I wouldn't have a happy place if I hadn't spent so long in rock bottom
My Happy Place is a synonym for wherever my art is. It’s typically my “studio” which is a chaotic desk with endless supplies of glitters and stickers. The convenient thing about my craft is that it is more or less portable. Art was the accessible “coping skill” I never meant to find. When I was in treatment in California, despite being miserable, My Happy Place was with me indefinitely. It was the two sets of watercolors and my Arches paper that I brought with me everywhere, no matter what the circumstance. I taught myself how to create even when I was suffering and the result of that proudly hangs on my wall. It was merely a survival skill before it was a coping skill. Being able to access a skill anywhere and under all circumstances has been vital in my recovery.
I was told I needed a plethora of skills and I was told I could not use the same ones over and over because they would lose their effect. In my experience, I couldn’t find that to be more untrue. When I tried to appease treaters and utilize skills that did not speak to me, they had little to no effect. It was in going against the grain and doing what I knew spoke to me. It was in throwing myself into the few very effective skills that I did have: art, writing and music. And it was in doing so despite being told I couldn’t “just be writing in the garden all the time”.
Nevertheless, I wrote in the garden and threw my soul into art endlessly, relentlessly. Until I realized a good mood was not a prerequisite for picking up a paintbrush. So much in my life has had terms and conditions with fine print. My happy place had been this little world I created without help, that was free of conditions and I realized nobody could get ahold of that story; nobody could write the terms and conditions for my own getaway without my consent. Here, I get to write my own fine print.
I think a textbook can only offer so much. The DBT book that was made out to be the ultimate problem solver for BPD only did so much for me (don’t get me wrong, DBT has helped but this is oh so much gray area for me).
I believe in trusting oneself first; mental health professionals can offer expertise and help tremendously but ultimately no one will ever know you better than you know you. I knew writing in the garden was keeping me alive, but I was told it was a poor use of time if I was doing it too much by their standards. Listen to your treaters, maybe don’t take my advice, but just know to trust yourself first. If some textbook and it’s followers tell you to sit rigidly in a room that suffocates you but your soul is screaming otherwise, I suppose the choice seems obvious, but I think we tend to passively rule follow when authority asks that of us.
Ironically, the things I was told I was overusing, the things I was told would grow tired and lose their effect, those were the things that saved my life. If something works, if you can find passion somewhere, throw yourself into it. I don’t think you can ever regret the discovery of your own happy place. Skills are important, absolutely, but in recovering from something like BPD, I’m a strong believer that skills will help but it is the thing that makes us stay that is the ultimate skill found deep within oneself. For me, a pack of ice was replaceable. A chain analysis or checking the facts were replaceable. But learning how to put my soul to paper; that is truly irreplaceable and the highest value skill I will ever stumble upon. An ice dive can help regulate distress and a pros and cons can help decision making, but what heals the soul, is the skill that elicits joy and a will to live.