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Building a Life Worth Living

October 20, 2016

The following reflection was written by a Skyland Trail alumni

How does one build a life worth living? In DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), we learn that a life worth living means living according to one's values and moral code. 

During my time at Skyland Trail, I have rediscovered my values. Many of them I already lived by. For example, kindness towards others has always been a central aspect of my daily life. I realized that other values, such as self-reliance, had not been a part of my life during times I was symptomatic. During treatment I have made steps to become more self-reliant.

Personally, self-reliance means having a sense of independence and autonomy in my life. This takes form through both emotional and financial independence. Although I am not able to reach full financial independence while in treatment, I have been able to reach a greater degree of emotional independence. 

Emotional independence is vital to my recovery because I don't have someone to count on 100% of the time to calm me during moments of distress. I had to learn how to calm myself down, as well as how to lift myself up. Here are some things I have done to reach greater emotional independence:

  1. Validating Myself
    I started my journey of recovery seeking others' validation of my thoughts, emotions, and actions. When I didn't receive that, it sent me further into distress. I had to learn how to validate myself. Simply put, it meant telling myself it was okay to think, feel, and act the way I did as long as I felt comfortable with it. I had to tell myself various phrases, such as, "I am making progress" or "it's okay to not be okay." I started small and worked my way up to statements such as, "I know myself best and this is what I feel is right."

  2. Positive Affirmations
    Positive affirmations have boosted my self-esteem. I discovered that I love to make affirmation art with the phrases such as "you are enough", "you shine bright", and "self-love is the best love". I have the artwork on my bedroom walls as a constant reminder that I am strong and wise enough to keep going. I also noticed that my journal entries typically end in positive affirmations, which brings me to my next step of emotional independence.

  3. Journaling
    I pull my journal out when I need someone to talk to. It has become my favorite coping skill over the past few weeks. In my private journal entries, I can release my thoughts and emotions without relying on anyone else to listen or give me solutions. I use journal entries to decide what I can do next. My next step is typically a list of coping skills to use. I point out any cognitive distortions and end my journal entry with positive affirmations to remind myself: I can and will handle this. 

Learning and mastering these skills now allows me to take the next step: financial independence. Working with vocational services, I am looking for employment and following my dream to continue my education. 

My time at Skyland Trail has given me the ability to discover what I value and how to build a life worth living. I whole-heartedly believe that my life has become one worth living again. 

Reflection questions: What are your values?  How can you use those values to build a life worth living?