Snowballing with DBT


At my first appointment back with my therapist after being hospitalized for suicidal thoughts we talked about a lot. But one thing I remember saying with exasperation is, “I just don’t understand how things got this bad.” I was behind on homework, had to drop a class, and was still struggling with some suicidal thoughts, though not as bad as the ones that had led to the hospitalization. She looked at me empathetically and said, “These things tend to snowball.” She paused before continuing and what she said then led to a shift in my outlook on the situation: “But they can snowball in the other direction too.”

Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, is all about coping skills. This therapy views pain and stressors in life as inevitable, but if someone can increase their coping skills, life can still be worth living. I’ve been learning skills for a year now and have seen how they can have a positive impact. Still, I sometimes have difficulty putting them into practice.

Yet, this idea of things snowballing in the positive direction changed my whole view of the situation. Before I saw things as out of my control and happening to me. Now I began to see things as not completely in my control, but able to be impacted by things in my control.

Just like a snowball, it can start small. I listened to music while walking home from my therapy appointment. I stopped in a used book store just to look around, one of my favorite pastimes. I made sure to eat enough at dinner, something I don’t always do when stressed. I stopped avoiding the readings I had to do for school. I went to dance class. I messaged friends.

And I felt a little bit better. Things have begun to snowball in the other direction. That’s not to say I’m out of the blizzard just yet, but things are certainly moving in that direction.

It can be tempting still to act like it was random and still just things happening to me, but that is not true. Things snowballed in the positive direction because of my behavior and actions. Thanks to coping skills, I am in control not of what life throws at me, but of my ability to manage what life throws at me. Now I just have to keep the ball rolling.


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