What is wilfulness? As defined by a dictionary it is will·ful also wil·ful (w l f l). adj. 1. Said or done on purpose; deliberate. See Synonyms at voluntary. 2. Obstinately bent on having one’s own way.
but it has another definition when it comes to DBT “More simply, willingness is saying yes to the mystery of being alive in each moment. wilfulness is saying no, or perhaps more commonly, ‘yes, but…'” (quoted in Linehan, 1993, p. 148)
There is the part of DBT that is a bit out there, a little harder to grasp and hold onto. Willingness vs. wilfulness fits well in that category. To radically accept and do the best with what you have. To try your best with what it is you are given, regardless of whether it is good or bad. I have never truly grasped it, and clearly it continues to be that way. As I look at my life and the endless cycles of deep depression and returns to baseline I only see this writing on the wall, so to speak. I have often written about my strong sense that this life isn’t meant for me. Not in the long run. When called upon to envision my life in 10 years time I see nothing. Absolutely nothing. darkness. It is not a matter of if I will return to those dark days it is a matter of when. I guess you might say that indeed I am being willful by Linehan’s standards. That yes, maybe I am indeed sitting on my hands rather than actively doing something, but I am not sure that is the case. I work at my treatment. I go to sessions. I try my best. truly I do. I have never actively undermined (for lack of a better word) my treatment. I don’t not show up, nor do I ignore the advice of Virgil and Beatrice. I take my meds, and track my sleep, moods, meals and exercise. I do not say fuck it and do whatever. That is not me. That in my mind would be wilfulness. Instead I accept what it is. I understand that I will not be well forever. That this moment of normalcy is not to last. I could put my head in the sand and pretend this isn’t going to change. that would be willful. Instead I continue along, if anything dreading the day when the planets change their alignment, or whatever it is that causes the shift. I accept that I am bipolar. I accept that I cannot live my life the way I might want to. I cannot keep guns in my home. I cannot stay out partying and drinking instead of keeping to my sleep schedule. I cannot skip doses of meds. I ACCEPT that. How is that willful? When everything is falling down around me and my world becomes brittle and threatens to disintegrate. When I cannot spend another minute suffering silently- I am willful for chosing the only thing that is soothing in that moment? To rest a moment in the calm and quiet. To be free of pain and to be lost in my head. To make it through another day the only way I know how. Because I have found this refuge I am willful. I am chosing the wrong path. Apparently I have made the worst choice possible. I should stay and suffer in that cardboard universe of nothingness. That is what I SHOULD do. How is that the right choice? When is suffering the right choice? According to Virgil it is. According to Linehan it is. But neither tells me what to replace it with. What do I do in those horrible days when nothing occupies my mind but these thoughts? I guess I am supposed to hunker down and accept my pain. Get comfortable in the searing reality of a depression fathoms deep. I’d like to know how to do that. I want an answer. My mind created a very different reality when I was just a kid. This place of refuge has been with me my whole life. I am to turn away that escape. I am to willingly accept and remain in a place nobody can tell me how long will last. Do you have any idea how terrifying that is? To sit waiting, suffering trying to see a light at the end of that tunnel, but there isn’t one. Not when I am lost within it. The rational mind is long gone. So you say make the decision earlier while it is still possible. Very easy for you to say. What I see is a long road with no clear end in sight. I don’t think you understand what you are asking me to do. or maybe you do. I don’t understand what will take the place of the only soothing thing I have. I know it is maladaptive. Dangerous. wrong. I KNOW. I’m not an idiot. I understand, but I don’t feel I have the choice. You are not seeing it for what it is. It is a skill. It buys me time. I know you don’t understand this. It gives me a time out and lessens the suffering and pain. It lengthens the time I can live with the depression while you change meds and shift doses. I don’t know what to do without it. Without it I know I could not tolerate the depression. I could not hunker down and ride it out. Without my escape into my fantasies I cannot survive. If that is willful than so be it. I don’t see it that way. I see it as accepting what I need to do to make it through another minute, hour or day. It is a survival skill honed over many years. Yes, I understand the flip side of it is the dangerous nature of the fantasy and the ever looming possibility that the fantasy becomes all too welcoming. I know that. I just don’t know what else to do. I wish I could tell you all that I had the endurance and the willpower to ride it out. I’m not nearly that strong. Never was. I created a niche in my head to hide. If hiding is willful than yes, I am willful. I will never get this. I’m not sure most people understand the depths of the torment one has to endure just to make a hiding spot like that a reality. They don’t just appear one day. We don’t just decide to fantasize about killing ourselves. No this is the end product of being trapped and having nowhere to turn. It was early on for me. I still can’t fathom being that young and needing a place to disappear to. My closet wasn’t good enough. Not nearly deep or dark enough. To hide I needed the ultimate disappearing act. How terribly sad to think of a child wanting nothing more than to die rather than live silently suffering. That day when a choice was made and a path was beaten into new territory was the day I found a different way to cope. I did not realize then the ramifications of my choice. How could I? I wandered down a very different path chosing to pull back from life. I could not cope with my existence. That was 30 years ago. If I am willful than so be it. I don’t know another way. I wish the path had been different. God I wish it were so. My mind cannot even grasp what happened to that lost and terrified child so long ago. Death should never be embraced and danced with so sincerely. To lose such a precious gift is sickening. Sure I hate myself for the choices I have made and for the sorrow I have caused. I do not want to tie anyone’s hands. It is not my wish. It is NOT. I can’t help but weep for the difficult place I find myself. To chose between prolonged suffering I know I can’t endure or to seek amelioration in the recesses of my mind only to know that to do so is to hurt all those around me. That I must make a choice to walk away from a place that has both saved me and killed me. One cannot be teased away from the other. If only it could be. If only I knew a way to hold on and survive without the well-worn pathways in my brain embracing me. I just don’t even know what to think. I do not want to be willful. I just want to survive without hurting. That isn’t possible. My road is paved with fear and anguish. To say it is not would be foolhardy. and so I walk waiting for the next chapter without the ability to see it. I live in the here and now for I cannot foresee a future with me in it. It is all too easy to drift into the past. If only I knew where I was going. If only I had the confidence to believe in my ability to survive the next free fall.