Snowpocalypse 2014

Vinitha Pastor's picture

(Read:  Even therapists have to use skills sometimes…)**

January 28, 2014 will easily go down as one of the most stressful days I have ever experienced in my life. It took me almost 10 hours to get the 12 miles home, and after I had time to process the experience, I was amazed at how many DBT skills I used to get through those incredibly stressful moments. I wanted to share them because it was a good reminder that no matter who we are or where our lives are at the moment, skills are helpful.

It started with a lot of mindfulness: watching of the snow hitting my windshield; observing the man in the truck next to me with his window down so he could smoke a cigarette (and I’m not going to lie, I was totally making judgments here); being one mindful of the cars around me and their extremely slow pace so I didn’t run into them. I had to stay very mindful of my emotions and do my best to not get stuck on frustration or upset because it was not going to help (a concept in DBT we call Teflon mind.)

As the minutes turned into hours and emotions started to get more intense, I was able to pull out the distress tolerance and distraction skills. That being said, I want to give a shout out to the makers of Candy Crush and the people at Amazon (who created the Kindle), Apple, Twitter and Facebook for allowing me to use their products to pass the incredibly slow time. Without them, I might not have been able to tolerate the distress as effectively.

We also use a skill called radical acceptance. It is a deep and complete acknowledgement of a situation for what it is and a letting go of fighting reality. I said to my husband at the 3 hour mark (around 5:30pm) that I was not going to be home before midnight. It wasn’t an exaggeration or an out of proportion reaction. It was a radical acceptance of the situation because I knew that I had never been through an experience like this and the situation was dire. And I could still handle it and get through effectively. At that moment, the stress started to dissipate and a calm set in.

At the 6 hour mark, it was 8:30pm. I had had to reroute myself because traffic was at a complete standstill, which left me a little over 6 miles from home. At this point, I started mentally creating a coping ahead plan because I knew that if I wanted to get home, I was going to have to walk.  So I made a playlist of music, made sure I had headphones, put my coat on and started walking. Not the exact situation I wanted to be in. I was in work clothes, there was ice and snow everywhere, and cars were starting to slide sideways. And yet, I still knew that this was the most effective thing to do. There were a lot of internal cheerleading statements and external encouragement from family, coworkers and Facebook friends.

To shorten the rest of the story, I did get home. At 12:05am. I was in the car for almost 10 hours, and I ended up walking a total of 4 miles. I was never so happy to walk in the door of my home and to see my family. I think I was one of the lucky ones though. I didn’t have to sleep in my car (or at Publix or Home Depot.) I didn’t have my children with me. And other than being hungry, exhausted and cold, I made it home in one piece. Don’t get me wrong, it was an extremely stressful experience. (I rank it very close to childbirth.) AND it could have been much worse.

So the aftermath? I was pretty achy for several days. My boots were in pretty bad shape. And when I finally went to fetch my car two days later, I skidded on the sheet of ice outside my neighborhood and bent the axel in the wheel of my car. As I think and write about this experience now, one of the main premises in DBT keeps coming to mind. And I hope it’s one that will continue to be at the forefront for me and I hope for you as well.

We might not have caused all of our problems and we have to solve them anyway.

**Stay tuned for an update on Snowpocalypse 2014 Part II once we get through February 12 and 13!