The First One to Leave

After the last twelve weeks, you would think I would be better at goodbyes, but no, this one was difficult. Jane was the first to graduate out of our Intensive Outpatient Program at the DBT Center of Houston. As clinical as it sounds, the program is more like a college course where a group of us came together to learn skills that would help us to better navigate life, including mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance.

If I’m being honest, my first impression of Jane was “why the fuck is she even here…?” She appeared to me to be the opposite of everything a psych patient should look like. She was smart, successful, and organized in a way that I’d never been, but it was as this thought crossed my mind that I learned one of the first lessons of DBT: you can not assume what another person is thinking or feeling

As we covered this chapter, I felt ashamed. Here I was, parading as an influencer, telling others to de-stigmatize mental health, yet I was judging what a psych patient should look like.

This notion continued to be challenged as more and more people were added to our group. We were all different but the same in the sense that we were trying to better our lives, and we were in it together—like a band of misfits hidden in a creaky, white house in the Heights, which had become our safe space. Or rather, we’d become a safe space for each other, and now, it was time to say goodbye.

But it wasn’t goodbye for good. It was more like “see you later.” And as Jane left, I knew she would be okay. She now had the skills to face whatever awaited her in the real world, and soon, I would too.

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