Mental health, Parenting, Relationships

Ugly Truth 45: Life Will Break You

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

-Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

Dear Readers,

It’s been a while since I wrote a love letter to myself. Often I write to process or heal, but most of all I write to regain my sight when I lose perspective. The truth is I revisit my own words, perhaps even more often than my dedicated readers.

Both of my parents are struggling, and it breaks my heart. It’s strange the way we’re taught not to treat our children as extensions of ourselves, but as individuals. As I grow older, I feel myself belonging more to a world I can’t understand.

When I look at each of my parents, it’s as if I’m looking into a mirror. I see my love, my compassion, my zest for life, but I also see many things I don’t want for myself. I see my mental illness, my insecurity, my pain. Emboldened by an undue life of untimely grief, my mother and father are generally unhappy people in their own right. So it begs the question: Who am I?

My mother was born into a family of second generation German immigrants and French Canadians, hard working people who turn the soil we all walk upon, but they were also grossly negligent and abusive caregivers. Leaking through generations, my mother was subject to verbal, physical and sexual abuse for most of her developmental years. It goes without saying the toll this takes on the feminine soul. She grew into a strong and irresponsible woman with many health concerns and a big heart, often subject to decisions beyond her control. That said, while I struggle to understand her choices as a mother, it’s easy for me to forgive a woman simply trying to survive her formation.

Alternately, my father inherited an English, German, and Irish descent into madness. He was the only son of a woman who passed away at the age of 40. At the age of 17 he buried his mother, and fathered me one month later. A few short years later his father passed away, having chosen a homosexual lifestyle over the betterment of his own child. By the time he was my age, he was an orphan without a sibling to speak of. Half a lifetime later, he buried half of his friends and family with me crying at his side. Strong though he may be, my father reached his own age of 40, and subsequently learned of the tragic death of his first love. He is no stranger to death and grief, and yet it still strikes deep each and every time. My father continues to grapple with the same swings of mood and general unrest I hold close to my own chest. He can be denying, dismissive, hypocritical, and downright mean. Indeed, he was robbed of his formation altogether.

So here I am at my own age of 30, and maybe the only thing all three of us have in common is having lost a loved one to suicide. While I have certainly suffered the choices of my loved ones, I have surpassed resentment. Sure, I didn’t receive the life or parents I deserved, but neither did they. I am stronger and happier than the two of them combined having been shown exactly what I don’t want for myself, my partner, or my children. It’s a miracle altogether that I am even alive, and I don’t intend on wasting it. In some twisted way I am grateful for an over exposure to grief. In some weird way, nothing bothers me anymore. Despite my sensitive and bleeding nature, I harbor a healthy sense of detachment from my surroundings, quietly holding my breath for the next blow. Like the ocean promises, there will be more. Certainty has taught me nothing is certain but death and taxes, and to be grateful for calm brackish waters.

In releasing all my hardship and chronic pain I have learned that I am deeply loving, generous, and kind. I used to cringe when Christian’s would say that without suffering there would be no compassion, but maturity and a significant amount of anguish has taught me the wiser. Perhaps our greatest truth is loving others despite every reason, hurt and abandonment not to. Perhaps our victory lies simply in choosing love over fear.

At some point, we all face the great divide of forced choice. We must reckon with our knowledge of the world, and choose to venture down that same old dark alley, or find our own pathless wood. What choice do we have really, but to roll with the punches – and love one another in spite of it?

Introspective bullshit aside, I went through many poor coping skills before finding the right ones.

I, for one, choose love – conditionless and motioning forward – without boundary and unashamed.

**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!

Lifestyle, Mental health

Gratitude is the Guardian of Your Joy

ggsc-gratitude

Dear Readers,

I am not a particularly religious person. I prefer to think of myself as spiritual rather than assign myself a religious label. Instead, I prefer to take the good from all of the major pillars of religion and apply it to my life in a practical way. Unlike most, I am okay with the not knowing. Occasionally, I will experience a thirst for knowledge and attend church for my sheer love of lectures, philosophies, and human understanding. On one of these days, the pastor’s wife stood at the podium and said these words, “Gratitude is the guardian of your joy.” -And it stuck.

These seven words of wisdom highlighted my genuine understanding of fundamental happiness. If we can be grateful, then we can shift our perspective just enough to glean some positivity from a painful situation because gratitude suggests choice. Therefore, there seems an intrinsic link between happiness and choice. As Thanksgiving approaches, these words sit with me still. More so since I am sitting in the unknown of unemployment- one of the most infamous stressors for any young family. So, perhaps a little self-examination will do me well, and help someone else along the way.

6 Things I am Grateful For & the Why:

1.) My Family.

My family dynamic has never been conventional, and so my definition isn’t either. I have had many unions and separations with men and women. One of these was fortunate enough to have produced a child. His father and I are no longer together although we maintain a loving and respectful relationship despite our differences. Somehow, the family we build becomes our own, having less and less to do with blood. There is so much value in the blending of differences, re-definition in the face of traditionalism, and the daily choice.

2.) My Home.

For most of my life I lived with others. I had boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates, friends who never left, and family to take me in. It wasn’t until my divorce that I was faced with the heat of a Texas August, and the choice to provide for myself independent of the provisions of others. I was not without help, of course. Now, almost two years later, the apartment I live in is mine, the bills I pay are mine, the car I drive is mine, the books on my shelf, the clothes on my back, and the food in my pantry is mine. The fear and the responsibility is my own, and the reward all the greater.

3.) My Health.

I am 29 years old and while not in perfect health, my chronic pain and mental health conditions pale by comparison to those I know and love with chronic medical ailments. Having been a caregiver much too soon, I have had a front row seat to the way illness can run amok on individuals, families, and bank accounts. While I would consider my functionality level below that of a typical twenty-something, I still balance the choice to get out of bed each morning.

4.) My Son.

Most people insinuate their children are their life, and it is probably perfectly true. However, my son saved mine and that is a fact. As a young woman, I was in the grips of horrendous grief and madness. My mind, body, and soul were dripping with chemicals and hell bent on fast tracking my self-destruction for a solid five years prior. I made a series of repetitively bad choices in great succession of one another if not to end my life through intent, then through sheer negligence and a complete lack of self-care. I was never malicious toward others. I was simply flailing through pain with zero guidance due to my own lack of language. My pregnancy taught me preservation of self for the sake of someone else, and forced me into fearless maturity. It taught me the choice of good health and good company, safety and security, and my full-time preoccupation with the truth.

5.) My Cat.

Pets provide a strange relationship free from circumstance or condition, one you may even be quick to resent. But if you look hard enough, you’ll notice that our domestic companions await eagerly each day for nothing more than our company and good graces. They misbehave, damage our over-priced goods, and cry into the night. And yet- there remains a middle ground where our choice to care for them meets the purity of their friendship and promised love.

6.) My Diagnoses.

I live with three major mental health conditions. It is something that has taken me all my young life to understand and manage wisely. Human suffering is universal, and therefore, has the power to inform. Suffering teaches compassion, empathy, and gratitude for the boring and mundane through shared experiences of loss and abuse. Suffering provides perspective when the unexpected uproars happen, giving you the strength and reassurance that it could always be worse. It gives us art, boundaries, and grace. Illness gives us the choice to victimize ourselves by ceding to self-absorbed unhappiness and self-medication, or to assign pain a function through self-love and recognition, to release it from its all consuming vanity, and serve those in need.

So it seems this free-association piece has secured my livelihood by circumventing my subconscious, and coming full circle on the reoccurring theme of choice.

What is guarding your joy this holiday season?

**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!