Category Archives: DBT

self-compassion and how to do it


During the last few months lots has been going on. In the midst of lots of rubbish and drama, I’ve had so much clarity which has truly been significant for me. In my sessions with Penelope, I have been doing a lot of work on loneliness- an affliction that quite regularly paralyses me if I let it. We have been working on it for years to be honest and I jut feel its one of those things that Ive never yet had any success with. It always comes back to this one, I’m stuck in it and I want to get unstuck.

Penelope always says the same things really… look at the evidence, I’m not lonely, it’s my self-talk, its the judgement I place on being by myself- its because I don’t have a relationship with myself… and I know these are all true but they don’t help!!!! I still hadn’t found the hook on which I could grasp and then work with.

unknown-2-1.jpegBut I think I might have now… in my recovery I always come back to is this definition of stupidity. If I want to be different, I have to do things differently. So simple- but so profound.

But sometimes we just need what I call, the ‘click of clarity’. The way I have been relating to myself for the past 40 years is totally screwed! Its obviously not working! You’ve got to do something different. IT AIN’T WORKING! And in that moment, I set my intention to do it differently. To relate to myself differently. Kindly, with compassion. Not berate myself. Not say the most awful things to myself. Not abuse my body or wretch in disgust. But to be kind to myself.

And then of course, once you’ve set the intention, God or the Universe seems to kick in and ‘coincidences’ start to happen. A suggested post on Facebook, a chance conversation with someone, a book crosses your path…  all three have happened for me.

I already had this book, but have never read it… but as I’m packing for a cheeky week Unknown.jpegaway it ‘pops’ out at me. I read it and I start doing it! The same with the Artist’s Way- I’ve had it for years… but now I’m ready to do it.







Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying I read the books and things changed- it was sort of the opposite- I changed and then the books have helped put flesh on the process for me. One of the hardest things about recovery, is that it demands a different way of living to what you’ve been used to- but most of us have never experienced or seen that different way and just don’t have a clue how to do it!

If you were ever in my secret chamber you would hear my pleading to God- ‘but I don’t know what that looks like, I don’t know how to do that’. When Penelope and others would say, you need to love yourself, I would be shouting inside- WTF does that actually mean? You are talking gobbledegook. SHUT UP!

The Germer book in particular has really helped with practical suggestions- which have been intellectually credible. But the key to all this is in paragraph 4- I had to want to do it differently. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude that miraculously I’ve got to that point of wanting that. Thank you. 

Thanks for listening.


telling my story


Sometimes an every-day type of conversation can give you a golden nugget.

I was talking with my friend Sandra and she questioned my motivation for doing something that I am currently doing. It wasn’t a negative questioning rather a genuine what do I hope to achieve from doing this…  good question. She mentioned the word ‘justice’ in the process and since that time I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Justice just wasn’t ticking the boxes for me. Firstly, I’m not entirely sure what justice actually is and whether it ever makes any one feel better. But also, why would I want justice… the concept doesn’t yet feel like it relates to me. However, what was amazing, was that in that process of thinking about justice I did begin to clarify what I did want from this process.

Unknown-1.jpegI want to be heard.

I want to tell my story.

I want my story to be validated.

Ideally, I would like my story to be believed- but I can’t control other’s response to my story.

Ironically, I am surrounded by friends who hear me, listen to me and validate me. But this isn’t about other people- this is about me hearing myself, validating my story and believing myself. Oh my word- if I can do that- (and I will) my life will be transformed!

Currently, I have people who don’t know me doing the above- and it is sooo powerful. They have no reason to believe me, listen to me, take me seriously- but they are. (not sure if they believe me but they are certainly taking me seriously). The impact for me is quite incredible. I can feel myself standing a little taller. I can feel a lessening of the pain in my chest.

I can’t control whether others choose to hear my story but I can control my own response to it, and I think my own response to myself will be one of the most healing things I can do for myself.

Thanks for listening.

Seize the opportunity


Talking with my friend, Fiona last week, she challenged me to seize the opportunity I was currently in. An opportunity to not just get through this current season of my life but also an opportunity to make a lasting difference to my life.

I have chosen to seize the opportunity with everything I have. It’s a slightly rocky ride with some very difficult bits. But I am seizing it with everything I have. Would love to encourage you to do the same. Take hold of what life is giving you- the good, bad and the ugly.

Thanks for listening.



actions speak louder than words…


Over New Year I spent some time with special friends. While walking the pups, Phillip asked me what was the main DBT skill I used. Immediately, I replied ‘Emotional Regulation’. I then went on to pontificate about the importance of keeping myself well… avoiding crisis, averting issues and generally making sure I’m ‘topped’ up.

Unknown.jpegThe last few days have made it abundantly clear that the words are a lot easier to say than live!

Readers will know I am a Head Teacher of an Independent School that I co-own. Term has started back two days ago but things really took on some critical intensity from Thursday/Friday of last week. The details of the events are unimportant for this purpose. Suffice to say, as the heat went up my emotional regulation went plummeting down.

I’ve eaten rubbish by the bucket load (and only rubbish) – pizza, chocolate and biscuits basically . I’ve drunk coke by the litre. I’ve hardly slept. I’ve medicated myself in front of the tele. I’ve spent money that I shouldn’t have. My Christmas decorations haven’t been put away. Bills have been unpaid. My medication had run out and I hadn’t renewed the prescription.My anxiety over leaving the pups has been the highest ever. Its been pretty appalling. I then wonder why I feel so incredibly sluggish and awful! It really isn’t rocket science some times…

Today, I woke up literally and metaphorically. Time for the pity party to stop. I was able to give myself the shake I needed. I can’t just look after my health in the holidays. I need to grow in my capacity to emotionally regulate even when I’m busy. I know that emotional regulation isn’t optional… it’s essential. So this afternoon, I packed the decs away. I cooked some food for supper. I emptied the car. I filled a box of decluttering for a charity shop drop. I can’t face the humiliation of hockey at the moment but I did go for another run yesterday.

images.jpegSo as I look ahead to a busier term than usual, I’ve got to get organised. The only way I can eat healthy is to have food in the house and prep my food in advance. I’ve got to pack my bag the night before an early start- to ease the morning stress. I’ve got to ration my TV watching. I can’t have coke or bread in the house. And its not just about operation survival, I want it to be operation flourish.

Thankfully, I’ve only had a few poor days- I’ve seen it now and I am going to practice what I preach. Emotional Regulation all the way!

Thanks for listening


Emotional Resilience?


images.jpegOver the Summer, my emotional resilience was questioned. Some people who didn’t know me, made judgements on my emotional capacity to deal with potentially stressful situations- and they decided that I wasn’t up to the task.

That decision hurt and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

And it hurt because it was wrong. It hurt because the decision was made on incomplete evidence and that felt very unfair.

Being a psychiatric patient has meant that for years my ’emotions’ have been subject to other people’s judgements, decisions and prejudices. Not just from professionals but also from amateur psychs who often feel they have the right to comment on ‘how well I’m coping’.

I am regularly encouraged by those who tell me how much I’ve ‘improved’- which in my mind of course implies that my previous state of being was ‘weak’ or ‘failing’. ‘You’re coping so much better’ is of course not only hugely patronising but also an indication that my previous responses were not ‘quite up to socially acceptable standards’.

To be honest, I’m so accustomed to it that usually I don’t even notice and certainly never comment. But this particular judgement had real implications for my future. Wonderfully the decision has now been reversed and I have now been deemed ’emotionally resilient enough’… but in the months between the two decisions I’ve made some good realisations…

images-1.jpegI am beginning to realise that I am one of the most emotionally resilient people I know.
Based on the definition that emotional resilience is the ability to pick yourself up after negative events… I could be a world champion! I challenge any one that sees my ‘mental issues’ as weakness to live in my shoes for a week sometimes and see how well you do. Yep- I’m feeling cross. Bloody cheek. I’m cross that people feel they can make judgements about me but also I’m cross because most people have absolutely no idea what Ive been through in my life or what I face on a daily basis sometimes.

So actually, the original decision did me a favour. It enabled me to step back and say ‘really?’ What does anyone else actually know about me… Why do we assume that seeing a therapist is a sign of weakness/ needing support… let me tell you DBT is not for the faint hearted- most weeks, I come out feeling like I’ve done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson…

Unknown-1.jpegIf I cry… so what… if I laugh… so what… sometimes my reactions may even surprise me- but one thing I do know, is that I will pick myself up and get back on track. Sometimes it takes me longer than at other times. Sometimes I’m not always sure how I will be able to recover- but up until now, I always have.

Today is the first anniversary of my brother passing away. I have felt physically really poorly the last few days so that always impacts my emotions, but I’ve survived the year. I remember the day after his funeral I cried and cried with my beautiful friend Carol, and I could not imagine how I could keep going. Things looked really bleak. But I’ve done it. I’m sad today, I’m writing with tears in my eyes- but I’ve done it. My brother died- but I have managed to stay alive.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, for me, is Emotional Resilience in Action. 

sometimes we just don’t see…


I have been to Royal Festival Hall in London’s South Bank numerous times. I used to live near it and it was a regular haunt and now it is my venue of choice to meet up with friends. I have performed there in my own right and also sung with my school choir. I’ve watched concerts there, been to talks and attended teacher training events, enjoyed the market and just sat and watched life go by.

I think my first visit was in 1987 and I’ve been pretty regular ever since.

But to my shame I’ve never noticed THIS….

Unknown.jpeg the Nelson Mandela statue. It was installed in 1985 and for the past 29 years I’ve walked past it and NEVER seen it. Can you believe it!!!!

Last week, a friend said let’s meet at the Nelson Mandela statue and I had to google it as I didn’t know where it was. This is so hard to believe that I do wonder whether I’ve just forgotten that I knew it… but I had no recollection of ever seeing it.

So I arrived early and studied this wonderful sculpture. It is massive! It is so textured. It is amazing.

I’ve been really bothered by the ability to not actually ‘see’ something that I’ve walked past for nearly 30 years. The saying ‘none so blind as those that don’t want to see’ has been ringing in my ears. So once again I’ve been remembering to lift my eyes to look at the clouds. To be intentional in my actions. To consciously try not to ‘walk past’ life. It’s amazing how easy it is not to really live.

I’ve had an email from a  parent saying I returned a slip to her unsigned- but I remember opening the envelope- but I didn’t actually end up signing the form! It’s a timely and humbling reminder that I need to be more mindful. I’m on auto-pilot and I don’t like it- it makes life a very bland place. I literally do need to wake up and smell the roses!


Thanks for listening

Dead Man Walking and Distress Tolerance


Unknown-1.jpegBack in the 1990’s, I watched the Sean Penn film ‘Dead Man Walking’ at the cinema with my then fiance. I couldn’t bear it. I was literally sobbing in the cinema as the lead character is lead to his execution. My sobbing was belly shaking and snotty. My fiancé was embarrassed. (Which in fairness to me he often was… no wonder he left me!) Anyway, back to the point… I couldn’t tolerate the pain that film provoked in me. (At one point, Penelope set me the homework of watching the film again and managing my distress. (I couldn’t do it)).

Unknown-2.jpegI’m on holiday and someone had left the book ‘Me before You’ in the apartment. I decided to read it. It’s an excellent book but it provoked a similar reaction in me. It was a bit too close for comfort with my brother’s death… but I made a conscious decision to continue with the book instead of stop reading it. Again, I was sobbing and snotting. But this time I was more skilled at coping with my distress.

In DBT, the module is referred to as Distress Tolerance, and I realised how much more skilled I have grown. I’m not sure I should have read the book to be honest, but I did and I survived. I have no intention of watching Dead Man Walking ever again but if I did, I do think my reaction might be the same, but my response could be a bit better!
This situation has reminded me of another time. I am on holiday by myself for 10 days- and I’ve been finding it hard. I’ve felt quite lonely and vulnerable at times. I’ve been surrounded by families, grown up children visiting pareUnknown-3.jpegnts out here… grandchildren… the whole lot… and I’ve been by myself. That was my choice and when it works, it works really well for me. But I was thinking about previous times when I have felt similar while abroad and have ended up flying back home. At times I’ve wanted to come home but I’ve stayed put. I’ve survived the moments and as I continue to relax, I’m able to embrace the space and the process more. I could have easily got on a plane back home, but I’m so glad I didn’t- even if just for the fact that I can write this. I am doing ok- bit by bit.

Thanks for listening.