Learning How to Survive Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy at Skyland Trail
As the result of a major manic episode and subsequent hospitalization, I entered Skyland Trail in May 2011. I had been grappling for some months with medication changes and stressful life circumstances (specifically, the consequences of poor financial decisions and my work as a college English teacher). I would end up on the bathroom floor, sobbing inconsolably, or staying up until 3:00 a.m. cleaning the house. Mentally and emotionally, I was in shambles.
I entered Skyland Trail on the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) track. For the first time in my 25+ years of living with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder traits, I began to learn practical coping skills for handling extreme sensitivity, mood swings, and how to survive – a word used often in DBT – emotionally difficult or painful circumstances and events without hurting myself or those around me. Additionally, my medication finally got stabilized. My time at Skyland Trail literally saved my life; getting up in the morning – simply existing day-to-day – no longer felt like an insurmountable struggle.
It’s been almost two years since I started at Skyland Trail. I shortly realized post-graduation that recovery begins after completion of treatment. I began to deal with the everyday realities of my marriage and my job – feeling like a newborn colt on shaky legs – and very uncertain I could actually manage life’s quotidian details. Fortunately, my DBT skills held true, and I was even able to manage the details of a long-distance move from Chicago to Atlanta without falling apart.
I’ve learned it’s good to reinforce my DBT skills whenever I can. Currently, I’m enrolled in group DBT classes and see a therapist at the Atlanta DBT Center. Thursdays have become my DBT days, and while I’m a limp noodle by Thursday afternoon – the work is often arduous – I’m thrilled to be continuing the recovery process I started at Skyland Trail, to be even more adept at using my DBT survival skills, and to see the life I have wanted for myself for many years to finally be taking shape around me.