I had a nice break from DBT over the holidays – 3 whole weeks off. We started back up again with Core Mindfulness. I’m finally getting it, instead of just being annoyed by it; of course, we also had 3 new people. One seemed like a nice kid, another a rather sullen woman with really bad hair, and the third a peppy perfect mommy sort. As usual, it reset the comfort level in the room, but that’s to be expected.
Then came an unwelcome opportunity to practice distress tolerance and emotion regulation in the moment. I shared about coming out with my diagnoses to my supervisors, and a few others made mention of having to tell people in authority positions as well. It’s hard to do, all around.
Peppy Mommy spoke up about how she’d figured out a perfect way to easily describe BPD to others. Let me quote – because I actually wrote this down verbatim, I was so furious:
Borderline Personality Disorder is like bipolar on crack. People with bipolar, they have their ups and they have their downs, but I’m like up-down-up-down-up-down.
My reaction was immediate: face burning, heart racing, jaw clenched, hands in fists. I pushed my chair back even further from the table so I couldn’t see Peppy Mommy, clearly sitting outside the circle. I quickly started deep breathing to keep myself from verbally attacking her. I dry-swallowed an Ativan, thought about just leaving the room (more than once, with consideration of door-slamming as well), decided I could do better, and tried to just breathe instead. If I’d left the room, I would’ve punched a hole in the wall down the hall, and we can’t be having that.
Although we were talking about being non-judgmental that evening, I couldn’t help judging the hell out of that woman. My automatic thought was, “she’s so fucking ignorant!”
Within moments, however, I shifted to, “perhaps she’s new to her diagnosis and doesn’t know much about BPD, much less bipolar. She’s obviously never heard of rapid cycling, and probably doesn’t know anyone who’s bipolar, nor the differences between mood disorders and personality disorders.” Ignorant? Yes. But I shouldn’t be judgmental because I don’t know the facts.
I felt better about being less judgmental, but it didn’t make me any less angry. The group leader caught on – we actually discussed it in front of everyone in a way that completely was over their heads, because the group members all assume that because Linehan designed DBT for borderlines, everyone in the group has BPD.
If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge others. If you want to learn to be nonjudgmental, start by examining your assumptions. And by all that’s good in this world, people, please take the advice of the immortal Kurt Vonnegut:
There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.