Past Present

As promised, here’s my blog post for the day. It actually covers something that happened just a few days ago, on Wednesday evening. I was wandering the internet, and decided to head over to Buzzfeed Animals, home of some of the cutest and funniest pictures, videos, and stories about animals that I have found. I started going through a few articles, mostly puppies, because I’m a dog person. Then I ran into one that involved Newfoundlands, and so, on a tangent, I started searching for more on Newfoundlands. Buzzfeed didn’t have much, so I looked on YouTube.

On YouTube, there are quite a few videos of Newfoundlands, and I found myself watching a series of videos about a Newfoundland named Gizmo. He seemed like a great dog, and so I kept watching another video of him, and another, and another…and then I hit the wrong one, and my day went plummeting downward. It seems Gizmo died this past December, and the video I clicked on was a slideshow of pictures of his life, set to exceptionally sad music (I won’t be linking to it, because it’s just that sad). It only took 30 seconds or so to make me fall apart.

See, my last dog was a Newfoundland named Merlin. My family got him in 2002, largely to keep me company because I was lonely, having just graduated college and moved to St. Louis, a place where I knew nobody. Merlin and I were close; for many years, he was my closest friend in St. Louis. So in 2010, when he had troubles walking and we took him to the vet, we got some truly bad news. It turned out that his walking issues were one of two things – one was a nerve issue they could correct with surgery, but the other was uncurable. To find out which it was, they would have to put him under anesthesia and operate.

The problem there was that a heart defect of Merlin’s made putting him under anesthesia tricky – I think the vet said that there was a 25% chance he would never wake up. And even if they put him under anesthesia, it was only exploratory – if it turned out to be the surgically viable option, then they wouldn’t be able to do it then – so he would have to go under again at a later time, with the same odds. And even with the surgery, there would be a long recovery time, where Merlin wouldn’t really be able to walk. As the vet told my mother and I this, I called my father to see what he thought; he was in favor of the surgery, but after going through the odds in my head, I didn’t think it was viable – it would be a lot of suffering for a very small chance. I had to convince him that I was right, which was hard because all I wanted to do was cry. And so the vet let us say goodbye, and then started the process to put him to sleep.

I feel guilty about that, because Merlin was my friend, and I had raised him from a puppy. He had such trust in me, and I made the choice to put him to sleep – even if it was to save him a lot of suffering. And so watching those videos, I was reminded of what, and who, I had lost. So I fell apart for a few hours; it felt like the day Merlin died. There was a lot of crying involved, and it was not pretty.

But eventually, it passed. I stopped crying, and sat with those feelings. I may not have been totally sure I made the right choice, but I think it was the best I could have made with the information I had available. I’ve never had a dream where my dog came to me and forgave me and said he was alright, but then I don’t tend to remember my dreams, so I may have and not remembered. I knew that though I was feeling terrible, that it wasn’t forever, and it was just a memory of things past; it had no real power over me except what I gave it. So I dried my eyes, I got up, and I started to try to make myself feel better. Of course, the first step of this was to order pizza. Then I started playing a video game I hadn’t played in a while, but had enjoyed, and that took my mind off things. At the end of the evening, I was full of pizza, I was satisfied with my video game, and I was glad that even though I had fallen apart for a while, I had put myself back together.

So, that was my Wednesday night. My last Family Connections class in tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to that, as well as Calla’s return to Houston – 9 days left, now. I’ll try to put together my second post on DBT language, but I thought this was a better look at what was going on in my head.



It’s been a few days since my last post, so I thought I’d give a short update. My last few days have been pretty busy and emotionally charged, but right now I am exhausted from work, so while I have a blog post planned, it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. But otherwise, things are going fairly well; I still have a job, my apartment, my health, and my friends, so I can’t complain. Look for a more substantive post tomorrow, and until then, be well!

The Language of DBT, part 1

One of the things about DBT (that’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is that there are a lot of acronyms at play. Even for those who are in the midst of therapy, all the acronyms can be confusing. But for those who aren’t learning DBT – either to practice themselves or because they want to know what their friends or loved ones are learning – all these things can be really tricky to figure out. So I thought I would bust out s few of them, with explanations, so that people have a somewhat better idea of what’s going on.

First is DEAR MAN. DEAR MAN is a DBT acronym for an objectives effectiveness skill – that is, it is a skill to help DBT practitioners help to get what they want. That may seem devious, but a lot of people who need and learn DBT have difficulty expressing what they want in a way that makes sense, or avoids being overly emotional. So DEAR MAN is a shorthand for a way to make a clear, concise point, and get across meaning in a very simple way.


D – Describe. Describe the situation you are reacting to, or want to enact. Stick to the facts, and avoid emotional judgments.

E – Express. Express how you feel, preferably using “I” statements.

A – Assert. Assert yourself; make your request concisely and clearly, or say no. This step is important, because without it, the person, or people, you are talking to might be confused – they can’t read your mind.

R – Reinforce. Reinforce how getting what you want will be positive for everyone, or the consequences of not getting what you want. Repeat yourself if necessary.


M – Mindful. Be mindful of the conversation. Stay focused, and don’t let the conversation be derailed. Be a broken record; don’t let the other person change subjects, and don’t respond to attacks.

A – Appear confident. Stand up straight, look the other person in the eye, and speak clearly.

N – Negotiate. Be willing to give if you want to get, though also be aware of what you are willing to give – in this situation, there might not be any ground you are willing to surrender.


Next is GIVE. GIVE is about how to react to another person, how to treat them in a conversation – essentially, how to maintain relationships in conversation.


G – Gentle. Be gentle; don’t attack or threaten the other person, and don’t judge them. Focus on keeping the relationship.

I – Interested. Act interested in what the other person is saying; listen to them until you understand their point of view. Ask questions, but don’t interrupt. Try and cultivate a genuine interest in the other person and their conversation topics; it will help make a more fulfilling relationship.

V – Validate. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings, opinions, and expressions, and don’t judge them. You don’t have to agree with them, but it helps to find some kind of common ground.

E – Easy manner. Be calm, and try to keep things light-hearted. Use humor if you think it might work.


Third in the list of acronyms is FAST. This is for self-care, because for a lot of people in DBT, low self-image or self-respect is a problem. I know it was for me. SO this is a short checklist to help you keep from being overrun by negativity.


F –Fair. Be fair to both yourself and others – often people learning DBT have high emotional sensitivity, and have no problem being fair to others, but have trouble remembering being fair to themselves.

A – no Apologies. Don’t apologize for things you don’t need to apologize for – your life, your needs, your desires.

S – Stick. Stick to your values; compromising your values means a loss of self-respect, while maintaining your values can help to build self-respect.

T – Truthful. Be honest in your conversations. Don’t lie about how you feel; if you are close to falling apart, say so. Likewise, don’t act helpless when you are not.


These are all skills that focus on interpersonal effectiveness – that is, being effective in your relationships with other people. They may seem a little silly or basic, but I know that I’ve certainly made use of them. I haven’t always followed the DEAR MAN format, but having these things on my mind has helped me to interact with other people in a more helpful way.I’ll try to focus my next DBT post on survival and acceptance skills/

On Anonymous

I’m not a recovering addict, so I don’t know much one way or the other about the various Anonymous programs (Alcoholics, Narcotics, etc.), but I do know a number of people who go to these groups, and I’ve heard several of them complain about things, especially the seemingly religious nature of the program. In that light, here’s an article I found interesting: The Pseudo-science of Alcoholics Anonymous: There’s a better way to treat addiction