Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 42: Why I Quit Drinking for 12 Days

Artist: Leonid Afremov

Good Morning Forum,

Lately there has been so much on my mind, and yet I found myself unable to lift pen to paper. More than that, I found myself falling further away from the small things – those little endeavors that make me an individual. My self awareness has taught me that my inability to create or be cognizant is a sure-fire sign that a change is needed. The devil is in the details, and maybe that is our greatest tragedy.

I come from a deep genetic pool of trauma, alcoholism, mental illness and addiction. In general, I have an addictive personality. Drugs, alcohol, self-injury, and disordered eating have all been on my list of poor coping skills over the years. Anyone who knows me personally knows not to mess with my cigarettes or coffee before 8am, but I would be remiss if I did not confess that while I may not be a textbook alcoholic, I do have a spotted history of problem drinking.

I live with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Panic Disorder and Chronic Pain. I was properly medicated for two years. After two hospitalizations and ten years of therapy, it didn’t take long for me to learn how to self medicate. I have always done my best to balance my poor choices with moderation, mindfulness, yoga, and creative outcomes such as writing, painting and knitting. However, in light of this quarantine and the way the month of April always seems to dig its claws into me, I soon found myself drinking more and coping less.

Since quitting three days ago (again), I have found that each day feels better than the last, although it has not been without its setbacks. I have experienced mood swings, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, blood pressure changes, and extremely vivid dreams and nightmares. As a seasoned scary dreamer, I have learned how to keep myself calm in these scenarios, mostly as a result of PTSD, however these dreams have been visceral even for me.

The truth is I haven’t read an actual physical book in years, something I typically have a passion for and take great pleasure in. I strayed far from my yoga practice, and have felt a general sense of imbalance and unease as a result. I was feeling run down, and had become complacent toward my loss of previously held enjoyment. I became disinterested in my intellectual pursuits, and my education began to suffer a little more than usual. Perhaps in juggling being gentle with myself, I let my personal accountability slide, too.

The good news is I know exactly how to get it all back. I am not a sobriety preacher or twelve-stepper, but I look forward to reclaiming my wellness, restoring my energy, and reconnecting with my loved ones. I look forward to being slightly less cerebral, sleeping a little better, crying a little less, and reading more books.

So often the trouble is just in starting something new to promote a positive change. Certainly, one can not achieve self development without stumbling along the way. We are hardwired to self-sabotage and make excuses for ourselves, even surrounding the things we want most out of life. Perhaps our greatest triumph is learning how to set meaningful boundaries in order to return to ourselves over and over again.

**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

Ugly Truth 39: Low Self-Esteem & Five Things You Can Do About It

“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember ~ the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.” -Zig Ziglar

Dear Readers,

The role self-esteem plays in our personal wellness cannot be understated. Certainly, the things we say to ourselves have the power to significantly alter the way we perceive the world and our place in it. During early childhood, we begin to develop our sense of self based on the stability of our environment and the temperament of our caregivers. Likewise, unfavorable conditions such as abuse, abandonment or trauma often complicate the path to becoming a wholly healthy and well-adjusted person. In the event that self-love has been lost, there are five steps to improve self-esteem including changing the narrative, proper goal setting, accountability, practicing gratitude and repetition.

 Changing the Narrative.

Understanding cognitive dissonance is probably the single most powerful tool when working to improve self-esteem. So often we fall into patterns of thinking that include self-loathing or reflect the criticism of our parents. Learning to detect and dismiss distorted thinking is extremely difficult and requires a great deal of practice. Consider the things your inner monologue is telling you throughout the day. If your self-esteem is suffering, chances are these thought patterns are deeply negative and self-deprecating. Therefore, learning to reassign value to ourselves can be deeply useful. The good news is the human brain is indeed malleable, and our thoughts can be reshaped in a relatively short period of time by altering our behavior.

Proper Goal Setting.

When setting goals, we often fall into the mindset of going big. However, sometimes less is more. The ability to set an appropriate goal for yourself can aid in improving self-esteem by providing momentum from short-term goals to long-term ones. Similarly, acknowledging your accomplishments (rather than your shortcomings) is a positive tool that can bolster your confidence by highlighting your capacity, rather than your inability or unfinished business. Additionally, the cycle of self-discipline is highly reinforcing, and most likely to keep you motivated during times of lulling productivity.

 Accountability.

Personal accountability is essential when wanting to redefine any part of yourself, and self-esteem is no different. Put simply, be the change you want to see and do not make excuses. If you want to lose weight, set your alarm an hour earlier and carve out time to exercise. If you want to sleep better at night, shift your routines and follow through. So often, the solution to improve your relationship with yourself lies within your willingness to start a positive change. So, simply begin.

Practicing Gratitude.

Mindfulness, meditation and gratitude is a meaningful component of any walk toward wellness. Shifting our inner perspective from negative to positive esteem starts with recognizing our immediate surroundings as good and helpful. Take five minutes each day to figure out how being grateful translates in your daily life. Maybe it’s a mental list, a moment of silence, or a journal entry. Likewise, practicing gratitude invites us to restore a sense of agency by properly aligning our focus with our priorities in the present moment rather than what should have, could have, or would have been.

Repetition.

Like any good thing in life, improving self-esteem takes time and practice. In fact, all of the steps above require a great deal of both to offer meaningful change to your life. There will be road blocks and setbacks aplenty, but do not be discouraged. The important thing is that you return to yourself each day, and continue to let your love language to yourself take precedence.

**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, Parenting

How to Cope with a Narcissistic Mother

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Dear Readers,

In my experience, people get the concept of narcissism correct fifty percent of the time. Most people gather the first definition, when in reality there are two:

A.) Extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

B.) Self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.

The reason this matters is simply because one can be more harmful than the other. Most people generalize narcissism as an irksome personality trait to be avoided, however, in the event of a full blown disorder it can become catastrophic, specifically within the context of the mother-daughter dynamic. That is to say, there is a difference between a pesky inflated sense of self, and conceptualizing others as part of your own ego to reap a benefit regardless of the pain it causes. This topic truly makes me ill. So, onward and upward to the coping strategies!

JP Thorpe at Bustle Magazine writes,

“You may think your mother hits all the items on the narcissism inventory, but the odds that she’s received a formal psychological diagnosis are slim. However, lack of a formal diagnosis doesn’t mean that knowledge about how narcissism operates can’t inform your interactions with her. It’s important to note that if your mother only fits a few traits, rather than the majority of them, you shouldn’t dismiss the entire idea out of hand; narcissistic aspects to a personality can be deeply harmful, and even just a few can still deeply impact your relationship with your mother and the way you were raised. The good news is that there are psychological strategies that can help us attempt to deal with the difficulties of narcissistic mothers; the bad news is that the methods can be difficult themselves (and your mother almost definitely isn’t going to like them).

1.) Recognize the Competition

McBride is quick to point out that it is daughters who tend to face particular difficulties with narcissistic mothers, in part because their mother often see them as competition. “A narcissistic mother,” she writes, “sees her daughter, more than her son, as a reflection and extension of herself rather than as a separate person with her own identity.” Separating out your own identity from your mother’s can be an immensely tricky thing as a woman, even without the added pressure of years of demands that you conform to behaviors that make your mother look good. It’s a double bind, though: daughters of narcissistic mothers will recognize the feeling that they’re meant to be perfect, but not quite so perfect that they overshadow their mom. Psychology Today pinpoints the source of this competition in your “youth and sexuality”: in your mom’s eyes, you are effectively your narcissistic mother 2.0, and she sees you as a direct threat.

This is not how we’re conditioned to see mothers, particularly ones who “look good” from the outside. Alas, it’s a key part of narcissistic maternal behavior. The next time your mother is thwarting or disparaging towards you, look at it like you would a competitor in some small contest in 4th grade who can’t accept losing. It won’t hurt less, but it might give you more of a handle on the situation.

2.) Understand That She is Unlikely to Change.

The notion that your mother may, bit by bit, eventually learn how to become a better maternal figure might have been a sustaining hope for years, but it’s important to know that this probably isn’t likely. Dr. Craig Malkin explains in his writing for Psychology Today that people with full-fledged narcissistic personality disorder may be capable of change, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen: “It’s not that people with NPD can’t change; it’s that it often threatens their sense of personhood to try.” Narcissistic people need to learn to empathize and feel vaguely insecure, and most are deeply uncomfortable with that feeling.

The psychotherapist Michelle Piper, who specializes in narcissistic mothers, points out that “ironically, though the people around the narcissistic mother can identify the source of their suffering, the narcissist does not believe she is the one who should change. Therefore, it is unlikely your mother sought treatment for narcissism.” Narcissists, she says, are “highly resistant” to treatment. The way to cope, therefore, is not in trying to force your mother to make changes in ways that will end in failure; it’s largely centered on you, and how you interact with her (or don’t).

3.) Trace How Her Behavior Has Influenced Yours. 

If you’re going to fully confront your relationship with your narcissistic mother, you need to do the uncomfortable work of looking at just how badly it has affected you — and then work on defusing or combating those particular aspects, so that she has less power. The Huffington Post has a solid collection of six signs that you were raised by a narcissistic mother: you fear her disapproval, you experience chronic indecisiveness because of her constant control over you, you experience the need to have others fulfill your needs, you have difficulty expressing feelings, as well as a fear of tantrums and anger, and a lack of boundaries with your mother herself.

Collectively, this can be categorized as “co-narcissism,” or the condition of adapting to life with a narcissistic person and developing weird emotional problems as a result. Dr. Alan Rappaport explains that “co-narcissistic people, as a result of their attempts to get along with their narcissistic parents, work hard to please others, defer to other’s opinions, worry about how others think and feel about them, are often depressed or anxious, find it hard to know their own views and experience, and take the blame for interpersonal problems.”

So once you’ve realized the patterns, what can you do? First things first: get a very good therapist, one who accepts the idea that your mother is a narcissist and will help you through the results.

Secondly, reassess your boundaries with your mother. Normal parenting does not require the majority of the child’s energy be devoted to soothing or attending to the parent; you are allowed to have your own life and needs, something a narcissistic mother will not understand. Consider developing boundaries, including the necessity of consequences every time she violates one.

4.) Don’t Feed the Inner Voice.

Many children of narcissistic parents will have a constant feeling of flexibility in their sense of self and a constant, nagging “inner voice” — what psychologist Lisa Firestone calls “an inner critic… that reminds them they are not good enough or that they need to be the best or they are nothing. Because their parents only value their accomplishments as they reflect on them, the child never truly feels they are good enough.” This inner voice can be deeply damaging and highly powerful, and it can take years of work to detach value from its proclamations of “nope, not good enough.” Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a very useful tool in gradually lessening the power of this critical inner voice; the tricky bit is that even if you know it’s not true, it can still be very loud in your head.

5.) Distinguish Between Conditional and Unconditional Love.

The Counselling Directory recommends that one of the main ways that daughters can heal from a narcissistic mother is to “[recognize] the internalized messages of conditional love and the effects in your life and relationships, both with others and yourself.” Conditional love is the key aspect of narcissistic maternal relationships: they only dispense love when you do something worthy that makes them look or feel good, and at all other times you have no value and therefore deserve no affection. Unconditional love, on the other hand, continues even if you are not “performing” or doing anything to deserve it; it assumes constantly that you are deserving, purely by dint of being yourself. Yes, this exists. No, really. Find people who give it to you, and hold onto the sense of contrast.

6.) Do Not Allow Other Narcissists to Come Along for the Ride.

Kathy Caprino at Forbes makes the salient point that daughters raised by narcissistic mothers can often be conditioned to view the narcissistic condition of love as normal, and therefore are open to relationships (friendships, intimate relationships) with other narcissists. “They are so familiar with narcissism (because they dealt with it all their lives),” she writes, “that they unconsciously attract it into their lives, through their adult relationships, and in their work cultures and careers.” If you’ve identified your mother as a narcissist, apply the same test to others. Do they bear the hallmarks? Is the way in which they deal with you unnervingly familiar? This is not normal and you should not accept it as such.

7.)  Consider Cutting Her Off.

Sometimes establishing boundaries, working on yourself, going to therapy, understanding your past and finding unconditional love still isn’t enough. Narcissistic mothers can have the power to make life utterly miserable (and to be totally unrepentant while doing so). And there is weighty evidence in favor of cutting them out of your life. Psychologist Dr. Pat Frankish, writing in The Guardian in 2012 about a woman who had cut off communication with her mother, commented that she “had her identity, her vitality and her energy sapped – and if she stays in touch with the person who is taking all that from her, she’ll be unable to maintain a sense of herself. It’s a question of whether you succumb or survive – and she has chosen survival.”

It’s excellent phrasing to emphasize just how horrific the experience can be, and how justified a complete cut-off can be. If this is the choice you’re considering, you’ll likely find Gabrielle Moss’s guide to guilt at cutting off contact helpful. Otherwise, many experts recommend “low contact“: strictly controlled interactions where you determine what is and isn’t acceptable, and leave or hang up the second she crosses the line. If you choose this, don’t feel guilty. You’re not being a bad child; it’s justified self-protection. ”

It goes without saying that this dynamic can have a harmful impact on the heart and mind of a developing child. When narcissism exists within the space where love and acceptance should be, the end result of this shaping is considerably altered from that of a healthy fruitful parent-child relationship. If this sounds all too familiar to you, I recommend starting with low-contact boundaries while slowly incorporating the above mentioned coping strategies. Anything worth doing is never easy, but removing avenues of abuse in your life is always called for.

Discuss: Are you in a narcissistic mother-daughter dynamic? Which of these resonated most with you?

**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!

Uncategorized

Sibyl Marie: A Cat’s Tale

Dear Readers,

Cats get a bad wrap. If you have had the misfortune of having a less-than-desirable feline, my heart goes out to you. I happen to know and love one awesomely cool kitty-cat, and I’d like to share her with you tonight. Her name is Sibyl Marie.

sibyl

In 2014, I married a man I did not love for the sake of safety. After much anguish surrounding my sense of self and sexual identity, the marriage folded less than three years later. So, there I was, peeing in my new toilet, scrolling through Facebook like so few of us are willing to admit, when this green-eyed beauty floated across my screen. Her first mother, Laura, had lost her in a nasty breakup years prior. Understandably, Laura had moved on to a life filled to the brim with the love of a new partner and pets, leaving her unable to take Sibyl in. So, the disgruntled ex-boyfriend threatened to bring Sibyl to a shelter if no one came to her aid. Naturally, every ounce of love and compassion jumped from my soul and I sweetly replied, “Give her to meeee!”

This was a half-hearted offer I admit. After all, I had a little boy and a new life to juggle all on my own.

name

After a few small transactions and immense support from her first owner, she was on her way that very same day. Sibyl came to me during a time of tremendous life transition, so I feel intensely bonded to her. It goes without saying that I am absolutely bias when it comes to the favor of my feline friend. Still, she deserves credit for her humor, her calm yet playful demeanor, and her undying love for eye-contact. After a few tears, much mewing, and fancy feasting she adapted warmly… just in time for Hurricane Harvey to make landfall.

For eight long days, Sibyl and I were trapped in the ivory tower that is our second story apartment building. While water levels were rising and grocery shelves were obscenely lacking, while citizens miscalculated their evacuation plans and the streets quieted her engines so sirens could blare, Sibyl and I stayed snuggled together in my one bedroom apartment- destined to become best friends. Eight days without going outside is enough to make just about anyone lose it. Employment, school districts and commerce paused. Fortunately for us, I had paid mind to gather provisions beforehand- so there was bread, flame and rum a-plenty!

Most importantly –Sibyl Marie is a stupendous emotional support animal. We all have our histories and she is no different. She has her own kitty anxieties and idiosyncrasies from the environment she was in before she called our house a home. We have noticed she stirs away from specific objects, brooms for example, and runs from loud noises. She cries when there’s thunder and hides from the vacuum. Similarly, my psychological enthusiasm evoke days of unrest where carrying myself upright is just too much to ask. And yet- we never fail to love one another. She comes when I cry, when I tremble with panic, and find myself shaking with nightmares. She comes when I fall short of breathing, traverse through flashbacks or suffer from psychosis. She tolerates the squeezing touches of my seven-year-old, and loves my partner just as much as I do.

Sibyl Marie has been a most cherished addition to our family, and we often laugh of giving her her very own YouTube segment. She springs from boxes, chases lasers, cries for tuna, and pounces in the night. She meows for the sake of talking and brings laughter wherever she goes. She cries for snuggles, licks hands, and knocks over dishes without a care in the world. She is uniquely petite, intelligent, hilarious and oh-so affectionate.

snuggle

So, the next time someone tells you cats suck you might empathize with their plight, or you just might prove them wrong.

Tell me your cat stories in the comments section. The good, the bad, and the ugly!

us

**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!