Blogging, Mental health

Provider Tales: Deskraven Welcomes Special Guest Randy Withers, LCMHC!

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view.”
– Henry Ford

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog where I tackle the ugly truths of mental health as it relates to parenting and relationships – and what you can do about them. If you’ve been a reader for some time, then you know my writing style consists of pairing comprehensive mental health articles with personal insight and resources. Having held the spotlight for two years to find my own healing, I am now more eager then ever to offer up the Deskraven platform to hear your stories, as well as those of mental health providers. My hope is that we can continue to serve each other and our mental health community by sharing our stories and normalizing mental health language.

In this new series I will be sharing Reader Tales and Provider Tales on behalf of anyone who wants to participate. If you’re interested in sharing your mental health story in confidence, or know someone who is, please email me at contact@deskraven.com to find out how it works! As we move forward together, you will notice an interview template with the intention of readability. These questions may change or evolve over time.

Without further adieu, I give you Randy Withers, LCMHC! Earlier this year my good friend and colleague reached out to tell me the Deskraven Blog wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. He gave me the opportunity to write for his project, Blunt-Therapy, a blog about mental health, addiction, counseling, and relationships – edited by a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. I could think of no greater advisor in the same vein of mental health writing so I jumped at the offer. You can check out our first collaboration, “5 Ways You Can Help the LGBTQ+ Community Fight Stigma”, available on Blunt-Therapy.com.

This time, the tables have turned and Mr. Withers has graced the Deskraven audience with his invaluable wisdom! In addition to being the Managing Editor for Blunt-Therapy.com, Randy boasts a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Education. He is recognized as a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC). Furthermore, he is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist (LCAS) who has done extensive work with LGBTQ+ clients and survivors of various types of abuse.

THE INTERVIEW

Provide a little backstory. Who are you? Where are you from? What inspired you to enter the mental health profession?

My name is Randy Withers, LCMHC. I’m a licensed therapist in North Carolina, where I work at a state psychiatric facility and see clients in private practice. I am also the managing editor of Blunt Therapy, a blog about mental health. I am originally from Florida, where I worked as an educator for over a decade. For most of that career, I was an academic advisor and counselor, which is where I learned that mental health counseling was my true passion. I went back to school in 2011 and have been in the field ever since. I went to Florida State and I have a dog named Daisy, who is smarter than I am.

Have you ever experienced mental health struggles in your personal life?

I have battled depression and anxiety for more than 25 years. If I’m honest, probably since I was a small child. I’ve never felt comfortable around other people. I’ve always felt different. The problem grew worse as I got older. It led to a severe case of depression about 12 years ago, which almost killed me. So yes, you could say that I have experienced mental health struggles.

As a provider, what do you consider to be the most important aspect of mental health treatment?

I’m a big advocate of a holistic approach to mental health. I don’t really believe that any one thing is most important. Having said that, for obvious reasons I’m a huge proponent of good therapy. Often, people have no idea where to start the process of managing their mental illness. A good therapist provides direction, accountability, and most importantly – hope.

Mental health treatment usually requires a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Most importantly, it requires that the client accept responsibility for their situation and for them to be willing to do whatever it takes to tackle it.

As a provider, what challenges have you faced?

Graduate school was intense. It was a three-year program and quite demanding. But I was well-trained, so it was worth it. My biggest challenge personally has been working at various agencies with people in charge who have no business making clinical decisions. In North Carolina, you don’t have to be a doctor or a therapist to own a mental health agency. Most of these places are profit-driven and run by incompetent fools. Thankfully, I work at a hospital now that is well-run and well-managed by talented clinicians. And so is my private practice. It is, quite simply, the difference between night and day.

Many therapists struggle with issues related to boundaries. They get too emotionally invested in their clients, or they work too much, or they get burnt out. Thankfully, I’ve never really struggled with that. At least, not for a while. Good boundaries are essential for mental health.

As a provider, what would you consider your greatest accomplishment?

This is a hard question. Often, you don’t really know how effective you are. Therapy is like pouring wet concrete. It takes a long time to dry, and often you’re not there to see the finished product. I suppose if I had to focus on specific accomplishments – I have prevented a handful of suicides and even homicides by talking some clients off the proverbial ledge. One time I even took a handgun from someone. I used to work at agencies that liaised with Child Protective Services, so I can also say that I was able to protect a number of children from abuse and neglect.

Have you ever experienced stigma as a direct result of being a mental health provider? How did you react?

I wouldn’t say stigma. It’s not exactly that. But being a therapist is an inherently isolating field. You are a keeper of secrets and a witness to extreme trauma. It’s hard to shut that off sometimes. Truthfully, the biggest problem I’ve faced is in the dating world. I’d say about half of the women I’ve dated simply could not separate my career from me as a person. In fact, several months ago while on a first date, my date spent the better part of 90 minutes telling me all about her childhood trauma and her awful mother. Not exactly first date material. I have a policy of politeness and compliance, so I listened and tried to be helpful. But you can’t really move forward after something like that.

Fortunately, my current girlfriend is a psychiatric nurse and couldn’t care less about what I do for a living. It’s really nice.

What piece of advice would give to those suffering from a dual diagnosis?

That you can’t treat one without the other. Does an alcoholic drink because they are depressed or are they depressed because they drink? Doesn’t matter. You’ve got to stop drinking and treat the depression. You have to conceptualize the problem as an actual medical illness, because it is. It is chronic, unforgiving, and requires a lifetime of support and management. But I’d also say that you can have hope. I’m dually diagnosed and my quality of life is pretty high.

What piece of advice would you give to friends and family who want to support someone with a mental health condition?

The problem with friends and family is that they want to fix things that they don’t understand. I remember, for example, my mom telling me to look on the bright side of things when I was clinically depressed. That’s just not helpful. My advice? If you want to be helpful, start by learning all you can about whatever disorder it is that your loved one struggles with.

What are your favorite mental health resources?

I’m a huge proponent of two seemingly different things. The first is CBT. The second is 12-Step programs. Both of which share the same goal, which is to help people change the way they think about things. So, for me, the recovery community is a huge resource. For the CBT, I really like worksheets. You can get these on sites like TherapistAid.com or you can order workbooks off Amazon. However, these really should be done under the supervision of a mental health professional.

I also believe in online counseling, but it depends on the issue. Severe mental illness? No. Relationships, self-esteem, goal setting, etc. Absolutely, yes.

I would encourage you all to visit Blunt Therapy, which is my blog. I and about two dozen other writers focus on topics related to mental health, therapy, addictions, and parenting. We’ve got some good stuff.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Medium.

Discuss: Did Randy’s words resonate with you? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Blogging, Mental health

Ugly Truth 029: I Am Scared of What I Write

“The thing you are most
afraid to write

Write that.”

― Nayyirah Waheed, Salt

Dear Readers,

Welcome! As we return to the Ugly Truth Series for the third time this week, I want to look at the writing process once more. In the past I have written openly about my reluctance to write my truth, or the way I have had to climb my own walls to be a more transparent writer. The truth is, I write for myself as well as others. I write for others because I have a heart for service and would have given anything to have felt less alone growing up. I write for myself because the release is therapeutic, and with a slipping memory – I enjoy writing love letters to myself.

Over the course of my last two publications, I realized clicking that “Publish” button came with the riddle of trembling anxiety. Since writing has remained one of my best sources of self confidence (and I live with the curse of relentless introspection), I had to examine the why.

Sometimes I challenge myself to be more creative, to have better grammar, or to achieve a certain word count. I aim to be more readable, more relative, or more revealing. Regardless of the layout, however, the most important reoccurring theme on this blog has always been to get to the heart of the truth – no matter what it may be.

In general, I am a proud truth telling writer. I do this because I am passionate about breaking through barriers and combating mental health stigma with proper information. I do this because I have lost loved ones to suicide as a direct result of the inability to find sufficient help. I do this because I have everything to gain by using this platform to revisit my psychology, even if it is completely self indulgent at times. I do this because this space is mine, and mine alone. I don’t have to worry about the pitter patter of my son’s feet, my partner’s gentle inquisition, or my cat’s meow. I don’t have to worry about my phone ringing or who on earth needs what and when. In some ways my love of reading taught me how to hide. Perhaps writing does the opposite.

There are plenty of exercises to endeavor while writing that are designed to teach you about yourself, your strengths, and your literary voice. The first thing my creative writing teacher taught me in high school was how to hush that relentless inner critic. You know, that nagging voice that tells you to crumple up your work and aim for the nearest trash can? While I have been guilty of rewriting the same piece countless times only to never use it, I realized last night that this was not what was causing my unease. It simply was that I do very much care what my reader’s think.

Perhaps my writer’s anxiety stems from the seat of authenticity. Getting it down on the page has never been a problem for me, only getting it down fast enough. In the name of all that is mental health, I want to get this right. I want to become a name brand resource for all psychological queries . I want to be a reliable place of origin for friends and family members of loved ones with mental illness or dysfunctional relationship dynamics desperate to better understand. I want to tell my story. This is all fine and well, and yet I still experience a great deal of resistance when free associating my unfiltered sincerity. After all, what if my little sister reads this? My father? My employer?

Well… So what.

Perhaps these are big important concepts that warrant a note of caution. Perhaps it is worthwhile to consider the consequences of going public. Perhaps it is not my audience that concerns me, but my own ugly truth staring back at me. Perhaps it is nothing at all. Perhaps I am getting in my own way. Perhaps a fear of failure will lead only to the inevitable said failure that may have been avoided altogether if only the fear had been managed.

What are you afraid of?

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Blogging, Mental health

Ugly Truth 022: I Don’t Like Everything I Write

“The first draft is just telling yourself a story.” -Lisa See

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog, where you mental health finds home!

Depending on how long you’ve been following this blog, you may find that my literary voice fluctuates between formal and personal. Despite all the mountain-top screaming I do for others, I still experience resistance when faced with my own personal truth. Even while writing this I am certain I have said it all before and shouldn’t continue. It sounds silly because it is. After all, this fact is what makes the Deskraven project exactly what it is – a win-win.

Not only do I write for others to spread stigma-free awareness about mental illness, but I write for myself in order to develop a healthy internal dialogue capable of processing interpersonal experience free from self-criticism. This isn’t always easy. Often times I revisit my old works as a form of self-development, of which there are many to smile about, enjoy and take great pride in – while in others I find only gag-worthy disdain.

As a writer, I am well aware that the editing process never ends, however, as a person I continue to struggle with OCD-level perfectionism. I will often question what I did or didn’t say. I will often question my audience, and become overly concerned about who is reading – if indeed anyone is reading at all. I will often question putting myself on public display even though the benefits always outweigh the consequences. Finally, I begin to question the Deskraven Blog in it’s entirety, and grapple with the very real impulse to hit the delete button. That is, right before I remember that writing can take many directions, and the purpose of mine is simply to serve the hearts and minds of others, to help those who lack a voice, to help those who cry alone never unafraid enough to say these things out loud, to reach those who read and never comment, but always find something to gain in the shared human experience of suffering.

The truth is, I don’t like everything I write – and that’s okay. A large part of processing thoughts into expressive language is recognizing not only the what, but the how.

The truth is, writing has been a vehicle for me since the age of 12. I remember this because it was the year my father left that I felt more pain than I knew what to do with, followed by my very first urge to write it down. In the years after, I filled several journals with my ever distorted and evolving thoughts. People took notice, and I began to collect them as gifts and fill them with relative ease. I enjoyed every aspect of the tactile experience that writing has to offer. I often smiled at the process of selecting new tools, paper, and ornate over-priced personal daily records. I often beamed that I could read and write cursive when others could not. As an avid reader and lover of books, I quickly found peace, comfort and escape in the words of the world’s greatest authors – and yearned like hell to be one. While coming of age, I found strength and coping skills in the aptitude I developed through what seemed to be a natural talent. This was reinforced by the easy A’s I earned in Language Arts all through out high school and college. After years of diary entries, exceptional teachers and published poetry, I realized the need in me shifted from proper comma placement to content creation.

(I often dreamed of becoming a professional writer, however, I felt that a career that relied on production was not realistic for someone with major health conditions. That is not to say it can’t be done. Still, I remained ever-concerned that the added pressure would act as an exacerbater rather than a catalyst – and so a hobby word invention remained.)

I am no longer an angsty teenager who confronts the anguish of ailment in hidden pages. Today, I am a woman of age who publishes her struggles on a public forum because it makes her wildly uncomfortable, and yet, she can’t seem to write fast enough. It has become less about word choice and structure, and more about authenticity. This has become especially powerful in many areas of my life as an intensely passive and intellectual introvert.

All artistic disposition aside, there is value to be found in the struggle.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Blogging, Mental health

Ugly Truth 003: Distraction Posts Work

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” [The Guardian, 25 February 2010]
Hilary Mantel
Dear Readers, The fact is, human beings are not great multitaskers. When we attempt to achieve more by doing more, our ability and efficacy actually suffer. We do indeed thrive best during single task activities in terms of both long and short term goals. It is no secret that distraction is one of the most common coping skills among those with mental health diagnoses, or even common every day stressors. While in the whirlwinds of anxiety or the uncertainty of a mood swing, it becomes so very easy to become lost in a movie, our favorite song, or a soothing task. The trouble is, in an age of information and technology, we are more susceptible to overstimulation, misinformation, and the fluctuations of brain chemistry. I want you to imagine, if you will, just how much information you take in each and every day from billboards, radio, television, news apps, and social media. Try to imagine what that number might be, and then compare it to that number ten years ago. Advertisement was always on the rise, sure, but when compared with today’s breadth and depth of information processing – I find it all a bit staggering. Surely this has to take a toll on our brain health and personal psychology. The truth is, the world wide web connects us to others around the globe minimizing the isolation mental illness can create. Likewise, distraction is a viable coping skill allowing a time frame for symptoms to pass or stress to cease. However, the tools bestowed upon us might also be contributing to the problem. You know that old saying about having too much of a good thing? Well, I do believe we’ve found it. Naturally curious, I embraced this pattern of thought and used my fingertips to research the topic of a social media detox. I was sold on the concept in less than five minutes. Neuroplasticity suggests that our brains are somewhat malleable. It teaches us that we are quite capable of breaking old habits, developing new ones, and recovering from damage. This is great news in the face of an endless supply of blue lit screens and voice-activated convenience. What fascinates me further is that we as a society have given room where previously there was none. We have accepted new social norms that were once blatantly disrespectful. We gently ignore the unprofessional cashier or lack of eye-contact from our peers because it affords us our own indulgences. Not only that, but social media makes our personal lives vulnerable to speculation by friends, family, employers and strangers. At the very least it begs the question, how much is too much? Experts suggest no more than two hours daily of screen time, but we all know we have received leagues more than that ever since the unveiling of Microsoft. Here we are – the same kids from the AOL boom – with handheld computers we couldn’t even imagine, fully equipped with the social media that allows us to compare, delude, debate and depress ourselves. As you can see, this really got me thinking about the person I was, and the person I’ve become as a child of a generation at the center of an age of access. Not only that, but how that influences my mental health. So, I have challenged myself to eliminate social media from my screen diet for 100 days in attempt to reset my dopamine production, and glean some wisdom along the way. My hope is that I will find more time to return to the things I love, and perhaps even find no desire to return to social media at all. I say, this is too much of a good thing. I say, hang up the internet and walk outside! Allow your mind to recalibrate and quiet. What is this incessant need for stimulation? What would you be doing right now if you weren’t staring at your phone? How many fewer books do you read each year? How many fewer hobbies do you pursue? How much time is lost or wasted? How many evenings are spent turned away from family members, lovers, and dinner tables? **If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!** For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide! In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!