Session 15, lesson 3 of unit 2 Emotional Resilience DBT. Checking the FACTS - revisited and revised.
Updated: May 10, 2022
Checking The Facts - Rebooted
❗ Warning: This blog entry is unproof read, un-spell checked, unpolished, un-cohesive, disjointed and makes for a sketchy read. As does anything I post. Good luck!
In this weeks session (originally posted sometime in 2018) we discussed and looked at in depth the ability to check the FACTS in an objective way when in emotional distress and the emotional skills needed in order to get the facts right in an unscrewed up way due to BPD melt downs, splitting and the such. Cold light of day fact checking is something I've not been good at in emotionally heightened states because of my fucked up neural wiring, shrunken amygdala, negative catastrophic thought schemas and my resulting predisposition to disordered melt downs, some of which have been to the extreme.
I wrote a huge long rambling diatribe of an intro type thing to this session entry at the time and how it resonated with me but I've cut that for this revisit as reading it back to myself was one big cringe fest that made me want to wretch puke my lungs up and I was way over sharing and angry and it was just weird.
But to put it concisely, this group session really did at the time resonate profoundly and cut deep into some heavy stuff. Pennies dropped inside my little brain. I realised some things about my time in care in the past and the fact that I really should have been helped out more and differently during my stays at mental hospitals and time working with the NHS and social services on my illness. But they failed me on the therapy side of things to a large extent. It made me angry. Anger at my parents and past guardians rose up inside me too. I got very angry and upset about it all but mainly at myself. I was internalising my anger.
(On the flipside of the coin I also realised who the fucking legends have been that have helped me and went the extra mile.)
That was the upshot of my cringe oversharing long ass blog intro. I have cut most of that shit out and deleted it in to the digital oblivion.
Please note that new updated and added blog material is in blue. Original entry in black.
Hopefully it might make a bit more sense that way. Probably not. Hey ho.
Some edited ramblings extracted from original blog entry:
It was one big consistent ahha moment (as they annoyingly insist on calling them in this group) during this session. It turned out to be a very eye opening, mind expanding DBT sesh. The therapists present and lay things out in such a way that for the first time ever my splitting (see below) behaviours began to make sense. I felt relief that there is a clinical explanation and reasoning (not excuses) behind my shitty angry behaviour. I felt enlightenment, deep shame, anger and resentment and self compassion all rolled up together in one big emotional roller coaster of an hour. It got me. It was meant to.
It highlighted once again for me, just how very sad, screwed up and cynical I have become. These truths felt very close to the knuckle and raw and painful at just how wrong I've been about so many things for so long and how I've unintentionally done people I love(d) with all my heart and myself included so much wrong all most exclusively due to the fact that I had and have this unchecked toxic fucking illness.
I'm angry and resentful (still) at the fact that ............
.....bla bla bla ...... I edited the woe is me bollocks out. Boring. I bore myself.
What is Splitting?:
Splitting ruined my previous life.
What Is BPD Splitting?
The common fictional trope of the devil and angel on someone's shoulders is a good metaphor for how most people approach the people and experiences in their lives. They see the good, they see the bad, and they form a well-rounded—usually fairly accurate—assessment.
For people with BPD who experience splitting, only the angel or the devil can appear at any given time, never together. In other words, people who experience splitting think in terms of good and bad, all or none, and always or never. There is no in-between.
Learn more about splitting:
Revisiting, revising, rephrasing and recapping this blog
The original blog post rambled on rather incoherently, angrily and bitterly going over what was discussed in the session and how it related to my own stuff. I blogged while angry sat on my own little pity potty. A childish thing to do and I have learned not to do that. And I've stopped feeling so fucking sorry for myself and being so bitter.
A lot has changed since that entry and huge leaps forward have been made. Lots of learning, forgiveness, self actualisation, skills practices and being calm and collected.
Anyway, revisiting that angry resentful time of hurting in my life is not why I have touched on and revised this blog entry. I kept the above bits in to honour that moment in my journey. It was an important time. Honouring grief is important in order to move through and past it.
What I need to revisit fully in the here and now though, is the check the facts skills nitty gritty and the related skills sets and remind myself why these skills matters.
Getting your facts checked, lined up and in proportion is key to negating catastrophic negative thinking and reinforcing those pesky pessimistic skewed thought schemas.
I have the need to re-address my FACTS skills hand in hand with other skills in this area because my head has been a bit wonky (very wonky at times) and intruding anxiety and paranoia to an extent, has been poking me in the brain. When I am at most anxious and paranoid it is no exaggeration to describe my condition as schizophrenia lite. Intruding thoughts that became borderline psychotic. Its hell. If you know, you know.
That little demon sat on my shoulder whispering in my ear telling me that everyone hates me, that I'm useless, that people are bad mouthing me and I should do something bad to myself.
People are not doing these things. People don't care. they have lives to lead and other shit to think and talk about. I know this but that intruding little demon voice doesn't want me to be mindful of that. Schizophrenia Lite!
Those few people that do in actual fact do judge, gossip, twist shit and gaslight others into having a negative view of you can simply fuck off. end of. No drama.
I'll expand this entry and add in some new things I have learned about the FACTS DBT skills practice and other hand in hand skills alongside the old stuff. It's morphing into a new entry altogether essentially.
More extracted (oversharing personal cringe edited out) from original blog entry:
Into the actual session then, to warm up we did the conveyor belt mindfulness exercise, helping us to practice the correct observation of thoughts and identifying the correct corresponding emotion. It's all about identification of thoughts, feelings (including physically) and assigning them to the correct corresponding emotion. Observe thoughts come in and observe them go out and away knowing exactly what they are and where they belong. The conveyor belt exercise is a useful analogy to practice with as a basic introductory mindfulness practice.
I digress, as I do .....
Someone told me this is all childish.
To the well adjusted, emotionally rounded and adapted person (normal neurotypical person) this is just straight forward everyday thinking and requires little to no effort. They have that shit locked down and probably have had it locked down since about the age of 12. It's automatic and they are well adjusted in life to emotional stimulation. They have been well nurtured and/or their genetics are probably on point or vice versa. Their brains work well! I'm happy for them too.
Our brains, us mental emotionally discorded lot, our brains don't work well all the time in certain respects and mindfulness practices are vital to keep our shit locked down and to help us own and take accountability for our behaviours. If that's childish then I'll keep being childish and keep using my childish imaginary thoughts and feelings conveyor belt and all the other childish mindfulness practices I am being taught.
Childish! Pfft. Nice. They seriously have no idea.
From first hand experience many neurotypical people really don't understand or have limited empathy for people with the type of emotional disorders that involve discorded emotional thinking and responses. To a degree who can blame them? I have been a fucking nightmare to live with when my disorder was unchecked and unaddressed properly. It's not hard to see why the stigma behind BPD exists. But there are buts that need to be talked about.
It's important that people that people know that it is an illness, a disease and its not a choice. There are backstories to these disorders and they can, only with the right and appropriate therapeutic help, support and medication, overcome these potentially destructive illnesses.
The stigma is real but that's a whole other blog entry in waiting, because facts fucking matter!
I went on a proper manic vent mission originally and on and on I waffled trying to make sense of it all. Its embarrassing to read back but I've edited most of it out which is why this blog entry is so disjointed.
But the conveyor belt exercise thing above is a key DBT practice to begin with. I still use it now in 2022 but incorporating a more advanced method of meditation.
More original waffling:
To the likes of me when I'm in a wonky mental place an anxious head fills my mind with an internal war within myself and an overwhelming mental noise and often a horrible thick brain fog that feels like my capacity to think has been reduced by at least half. It all fills my entire being with sadness and anger and confusion and at times disassociation (see below). It can be hell inside, again, no exaggeration.
Hell on earth can be inside your own mind.
The ability to filter thoughts and emotions and reactions is just broken. The filter is broken. Fucked. It's not a decision or choice or game. It's just broke.
To be taught and guided and counselled properly, professionally by real trained DBT therapist alongside a peer group input about these skills and practices along with the practical mindfulness sessions, I tell you they are a God send. I kid you not. It's a game changer. Anyone that has unchecked BPD really need to find some DBT help ASAP. Don't be fobbed off as I was for so many fucking years with substandard support and care and therapy.
I have been practising these mindfulness exercises daily. It's hard work and takes determination and focus to remain mindful and try to reverse the ingrained detrimental negative thought schemas but the work HAS to be done.
It takes work. Shadow work. No pain no gain.
It's all about the neural rewiring. Neural plasticity. Google that stuff.
When the 'fight or flight' response fails to protect us, it increases our chances of becoming traumatized. One of the body's most basic responses for survival has failed, leaving us with no options but to shut down, or play dead. The more that our fight of flight response fails to keep us safe, for example, after repeated or re-occurring traumas, the less effective it is. The brain begins to learn that 'fight or flight', one of your body's most basic ways to keep you alive, is failing. Fight or flight is not effective, and therefore will immediately revert to most basic and final survival mechanism, to play dead and surrender. This means, you dissociate.
It ain't fun.
The group discussion
From the original blog entry:
The next bit of the session was discussion based and we touched on some personal shit and had a general chat about the subject matters touched upon.
We discussed how trauma creates patterns of thinking and how and why that forms patterns of emotional and physical responses, otherwise know as schemas. We looked at how these schemas present themselves in our own personal triggers and the shit show that can occur after a trigger. We learned about the skewed thoughts that distort our view of the world and situations and of people around us, usually the people we love and how the manifestations of skewed thinking (such as angry kick offs or disassociation periods of isolation) sabotages our lives and potentially the lives of others, again invariably the ones we love and desperately do not want to lose. The irony is cruel.
Trauma is the root of these horrid traits. Trauma damaged our neural network.
Trauma is the root cause that needs to be addressed in order to fully address the here and now.
These discussions were raw and hit a nerve, all of the nerves. I felt great shame, regret and resentment.
A hard discussion but we did it.
Check the FACTS
Once we moved through and past that segment of the session Debbie began to teach us the CHECK THE FACTS DBT skill and all the what's, why's and therefore's:
Thoughts vs Facts - Feelings vs Reality
Our need to discern between perceived emotional fact (feeling) and actual stone cold hard fact (reality).
Reactions - choose your pain
Our reactions to emotionally stressful situations colour our life. If we react appropriately our lives will be far less dark and far more colourful.
We can reduce suffering in our lives by choosing the right type of pain to cope with to a large degree.
Skewed thoughts = suffering
Pain and resistance = suffering
Reacting to inaccurate skewed thought patterns and accompanying physical manifestations keep you stuck in loop of triggers and bad interpretations. The loop just perpetuates. Spirals. Reinforces it's self. The loop needs breaking and rewiring correctly. It is literally rewiring your neural connections.
Those painful things are largely avoidable if situations are dealt with in wise mind, thinking mindfully at a sensible pace with your facts in the correct order.
Pain = ordinary pain, less suffering.
Critical acceptance = far less suffering
Wise mind. Zen mind. In the middle.
Other things can colour the way one might be thinking and feeling in the moment such as everyday things like lack of sleep, poor diet, head ache, bad day in general etc. Check in with those things. Attain and note the facts about those things and it will help change your perception for the better a bit or maybe even a lot and help turn your pain around. All facts count. Every real fact counts!
Automatic thoughts and judgements
Be mindful of jumping the gun. Be mindful of those patterns of thought and the automatic negative destructive thoughts and feelings that come to you. Challenge them with stone cold light of day facts! Keep checking your self. Facts matter.
FACT CHECK that shit!
Challenge those intruding schizophrenic lite automatic thoughts with facts. The whole self perception picture will change with practice and factual positive reinforcement and affirmation.
Positive self affirmations are vital.
And remember, when we do fuck up, it happens. No one is perfect. Shit happens. Put your cards on the table and your hands in the air and 'fess up and learn from it. Shit. Happens.
Avoid the knee jerk over reactions and catastrophising and kick off's by CHECKING THE FACTS using DBT skills.
The DBT STOP skills are hand in hand. Slow down, fact check.
DBT STOP skills are here:
6 steps in fact checking
We then went on to discuss far more in-depth the check the FACTS skill practice and how to approach and practice this DBT skill when in emotional distress.
We looked at and then discussed the six steps and practiced some exercises to assist us in learning how to mindfully check for facts and keep the skewed emotional mind out of judgement calls and decision making as much as possible.
All 6 of these check the facts fact checking skills are vital and must be practiced to aid the rewiring of our minds and to unlearn and relearn how we think, react and behave.
A real life 6 steps practice I needed to engage in is published further on down below as an example.
Allow me to digress a bit (again)…..
These 6 step skills feel very useful and relevant to my impulsive knee jerk reactionary behaviours and it all makes sense as I lack the ability to make proper judgement calls and decisions when in emotion mind and when I am triggered AKA kicking off like a child.
That's the nub of it. I'm a child. A man child.
I've never been able to slow my mind down enough in my immature hot headed automatic negative self hating, paranoid, splitting mind set to get the facts correctly and calmly established until after the damage has been done. The kick off. The shitty reactions and behaviours. That shit has cost me dear. Heart breaking.
To be learning these skills now in my 40s that most humans have nailed down by the time they are 18 latest is really quite fucking weird but emotionally it fills me with hope that I mind find a degree mental and spiritual peace.
I'm never gunna be a Zen monk though. Just saying.
I'm middle aged now so for how ever much time I have left in this life on this rock in this apparent reality, I may get 30 years perhaps if I'm lucky, attaining some calm and happiness and stability would be most welcome. I can be a better human.
I mean, I've not been a bad human in my defence. I had a period of instability, kicking off, being a bit an abusive cunt. Name calling, belittling, controlling is not okay.
Note to self:
Note to you:
Not good. Not the person I am or am now at least and not the person I was before I got ill again.
But I'm not a murderer or rapist or thief or woman beater or an actual scum bag. I can afford to stop hating on myself.
Just checking those facts there.
Notes from session.
I always take realms and realms of messy notes and screen shots and shared shit from the forum as our sessions happen. We all do. Who doesn't? Pages and pages of it. This is the tip of the DBT iceberg. Lots to take in:
Fact Checking practice In Action
Oversharing personal cringe stuff edited out for this revisit and republication.
It was a shit week last week and I've fucked up.
I went to to destructive behaviours mode and impulsively out on the booze with people I need to distance myself from. Not bad people, just people that have have own troubles and turn to booze to numb it as I had been doing for ever. These people want to be around other alcohol abusers and consciously or unconsciously want to drag you down the black hole of alcoholism with them.
I was one of them. I am potentially one of them. I don't want to be.
I need to kick the elephant out of the house, not just the room.
I heavily and uncontrollably binge drank, spent a fucking fat wad of money, pissed it up the wall like a dickhead. I spent money I can ill afford to spend. I'm struggling financially as it is.
The money side is the least of it, although problematic and anxiety and depression perpetuating. Self harm basically. Dickhead.
And that dickhead behaviour left me feeling like utter anxious, paranoid, depressed, worthless dog shit for a week. I spiralled into a potential suicide zone for three days. I self harmed with food meds and isolation to boot. I fucked my good healthy productive routine which I worked hard on. That impacted every part, every corner of my life.
And it's all my fault.
Destructive go to behaviour.
Now I must redouble my efforts to get it right again. Hence why I am here in this blog entry berating and chastising myself.
I'm going to take this opportunity to use the check the facts DBT skills practice in a real life situation and blog it here in public. I usually blog personal shit that I share in a private forum with the chosen few. But this isn't so personal. It's about my dickhead self destructive self sabotage.
6 steps lesson slides screen shots:
These are the worksheets we use in our group sessions. I also use other fact checking materials from the web:
Post Drinking Head Fucks Fact Checking Exercise In Action
Emotion to change:
All rolled into one headfuck.
Rating before: 9 Rating after: 5
Wasting lots of money
Resulting hang over and come down
My own self destructive behaviour of getting inanely drunk, fucking paralytic and spending far to much money I can Ill afford. This behaviour has embarrassed and ashamed me and I have let myself down. It's immature and does not suit me or my mental health. It had induced anxiety and depression and fucked over 3 days of my life and ruined my routine and aim of achieving goals. Now I must start over again. Pretty pissed off at myself.
It's only my fault. My fault!
I can say no. I didn't.
Check the facts:
I did waste money on booze that I can't afford. Almost 200 quid. Fucked my budget.
I did get paralyticly drunk. Smashed.
I did suffer greatly mentally/emotionally, physically and I think my dignity took another hit.
The head fucking prolonged fallout affected every aspect of my life for a week. It took time even after that to reset because of the set backs in my recovery process.
I do feel shame about the prompting event and the foolish irresponsible self harming stupid behaviour that has got me to this point and the extreme level of mental anguish and distress and black crushing depression.
I feel this behaviour was some what selfish considering my finances and circumstanes and support I have received to get as far as I have so far.
I feel like a bit of a cunt.
I am stupid. A bit thick. Easily influenced and led up the wrong paths when it comes to alcohol and substance abuse. Stupidity.
I basicly self harmed. Self sabotaged.
Took my eyes of the prize.
I used booze to escape my demons.
Shallow unconscious behaviour.
I let myself down.
Check the Facts:
Stupidity as in foolish? Yes.
Stupid as in thick? No.
Stupid as in psychologicaly vulnerable sometimes and kind of wanting to belong to a social scene or clique or something. It's all to do with lack or confusion of idenity.
That isn't stupidity, it is vulnerable behaviour and foolish recklessness. Classic BPD behaviour. I am not stupid.
That kind of belonging is no good for me anyway though and will wreck my progress if I keep falling back into that dark place. It is not fun, its not clever and they are not my people.
Time to distance myself.
Fucked three days and my routine and didn't get my repairs and DIY jobs done. Feel ashamed. But I can get them done regardless. Same for the art. I am trying to put DBT first though and taking it very seriously.
I can learn from this and will.
I fucked up. I had a blip. Blips happen. Getting drunk and going on wild one for the first time in a very long while is no crime.
I know I have magnified shame issues and automatic negative patterns of thinking which amplifies the shame immensely
but feeling so much shame and pain so intensely is not proportionate or appropriate. A modicum of shame might appropriate but suicidally so most certainly is not.
I spent money I can't justify. There's no rewriting that one. But I didn't borrow or do IOU tabs or any such nonsense. No debt.
The threat I interpret or assume or sense is never being able to get myself out of this fucking horrid figure of eight round and round cycle of self destructive behaviour that is key in my BPD cluster fuck of screwed up shit. Excusez mon français but I must break free of this addiction to weekly benders that destroy me. This latest one was insane.
I'm afraid I won't stop doing it and I'll never truly break free of BPD. Stopping these behaviours and the booze is a must in order to assist my journey to recovery. Sobriety must be part of that.
I also fear loosing friends as I work towards achieving this goal of sobriety.
But I know the truth about real friends and drinking friends so, no need to yok on about that here.
I'm also fearful over money but again, that one is for later I feel. Just gotta ride it for now.
Check The Facts:
The fact is I don't drink everyday or anything like an addict does in terms of frequencey or volume but I am aware about my binge drinking behaviour and the potential for that to become a functional addiction. But I'm not an addict.
I am aware and mindful of the effects on my body as well as my mind which is why I am here doing this and that is a good sign in itself that I will work hard not too repeat this kind of blip.
Socially I know I will always have my very few friends that are there for the long haul. The others will fall away. I know this. It is part of the process.
Money wise, financially i will be okay. If I do mess things up completely, I do have a safety net of support there in the shape of the welfare state. We are fortunate to have it.
Money wise I still have money to keep the roof over my head, pay the bills, eat, travel and feed the cats. Everything else is paid. I'm not destitute for which I am grateful. I can keep the wolf from the door. But I do live my life on the edge, always just two pay cheques away from defaulting on my financial commitments. So I am annoyed at blowing much needed cash on bullshit. I was seething at myself up until yesterday.
The facts are solid there I guess.
My expectations are realistic and need to be. However a habit of a lifetime, socialising around alcohol and the pubs is not proving easy to break just like that. Old life long habits die hard. its not a failure, its part of the process of change and acceptance. I'm letting go of a lot of things. Friends, places, activities, connections, habits and attempting a whole shift in life style paradigm. Its huge. It will take time and a few falls alog the way.
I am not addicted to the substance, I am addicted to the people and the belonging. The scene, the people, that all involves pubs and booze and drugs.
Its all gotta go.
I have covered them in the sections above really, by waffling on to much. I wont go over the worse case scenarios again. I know them already and I've challenged them already.
If my worse fears do become fact then I'm royally stuffed and I will probably have to hospitalise myself again. That's a better pan than wanting to off myself.
Kudos to me.
Do my emotions (intensity and duration) fit the facts?
I think my emotions got very dark and self loathing because I fucked up so hard this time and I let people who are trying to help me down. That feels pretty bad.
One or two days after the prompting event (the bat shit bender) it was natural to have felt shit to be fair but to feel borderline suicidal about it wasn't proportionate, let alone still wanting to kill myself three days later. That was an extreme spiral downwards into a deep black hole of mental anguish.
That was a result of my unchecked behaviour of self shame spiralling. Not just the bad hang over but also unpractised coping skills. Had i used DBT coping skills to offset the emotional turmoil I probably could have avoided sinking so low so fast and becoming a danger to myself.
Next time, God for bid, if I do mess up and get insanely hammered again, I need to make sure I fact check faster, mindfully, and fully along side more effort in other mindfulness techniques and other tools I am learning. I can negate these behaviours.
Emotional intensity wise, my emotions went into full on hard catastrophising mode and it all got very heavy.
In wisemind mode I could have been dealing with things far more mindfully, masterfully and acceptingly. That way I would have recovered mentally faster and I may not have sunk so deep down.
Having carried out this practice now all be it to late in the day i do feel better about my actions and in-actions and mistakes and I realise now that the situation was no where near as catastrophic and it wasn't a disaster.
I messed up. It was a blip in a long line of successes. I can let my self off and say "it is what it is, don't do it again" and move on.
I am now putting this one to bed. Facts are in order, I have checked my behaviour. Lessons learned.
All of the above mental health discussions, lessons, practices and bits of homework assignments were awkward and uncomfortably close to the knuckle but 100 percent relevant to my mental health situation, my maladaptive, toxic, aggressive, broken or non existent emotional coping skills and behaviours. This session mattered and the homework tasks really helped hammer home the importance of practicing these skills in order for them to eventually become second nature and as automatic as possible.
Neural rewiring. Neural plasticity. This is what DBT is about.
Painful but necessary. No pain, no gain, no fun.
Opening and delving into those cans of very wiggly worms with actual qualified and knowledgeable therapists and other like minded folk with BPD that have and are experiencing the same hellish disordered behaviours helped a few pennies drops inside my funny little head.
Those AHHA! moments. Realisations. This should have happened 20 years ago. But here we are.
To realise that I am not in this battle alone, that goes along way in terms of reassurance and encouragement and peer group support.
A huge help, despite the fact I'd rather no one else be suffering BPD too but that's not life and now I'm part of a community that stands side by side and we will walk each other out of this place and into calmer, happier, healthier times and places.
(The edits were heavy upon revisiting that section. Just cut and delete the cringe 😬)
This blog entry
is still a work
More to be