Distractify Me

One of the hallmarks of Dialectical Behavioral Theory (DBT), which is recommended for people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is distraction techniques. This can take many forms under many guises but simply put: it’s anything that takes your mind away from the trigger that is making you ‘Hulk smash.’

When I’m home alone and the ‘thoughts’ get to me, I clean house, do the laundry, or yard work. Since the ‘thoughts’ generally come from too much Internet angst, once I can get off the couch and stop looking at the damn screen, I’m on my way.

I’m on my way to the thrills and chills of vacuuming cat hair off everything.

There is another technique known as ‘soothing skills,’ which are part of a larger rubric of Distress Tolerance Skills (this is all BPD-speak by which we recognize each other). Basically, think masturbation. If one cannot masturbate where one is, the rest of the soothing skills come in to play – soft music, guided imagery, benzos, that kind of stuff.

Yes I wrote benzos. Get over it.

My wife suggested exploring the possibility of getting a therapy animal, perhaps a dog, to take to work. Even if this were allowed by my workplace (it is not), the stigma of being the office lunatic will not be helped by being followed around by a dog, as comforting as it may be.

I can see it now:

“Who the hell brought a dog into this office? I didn’t know it was ‘bring your pet to work day.’”

“Um, that’s you-know-who’s ‘therapy pet.’”

“Oh for chrissakes.”

No. And besides, I’d have to walk the dog and let it pee and poop on the government shrubbery which I’m sure our groundskeepers would not appreciate. And of course, after cleaning up the poop, what do I do with it? Take it home? No one around here, to the best of my knowledge, has dropped poop in a waste receptacle. After all, this is a hospital. And no, plopping Fido’s turd into a toilet would also not be appreciated.

Now there are times when distraction techniques and soothing skills merge. Observe below:


No one has yet named it. 

This cheap little plastic device is intended for those of us who had to have our busy boxes pried from our hands around the age of six. Captain Queeg had his ball bearings, I have large coins:


FYI that’s a 1972 Eisenhower dollar and a 1965 UK Churchill crown

But there are numerous devices to both sooth and distract — again, masturbation being chief among these despite the approbation from various religious authorities and the need for privacy.

I had a particular little game I played from when I was about 11 to early adulthood and somehow grew out of. I had one of my father’s small beat up Philips screwdrivers and would toss it in the air with the game being I had to catch it on the handle. When I didn’t have the screwdriver, I used a pencil – tossed it into the air with the trick being to catch it on the eraser side. In both cases, the penalty was possibly getting poked.

I would literally toss these objects many times a day. If anyone was watching they would have sworn I was autistic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So – if you’re one of the 16 people who will read this, what are your favorite distraction/soothing instruments/activities? I could always use new ideas.

This entry was posted in anxiety, bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Distractions, self care and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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