Mental health

Ugly Truth 46: June is PTSD Awareness Month!

“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.”

-Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror


The Facts:

*PTSD is not just Veterans of War
*Rape Victims Have a 49% Chance of Developing PTSD
*7-8% of the U.S. Population Will Have PTSD at Some Point
*Women are Twice as Likely to Develop PTSD
*Symptoms can Take Months or Years to Develop

*Individuals with PTSD are 2-4 Times More Likely to Develop a Substance Use Disorder
*78% of Those with a Diagnosis Experience Depression in Their Lifetime
*People who Suffer From PTSD are More Likely to Commit Suicide
*1/3 of Veterans with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Also Meet Criteria for PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience.

Events That Can Lead to PTSD Include:

*serious accidents *physical or sexual assault

*abuse, including childhood or domestic abuse *exposure to traumatic events at work, including remote exposure

*serious health problems, such as being admitted to intensive care *childbirth experiences, such as losing a baby

*war and conflict *medical trauma

*civil unrest *pandemics

PTSD develops in about 1 in 3 people who experience severe trauma. It’s not fully understood why some people develop the condition while others do not. While treatment is available, some symptoms may never diminish.

Symptoms Include:

physical pain

nightmares or flashbacks

depression or anxiety

withdrawl or avoidance

repression

emotional numbing

insomnia

hyperarousal

irritability

guilt or shame

Discuss: Does PTSD impact your life in some way? Share your experience 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!

LGBTQ+, Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 37: Loving a Woman Changed my Worldview

“It was terrifying to love someone who was forbidden to you. Terrifying to feel something you could never speak of, something that was horrible to almost everyone you knew, something that could destroy your life.”
-Cassandra Clare, Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices, #2)

Dear Readers,

For as long as I can remember I have been attracted to women. This energy translated in all kinds of ways including the trivial and experimental. When I was young, I could not determine if my preference was tied to my predisposition toward manic depression, the result of trauma, or the simple product of my incessant curiosity. Perhaps my preference for women was simply just that, a preference. I was not privy to the possibility of expressing my sexuality in a healthy way and so, like most young women, I found myself stifled and oppressed until the spillover became too great. Falling in love with a woman changed my worldview by leading me to discover my personal truth and informing my capacity to receive.

For decades not only was my sexuality snuffed out by others, but also by myself. My own ego and fear would be the final frontier between me and my true happiness, at least until I learned this type of self-sabotaging behavior is completely unnecessary. When I look back and see how glaring obvious all of this seems it almost feels silly. I was in middle school when I started spending the night with my lady friends. Growing up in the north woods of Minnesota I was completely unaware of same sex couples. So, even though I had a loud biological response toward women and girls, I certainly didn’t know how to navigate those feelings due to my lack of exposure. Add to that my mother’s mean intolerance for the very same reason and suddenly it isn’t too hard to imagine why I kept my mouth shut. As I grew older though, it became harder and harder to hide. I would often enter relationships with men only to cry myself to sleep at night. I spent a tragic number of years aiming to please others and it cost me greatly. At best, living dishonestly can only be described as a repetitive re-traumatization of self.

When I was sixteen, I met my first boyfriend. Not surprisingly he was an effeminate man and sexually ambiguous. Seemingly towing the line between male and female he would often take too long to fluff his appearance, wear eyeliner atop his envious eyelashes, and shave his under arms. Still, I maintained and often acted on my eye for women with consent from my partner. I continued this pattern of dating men while kissing women for many years before finally getting married in 2014 against the adamant counsel of my father. To no one’s surprise the marriage dissolved two years later, and suddenly I had no choice but to my face my personal truth. I am in fact a very gay woman. After a handful of lukewarm encounters, one fiery female romance, and countless nightmarish dating scenarios I gave up all together on finding anything truly meaningful. That is, until I met Alice.

When I met Alice, I was what I would describe as perpetually open-minded. Coming out for the second and final time left me in a state of strange infancy. I was vulnerable, fearful and excited by the days ahead. While I would never be foolish enough to turn away from the real thing, I also was not actively seeking a serious long-term monogamous relationship. In retrospect, a great many of my life choices have been a direct result of my inclinations toward the notion of love. At the seat of myself I remain a romantic and I will never apologize for that. However, this type of vulnerability often comes chock full of aching organs, bittersweet endings, and lessons hard learned. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t become somewhat jaded after being force fed a heaping pile of disappointment. Some part of me though, however microscopic, clung to the swirling daydream that lasting love could exist for me if I could somehow find the courage to live honestly.

My encounter with Alice was the most natural unexpected experience I have ever had in my life. Our conversations were playful and organic before evolving into the meaningful inquiry we all hope for. We began to chip away at our commonalities, our biggest fears, our hopes for the future, and our own points of strength that we promised never to compromise on again. We promised never to discuss religion and politics, and then characteristically proceeded to do so. No topic was too scary. Nothing was off limits. It wasn’t long before our hearts began to lean in and our minds grew curious. In the same shared breath and quelling anxiety, we realized we both had nothing left to do but meet in person. I never imagined being able to remember the night clear as day, but I do.

After sharing a quick and unflinching bond with this woman I had one last order of business. I had to kiss her. Lucky for me, Alice felt the same way I did and agreed to meet. We agreed to go in comfy clothes and half brushed hair in order to lower the pressure for us both. So, I put on my favorite red pants, my favorite oversized hoodie, tied my hair up in those tiny clips that always seem to fall down the drain, and drank in the biggest gulp of bravery I could muster before wandering out the door with all the false confidence in the world. I knew I wanted to arrive early because living with anxiety taught me long ago that I will never be the girl who loves to light up a room. I slinked up to the bar and promptly ordered two beers to calm my nerves. Her texts came rolling in as she got closer and closer. Ten minutes away…five minutes away…almost there. The suspense was killing me. Finally, she walked through that door, tilted her head only the way she can, and smiled that sideways smirk that still drives me wild six months later. All she had to do was say one little hello to me and in that moment, it was as if all my broken pieces were pressed back together. I was hers. I calmly invited her to get a drink of her own before retiring to the couches on the other side of the bar, but inside my head was swimming. We did our best to get to know each other better above the clatter and belligerence of the patrons. Some time passed until finally she leaned in through the smoke, pausing only to gauge my reaction, and kissed me for the very first time. Suddenly, everything I thought I knew about the world shattered. I had butterflies in my stomach, crawling skin, a cloud in my head, a spark in my heart, and tears in my eyes. I had no idea what was going to happen next, but I knew I felt relief in feeling that in a world that had so often made me feel lost and forgotten, I was finally home.

Alice would go on to be the strongest most loving, loyal, gentle and patient friend I’ve ever had. Never once has she made me feel like I was going to lose her, although the thought alone motivates me to do everything I can not to. She is always pouring into me and giving back in ways she may not even understand. Best of all, we are both rewarded for being nothing short of our genuine self. The truth is, I could never imagine the life I live now and yet here I sit – in a completely new city, with a completely new routine, and a completely new sense of self that can only be the direct result of her generosity and respect toward me.

Falling in love with a woman changed my worldview by leading me to discover my personal truth and informing my capacity to receive.

**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!

Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 016: Pride Gets in the Way of Love

“The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.”
Paulo Coelho, Eleven MinutesGood Afternoon Readers, Greetings from the Ugly Truth Series! This week we are talking about mental health and relationships. It has taken me two years to be vulnerable with myself again, let alone with strangers, friends, or even lovers. I have had to learn how to leave myself open all over again, because wisdom has informed me that pain and pleasure happen to use the same door. The truth is vulnerability and love are synonymous, requiring an honesty with oneself and others that most people just are not willing to practice. I never had trust issues until my divorce at the age of 27, and it isn’t because of the things you might imagine. It wasn’t that he was unloving or unfaithful or unkind. In fact, he was none of those things. It’s because he broke his promises in a way that cost me my livelihood. I gave him an additional 12 months once the relationship was already in trouble to take action, and yet he took none. His complacency grew contempt in my heart. His willingness to let me feel fear and uncertainty taught me that no one was reliable. The fact that he promised to provide and did just the opposite informed my heart that no one was to be leaned on. He was a good man, but I’m afraid his fickle demonstration of devotion was the last in a long line of many that sent me into my first sensations of trust without worth. Often times people forget how painful the inability to trust is for the person feeling it. The ability to depend on yourself alone has value no doubt, but it certainly creates a wall between you and your loved ones. Often times your demeanor will change and they will begin to feel it. After a lifetime of celebrating my ability to love big, I found myself for the first time too cold and bitter to practice closeness with even those I cherished most, and it cost me greatly.
The truth is I have never been good at asking for help.
It wasn’t until I grieved through relapse and poor behavior that I realized I was still here, and nothing would change unless I changed it. I restored my faith in humanity through flexible boundaries which allowed me to practice grace and rebuild my relationships – and it started at the heart of myself. I had to ask myself why so many people had dropped the ball? Why had I descended into patterns of behavior with less than adequate friends or partners? What had this indirect self harm cost me? What had been displayed for me as a young child? What had I come to know and expect and accept, was it correct? Was my pride getting in the way of my ability to be truly vulnerable and tolerant? Moreover, had I let my hurt turn me into the heartless guarded breed of human being I promised myself I would never become? These are big important questions that require the nitty gritty self work we all try to avoid because it’s painful. As for me, I reached a point where I had become so very isolated that I was severed even from my own emotions and ability to empathize. I knew something had to change, and it started with diminishing my pride. All of my life I had had a self sustained delusion of autonomy, but the truth is I have never been alone. When you combine the emotional walls that trauma can build with the inflated sense of self mental illness can bring, it becomes highly toxic and consequential. It was only after I began to truly hold myself accountable that I began to realize that it was not consistently exterior circumstances that were leaving me troubled and abandoned, but the waters of my own heart. I soon realized that I was intentionally holding myself back from healthy, thriving, successful relationships through my unwillingness to admit to and move from my grief. Rather than offering genuine warmth, I became irritable, rigid and overly critical. Rather than taking ownership, I began making excuses for my misbehavior and folding into layers of selfishness. As someone who had always considered herself an insightful and articulate person, I suddenly found myself tangled in a lack of expressive language. My inability to communicate left me with nothing but anger, resentment, and an unwillingness to trust anyone – even those who I had previously maintained a loyal and loving connection with. Those unwilling to put up with my uncharacteristic and self destructive behavior vanished, and soon the stranger I had become devastated my own hippie heart. The truth is I am more fragile now than I have ever been – and I don’t mind. I cry often and exercise remorse. I am learning to process and regulate my emotions differently by accepting them toe-to-toe rather than fighting, fleeing or numbing them. I used to say people should talk at their mountains, not about them. The truth is I had stopped doing both. Reciprocal love is rich and swirling and warming in all its forms – and it begins with humility and a willingness to change. Relationships fail because of broken promises and rigidity. Do not let pride steal you from the genuine communications required to bolster the love of your friends, families, partners and yourself. Life is too short to spend it grieving. Take ownership. Be not afraid. Be vulnerable. Choose love.
**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!
Mental health

Trauma Confession Series: Self-Harm & Letting Go

No where in this world is safe when your abuser’s words run laps in your head, circling and creating negative thoughts. Abuse kills from a distance too. -Kellie Jo Holly, Healthy Place Trigger Warning: Mention of self-harm. Dear Readers, Welcome to the end of the Trauma Confession Series! I hope it has aided you in some way. If you’re an abuse survivor, you may find that motivational self-talk doesn’t exist in your repertoire. When you become victimized by others one of two things will happen. You may externlize your suffering in explosive outbursts of anger resulting in misdirected harm toward others, or you may deeply internalize the dialogue and engage in self-injury. In my case, I know the latter to be true. I was 14 the first time I cut myself. I was in a long-distance relationship with a well-intended though very controlling person at the time. He also used this maladaptive coping skill, and was the first person to place this impulse in my mind. Add to that an entire subculture of teens in my school district who were also utilizing self injury to cope with an insufficient home life and the stressors of adolescence. When banded together in secrecy, this phenomenon quickly grew from superficial trendiness to deep winding incisions made by embedding razor blades all over my body. In general, I have found that I have an addictive personality. I turned to substance abuse and unhealthy relationship patterns at a very young age. I believe this to be a result of poor examples in my environment that reflected my self worth, or lack thereof, and a complete lack of meaningful guidance from my elders. None the wiser, I soon found myself flailing in frantic efforts to avoid my pain. I would go on to inflict harm on myself with increasing severity for one more year in secrecy. Soon, my self injury grew beyond my ability to manage it and people began to take notice. This pushed my self harm to exponentially higher levels for the next ten years. The trouble with self injury is that while it is certainly a poor coping skill, it is a coping skill nonetheless – and it works. Many people who report on self harm will tell you they do it to serve as a distraction, to reflect their inner turmoil on their external canvas, to release the endorphins that can soothe emotional distress, to function as a cry for help, and/or to indulge in the addiction that may develop apart from outward circumstances. There has been a great deal of research on this topic in recent years. Some Facts – 1 in 12 teens engage in some form of self injury such as cutting, burning, or other life threatening behavior. Women are more susceptible to self injurious behavior than men. Men engage on a more dangerous scale of self harm, including increased rates of suicide completion. About 50 percent of those who engage in self mutilation begin around age 14 and carry on into their 20s. Approximately two million cases are reported annually in the U.S. While my relationship to self harm was definitely prolonged by my attempts to emotionally regulate myself, it was also a reflection of and exacerbated by the abuse I suffered. If you come to feel your personal truth is worthless, flawed, or somehow deserving it will likely be reflected in the personal narrative you tell yourself. Fortunately, this can be changed. One of the key components of my many years in therapy was understanding the power of negative thinking. The abuse dynamic is problematic for many reasons, including the fact that it can reinforce the negative thoughts we have about our own sense of self worth. It is quite obvious how easily one can become intertwined in this mind trap, but it is important that you know this is a lie. This re-victimization can prolong suffering, and often frustrates friends and family who want to help. Ultimately, this path lead me to two suicide attempts, two inpatient psychiatric hospital stays averaging between four and nine days, five medications, and six diagnoses. In some ways, I believe I am responsible for re-traumatizing myself and extending my road to recovery. My mental health history is a result of both genetics and environment. I suffered an intensely abusive and abandoning childhood. I also had a succession of unhealthy romantic relationships as a teen and young adult. I have confirmed cases of child abuse, sexual abuse, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, addiction, and completed suicide running through my family history. This is relevant because it both validates my experience, and allows me to drive a wedge between myself and my episodic symptoms long enough to separate myself from the jargon, and truly get to the heart of the matter. This separation seems paramount to wellness, and is not something many people can achieve. Naturally, our identities become intertwined with our suffering over time. This is an error. I am not going to spill a bunch of hogwash to you about positive thinking in the face of abuse. Instead, I will remind you that YOU ARE WORTHY, YOU ARE NOT DESERVING OF PUNISHMENT OR DEATH, and SELF UNDERSTANDING IS THE CORNERSTONE OF RECOVERY. After ten years of therapy, there was one psychiatrist who narrowed down my self depreciating behavior in five minutes. He illuminated for me what is called an Obsessive Compulsive Personality. He illustrated that as a result of my chaotic and traumatic life I had tethered myself to a vehement need for control. However illusory, this belief system convinced me I was somehow protecting myself by controlling all the variables. The problem is this is virtually impossible, a phantasm survival tactic, and severely consequential to interpersonal relationships. Whenever I was placed in a situation I could not control, a work environment for example, I would internalize all my anxiety only to spill it all over my friends and family where I subconsciously found the consequences to be minimal. This would lead to unbearable guilt, and was reflected in my subsequent eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation. This introduced me to the art of letting go, and suddenly things became clearer. This very same concept can be applied to our past grievances, however heinous. For some reason, we as humans attach value and a reflection of self to our circumstances. This doesn’t have to be the case. I still have hard days with a touch of self-loathing. This is mostly a function of unrelated mental illness, or my own poor decision making that resulted from various forms of abuse, but I no longer engage in self injury, substance abuse, or risk taking behavior. When I become triggered, my family keeps me grounded. My family is my reason. Do not let your past hijack the present moment. Acknowledge the experience. Accept the truth. Allow the grief. Understand your psychology. Confront the closure. Take action or inaction. Let. It. Go. **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!
Mental health

Trauma Confession Series: Mourning

Grief of this sort is a necessary and restorative process that permits a person to bring new life and a renewed sense of hope to childhood hardship and deprivation. Looked at in this way grief allows us to cleanse ourselves of hurt and loss and continue to grow and to expand our sense of ourselves.

– Synergia Counseling, Victoria, BC

Dear Readers,

Welcome back! This is part III of a series exploring the impact of childhood trauma, what we can do to heal, and the insight I gather through my own journey. For further resource please also visit Trauma Confession Series: Overcoming Avoidance and Trauma Confession Series: Love After Abuse.

Forgive my absence. It has been my experience that the process of mourning childhood loss has devastated my ability to create content. Today, I hope to take a step back and examine what this means and why it’s important in the recovery process as it relates to surviving childhood trauma.

Grief or mourning often results while overcoming the avoidance of past trauma by confronting the truth of what happened to you. You may find yourself feeling sorrowful or resentful for the deprivation or abuse you experienced. You may feel an intense rage toward your perpetrators for what they took from you. You may experience significant disruption to your typical internal experiences and dialogue. This type of grief is different from traditional loss, and may present itself in the form of regression. Regression is described as a return to a state of consciousness that reflects the age or mindset you were in at the time of a painful or violating event.

Acknowledging these psychological phenomena as they are occurring can be a challenge. Many people may not even realize they are grieving due to the flailing it may cause, and may display outwardly uncharacteristic behavior such as irritability, agitation, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, crying spells, flashbacks or depression. You might also notice frantic efforts to avoid psychological anguish such as increased distraction, substance abuse, or other self destructive patterns.

The important thing is to acknowledge, accept, and allow this grief to run its course while realizing the wealth of wisdom that can come from it. Acknowledging our mourning rather than trying to suppress it teaches us value of self. It allows us to accept the painful experiences we have endured by acknowledging they were unjust, undeserving, and have no bearing whatsoever on our worth. Allowing these sensations to well up and wane is extremely agonizing, but it also allows us due process. When you resurface again, you will be all the stronger and wiser for it.

This is not easy! This is legitimate self-work that requires exposure and suffering. It is no wonder why so many, myself included, prefer concealment or denial. Personally, I consider this one of the most difficult steps toward recovery from trauma, as it often results in a significant return of symptoms related to mental illness. Just as we must overcome avoidance by staying in the presence of pain, we must also acknowledge and empathize with the child in us who was slated or abandoned.

Synergia Counseling has published an exceptional blog on the topic of Adult Grieving in Response to Childhood Loss or Trauma. In it they explain the self awareness that may be lacking, the unmet needs of a thriving childhood, and the emotional or intellectual development that may halt as a result of exposure to trauma.

Acknowledge.

Accept.

Allow.

You will tremble, cry, rage, languish, and writhe – but – you will also stabilize, heal, resolve, strengthen and ease again.

Additional Reading:

From Bustle, 11 Signs You Might Be Repressing Negative Childhood Memories

From Psychology Today, 9 Steps to Healing Childhood Trauma as an Adult

**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!