chronic pain, Mental health

Ugly Truth 62: Proper Diagnosis is a Long Hard Road

“Calling it lunacy makes it easier to explain away the things we don’t understand.”

-Megan Chance, The Spiritualist

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to Deskraven, your mental health forum. If you’re looking for a vehicle to elevate your voice, please email me at Contact@Deskraven.com!

I don’t know when this blog shifted from topics of mental illness to chronic pain, but I’ve been going through my diagnosis process for the better part of five years. The truth is chronic pain and physical illness can have a profound impact on your mental health.

To recap, in 2017 I became unable to work for four months and applied for disability. I was denied, and had no choice but to reduce my level of functionality from very active roles to a desk job. At that time we thought my pain was related to a car accident that took place in 2015. Last year my leg pain worsened and my ankles swelled up. I was hospitalized for two days where we ruled out neurological conditions and autoimmune disorders.

After seeing a chiropractor and receiving a lumbar region MRI it was discovered that I have a 2mm L5/S1 disc herniation, mild spinal stenosis, and early signs of arthritis. Shortly after I was referred for epidural spinal injections. When I met with my pain management doctor, he started me on Gabapentin to assist with nerve pain and scheduled a nerve conduction study also known as an EMG (see previous post). This test came back unremarkable.

At my follow up appointment this week my pain management doctor pointed out that none of my test results so far explain my pain levels. With that said, he referred me to an OBGYN for a pelvic exam to asses for endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue grows on the outside of the uterus and nearby organ systems. Every month, the tissue swells and sheds on the inside of the uterus leaving the body in what we know to be the female menstrual cycle. With endometriosis, the tissue behaves the same way, swelling and shedding, although because it is outside the uterus it has no where to go resulting in internal bleeding, scar tissue, and immeasurable pain said to be worse than child birth. This condition creates lasting damage and health concerns as the body attempts to cope with the strain of chronic pain, incorrect autoimmune responses, nerve damage, hormonal imbalances, infertility, and digestive troubles. Aside from severe chronic pain, women often report fatigue, headaches, pain during sex, and mood swings that significantly interfere with their ability to function, participate in social activity, or maintain a quality of life. No two cases are exactly the same, and women’s health continues to be a pressing stigmatized issue.

There are four stages of endometriosis depending on the severity and depth of tissue damage. Some women may be in stage one and experience debilitating pain. Others may be in stage four and have no symptoms at all. Surgery is almost always required and may result in anything ranging from laparoscopic procedures to a full hysterectomy. Endometriosis never completely goes away, and must be monitored through out a woman’s life to assess the need for additional surgery. Treatment options also include pain management, pelvic floor physical therapy, and hormone therapy.

I meet my OBGYN on the 31st. My pain management doctor added Cymbalta to my Gabapentin in the mean time. I follow up with him in two months. I have mixed feelings, but I’ll try anything.

I’m in pain everyday. It is tearfully worse around my unmanageable monthly cycles and I do have a history of cesarean surgery. My pain is localized in my lower back, hips, pelvis and shoots down into my legs with what feels like warm stabbing nerve compression and muscle spasms. I feel tingling on the top of my feet. The right side of my body hurts more than the left which consistently throws off my balance. I have trouble walking, standing, driving, sleeping and can not tolerate exercise at this point. I also have a history of migraine, vertigo, mood instability, and my mobility has dramatically decreased.

It stands to reason that I would assume this was a spinal injury, but I’ve been taken down another road entirely. I experienced improper diagnosis and treatment as a teen sequestered in the psychiatric wing of a local hospital as well. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I was correctly diagnosed with the mental health conditions I manage now. I am now 31 and there’s a real possibility that I have been experiencing endometriosis for the past ten years masquerading as something else.

The truth is you can think you know what’s wrong with you and it can be something you never suspected – or – more than one thing. I have had to contact my physicians to confirm prescriptions have been ordered and amend my medical records. I have had to do extensive research of my own, and seek second and third opinions. The truth is we expect doctors to know it all, but they don’t. The truth is doctors make mistakes. It’s so important to advocate for yourself in the medical setting and work as a team. Working with mental health conditions and psychiatrists is no different. I’ve been doing well for a long period of time, but I’m considering returning to therapy.

In some cases medical trauma can meet acute clinical criteria for PTSD. If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you know this has been a hurdle of mine. The truth is trauma and grief are not linear. We can not always anticipate recovery or relapse, which is why strategic coping skills are so important to develop if you have any intention of coping well. No amount of meditation or eastern scrap of religion could have prepared me for this, but it does help.

Discuss: Have you ever been misdiagnosed or the subject of a medical mystery? Share your story 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!

Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 30: Today My Son Was Diagnosed

Dear Readers, Today, I fell to tears on my way home from work after a losing sleep battle at 5am, chronic pain, and the challenge of another trying day for my son. Today, Zachary was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Today, I grieve for my son; for the way things will always be harder for him, for the way he can not yet apply insight toward his behavior, for the friends and caregivers who will misunderstand him and unwittingly make things worse, for the way he covers his ears when noises are too loud, for the way his IQ soars but his social life suffers, for the way I fiercely attempt to guard his self-esteem, for the way I fear I wont be vigilant enough, for those who will and do pressure us into difficult decisions, for the way he severely grapples to regulate his emotions, for the songs he sings that so many will mishear, for the constant redirection of a conformist society, for the way his intelligence will always lend itself to his awareness that he is different. If you don’t believe in these diagnoses, do me a favor and keep your opinion to yourself. I can assure you our pain as a family is very real, but it is not unattended. Zachary has received hundreds of hours of counseling, various therapies, behavior intervention plans, the benefits of countless round table committee meetings by his cheerleaders, and accommodations as his progression and challenges fluctuate. For now, I will have to rest in the years of education and instinct I have invested in. I will have to rest in the competence of the team, physicians, teachers and loving family that surround him. For now, I will have to rest in the knowledge that even when I am imperfect, I am enough. Final Summation: The ability to comfort yourself is invaluable. **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

Ugly Truth 026: Being Different in a Regular World

“A mother need not be perfect, she only need be good enough.”

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to Deskraven, your mental health forum! Today we are talking about the tricky moments of being a meaningful guardian. As we enter into the weekend, let us reconsider our children as individuals rather than lord over them.

In my nearly nine years as a parent, nothing could have prepared me for yesterday morning. There is no rule book for children, but I’d like to think a common sense approach is somewhat universal. Sure, most of us know the basic needs of children: warmth, shelter, proper nutrition, cognitive development, affection, guidance and well fitting shoes – but the mind can seldom conceive of the tough clever quips of our children’s harder inquiries.

I do not support the tabula rasa (blank slate) theory that some Early Childhood Educators adhere to. Likewise, I find it plainly unethical to impose religious views on impressionable young minds. Instead, I believe our children are born with inherent temperaments and tendencies, and it is our job to nurture and direct their self development. For example, you may notice that your first child is naturally stubborn and sensitive while noting that your third child is laid back and inquisitive. Loving them equally, these two children maintain very different social-emotional needs.

My son is named Zachary, and he is seven years old with a temperament much like the stubborn sensitive child described above. My son faces challenges associated with an exceptional IQ and neurological differences. As such, supporting his personal truth while protecting and strengthening his self-esteem has always been my foremost priority.

Zachary has always been an exceptional communicator. In order to gauge his self confidence, I will casually check in with him by saying something like, “Hey buddy, how ya feelin’?” Usually his response is an honest reassurance, or a dilemma he is trying to navigate in school. However, on this day, among my words of affirmation, my sweet insightful son shed light on the fact that he feels loved, valued, and cherished by his family – but less so by the outside world.

In an instant my chest tightened and my eyes filled to the brim with tears as I carefully explained that life often includes a great deal of suffering, and that the magic can be found in the many good things that come along when we always seek to do our best and make good choices as good human beings.

While I countinued to hearten my son, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed and discouraged by the harsh reality of the truth. The truth is you will not find every person that you meet agreeable, and not everyone will think highly of you. Some may even mistreat, abuse or abandon you, but this intolerance is a reflection of personal perception often having nothing to do with the outward circumstances. The task then is to shake it off while keeping your self worth intact.

My boy has always marched to the beat of his own drum. We have battled social norms and school district regulations to give him this right, while also expecting reasonable adaptive skills. As a result he spends a lot of time listening to negative feedback, redirection, and constructive criticism. The fact that he is different poses a challenge, but it is also a brilliant opportunity to teach him the value of self-love, and offer him positive balance at home where the world so often stops short. The fact that he is gifted and talented simply means he learns differently, not that he is better or worse. The fact that I am a compassionate parent serves not only his best interest, but also affords me more patience and grace with my own irksome personality traits. Likewise, my own battle and professional training with all things mental health has uniquely equipped me to advocate for and counsel my son.

As our time together came to a close, I built him up as fast as I could in the time allotted by our morning commute. As we pulled into the carpool lane the right rear passenger door flung open, and he was greeted by a smiling face. I kissed him smack on the lips and poured all of my hope into that one tiny moment, watching closely as he held himself a little straighter. I wiped my tears and took a deep breath while he went on to conduct himself beautifully in his classroom that day. “Raising boys is hard,” I thought to myself.

Perhaps on this day I said something that stuck. Perhaps on this day I was good enough.

**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

Ugly Truth 025: ADHD is Tough Stuff

Dear Readers,

I always knew my son would be exceptional, but I never knew his struggles would be so monumental. His first year of preschool was the year his father and I separated, so we were quick to assume his adjustment period was understandable and temporary. Not only did his troubles not pass, they got worse. Much worse.

This type of milestone is usually joyous, however I soon began receiving phone calls from his preschool on a daily basis. I began to take notice that my son’s tantrums were more severe than what would be considered typical for his age group. He would scream, cry, flail his body, stomp his feet, punch his arms, suffer night terrors, display separation anxiety, and throw furniture. Under extreme distress, he would scratch his own arms and face.

As a young (and dumb) mother, I would often absorb the advice of others too quickly. Many people, including our first family therapist, assumed we needed to make some changes and that I needed to be a stronger disciplinarian. In the spirit of always having room to grow as a parent, I can say consistent discipline is definitely part of the equation of treating children with special needs, but it isn’t an end-all solution. As the years passed, I watched him closely as we worked through hands on play therapy, social skill development, emotional regulation practice, and clearer communication. We made dietary changes, reduced screen time, established routines, tried vitamins and supplements, followed through with consequences, held family meetings, sought a second opinion from a licensed counselor, and increased physical activities. We knew for certain that no matter the outcome, we wanted to exhaust every natural resource available to us before ever considering medication. Our son saw a pediatrician, an allergist, a school psychologist, and family therapist and was ultimately referred out for a behavioral health evaluation. We pursued this, but still no answers came.

As our son grew older, he matured out of some of his maladaptive behaviors only to see the emergence of new ones. His primary years were increasingly difficult, often limited by the scope of his teachers and mentors. We worked hard in therapy and had good days here and there, but we just weren’t seeing the progress we were hoping for. His outbursts were growing increasingly worrisome, although his grades never slipped. In general, our son is attention seeking, active, impulsive, sensory seeking, disruptive, emotional, insightful, and extremely intelligent. He shows a lack of restraint but never a lack of remorse, persistent repetition of words or actions, memory loss and mood swings. He generally demonstrates a proclivity toward anger and lacks social skills. He experiences sleep disturbances, appetite changes, aggression (this is very rare these days – thank goodness), low self-worth and has even talked openly of suicide on more than one occasion.

It goes without saying that our love and worry for our son put an enormous strain on our family dynamic. Not only was I faced with the grief of acceptance, but I had the public school system leaning into me one on side, while his father was pushing in the other direction. Suddenly, I found myself with three thorns in my side. I felt stranded in the middle, and I knew the only way I could cope with this would be with some form of healthy detachment. I knew I needed the relief of a slight emotional unhinging in order to face my son’s behavior as objectively as possible, rather than take it personal. I knew I had to a find a way to apply my professional experience as a Behavioral Therapist to my personal life without having a complete and total nervous breakdown. I knew I needed to advocate for my son free from the opinions of others. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I have been completely successful, because that’s just not true. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve made, or how many nights I’ve cried in my bathroom nauseous with worry. Still, circumstances in which you feel that you have no choice will teach you just what you are capable of. Fortunately for all of us, I was designed to advocate for mental health.

Suspecting Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD), and possibly Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), I went to his teachers with a plan. As a mother, I have started every school year by gently approaching, reassuring and thanking my son’s teachers. I do this for three reasons.

1.) I recognize that they have the most important and most underappreciated job in the world.

2.) I realize that my son can be difficult.

and 3.) I want them to know early and often that they can always come to me to voice their thoughts and concerns.

This concerted effort has served us in more ways than I can iterate. Likewise, we have learned the absence of this unified front comes with enormous consequences.

In speaking with his teachers, we soon began to investigate every possible solution without a formal diagnosis. We discussed the problem behavior we were observing, potential triggers, possible areas of change at home and at school, guidance strategies, positive reinforcement, motivation, social skills development, counseling, occupational therapy, accommodations, ARD committee meetings, more therapy, more dietary changes, and more consistency. (I soon learned that despite our best efforts, our nation’s public school system does a great disservice to children with special needs specifically, and all children in general.) Toward the end of his 2nd Grade year, we finally began to see the upswing of all of our hard work.

Our son has grown immensely in the last year, and he deserves the credit. Many of his extreme behaviors have diminished – praise God! However, he still displays some neurological symptoms like facial tics, as well as an inability to self-regulate or integrate socially. This will be addressed at our Doctor’s appointment next week at Moore Mental Health & Behavioral Services where our son will finally be evaluated and diagnosed. We will all be given the opportunity to remain instrumental in mapping out a treatment plan that best suits our family. Naturally, we have all kinds of mixed emotions about this. Still, I feel this is the next step in armoring our little one with all the support he can possibly receive from the vantage point of long over due relief and early intervention in the face of his emotional turmoil.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from parents in similar situations. Do you have concerns for your little ones that extend beyond the realm of typical worry? What is challenging you the most right now? How has ADHD or other sensory disorders impacted your life?

In closing, we must remember that decisions surrounding mental health and our loved ones are never easy. We must remember to pull together through education and support rather than stigmatizing one another through harsh criticism. We must remember there should never be shame attached to seeking help.

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

Psychology: A Self Monitoring Profession

“There’s no weakness as great as false strength.” ~Stefan Molyneux

Dear Readers,

When I worked as a mental health professional, it was brought to my attention that many of us in the field of psychology were drawn there by personal pain, and the genuine desire to provide empathy and direction to others. That is, many of those in the mental health field arrived there with their own neuroses. If we can avoid self reproach, this shared suffering often allows for the offering of heartfelt healing from the seat of personal truth.

So, when is there an urgency for a therapist to seek therapy for him or herself?

While reading “Therapy for Therapists” by Steven Reidbord, M.D., in Psychology Today, I found a great emphasis on the importance of perspective. It stated twice over the significance of providing quality psychological safekeeping having been on the other side of the couch. Although, it doesn’t always promise a more empathetic and successful approach.

“Therapy for Therapists” by Steven Reidbord, M.D., in Psychology Today, I found a great emphasis on the importance of perspective. It stated twice over the significance of providing quality psychological safekeeping having been on the other side of the couch. Although, it doesn’t always promise a more empathetic and successful approach.

“Several commenters on the NY Times blog believe the therapist’s own therapy encourages humility, and may decrease errors based on hubris and unexamined countertransference:

We are to be one of the self monitoring professions, responsible in a unique way as the stewards of our treatment with our clients…. Having our own issues worked with… goes a long way toward ensuring a unique quality of care.

I would be very wary of a therapist who had never sought therapy for him or herself. To me it would smack of an “I don’t need it – it’s for messed up folks like you” attitude.

I am also frequently shocked by the stories my patients will tell me about being in therapy with someone who clearly hasn’t worked on their issues. It can be very damaging to a patient…”

This insight provided clarity as I was struggling with a great deal of secret keeping and shame at the time. As a behavioral technician who was practicing Applied Behavioral Analysis, as well as operating as a Suicide Prevention Advocate and crisis volunteer, I felt unworthy to be a facilitator of care having entered psychotherapy for a mood disorder myself. However, this article not only demonstrates a general perspective toward wholeness and alleviates that (sometimes self-induced) stigma, but emphasizes the benefit of self-inventory from the academic platform of research. In addition, it highlights exhaustive self-care as a professional priority, and personal responsibility for one’s own wellness and behavior.

Most importantly, we must fulfill our ethical obligation as practitioners of protection to lead by example before daring to assist others. If nothing else, talk therapy can certainly serve as a homework assignment to gather insight on the likes and dislikes regarding the various methods of intervention and counsel, as well as nurture the all too infamous dwindling interpersonal skills often associated with psychiatry.

Rather than run amok with fears of social consequence or career compromise, we must provide a voice that demonstrates advocacy of self in order to be a more finely tuned mover of mountains.

**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!