chronic pain, Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 60: I’m Tired

“Fatigue is here, in my body, in my legs and eyes. That is what gets you in the end.”
-Margaret Atwood

Dear Readers,

Sometimes getting better means getting worse first. The truth is I have more than I could ever dream of, but my exhaustion remains paralyzing.

When you have mental illness and chronic pain there’s a part of you that cries every time you have to get out of bed, but you do it because you don’t have a choice and no one truly gives a shit. The bills have to be paid regardless of the despair in your gut or the fire in your bones. Fatigue is a powerful and difficult thing. In fact, almost all of my suicidal ideation stems from this sense of overwhelm.

So far, I have found the only way around this is to take it in stride. Most days I feel good about the progress I have made, am making, and will continue to make; some days I buckle at the knees and I’m forced to listen to my body.

I spend weekends in bed because a two-day recovery is my minimum necessity for pain management, and daylight alone literally drains the energy from my soul. On the other hand, being so sensitive has taught me everything I need to know about boundaries and gravity. Be sure to ask yourself exactly what you need in these moments, and don’t dismiss the answer. My body craves solitude for example. The truth is I am a writer, but it still took me years to develop my use of language.

Why is it so difficult to get the fucking words out? Putting my agony into command has always been a challenge, be it physical or psychological. There is very little that really measures up, and I want to get it right. Sitting there from one specialist to the next, my wife squaring her shoulders beside me because she doesn’t know how to protect me from this, watching the dust settle in the afternoon light – I just want to be heard. Just once, I’d love to be taken care of. I don’t have to ask myself how I got here because I already know the answer. All I can do now is hope and pray for competent physicians. So far I have met some wonderful providers, and others who really make you ponder the meaning of the profession. The truth is honesty is always my best policy in life, in love, and in languishing.

I finally got some answers last week, and for that I am grateful. My TENS unit is giving me relief. I am sleeping better, and experiencing wider ranges of mobility – but I still have a lot of work to do. I know because I feel pushed to the brink, and I’m crying easily these days. I have my next doctor’s appointment on Wednesday, and my mind has a way of making something out of nothing; What if steroid injections don’t work? What if spinal decompression makes things worse? What if I’m never fully able to physically rehabilitate? What if the insurance runs out? What if my depression is always treatment resistant? What if I have to apply for disability again? This week my governor declared a state of natural disaster during a global pandemic for a life threatening ice storm approaching Houston, and suddenly his toll reflects my own. People are dying outside. We would all be better off staying home.

When we’re talking about serious fatigue, it makes the really small stuff feel insurmountable. I find myself in a constant state of mental preparation, and it’s not something an afternoon nap will cure. I wish I never would have taken my vitality for granted. It feels like I’m walking through quicksand underwater with weights on my feet. Soon I can’t breathe, and no amount of sleep or wine is enough. When it is time to sleep, I often can’t without a medicinal assist and when I do, nightmares and screaming neighbors persist. Still, sometimes the absence of something teaches us to truly understand its value.

The exhaustion is a visceral reaction to small daily obligation because my energy is redirected to everything it takes to hold my body upright during the day. I know tapered activities and exercise is the best way to combat this, but I must be patient until I get my spine under control. Unfortunately, I can’t tolerate exertion the way I used to. If I were to lean into it now, I run the risk of injuring myself further. In the meantime, hydration, eating well, and bed rest is ushering me through. The truth is being a full-time working mother, wife, and student will have to wait as I learn to balance these demands with self-care. I am learning how to reorganize my life. If you’re somewhere out there in the ether and you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember you’re not alone. The truth is it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to tell about it.

Discuss: When was the last time you cried? How do you cope with clinical fatigue?

**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!


chronic pain, Lifestyle, Mental health, recovery

Ugly Truth 59: Chronic Pain Will Teach You Everything You Need to Know About Yourself

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” -Kahlil Gibran

Dear Readers,

At Deskraven we believe in the collaborative approach that connects those in need with meaningful content and the voice no one else will give them. For more information on how to write for the Deskraven blog or connect with resources on addiction, depression, and suicide prevention – please scroll to the bottom of this post. I encourage you all to participate in the comments section below so we can continue to dialogue on these very important topics.

The truth is I should be doing my homework right now, but I have so much to say. Last week marked the beginning of the end of a very long road. If you know me personally or have been a dedicated Deskraven reader, then you know I am not shy about sharing my diagnoses with my readers. This is because I believe in assigning pain a function so that our suffering may not be in vain. This, emboldened by the power of community, has offered me a great deal of meaningful processing and the subsequent healing that follows. The mission now is to return that information back to the masses.

That being said, I live with Mixed Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and Panic Disorder w/ Agoraphobia. I have many posts archived on all of these disorders if you care to learn more specifically about how these can impact your life. For now, I will be concise.

In short, Mixed Bipolar Disorder is characterized by disorienting mood swings and behavioral changes that often result in significant social and professional consequences. Mixed episodes are unique in that in contrast to Type 1 or Type 2 Bipolar Disorder, Mixed Bipolar Disorder consists of both highs (mania) and lows (depression) simultaneously. This is considered significant because people who experience mixed episodes are at a greater risk of suicide due to the impulsive energy mania provides while also being in a state of depression. This presents differently for each sufferer, but in general I experience a great deal of grief and agitation that can range anywhere from clinical sadness to full blown psychosis if I am not careful to force feed myself self-care and the power of saying, “No.”

Similarly, PTSD is characterized by mood instability, sleep disturbances, and a false sense of reality brought on by trauma. Trauma consists of experiencing something life threatening such as war, relationship abuse, addiction, mental illness, an auto accident, a chronic illness, medical trauma, an untimely death, a sexual assault, etc. – or watching someone we love experience these things. Trauma is relative so what may be traumatizing for you may not be for someone else, or vice versa. Most people who experience these types of life disturbances experience a period of profound grief. Often with the help of a professional counselor or spiritual teacher, we are able to move through, process, and release trauma in a way that both honors our suffering, and releases us from our entanglement to the traumatic event. This allows us to move forward with little to no lasting impact on our mental health. Individuals who become stuck or stagnant in this process develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Finally, Panic Disorder is characterized by panic attacks, the sensation that you will in fact die at any second, physical manifestations of fear including shaking and hyperventilation, and the fear of their inevitable return – usually in public. As you can see, this disorder is incredibly cyclic and self-perpetuating. The good news is this also makes it one of the most treatable mental health conditions. Agoraphobia is often the product of Panic Disorder in that this experience triggers pathologized avoidance of public, wide open spaces, crowds, and any location that may produce the inability to escape to the point that it becomes a clinical phobia that interferes with your quality of life or your ability to leave your home.

For some reason my soul decided that the above conditions resulting in two in-patient psychiatric hospitalizations would not suffice for one lifetime. So, in addition I also experienced a car accident in 2015 that ultimately lead to me developing physical chronic pain. Subsequently, I had several other injuries over the years, including a concussion, but believe this incident to be the most significant. What I should have done was seek treatment from the Orthopedic Surgeon and Physical Therapist I was referred to, and made the person who hit me pay for it. Instead, in my stubborn naiveté, I accepted a $1200 settlement and never went to the doctor. For the first couple of years I had aches and pains, but in general I remained very active and physically fit. Sometime in 2017 my injury worsened.

Suddenly, I found myself collapsing at the side of my bed when attempting to stand up. I found I could no longer tolerate my yoga practice because the nerve pain was excruciating. I could no longer enjoy being active in nature or playing with my son. I experienced neurological symptoms and nearly lost consciousness. My posture began to suffer and I developed difficulty walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, driving…existing. No matter what I did I couldn’t get comfortable. The pain was constant, burning, and sharp; localized in my lower back, shooting into my hip joints, and down into my lower extremities. I experienced inflammation, pins and needles, numbness, muscle spasms and migraines. At the height of this I found myself completely unable to work, slowly losing everything I had worked so hard for, and applying for long-term disability before the age of 30. Countless ER visits, a bajillion CAT scans, innumerable blood draws, and one grueling in-patient hospitalization later we were able to rule out life threatening neurological conditions and auto-immune disorders.

Last week I met with a Spine Specialist and received the MRI I have been seeking for years. Finally, I got some answers: L5/S1 central disc herniation and a narrowing of the spine, sometimes referred to as Spinal Stenosis. In light of these results my doctor referred me for various types of treatment including chiropractic adjustments, a 20-session spinal decompression program, and pain management including spinal steroid injections with the end goal being complete physical rehabilitation. Fortunately, he believes I am not a candidate for surgery at this time. He is also considering additional MRIs as he has seen in his practice a neck injury masquerading as lumbar pain.

After some discourse and the types of answers that only yield more questions, we decided the best course of action would be to get a second opinion before we commit to a decision and begin pain management. Currently, I am spending 2-3 days a week in doctor’s offices, receiving chiropractic treatment, alternating between hot showers and ice packs, consuming copious amounts of ibuprofen, altering my lifestyle as much as I can tolerate, and spending 30-40 minutes a day hooked up to a TENS unit at home with the help of my beautiful wife.

The more doctors you meet the more you realize why medicine is considered a practice. No one really has all the answers. It becomes paramount to advocate for yourself in the medical setting, and to work together to find the best course of treatment for you. Finding a good doctor or therapist is a lot like dating. Chronic pain is not that different from psychological anguish. The outcome is the same, and sometimes it takes time to find the right provider.

Somewhere I read that ruin is a gift life gives us because it is only in the dismantling that we are able to transcend our suffering. In this light, I have come to appreciate my white-knuckling desperation as an indication of teaching, as well as the not so gentle push from my loving wife to seek treatment. Perhaps the key to becoming a true patient is to simply not engage in resistance, the same way mental health recovery means not resisting the good that is being offered to you even though you’ve been told your whole life that you don’t deserve it. It’s okay to feel how you feel, so long as you’re willing to do something about it. The truth is I am as stubborn as they come, however, this trait will never serve me unless I learn how to shift resistance into determination.

Humility has been my calling to self-development and recovery my calling to life. Similar to the way a flower manages to bloom between the cracks in a sidewalk, at some point you learn that overcoming suffering is a choice. I know this experience is going to teach me exactly what I’m made of because the only way out is through. This resilience is revelatory coming from someone who previously held no sense of self-preservation. I say that to say this: Do not ignore your pain in whatever form it takes. Address it.

Healing is not only for you, but for those who love you, and refuse to stand idly by while you concede to what your life has become. The truth is that despite every obstacle you have faced, you do not have to accept victimization or enabling on your path to wellness. The truth is you can decide to take accountability, to change, and to do whatever it takes to reclaim your quality of life. I know there will be days of purposeful set-backs. Sometimes I make progress. Sometimes I cry and the chores don’t get done. Still, I can see myself on the other side of this, and I can’t wait to give my wife the partner she deserves.

Discuss: How has chronic pain impacted your life and mental health?

**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

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 028: Restorative Sleep is Essential

“Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.” 
― Edgar Allan Poe

Dear Readers,

Greetings from the Deskraven blog, where your mental health finds a voice! Today we are going to explore the power of truly restorative sleep because last night I went to bed an hour earlier, and I feel like a new woman. I believe discussing this is worth while since sleep hygiene has everything to do with our over all health, and very little to do with our daily planning as a cultural whole. When we deprioritize sleep, it often trickles down into every area of our life in general, and exacerbates mental illness specifically.

As a fellow insomniac, I feel that beginning with an exploration of my lack of sleep is a great place to start. Insomnia is characterized by the inability to stay asleep, fall asleep, or both. This may be linked to diet, mental health, illness or chronic pain. This may be genetic, circumstantial or environmental. I personally have suffered from an inability to fall asleep and stay asleep, however the inability to stay asleep proves more problematic. Over the years I have found that even if I only manage to gather 4-5 hours of sleep per night, I can function in an acceptable manner if these hours are consecutive. Interestingly, a full 9 hours of sleep is completely useless to me if I wake up 500 times over the course of that time frame, often leaving me even more exhausted and frustrated than before. In order to achieve better sleep, we must first identify what is keeping us up at night.

My inability to properly slumber began in childhood. I was raised in a very stressful environment chock full of abuse, domestic violence, and abandonment. While there are moments of fleeting joy in my memory, my insufficient childhood most certainly contributes to my troubles with sleep as an adult. I was frequently woke to the sound of yelling, breaking glass, loud music or the sight of my mother with bags at her hip urging us out the door before anyone would notice. This lead to a chronic sense of instability and a complete lack of safety, and therefore less sleep. I was told by my second step-father that it was not unusual for me to talk in my sleep. In my lifetime I can recall one incidence of sleepwalking that resulted in me waking up at the bottom of a staircase. How the fall didn’t wake me I will never know. I am grateful to say that this has never happened to me as as an adult. My father is a natural night owl, so it seems at least some part of my restlessness may be genetic.

As the years went by, I was exposed to a number of traumatic events ranging from sexual abuse to medical trauma that resulted in a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder around the age of 24. This illness greatly reduces one’s quality of life, and is certainly not without consequence in terms of quality rest. I found myself juggling the flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, and nightmares of PTSD, the racing thoughts, pressured speech, and flight of ideas of Bipolar Disorder, and the draining Panic Attacks of Panic Disorder. Add to that a pair of chronic pain conditions and the joys of entering into motherhood myself. Indeed, this is a fine recipe for little to no real actual sleep.

In the beginning I would often self-medicate with alcohol or over the counter sleep supplements such as Unisom. After being diagnosed with a slew of mental health concerns, my psychiatrist found it pertinent to find a way to get me to sleep above all else. By the time I arrived in his office I was getting so little sleep that is was criminal – and it was keeping me sick with paranoia and in the unruly planning stages of deceitful psychosis. Naturally, he prescribed a sleep aid and off I went to dreamland. Still, there is much to be said for the difference between sedation and true natural restoration, not to mention the side effects. A person with mental illness requires more sleep than the average bear because the mind and body are under constant duress. Stress paired with sleep deprivation is a nasty devil which brings sleep to the very top of my self-care list. So, what are the benefits of sleep?

VeryWellHealth writes,

In the past, sleep was often ignored by doctors and surrounded by myths. Now, though, we are beginning to understand the importance of sleep to overall health and well-being. We’ve learned, for example, that when people get less than 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night, they are at a greater risk of developing diseases.

All the more reason to get some sleep, right? Here are 10 reasons why you should call it an early night.

1.) Sleep Keeps Your Heart Healthy

2.) Sleep May Help Prevent Cancer

3.) Sleep Reduces Stress

4.) Sleep Reduces Inflammation

5.) Sleep Makes You More Alert

6.) Sleep Improves Your Memory

7.) Sleep May Help You Lose Weight

8.) Napping Makes You Smarter

9.) Sleep May Reduce Your Risk of Depression

10.) Sleep Helps the Body Repair Itself

The value of sleep really can not be understated here. As you can see, many of the things on the list above are involved in maintaining a sense of balance to our mental health. Our bodies and minds heal while we sleep, making us less susceptible to illness, mood instability, anxiety or psychosis. Sleep improves cognitive functioning helping us to maintain our wit and humor through out the day. Sleep allows our mind to file our knowledge properly ushering us into greater information retention and planning, not to exclude coping skills and overall physical health.

Over the years I have learned to train myself to keep calm and quiet (even while waking from the gasping tugs of a nightmare) long enough to fall asleep. This way, even if I do not lose consciousness in a timely manner, I am still resting my body. I utilize bubble baths, essential oils, and sleep masks to block out the tiniest of light sources. I try to keep a routine, but I’m not very good at it. I avoid eating before bed, but I’m not very good at that either. I try to yoga more often, but chronic pain has a habit of getting in the way.

The truth is, there are countless reasons to stay awake: meal planning, friends, family, studying, cleaning, children, pets, crisis intervention, intimacy and trying to leave enough time to leisure into our favorite TV show are all just a few things that can knock us out of our sleep patterns. As someone attempting to manage my health in a more holistic way, I can say for certain that quality sleep is the single most important and powerful tool against what ails me.

Maybe it’s time to ask yourself, are you really accomplishing more by staying awake? What helps you get to sleep?

**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!