Tag Archives: accountability

Language Learning and Mental Illness

18 Jan

I recently came across a blog post that linked to an article about learning languages and depression.  So I thought I would do my own post on how language learning helps me.

A big part of it is the structure and accountability for having to show up to a weekly class.  You can get this practically with any class though.

I enjoy it, I actually want to go.  If I’m in a bout of depression or something I know that it is an activity I use to find pleasurable and I will be happy I continued with the skill even when the depression is saying nothing is fun or appealing.

Learning languages involves a lot of different skills. Between input and output and all the stuff that lies in between.  I know Spanish, English, Italian, American Sign Language, and a little French.  Sign language was one of the most fulfilling one to learn and one that helped most with my mental illness.  With sign language you must listen to the person (input), translate them into sign language and then sign them (output.)  All these things are going on at once so what you are signing is something said a few minutes ago, and is different than the person’s speaking (input) that you are getting now.  One of my symptoms of the bipolar is a racing mind.  If my mind doesn’t have enough to do it finds it’s own ways to occupy itself which generally means bad news for me.  With the process of translation and input/output of two languages my mind is fully occupied and there is no opportunities for negative self talk, impulsive grandiose plans, or anxiety.

You must interact with other people when learning a language it isn’t something you can just do with a book.  Even though social interaction causes me a lot of anxiety I can’t just say forget it because I am also getting a grade in that class.  Also many people are just learning that language too, so there is a lot of grace- which makes me less anxious.

It is not based on 100% interaction.  When I’m having a bad day I can cancel a social interaction and study flashcards, a book, or listen to an Italian podcast.  There are so many options and resources out there in different languages.

I feel accomplished and good about myself.  I feel like if I run into someone who doesn’t speak English I can interact with them still and we can meet part way.

This is especially relevant to sign language but facial expressions can mean different things when done with the same sign, so they are very important.  I’m not too good with facial expressions but it forces to me to look at the person in order to get the full content of what they are saying.


If you see in my header the word (purple) “crazy” in the 4 languages that I know.

DBT Skills and other tid bits from Today

6 Mar

Ok I just had something that annoyed the hell out of me so let me post it first.  Calm down and then talk about what I learned in DBT today.  So I’ve mentioned about my social anxiety and how I don’t have many friends before.  My last few years/months? of high school were rough.  I honestly don’t remember much but I went to independent study, after refusing to go to school my senior year so I take that as evidence there were some problems.  In 2010, I had a Halloween party in an attempt at some kind of peace making/reunion/see what people were up to now.  Also to see if I could handle it.  Most of my old high school friends are “friends” on facebook, so I sort of know what is going on with them.  Some of them started a book club, I like to read so I thought I’d ask to join.  Pretty much read a book a month and then get together the next month to talk about it.  Today the date to meet in March to discus the February book was set.  I was reading the update to my dad, he is always on me about being proactive and making friends and all.  He just made smart remarks that make me not even want to go now, and as often he made me feel like I’m doing the wrong thing.  The date may conflict with a potential Disney trip that I think probably won’t happen.  First thing he mentions is the date conflicting.  Then I talk about where we are meeting, which is a restaurant I go to a lot.  I commented about going there a lot, mostly because I didn’t want it to seem weird when I go in and the servers are calling me by name.  My dad’s response, don’t sound like your bragging.  Sorry dad, I guess I can still never do anything right.

Ok rant over.  I had sign class today and went we are working on translating and signing songs.  Last session school friend didn’t go and I fared pretty well by myself, I was proud of myself.  Today we did a different song she was there.  The point is you are normally about 10 seconds behind the lyrics to translate and you should never sign the lyrics before they are sung out loud.  Most the class was having difficulty with the timing and wanted to sign the words in key with the lyrics and the beat.  I was pretty good about keeping the gap.  School friend even commented on it.  I guess there is a benefit to hearing voices so much.  The non mean ones that just chatter endlessly, I have learned to block out for the most part.  When  signing I could block out what I was hearing (currently) and focus on what was just sang to sign it in the correct time.

Now to my most important part.  DBT Skills Class update.  I did not go to class last week, I was having a terrible day, it was canceled the week before that and the week before that was valentines day and I also didn’t go.  Today the hand out was on “Guidelines for Accepting Reality” it talked about different breathing excercises which I just set aside since it isn’t my thing and doesn’t really work for me.  There was a section called “More on breathing with feelings”, I just took the feeling part and applied it to the area of Emotional Regulation.  Here are the keys then I’ll explain a little more.  So the italics are notes that came from the leader or questions or statements posed by people in the class.  The one’s with the bullets and the bolded words are directly from a sheet from a DBT training manual.  The words emotions and or emotional mind can be interchanged with thoughts or rational mind.  In class we just focused on emotions more since that’s what most people have problems with.

Experience your Emotion

  • As a WAVE, coming and going
  • Try not to BLOCK emotions
  • Try not to SUPPRESS emotions
  • Don’t try to GET RID of emotions
  • Don’t PUSH it away
  • Don’t HOLD ON to it
  • Don’t AMPLIFY it
Emotions will wait and come back at inappropriate times.  The emotion that resurfaces is not always the initial emotion.  This is referring to trying to block, suppress, get rid of, or push away emotions.
The longer you can tolerate the emotions at the peak, the less powerful they will be in the future.
When can you push the emotion away?  You should saty as long as you can with the emotion and then get the skills to stay as long as the emotion lasts.
The waves will come, peak, and then dissipate but they always return later.  
Most time you will only stay at the peaked emotion for 20 minutes or so.

Remember: You are not your emotion

  • Do not necessarily ACT on emotion.  Emotions are real but not reality.
  • Remember times when you have felt DIFFERENTLY.

Practice Accepting your Emotions

  • Don’t JUDGE your emotions
  • Practice WILLINGNESS
  • Radically ACCEPT your Emotion.

Allowing emotions to be, or just experiencing them.

A few other points:

Whatever your goal is you will need to switch behaviors and make choices that will often be a lot of work, so you need to be committed to the goal whatever it is.

Most people have different people they go to when a situation occurs.  Our leader talked about an example of a bad date and how she could call her sister or her friend.  Her sister would be the one who would hold her more accountable, asking what her part was in the situation or why he acted the way he did.  Where her friend would be more of the validating type of person that would side with her and not ask too many questions.  She talked about how she much rather talks to the friend because that will be the response she wants to hear.  I asked about the two different types of people as it seemed she ways saying the ones that hold you accountable are better.  She said you need a balance as with anything.  Sometimes you need to hear that all guys are jerks rather than you did something that pissed him off and he had a right to act the way he did.