On Monday morning, I had supervision with my boss and was going over a DBT case conceptionalization worksheet. We were talking about my current clients in DBT. The goal of the worksheet is to figure out how they got there. It’s a bio social evaluation. Bio meaning, what you are born with. Social meaning, what you are exposed to. From a DBT standpoint, the most “critical” social environment is an invalidating one.
She used the example of a child having a learning disorder and parents not understanding why the child can’t get the work done. Or, when a child doesn’t clean their room and a parent suggests it’s because they don’t listen or they don’t care. The child then internalizes and believes there is something wrong, off, or bad about them, not the behavior.
“Omg, did I do that to Bug?” was ruminating as I tried to listen.
“Keep focus Britt, there is a reason and a need for you to know this.”
We got through as much of the worksheet that we could in our hour session. My exterior is composed, while inside, I’m panicking. I muster out,
“What if people don’t realize or mean harm when they say those things? What if it’s the only way they think they can get through or spark a fire to motivate the other person.”
My boss then said, “Most invalidation is done without malicious intent. But, it doesn’t change how the invalidated person feels in the moment, malicious or not.”
BINGO, there it is!
I left my supervision and immediately called my sister.
“Ash, do you think Bug had a learning disorder and that’s why she was struggling so badly?”
“Oh my Britt, I never even thought of that.”
“Me either, she was so smart, quick-witted, and advanced in so many other area’s. She had so many friends. I just assumed she was putting her social relationships ahead of her school work. I never thought there was actually something wrong with how she was processing the information. Fuck Ash, I invalidated her, I missed it. What if I was wrong this whole time?”
“I don’t know, Britt. Sadly, for the rest of our lives we will question, what if’s, and, shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. But you can’t be too hard on yourself. I never thought about it either. It’s also the teachers responsibility to notice these type of things. As a parent, you are not in the school environment with her. The teachers should have said something if she needed testing. But, they always just assumed she was more into her friends than work.”
Damnit, invalidating environment number 2!
I hung up the phone and headed to the Goodwill. I was crying and apologizing to Bug, speaking out loud. As, I pulled into the donation line, the first thing I see is this,
You are right, Bug. I will pray! Thank you for the reminder.
With this being the last week of September, Suicide Prevention and Awareness month, I wanted to circle back on what I believe is the most efficient way to tackle this epidemic. As I’ve eluded to in past blogs, it starts in schools.
I have said a million times, what does prevention actually look like? To me, this is a tangible and attainable model that fully supports mental health and well-being starting young. With the goal that it will decrease suicide rates in children and adults.