Distress Tolerance.


First things first – a huge thank you to everyone who supported me through last night (both in real life and from the blog world). You are all fabulous xx

So, I didn’t wake up until just before midday today. Yesterday had been so emotionally fraught and I think sometimes I just need that time to turn off and recover. I woke up, had breakfast, and then spent the rest of the afternoon in bed, journalling and reading and half-watching films. I really value this time off work – time where I can just be, in my space, in my PJs, without judgement. Or, at least without many people knowing to be able to judge me 😛

I had my second session with F this evening.

I found it quite tricky to settle into the table, my breaths were jumpy and everything hurt! I worked quite hard to let myself relax into it, and eventually gave way to the tensions. F worked along similar patterns to last time, and it made me very quiet. I described it to F as “lost for words”, which is exactly what it felt like – I was feeling a lot, but I couldn’t find any words to describe it. F said that my neck was very hot, and though I couldn’t feel it, it made sense that it was, because it was bringing so much up.

F worked down my legs, and the further away he got from my shoulders, the more unpleasant they felt. Not exactly painful, but just really unpleasant. That sort of uncomfortable, unbearable feeling that comes with intense emotions. When I describe to T that I hurt, or that I can’t bear it, this is the feeling I mean. It’s not a pain or anything I experience in any other way… it feels a little like a knot, that slightly nauseating, toxic feeling you get… but it’s different, too.

I turned onto my back, and F worked on my tummy. Fair play to him – it’s pretty cut up after last night, but he didn’t shy from it. Touching my ribcage and sternum seemed to bring quite a lot up. I had been really trying to ‘be with’ the feelings in my shoulders – but suddenly, this became unbearable. F moved to hold my feet to try and ground me, but I got very panicky.

I know I went very young, because I could hear the panic in my voice as I said to F that my shoulders felt unpleasant and I couldn’t sit with it anymore. F asked me what he could do to help, but I didn’t know and that made me even more panicky – I needed it to stop feeling so awful, now. Now now now. I turned back over onto my front, twirled my hair round my finger and sucked my thumb, blanket pulled into the ball of my fist, whilst F kindly switched to more of a massage of the bit that hurt.

It helped, a bit, enough for me to calm down and come back to the present. F very calmly took his hands off me, covered me back over and said, “I’m still here”. Bless him. I trust that he means that, too.

We talked very briefly about distress tolerance, or my lack thereof. When things feel bad, or unpleasant, I can’t sit with it. Not at all. When I get a cold or a sickness bug, any logic that I will get better completely leaves me – my head is filled with irrational thoughts that I will never get better, I will feel this bad forever. That is much the same with emotional or physical discomfort – and the unpleasant feeling in my shoulder is undoubtedly linked to what happened yesterday.

I went to yoga after F. Sort of did my own thing slightly because I felt she wasn’t giving me enough opportunity for stretch, and I really needed to stretch out my shoulders! It was lovely, until I was in child’s pose (where I spent a lot of this session), and she put her hand on the back of my neck without warning. I leapt about twelve feet away from her. Silly cow. Anyway….! My shoulder feels marginally better but still icky.

I’m currently having a kill it! Kill it with fire… approach. Hot bean bag, painkillers, anti psychotic meds and an early bedtime to try and make it go away. Because I don’t have any distress tolerance. None. I know I need to build it, but I’m not quite sure how.

F was brilliant today. I’m reading a book called ‘Self Esteem and Early Learning’. There are two quotes in this that I really connected to F today.

Babies and young children experience a bewildering and often overwhelming range of emotions that they cannot understand or control. The mother and other important people can play an important part in seeing and understanding the infant as a whole person at a time when the infant’s powerful sensations, feelings, excitements and furies act in a fragmenting way, splitting the infant’s dawning self-perception. If people respond so that the infant comes to feel wholly recognised and accepted, then the infant can recognise and accept herself as a whole person.


From the very earliest days, babies begin to build up their own internal ability to deal with their feelings. This ability is based on a growing feeling of internal strength, or wholeness, and a child’s consciousness of being known and accepted is what helps that ability to grow.

I love how they both hold a sense of building and growing that distress tolerance, with the child’s “important people” being a containing force whilst that happens. I really feel like that’s what happened today – when I was having a true tantrum because it hurts NOW NOW NOW, F really contained that. It makes sense that T upset me so much yesterday, because she wasn’t containing my distress. She was backing away rather than standing strong. What I need at the moment is for people to stand strong around me, whilst I learn to cope with the tumultuous storm of emotions and parts inside me.

Very triggered tonight, hearing screaming which is a classic sign of mine that things aren’t good. Also feeling that awful feeling of being suffocated, then taking one huge gasp for breath. Easter triggers me – so maybe it’s that.

Time for more meds and a nice long sleep. Oh, and another hot beanbag. Because, you know, I can’t just let it be. Yet!



7 responses »

  1. I’m intruiged enough by your work with him to contemplate something similar for myself maybe?! Must be insanely emotional having your body touched in a SAFE way and I think I’d need the person to be a she. Perhaps I’m being way too optimistic thinking I could deal with that at all but I am intruiged and wondering whether a search would be harmless?! Hope you sleep well 🙂

  2. Can I just say THANKU! found a whole charity close by who does bodywork therapy (and other types) for people abused in childhood! Can we say perfect??! Thank you for sharing this & encouraging me to think about it and search…feel like this has opened up so many doors for me. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s