Category Archives: dialectical behavioral therapy


I have been meditating. FOR FOUR DAYS.

Laugh all you want, but it feels like a miracle that I have been able to keep it up for that long. I have tried meditation before, but it always seemed to make me more anxious. I attributed it to a couple of things; the main ones being I just wasn’t ready and my mind really didn’t want to be turned off. When your mind is used to racing at a million miles an hour, and it isn’t attuned to the present moment, it can be very difficult to quiet it down – let alone turn it off.

When I am able to sit peacefully and sink into my body, it creates a calm and peace within me. I believe that when I meditate I am creating a connection to the core of who I am. I have noticed that as I am learning to become more present in my physical self, I am able to recognize that I am not my thoughts, I am simply the awareness of my thoughts. Being able to recognize this is so hugely important. Especially when I tend to attach so much weight to my emotions and my thoughts.

I am trying to get to the essence of who I am by being in tune with the present moment and making every single moment matter. I am training my mind to focus on what is literally right in front of me (right now it is the weight of my dog sleeping on my legs). I believe that when I am able to do this, only the here and now matter. I am trying to break free of the past and the future.

We all have the bad habit of worrying about the future and perhaps lamenting the past. My tendency to project myself years into the future never get me anywhere emotionally healthy. My tendency to get all nostalgic or relive the past does me no good.

I have this awful scenario that I invent in my mind when I am feeling anxious and my thoughts are slamming around in my brain; out of control. It goes something like this: The year is 2024 and I am turning 50. I have 2 children who are almost 18 and nearing the time when they leave the house and I am an empty-nester; all by myself. I have only recently begun my own business in counseling, and the income isn’t what I had hoped it would be. I am wrinkled, gray-haired and have no partner in my life. My future is bleak, dreary, and downright terrifying.

I cry every single time my brain goes there (right now too); to a future that does not exist. I try to distract myself with being busy and trying to focus on the positive; empowering myself for a future of success and happiness. But I don’t think that is the answer either. Of course positive thoughts and being gentle with myself are important, but even more so is pulling myself back to this moment and letting go of my addiction to time. When I am right here, solidly in my physical self, there is no time but the present. And the future and the past simply do not exist. I don’t even need those positive thoughts to help me feel safe and secure in an imaginary future filled with success and happiness. They don’t matter.

I can’t predict the future, nor can I change the past. My perceived future with my husband and my children, living and loving under the same roof, are gone. Futures have a way of falling down in mid flight. Relationships and financial success are not recipes for happiness or security. My INFJ brain wants to analyze, dissect, and plan, plan, plan. It loves puzzles and working through life-problems with the goal of finding the answers; solving the puzzles. Retraining my mind to settle down and learning to pull it back to the here and now, are two of the most difficult challenges I have faced (and I have faced more than my fair share of challenges).

I think that meditation is the answer to much of what ails me in life. I am an emotional creature. I am continually driven by my emotions. Getting out of my head, and into my body, and freeing myself from the addiction to time, has become my number one priority. Putting down my phone and focusing on my children when they are right in front of me, babbling away about something or other, is all that matters. When I am doing the dishes by hand, and accepting that is the only thing that I am doing; nothing else matters.

When I strip myself of my wandering and obsessive thoughts, and ground myself in my body, I dissolve into the present moment at hand.

I am free.

As I sit outside

I feel peace within me

Radiating from me

I feel a blade of grass tickling my leg

I watch as an ant ascends my boot

I hear the wind wrapping itself around leaves just beginning to bud on the trees

A distant chime from someone’s backyard

The warm spring air moves around me

My hair floats in wild strands around my head

Yet I am still

No cars

No children

No voices or laughter

A magpie cackles behind me

I have found what soothes my introverted soul in the middle of my hectic day




I am ready to go back inside



No one is immune.

No one gets a free pass.

Every single person in this world hurts, suffers, rages, and cries. Not all of the time, but definitely some of the time; some people more than others. We all ebb and flow through our emotions just as we ebb and flow through our lives.

I am working toward being okay with emotions – all of them. Embracing them like old friends instead of running from them. They feel so scary for me; even happiness. I don’t fully trust them yet and I still have this deep-seated fear that they will take over my being completely.

I think this stems in part from watching my dad die when I was 9. My emotional landscape permanently changed that day. I went from being a happy-go-lucky kid, without a care in the world, to seeing something (him die) to experiencing something (loss of a parent) that no child should ever have to go through. I didn’t have the emotional aptitude or cognitive capability to handle any of it. And after it happened, no one taught me how to process through my terror, confusion, guilt, or hurt. For the rest of my life, when those feelings of grief would pop up, I would shove them away like a plague. I was desperate to avoid them. They felt like they would swallow me whole.

And, at age 41, they did.

For a long time, I pretended that my dad was alive, and living in California with another family. It was easier to pretend that he just didn’t want to live with us anymore. Then I pretended he was a knight on some other plane of existence – another reality – one in which he would slay dragons and protect people.

My dad couldn’t be dead because that meant he was gone. And never coming back.

Denial is something that our brains latch onto for a time when we are navigating something too emotionally difficult to really comprehend. Sometimes we need to ignore certain things until we have the strength to move forward in our grief and on our path toward healing. We need to compartmentalize things that are simply too painful to grasp. Ignore, deny, avoid, and check out. And, for at least a little while, I believe that it is healthy and completely normal to do so.

Not healthy? Living in that space of false reality and clinging to a truth that isn’t real or does not exist, indefinitely.

Denial is something I have watched my kids going through since their dad and I split. My son would say, “but you aren’t divorced, you are separated.” Yes, this is true, on paper, but it’s for health insurance reasons. Our marriage is irrevocably broken. For good.

Denial it is something I did not want to admit I was doing, but fuck, it most certainly is. I like to think that I have been working hard in therapy to tackle my past hurt and childhood trauma and now it is finally time to work through this last year of my marriage breaking, my PTSD, and the fact that my husband is never coming home.

Ever again.

Shit, that hurts to type.

When people ask me if the split was amicable, I say no, it was not. If he were to call me and say, “hey Aim, let’s talk, let’s work this out. I miss you and I miss our family”, I would be lying if I said that isn’t something I have wished for a thousand times. A million times.

But that fantasy gets me literally no where. Every time I entertain thoughts like this, I do more damage. I cannot live or exist in a world where I create false realities anymore than I could have kept living in a very emotionally abusive and unhealthy marriage. It makes no sense.

But still, the thoughts pop up; Unwanted and detrimental.

I am now willing to acknowledge that it is over. I am radically accepting that he is NEVER COMING HOME. It hurts, but I recognize that this is the next step in my journey. With practice, I am gently acknowledging the thoughts as they arise, not giving them the attention they demand, and letting them slip away. I am practicing bringing myself back to the present moment, whether that is writing, doing dishes, watching my son read or my daughter play with her Legos. These thoughts have no power over me unless I allow them to.

And I will not allow them to any longer.


DBT: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

I have been promising to share with you some thoughts on DBT – dialectical behavioral therapy. I have been attending weekly sessions on this amazing practice for a few months now. DBT focuses on mindfulness as a daily practice and also presents different “modules” that focus on such topics as interpersonal communication, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, among others.

The concept of a dialectic is important to understand before I continue. It means, in simple terms, to keep two things that may seem to oppose each other in tandem – in balance. For example, being simultaneously angry but level-headed. DBT is a life-coaching therapy. It helps you understand how to exist in your ‘wise mind’ (your healthiest most present mind state) instead of your emotion mind (out of control and operates based off of feelings) or logic mind(calculated and rational). Wise mind is a balanced state between the two (hence the dialectic).

As functioning adults in this society, we should all strive to be as present as we are able to, for as long as we are able to, in our wise minds. Wise mind is a combination of emotional mind and logical mind. It maintains that the combination of the two helps to ground us in ourselves and be the best communicators, participants, and versions of ourselves possible.

What I have noticed since I began my DBT therapy is a more patient and peaceful outlook on my life and more importantly, within myself. I am able to notice my negative thoughts when they appear. I have even created a mantra that makes sense to me – “is this a helpful thought?”; if the answer is no, I shut the door on it. Also helpful, “is this a true thought?”; again, if the answer is no, shut the damn door. I have suffered from ruminating, often unhealthy thoughts for years. You know those thoughts; the ones that cycle around and around and don’t seem to stop no matter how you try to distract yourself. They are exhausting! I have tried medication to help with these OCD-like thinking patterns. What I have come to realize is instead, is that my mind is out of practice. If I think of my brain as a muscle that has grown lazy and squishy, it makes perfect sense why I need to practice daily mindfulness. I need to strengthen my squishy brain.

Radical acceptance is another important concept in DBT. Radical acceptance means to accept what is ‘real’ completely. Reality vs. fighting reality. You absolutely cannot work through your pain without true and radical acceptance of the reality of your situation.

For the past few weeks, as I have been working through my divorce and my emotions surrounding it, I have come to realize that I have been in major denial. I have been torturing myself with an alternate reality, one that involves my husband coming home to me and to our children. I have been ignoring what is so painfully obvious to everyone around me, the reality that my marriage is over.

He is not coming home and he will never come home.

If you read through my posts, I go back and forth with this reality – back and forth with acceptance of the situation as it is and then right back to blatant rejection and false hope. My fantasy serves no purpose other than to stop me from moving forward and living my life for me. Sure, sometimes reality is excruciatingly painful. Sometimes a fantasy makes way more sense because it doesn’t hurt as much. But life can be worth living even with painful events in it. Radical acceptance is accepting in your mind, in your heart, and in your body, the reality of the situation. Radical acceptance happens when you stop fighting reality, you stop throwing fits, and you let go of your bitterness.

I will be the first to admit that this feels impossible to do on some days. Bitterness and anger toward my crap-reality feel good. It is a much easier path than the one toward acceptance. You cannot expect to avoid pain. Pain is there to signal something is wrong. It serves a purpose. When I rejected my pain this summer – when I was pretending that everything in my life and in my marriage was okay, I was causing myself intense suffering.

Until reality slapped me in the face and I could not pretend for one more second.

My most bitter pill to swallow right now is the fact that as we separate and go our different ways, I have no one. No one to wrap my arms around at the end of the day. No one to hold me when I fall apart. He does. He left this marriage and had an instant relationship already there to offer him support, love, affection, tenderness, and physical intimacy.

And now, brace yourselves. Here comes the denial and the bitterness and the fit:

I think this is unfair. And I feel embarrassed by this thought.

I want him to feel alone too. I want him to hurt too. This is my inability to face what is real. The reality is that he has a girlfriend and deserves to be happy and I need to be alone right now. I have so much self work to do and having a relationship with anyone would be an epic disaster.

Radical acceptance of my situation looks like this:

I am getting a divorce. My husband does not want me. My family will never be intact again. My children will absolutely be okay. I will absolutely be okay. Life is hard right now and might get harder for a time. I will find a job. I will not be alone for the rest of my life. I will find peace again; within myself and my life.

I don’t want to suffer anymore.