REAL CHATS with Kate Westfall

REAL CHATS with Kate Westfall

Kate Westfall is a retired Air Force Officer. It was after her retirement that she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. After treatment,  her DBT Treatment Team asked her to be a peer support mentor for DBT group sessions. She has been a mentor now for eighteen months. She also focuses her time on riding horses, taking dressage lessons, playing golf and traveling.

PROJECT 375: What is your favorite movie and why? 

Kate: I have three favorite movies: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Secretariat¸ and Miracle. I love the Lord of the Rings because of the storyline, fighting for and believing in each other, Sam refusing to leave Frodo’s side, along with a million other reasons. I love Secretariat because I love horses and Penny Chenery is a very strong lady (in a time women were supposed to be housewives or secretaries). I read various interviews with her and articles about her, and she is truly very strong. Lastly, Miracle because it is about coming together and playing for something more than just a team. The kids who played for the 1980 Gold Medal hockey team came together as a team to represent the US. The story is told well and even though I know the ending, I still get a rush every time I watch the movie.

PROJECT 375: What are you most grateful for? 

Kate: God for the gift of love and my family for their support. I am also extremely grateful for Dr. Marsha Linehan for developing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

PROJECT 375: What words of wisdom would you pass onto your childhood self? 

Kate: This is hard to answer because I no longer think “what would I do differently in my past” because I know I can’t change my past; I feel like any words of wisdom I passed to my childhood self would alter the path of where I am today. And I like who and where I am today. The closest wisdom I can come up with is “You can’t change the past, so please stop using the phrase ‘I should have done x,y and z.’ Using this phrase will only increase your suffering and pain”.

PROJECT 375: What is your greatest achievement and how has it shaped you? 

Kate: Successfully graduating from the DBT program and being a peer support mentor for a weekly DBT group session. First, I want to refer back to why I am grateful for DBT. It gave me back my life and taught me so much; if I did not go through DBT, I know I would not be as comfortable with or as confident in myself as I am today. I am aware of my moods and can now tolerate various emotions and/or difficult situations. I don’t try to hide my feelings anymore. At the end of therapy, my therapist asked if I wanted to come back and become a peer support mentor (I was 1 of 2 people asked to come back and start the peer support position in group sessions.) Being asked was extremely humbling and I was honored to serve as a mentor. I shared my experiences, how I continued to use my skills, and how my reactions to situations changed because of DBT. I believe it helped patients because I went through DBT as a patient and I could relate to their doubts and provide support from a different perspective. I believe it helped the therapists as well because they did not have to make up scenarios for all of the various skills taught in group.

PROJECT 375: If you could travel to any place in the world, where would you visit? 

Kate: This just happened right before Thanksgiving (2015). I went to Dublin, Ireland to see U2 live. I always wanted to go to Ireland because everyone asks me if I’m Irish (my real name is Kathleen Marie, I have red hair, and I’m Catholic – pretty much the trinity for being Irish ☺). I had money saved to spend on a big trip or adventure; when U2 announced their Dublin dates, I finally knew how I would spend the money. It was worth every cent. I do want to go back to Ireland and visit Dublin again, as well as the rest of the Emerald Isle. The Cliffs of Mohr, County Cork, go to “horse country” to see wild horses: there is so much to see. The trip I went on was U2 specific, so I did not do a lot of sightseeing. Rather, I met a lot of fellow U2 fans and had fun standing  with them in the general admission line for hours to get into the venue. This was the first time I allowed myself to go to a concert by myself and it’s another reason why I’m grateful for DBT. I missed out on three U2 tours because I didn’t have friends who were U2 fans; therefore I didn’t go and see my favorite band live because I would be a “loser” going by myself. I don’t think like that anymore and I don’t punish myself with those thoughts anymore. That’s why the Dublin trip was such a huge stepping stone for me and I’m proud of myself for going.

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