but only because I had inked that name on the map of the universe.   Without the conscious recognition it takes to find the words to describe such an experience, I had already landed, taken my first small steps towards infinity and planted my tattered flag .

High voltage from a Van de Graaff generator pr...

High voltage from a Van de Graaff generator produces a field that is made visible with an overhead projector (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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10 responses

  1. Lovely, lovely post Tess…. I so wish Austin had been able to get the treatment you are getting, and to read this blog… to see that he was not alone… I think talking about this as you are, will help more people than you know…. Thank you for sharing your thoughts… Much love, Joyce

    • You know, we are all in this together, dearest Joyce. And Austin is here. He’s teling us to move forward and share these stories. Love you. xo PS I have already edited this a few times since I posted it on Facebook. 🙂

  2. You made me have tears in my eyes seeing you in such a better place. And I really like that you are diving deep into writing. Did you see that Dianna is too? And I have been blogging pretty regularly too. Something in the water?

    • I know that I cried when I read your memoirs too. I read Dianna’s blog pretty regularly but maybe I’ve missed some? I will take a look there! Thanks for checking this out. xo

  3. In 6 weeks I will be starting an intensive 4 day/week DBT, CBT, Relaxation etc. course at the hospital. It goes for 6 weeks. I hope it helps me, and I’m Di glad DBT helped you. All my best, Dee.

    • I am so happy to hear that, Desdemona. This is the one thing that works. For me it’s taken time but the changes are permanent. Once you master a coping skill, you’ve got it down. There will be slips along the way, but your life will change. One day you’ll just finally wake up and say “I don’t have to feel this way anymore. I can just be calm and happy.” And you’ll think back to a time when you thought it could never happen! xo

  4. Happy to provide it. It’s so good to feel like there are other people out there grappling with this. Stigma sucks and it’s effing lonely in there. xo

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