Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 38: The 7 Stages of Grief & 7 Ways You Can Help

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.”― José N. Harris, MI VIDA: A Story of Faith, Hope and Love

Dear Readers,

First and foremost, I have noticed a big boom in my stats so let me take a moment to thank each and every one of you for your readership. This blog has never been about exposure, fortune or fame. I write because my heart tells me to in hopes of reaching those in need. Also, because there is catharsis for me in the telling.

There is no textbook on how to cope when someone we love dies. To be certain it is differnt for everyone based on the circumstances. Likewise, as we move through these stages it is important to remember that not everyone experiences the same order or frequency. Having been through a great deal of it, I am a firm believer that grief is a great equalizer of the human condition. Indeed, every single one of us will encounter a significant loss in our lifetime which begs the question, why don’t we talk about it more often? You may have heard of the five or seven stages of grief. So, what are they?

1. Shock & Denial:

The initial blow of meaningful loss often leaves us feeling shaken. Our brain has many mechanisms designed to protect us from trauma, and these are part of that structure. Shock and denial may leave you feeling numb or disassociated from your circumstances.

2. Pain & Guilt:

Similar to a physical injury, the shock phase will dissipate and leave you in a state of excruciating mental and emotional anguish. It is crucial that you allow yourself to feel and move through this pain without numbing yourself with drugs or alcohol. Be sure to avoid that awful temptation to suppress as this will most likely extend your grief process. I promise you it will surface, maybe even when you least expect it, so I encourage you to manage it to the best of your ability in the safety and privacy of your own home. You may feel overcome by guilt as you try to rationalize your actions or inactions during an often uncertain and terrifying time.

3. Anger & Bargaining:

Grief can quickly give way to frustration leaving you with a strong and often scary sense of righteous anger. You may cast blame where it is unwarranted or find yourself exceptionally irritable. Do try to be mindful not to direct your anger toward those closest to you as this may have lasting effects on your relationships. You may also question the cosmos asking an endless list of “whys?” and “what ifs?” You may find yourself secretly willing to give up lifestyle choices if only it would bring your loved one back.

4. Depression, Reflection & Loneliness:

It is highly likely that the pain of grief will be the most searing agony you have ever experienced and will leave you feeling especially drained. When you are moving through depression you are beginning to process the magnitude of your loss. You may find yourself keeping your loved one alive by sharing memories. Reflection is a normal part of the grieving process so while I encourage you to be gentle with your friends and loved ones during this time, do not let them invalidate you. Remember, the stages of grief come and go in waves. They may cycle out of order and/or repeat for some time following a loss. You may feel deeply isolated and alone during this time as human psychology remains a solitary experience that can never truly be shared, even with those who love and understand you most of all.

5. The Upward Turn:

As you begin to adjust to your loss you may find yourself slowly returning to your routines with a sense of calm. When discussing grief with others I often point out that while you can certainly heal and move on with your life, loss – especially untimely or violent loss – will leave you forever changed. While our wounds may heal, our scars run deep and we simply learn to carry the pain because we are faced with no other choice. During this phase your depression may begin to lift slightly.

6. Reconstruction & Working Through:

As your functionality returns, you will find yourself more geared up for problem solving and practical solutions to your new normal. Often times these are things we can control when life seems hopelessly chaotic like finances, planning or logistics.

7. Acceptance & Hope:

During this last phase of grief you will come to accept the reality of your loss. Acceptance does not equate instant joy or happiness. It simply means that when your turmoil lessens, you will again be able to function properly and remember your loved one with a peaceful sadness rather than gut-wrenching sorrow. Another hallmark of this phase is planning for the future. Bear in mind that moving forward does not mean you love your lost one any less.

There is power in knowledge. Similar to a diagnosis, understanding what you or a loved one is going through during a time of great tragedy can offer relief, aid us in moving through loss without getting stuck, and restore some lost sense of ability. So now that you’re aware that everything you may be feeling is completely normal and will come to pass, what can you do if you are the partner of someone who is grieving? PsychCentral offers 7 Tips for Supporting Your Partner After a Devastating Loss:

1. Commiserate.

This can be a surprisingly difficult thing to do. When your partner starts talking about all of the negative emotions they’re feeling, your instinct will be to jump in and say “Hey, everything is actually GREAT!” But that doesn’t solve anything and it can make your partner feel like you’re not validating what they’re going through.

But there’s an easy solution. Two easy words that make everything better – “That sucks.”

When your partner is grieving, sometimes, they just need you to acknowledge their pain and loss. So you just nod and say “That sucks,” and, at the least, they’ll know that you’re hearing them.

2. Recognize That You Can’t Fix Everything.

This goes hand-in-hand with #1. Commiserating is important, but it’s also important that you don’t try to project plan your partner to death.

If they’re overcome by pain, it’s not always constructive to say “We can fix this. We can make this better. This is what we can do.”

They just have to live through the bad parts – there’s not normally an easy solution to grief.

While your intentions are admirable, just remember that not everything can be fixed. Occasionally, you just have to endure the bad stuff until the hurt goes away.

3. Hold Their Hand.

It’s a simple act, but it can mean so much. Just sit with your partner. Touch them. Hold them. Put their hand in yours.

Let them know that you’re there for them without ever saying a word. Because sometimes they don’t need to hear words.

They just need to feel the warm body of someone who loves them sitting by their side.

4. Run Interference For Them.

Does your girlfriend’s mom stress her out? When her mom calls, tell her that her daughter is already asleep and you chat with her on the phone for an hour.

Basically, if your partner is struggling with loss, make it your job to reduce the stress in their lives anyway you can.

You know the things that stress them out. Throw yourself in front of those stress bullets and take a few for the person you love.

5. Ask If They Want To Talk About It.

And, if they say “No.” listen to them.

Check in from time-to-time to see if they feel like talking, but, if they don’t, you should NOT press the issue.

Offer yourself as a sounding board if they need it and, if they don’t need or want it, don’t get offended. It’s about them, not you.

6. Pick Up The Slack.

Your partner needs space to grieve and, when they’re suffering, every minor little everyday detail can feel like an intrusion, like something massively unimportant that’s trying to draw focus away from the pain, which, in turn, just makes the pain more painful.

If possible, do whatever you can to reduce the number of things they have to worry about in a day.

Do the laundry, make dinners more often than you normally would, troubleshoot minor household inconveniences without them.

Don’t make a show of it. You’re not looking for a pat on he back for being the best girlfriend ever. You’re trying to make them hurt less. So keep your extra effort on the downlow and give your partner more bandwidth to deal with their pain.

7. Love Them.

Duh, right? But it means a lot. It means everything.

Just find quiet moments to reaffirm to your partner that you really, truly love them.

It can make a huge difference.

Show them that you love them (and tell them too) and maybe they’ll remember that the world isn’t all pain and misery, which is pretty much the best thing you can do for them in that situation.

Have you ever lost someone close to you? What helped you the most?

**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

Ugly Truth 36: Insomnia & Nightmares Exacerbate Depression

Dear Readers,

Depression and insomnia are the strongest risk factors for frequent nightmares. Likewise, research shows nightmares and insomnia exacerbate more dangerous forms of depression, including suicidal ideation, among women specifically.

Bipolar patients report bizarre dreams with death and injury themes before their shift to mania. It was found that dreams of bipolar depressed patients have more anxiety than those of unipolar patients. Dreams of bipolar patients, particularly those with rapid cycling, may show evidence of the subsequent shift prior to noticeable affective and behavioral changes.

Having flashbacks to traumatic events, also called re-experiencing, is a hallmark symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. For roughly half of PTSD patients, those flashbacks occur at night while sleeping, often referred to as “replicative nightmares.” Others may dream more indirectly or symbolically.

I have been formally diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),  Bipolar Disorder (mixed type), and a couple of anxiety disorders. So which one is it? I don’t know anymore – but I’m tired, and you’re not alone. ❤

**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 34: Psychosis Sucks

“Imagine a world where your thoughts are not your own.” -Daniel, Schizoaffective Patient, 2019

Have you ever experienced psychosis? You are not alone. Approximately 100,000 adolescents and young adults in the US experience first episode psychosis each year. 

Psychosis is the experience of false beliefs and/or sensory experiences – including hallucinations involving sight, sound, smell or touch, and delusions – such as visions of grandeur or severe paranoia as it relates to mental illness. Delusions may be jealous, grandiose, persecutory, somatic or erotomanic. Hallucinations may sometimes be contextualized by one’s delusions, or altogether incongruent.

Some early warning signs of psychosis include:

Consistently worrying about grades or job performance

Struggling to concentrate or think clearly

Having unwarranted suspiciousness of others

Failure to keep up with personal hygiene

Withdrawing from friends and family

Experiencing strong, inappropriate feelings or no feelings at all

I experienced by first bout with psychosis in childhood. Throughout all my diagnoses, paranoia has always been very pervasive, and while I have put the work in to adjust this about myself, my conviction that others will almost always hurt me presented as hallucinations from a very early age.

It first began with insects, then shadow people, even dead people, screaming and full blown delusions – sometimes called thought hallucinations. On Halloween of 2014, I experienced my first ever break with reality. For the first time in my life I could not distinguish between what was real and what wasn’t. The evening was unremarkable, however, I believe the knocking of trick or treaters may have triggered me this night. (It is worth noting that during this time my PTSD was at it’s peak, I was not sleeping, and I had experienced small episodes of hallucinations in the days prior. I also have Bipolar Disorder and Panic Disorder, so it stands to reason that psychosis would present itself under the circumstances of extreme sleep deprivation, stress, and spiraling fear.) I was home alone, stood to walk toward the bathroom, sat down to pee, and upon standing was suddenly overcome by an impending sense of doom. In an instant I became paralyzed, unable to traverse the threshold between my bathroom and the dining room. I suddenly became convinced someone was in my home, hiding in the above attic, waiting for the opportunity to pounce on me and instigate my demise. Still frozen with fear, I flung into a panic turning off all the lights and locking all the doors. I locked myself in my bedroom and opened the nearest window, removing the screen to ensure my escape should this attic person come bursting through my door. Perhaps the best decision I made was calling for help while I had fleeting thoughts of where the firearms were kept.

This experience was by far one of my most troubling and profound. For many, the initial response is shame and embarrassment, perhaps even a suicidal impulse. However, I am grateful because this situation was the final push I needed to walk into a psychiatrist’s office where I was properly diagnosed and treated for the first time. The truth is, you’re not alone and it’s not your fault.

Psychosis may result from Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Depression, PTSD and/or an acute onset of trauma, sleep deprivation or stress. If you or a loved one is showing signs of psychosis, seek medical attention immediately.

For more of my thoughts and coping skills regarding psychosis read Trauma Confession Series: When Trauma Work Wakes Other Sleeping Monsters

**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!

Relationships

Ugly Truth 33: Love is All There Is

Dear Readers,

Tonight I experienced an overflowing of the heart.

So often when we fall in love we forget to remember the ripple effect it has. We tend to be dismissive toward small acts of kindness. Loving someone means so much more than the individual solitary experience you may feel. It means loving the people they love. It means being simultaneous and intentional in the way we receive the affections of others who may be extensions of our loved ones. It means being willing to take the good with the bad, and hoping full heartedly that there is more good than bad.

This week I entered into the first holiday season with the woman I love, and the outpouring of wisdom and acceptance I have experienced has renewed in me a healing where before there was a gaping hole. Her ability to share her family with me frees me time and time again from the decades I felt as though I was chained under the sea.

Sometimes, the art of conversation is enough as it ushers us into a mutual understanding strong enough to spare us pain.

Sometimes, their hurt becomes your hurt, and their joy becomes your joy, no matter how far the great divide may have lead you astray.

Sometimes, a familiar stranger reminds you for the umpteenth time of your capacity to love with complete empathy, and accept love in return without question.

Sometimes, you meet someone who reminds you of the way love ought to be despite your own growing tragedies.

Sometimes, you meet someone who inspires you to love your children with the fervent convictions that day dreams are made of.

Sometimes, mankind cries toward balconies in drunken song decorated with the women they love, and it reminds you of how beautiful music can be when your walls crumble.

Sometimes, when humanity fails you, you are reminded by your favorite authors of how you may find yourself faced with the most ancient of human conditions, facing the cold stone blows alone with nothing to guide you but your heart and your own head – and you are reminded how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong.

Sometimes, you pour water into your wine because you want the sober moments to last longer.

Tonight, I am grateful for my capacity to feel despite so much hardship.

Tonight, I am reminded of every single opportunity I had to leap from the edge, of every pain staking sleepless night spent crying in my room alone – abused, abandoned and fearful – of how I could have so easily missed the mark.

Tonight, I am in awe of how I can close my eyes and see a love so bright and blinding that I suddenly feel the soul cries of all those guitar solos I wish I could create myself.

Tonight, I remain grounded by those with great capacities to pour into me – and I am so fucking grateful for this motion.

Tonight, I write a love letter to myself and hope to high heaven that I remember this change coming my way.

**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!