Multiple Sensors

“It’s like having a heating system. If the temperature sensor for the thermostat is in a spot that’s become drafty, the heat will never turn off even though the room is scalding. If you add a few more sensors located around the room, you can get the system back under control.” - Elizabeth Young (quoted by Andrew Solomon in The Noonday Demon)

I am in a residential treatment center. I gag on those words because, to paraphrase the venerable George Carlin: society has sanitized and lobotomized the words we use to describe unpleasantness. As if we all can’t read between the lines.

I am here because my system (read: brain) has some inoperative sensors. The residence in which I stay provides a whole buffet of sensor options, but, unlike a traditional buffet, all options are mandatory, and I must eat my fill.

A psychiatrist writes prescriptions. A counselor works on DBT. Social workers lead groups. Nurses drive the shuttle bus and administer medications. All are involved as a part of my treatment team, and all are on the lookout for behaviors or statements that might precipitate a serious dip in my mental health.

I’ve noticed that I’m much less angry at myself here than at psychiatric hospitals. Here at least, the food is good and there are no locked doors. I’m still upset that I’m here, and still acknowledge my need to be here. That is DBT lesson number one: two opposing forces may be simultaneously true.

The task before me: learn how to operate between those forces.