Tonight I graduated DBT. It isn’t official yet because I have a few more sessions of individual appointments, but I had my last group today. This makes me a graduate.
For anyone who doesn’t know much about DBT, this is a big deal. It requires a year of hard work. It requires going to group and individual appointments once a week each for that year. It requires working through mindfulness plus the each of the three modules (distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness) two times through. Let me repeat: it requires a lot of work. And not only in terms of time, but it requires a lot of work emotionally and cognitively. In a way, you have to go through hell to get out on the other side.
In an ironic parallel, I will also soon be graduating college. And yes, this also required a lot of work. It required countless hours of studying, dealing with a lot of stress, and sticking it out through some tough times. Yet to me, in this strange parallel, the DBT graduation means more. It’s more significant than earning my bachelor’s degree.
I think this is because of the goals behind the achievements. With my bachelor’s degree, I started as a school-obsessed eighteen-year-old with the goal to succeed no matter the costs. This failed brilliantly and my mental health plummeted. Gradually though through several years of therapy, DBT included, I found more balance in my life and reduced my perfectionism.
But with DBT, which I started just over a year ago as a miserable twenty-one-year-old, the goal was different. To say it bluntly as my therapist put it, the goal was “to not want to die.” And thanks to DBT I’m proud to say I have achieved that. I see a future for myself, and the next steps are working on building that future.
Without DBT, that future might not have been possible or might not have even existed. So, do I care about my college graduation and am I proud of myself? Yes, of course. But do I care more about my DBT graduation and am I prouder of that work and personal growth? Yes, of course.
Here’s to a future full of DBT skills and more! L’Chaim!