Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 55: Nature is Nurture & 5 Ways to Reset a Troubled Mind

“A higher level of consciousness can not support a pattern of fear.” -Alyssa Malehorn 

Good Afternoon Readers,

Over the past week I have dedicated a great deal of effort toward altering patterns of behavior that no longer serve me. Interested in the way spiritual practices influence mental health, the Deskraven blog offers you 5 ways to tap into and improve your relationship to yourself:

Practice Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting (IF) has innumerable health benefits. If you’re unfamiliar with Intermittent Fasting, it is the notion that you fast for a period of time followed by opening an eating window for a period of time. The key to success is selecting an IF schedule that best suits your lifestyle, and allows you to build slowly on your success.

Many people begin with 12 hours of fasting (often while you are asleep) followed by a 12 hour eating window. As this form of self-discipline becomes easier, you will graduate to 16:8, 18:6, 20:4, or 23:1 fasting schedules. There are other IF schedules available as well such as eating normally for 5 days while restricting 2 days to 600 calories (5:2), and One-Meal-A-Day (OMAD) that I have also found to be successful.

Currently, I am fasting for at least 20 hours a day and eating in the evening. During my fasting window, I consume only large amounts of water, black coffee, and tea. Over time, your appetite will diminish and adjust accordingly. This is the best schedule for me as I am often busy through out the day, and calorie consumption makes me drowsy, so it offers up the promise of a good night’s sleep.

The health benefits of Intermittent Fasting consist of changes in the function of cells, gene expression, and hormone levels. IF helps you lose weight, burn belly fat, reduce insulin resistance, reduce oxidative stress, and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Moreover, it is beneficial to heart health, cellular repair, and longevity. Lastly, fasting practices offer marked improvement in cognitive functions such as memory, clarity, execution, and unheard of levels of energy.

Not surprisingly, this physical process lends itself well to elevating your level of consciousness as you begin to heal from the inside out. The early days can be extremely challenging as you push though detoxing processes that may produce headaches or irritability, however, this will pass and soon fasting will become as mindless as breathing.

Please note you should never feel unwell while fasting, so be sure to listen to your body and consult with your doctor before prompting any changes in lifestyle. Intermittent Fasting is not suitable for children, or fragile populations enduring health concerns or pregnancy.

Seek Out Nature

After spending a few of my formative years in the Colorado wilderness, returning to Houston, Texas, USA was no easy task. While I returned to improve my access to economy and reduce isolation, I’m afraid the expense came in the form of limiting my access to natural resources. These often consisted of the soul shaking views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the winding fields of colorful and seemingly endless treetops, and the naturally occurring Colorado River with the power to enlighten. Despite my better angels, I took these for granted and quickly lost touch with my higher level of consciousness by returning to the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

Once I became aware of this, it took nothing more than a quick Google search to find a local walking park near my office. I was surprised to learn that such a small gesture had the power to return me to my old sense of self. Even though the natural sources in my community remain largely artificial, it was enough to feel like visiting an old friend. I found that my intellectual stirring quieted and I wanted more, so I started implementing daily walks into my routine. I have come up against waves of discomfort and discouragement as someone living with chronic pain, however, I found that the stress relief and peace of mind that followed was well worth the pain of getting stronger.

Meditate

Meditation remains the best and fastest way to grow your level of consciousness. While you may find this task weird or daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Meditation is a practice that takes time and repetition to find what works for you. It can be as sophisticated as a lengthy past life regression, or as simple as taking five conscious breaths per day while driving or putting away the dishes. Like Intermittent Fasting, and exercise, you will find meditation works the muscles of the mind and will become easier over time.

Recognize and Release Your Limiting Beliefs

Any form of self development will often prompt our inner voices of criticism. It is paramount then to observe, acknowledge, and release these feelings of inadequacy. Essentially, this is the message of meditation at its core. The goal is not to silent, dissolve, or judge your thoughts, but to tap into the greater intuition behind your intentions. This insight will serve you in all areas of your life from professional goals to interpersonal relationships.

Experience a Shift in Consciousness

As you combine positive practice with the results they bring such as an overall improvement in your physical health, a strengthened sense of emotional stability, and a state of mind that promotes more love, connection, compassion, and peace – you will find that a higher level of consciousness can not support a pattern of fear. As someone living with significant mental illness, this realization has been invaluable. As I continue my practices, I continue to observe a reduction in anxiety, a slowness to anger, and a noticable increase in calm confidence.

If you’re like me, these revelations may encourage you to explore deeper themes of your own spirituality, whatever they may be, such as prayer, the afterlife, near death experiences, and alternate planes of existence. The underlying message here is capitalizing on your own human capacity to think and feel with the deep seated knowledge that love and fear can not exist in the same space. Even at it’s most logical, it is clear there is much more to learn beneath the surface of the physical world.

Discuss: What is your favorite mindfulness exercise? What will you do today to nourish your soul?

**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 53: I Took a Mental Health Day This Week

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.” – Joubert Botha

Good Morning Forum,

Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog, where I aim to lay bare 100 ugly truths about my mental health journey.

If you’ve read this far, then you know I live with Mixed Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia on a consistent basis. Of these, the Bipolar Disorder appears to be the most pervasive and problematic lately. Bipolar Disorder is a progressive life-long illness. That is, it never goes away and in fact, the longer you go without treatment – the worse your episodes become over time.

Episodes of Bipolar Mania and Depression have the potential to cause lasting damage to the learning and memory systems found in the brain. For some of us, Bipolar Disorder also has the potential to become the source of PTSD as a secondary diagnosis, as the episodic nature of Bipolar Disorder can provoke traumatizing psychological experiences and catastrophic social consequences. For me personally, PTSD stems from multiple traumatizing events related to mental illness, abuse, abandonment, suicide, and medical trauma.

The stress of Bipolar Disorder often triggers my underlying anxiety into full blown Panic Disorder, a mental health condition characterized by reoccurring panic attacks. A Panic Attack is a surge of intense fear with severe physical symptoms resulting from perceived danger in the absence of an actual threat, and the fear of their imminent return. It is not uncommon to feel as though you are having a heart attack or dying, often resulting in a visit to the ER. The fear perpetuates the physical response, and the physical response feeds into the fear. I am fortunate to say I haven’t had a significant panic attack in sometime, although last week I could feel those old familiar pains bubbling underneath.

Paired with my deeply introverted nature, it suddenly became blatantly obvious how these things are connected, and why I feel no need to leave the house due to a general fear of people, the inability to escape, and/or wide open spaces that leave me susceptible to harm or humiliation, better known as Agoraphobia.

I could see the crash coming, but there was little I could do to stop it. I could see myself soaring high above my normal energy and productivity levels in the weeks prior. I found myself sleeping and eating less, talking, reading, and writing with frenetic energy, boasting long term goals in the grand scheme of things, and just generally acting outside my character. I was in a Mixed episode.

If you’ve ever been in a Mixed episode yourself, then you know how quickly euphoria can turn to dangerous agitation, motivation to listlessness, and paranoia to psychosis. In the worst case scenario, you may ultimately be faced with suicidal ideation while you try to exist in a psychological space that shares symptoms of both Mania and Depression simultaneously. Most people associate Bipolar Disorder with swinging between the two mood states, but the truth is everyone with this disorder is different, and patterns of mood and behavior tend to be more cyclic than previously thought.

In the aftermath of a Mixed Episode, it is not unusual for people with Bipolar Disorder to describe the sensation of a Depression crash. That is, the emotional fallout that takes place after an episode of Mixed Bipolar or Bipolar Mania. Indeed, what goes up must come down. You may see changes in you or your loved ones. This can last days or weeks, and generally consists of feelings of disconnection, stress, worthlessness, complete exhaustion, and changes in behavior or routines as you come to grips with what you may have just experienced. Suddenly, you may find yourself rooted back in a reality that doesn’t seem to glow as bright. Perhaps you’re even pushing through denial to understand that your mind works differently.

As I continued to soar, I knew the landing would be anything but gentle. Being that I am currently unmedicated, I had no choice but to ride the wave, and pray my insight would keep me as grounded as possible.

By the second week I found myself unable to breathe or sleep effectively, and was toppling into relentless crying spells. All I wanted to do was eat and sleep. I was juggling mental health symptoms, chronic pain, work, school, motherhood, cold-like symptoms in the era of Covid, and had started my menstrual cycle (which is uniquely debilitating for me, but that’s a story for another day.) I felt increasingly overwhelmed by the demands of what it means to function, and soon the day came where I couldn’t get out of bed at all. With the support of my incredible girlfriend, I called into work and took a mental health day. Once the feelings of guilt and insecurity passed, I was instantly humbled by the notion that sometimes mental illness demands self-care take precedence over earthly obligation.

That evening, my sweet girl returned to me and poured into me the healing of good company, validation, and heartfelt conversation. She was so lovingly reassuring, always seeking to provide whatever it is I need, and the blessing was not lost on me. The next day, I began the task of pulling myself out of the clinical Depression that followed. Through it all, the most important thing to me will always be my family, and the due diligence I feel to spare them pain, treat them well, and lift them up – especially when I am drowning. One of my greatest challenges throughout my mental health treatment has been asking for help when I need it. Don’t let it be yours.

If you don’t make your mental health a priority – it has the potential to do it for you. You may feel deeply concerned about the repercussions of taking a mental health day. However, if you don’t listen to the limitations of your mind and body, you may find there is no ambition, family, or hobby to return to. In some cases, the risk may outweigh the benefit of pushing through.

My day of rest allowed me to relax and regroup, although it would be a few more days before I was able to fully regain my footing and move forward. I am slowly beginning to return to myself after the fallout, and putting things in place to return to my psychiatrist just as soon as I am able. Despite my uncertainty, the world went on spinning, and my job was there waiting for me the next day. The truth is, we must make time for our wellness free from shame and stigma, primarily when the consequences of not doing so become so much greater.

Discuss: Have you ever taken a mental health day? Did it help or hurt your circumstances? Did you receive support? Share what you learned 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!

Blogging, Mental health

Ugly Truth 029: I Am Scared of What I Write

“The thing you are most
afraid to write

Write that.”

― Nayyirah Waheed, Salt

Dear Readers,

Welcome! As we return to the Ugly Truth Series for the third time this week, I want to look at the writing process once more. In the past I have written openly about my reluctance to write my truth, or the way I have had to climb my own walls to be a more transparent writer. The truth is, I write for myself as well as others. I write for others because I have a heart for service and would have given anything to have felt less alone growing up. I write for myself because the release is therapeutic, and with a slipping memory – I enjoy writing love letters to myself.

Over the course of my last two publications, I realized clicking that “Publish” button came with the riddle of trembling anxiety. Since writing has remained one of my best sources of self confidence (and I live with the curse of relentless introspection), I had to examine the why.

Sometimes I challenge myself to be more creative, to have better grammar, or to achieve a certain word count. I aim to be more readable, more relative, or more revealing. Regardless of the layout, however, the most important reoccurring theme on this blog has always been to get to the heart of the truth – no matter what it may be.

In general, I am a proud truth telling writer. I do this because I am passionate about breaking through barriers and combating mental health stigma with proper information. I do this because I have lost loved ones to suicide as a direct result of the inability to find sufficient help. I do this because I have everything to gain by using this platform to revisit my psychology, even if it is completely self indulgent at times. I do this because this space is mine, and mine alone. I don’t have to worry about the pitter patter of my son’s feet, my partner’s gentle inquisition, or my cat’s meow. I don’t have to worry about my phone ringing or who on earth needs what and when. In some ways my love of reading taught me how to hide. Perhaps writing does the opposite.

There are plenty of exercises to endeavor while writing that are designed to teach you about yourself, your strengths, and your literary voice. The first thing my creative writing teacher taught me in high school was how to hush that relentless inner critic. You know, that nagging voice that tells you to crumple up your work and aim for the nearest trash can? While I have been guilty of rewriting the same piece countless times only to never use it, I realized last night that this was not what was causing my unease. It simply was that I do very much care what my reader’s think.

Perhaps my writer’s anxiety stems from the seat of authenticity. Getting it down on the page has never been a problem for me, only getting it down fast enough. In the name of all that is mental health, I want to get this right. I want to become a name brand resource for all psychological queries . I want to be a reliable place of origin for friends and family members of loved ones with mental illness or dysfunctional relationship dynamics desperate to better understand. I want to tell my story. This is all fine and well, and yet I still experience a great deal of resistance when free associating my unfiltered sincerity. After all, what if my little sister reads this? My father? My employer?

Well… So what.

Perhaps these are big important concepts that warrant a note of caution. Perhaps it is worthwhile to consider the consequences of going public. Perhaps it is not my audience that concerns me, but my own ugly truth staring back at me. Perhaps it is nothing at all. Perhaps I am getting in my own way. Perhaps a fear of failure will lead only to the inevitable said failure that may have been avoided altogether if only the fear had been managed.

What are you afraid of?

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 016: Pride Gets in the Way of Love

“The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.”
Paulo Coelho, Eleven MinutesGood Afternoon Readers, Greetings from the Ugly Truth Series! This week we are talking about mental health and relationships. It has taken me two years to be vulnerable with myself again, let alone with strangers, friends, or even lovers. I have had to learn how to leave myself open all over again, because wisdom has informed me that pain and pleasure happen to use the same door. The truth is vulnerability and love are synonymous, requiring an honesty with oneself and others that most people just are not willing to practice. I never had trust issues until my divorce at the age of 27, and it isn’t because of the things you might imagine. It wasn’t that he was unloving or unfaithful or unkind. In fact, he was none of those things. It’s because he broke his promises in a way that cost me my livelihood. I gave him an additional 12 months once the relationship was already in trouble to take action, and yet he took none. His complacency grew contempt in my heart. His willingness to let me feel fear and uncertainty taught me that no one was reliable. The fact that he promised to provide and did just the opposite informed my heart that no one was to be leaned on. He was a good man, but I’m afraid his fickle demonstration of devotion was the last in a long line of many that sent me into my first sensations of trust without worth. Often times people forget how painful the inability to trust is for the person feeling it. The ability to depend on yourself alone has value no doubt, but it certainly creates a wall between you and your loved ones. Often times your demeanor will change and they will begin to feel it. After a lifetime of celebrating my ability to love big, I found myself for the first time too cold and bitter to practice closeness with even those I cherished most, and it cost me greatly.
The truth is I have never been good at asking for help.
It wasn’t until I grieved through relapse and poor behavior that I realized I was still here, and nothing would change unless I changed it. I restored my faith in humanity through flexible boundaries which allowed me to practice grace and rebuild my relationships – and it started at the heart of myself. I had to ask myself why so many people had dropped the ball? Why had I descended into patterns of behavior with less than adequate friends or partners? What had this indirect self harm cost me? What had been displayed for me as a young child? What had I come to know and expect and accept, was it correct? Was my pride getting in the way of my ability to be truly vulnerable and tolerant? Moreover, had I let my hurt turn me into the heartless guarded breed of human being I promised myself I would never become? These are big important questions that require the nitty gritty self work we all try to avoid because it’s painful. As for me, I reached a point where I had become so very isolated that I was severed even from my own emotions and ability to empathize. I knew something had to change, and it started with diminishing my pride. All of my life I had had a self sustained delusion of autonomy, but the truth is I have never been alone. When you combine the emotional walls that trauma can build with the inflated sense of self mental illness can bring, it becomes highly toxic and consequential. It was only after I began to truly hold myself accountable that I began to realize that it was not consistently exterior circumstances that were leaving me troubled and abandoned, but the waters of my own heart. I soon realized that I was intentionally holding myself back from healthy, thriving, successful relationships through my unwillingness to admit to and move from my grief. Rather than offering genuine warmth, I became irritable, rigid and overly critical. Rather than taking ownership, I began making excuses for my misbehavior and folding into layers of selfishness. As someone who had always considered herself an insightful and articulate person, I suddenly found myself tangled in a lack of expressive language. My inability to communicate left me with nothing but anger, resentment, and an unwillingness to trust anyone – even those who I had previously maintained a loyal and loving connection with. Those unwilling to put up with my uncharacteristic and self destructive behavior vanished, and soon the stranger I had become devastated my own hippie heart. The truth is I am more fragile now than I have ever been – and I don’t mind. I cry often and exercise remorse. I am learning to process and regulate my emotions differently by accepting them toe-to-toe rather than fighting, fleeing or numbing them. I used to say people should talk at their mountains, not about them. The truth is I had stopped doing both. Reciprocal love is rich and swirling and warming in all its forms – and it begins with humility and a willingness to change. Relationships fail because of broken promises and rigidity. Do not let pride steal you from the genuine communications required to bolster the love of your friends, families, partners and yourself. Life is too short to spend it grieving. Take ownership. Be not afraid. Be vulnerable. Choose love.
**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**
For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!
In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!
Mental health, Relationships

A Day in the Life of an Agoraphobic

Dear Readers,

In general, I try to balance my publications between personal insight and information. When I can’t quite find the words I tend to shamelessly borrow from others, with due credit of course, and psychology is no exception. Dean Koontz once wrote,

“There is a fine line between a weary recluse and a fearful hermit. Finer still, is the line between hermit and bitter misanthrope.”

So, what is agoraphobia and how does it tie in to all this talk of shut-in isolation?

Agoraphobia is the extreme or irrational fear of being in open or public spaces or – more specifically – an abnormal fear of becoming helpless in a situation from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing. This is characterized by the physical sensation of panic which includes panic attacks associated with Panic Disorder, or anticipatory anxiety of which avoidance is the result.

To simplify, an individual who is diagnosed with Panic Disorder will often develop Agoraphobia as a secondary diagnosis due to the intense fear and trauma associated with past panic attacks in which convictions of harm or death appear imminent to the individual. The mere idea of this occurring outside the comfort of one’s home – or at a location where escape may not seem obvious – urges the individual to stay indoors. Thus begins a behavioral change that is characterized by severe anxiety, fed by fear, and reinforced by avoidance.

What sets Agoraphobia apart from the aforementioned weary recluse or bitter misanthrope is desire. Having lived with this disorder myself for 14 of my 29 years, I can say it is highly complex, relative, and variable among those who have it. Yet, almost unanimously, this population reports a fervent desire to live the lives they were once able to free from the unimaginative loneliness that follows:

To be able to travel with their children.

To chase dreams and self-development.

To do the grocery shopping.

To go on a date with their spouse.

To make a phone call.

To drive a car.

Agoraphobia can be sudden or progressive, entirely depleting of one’s quality of life, and often sends relationships into ruin. The sufferer can find relief with the help of a professional in proper exposure therapy, medication management, or cognitive behavioral practices to retrain their mind on the matter of fear. It is a taxing tear-filled battle with setbacks a-plenty, while some never recover at all.

In my case, every outing is different. Sometimes I go out and about within my comfort zone. Sometimes I go outside my comfort zone for a limited period of time. Sometimes I stay home for days on end. I often experience severe anxiety in the evenings about any obligations I may have the following day. Sometimes, the mere thought of driving alone can send me into a paranoid catastrophizing thought-pattern complete with crying spells, trouble breathing, and disruptive disturbing throughts. I shake, become nauseous, and dissociative. If I have an interaction with someone in public, my mind assumes they will hurt or embarrass me in some way. Naturally, the impulse is to flee this inflamed misrepresentation of complex traumatic events in my past.

As you can see I can rationalize these things, but it doesn’t stop a survivor’s brain from going off-balance. I have learned to practice self-care, coping skills, exit strategies, symptom management, proactivity and the power of “no”. I used to socialize, travel, attend concerts, museums, and school functions regularly. Now I rely on others frequently, and on the hard days – I still fall into extended patterns of avoidance.

If I were on my own I would be a quickly contented cat-lady. Instead, I often grieve for the active partner my significant other deserves, the socially engaging mother my son needs, or my deep longing for nature. My self worth often suffers due to the goals I can’t reach from within the confinement of my home, fluctuating timelines, and functional capacity. For now, it’s something I continue to chip away at.

If you or someone you love suffers from this disorder, please give them compassion. Ask them what they need from you to cope differently. Offer support without enabling. Their fear is founded and help is available, but it’s all for naught if you fail to acknowledge the calamity that has disproportionately swallowed them whole.

**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!