Mental health

Trauma Confession Series: When Trauma Work Wakes Other Sleeping Monsters

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”
Roald DahlDear Readers, Today I hope to dispel some myths and promote understanding. Yesterday we discussed acknowledging, allowing, and accepting our grieving process after childhood trauma in Trauma Confession Series: Mourning. Well, no sooner than I mentioned the possibility of comorbid mental health conditions resurfacing did I experience psychosis in combination with the tag-a-long depression that follows. So, let’s talk more about what that means and (perhaps more importantly) what that doesn’t mean for me. Do keep in mind psychosis is always relative to the individual, and varies greatly among the population. It started yesterday while walking down a warm sidewalk at 4pm. Suddenly, I noticed peripheral shadows and distinguishable sounds along the wooded pathway. This included walking feet and whispering voices following me along the fence line. Then the thought hallucinations, commonly referred to as delusions, surfaced with the conviction that I was being followed, and certain harm would come to me. Fortunately, this is the only delusion I experience and it consists solely of other people’s intentions toward me. I have never felt grandiosity or that I was a deity. I have never had false visions despite evidence to the contrary. However, it is worth noting that these things are progressively degenerative. I believe my episodes of psychosis are linked to Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) and trauma (PTSD), and are not to be confused with Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder. After about an hour of this, I rode home in a moving vehicle still distracted, but virtually free from fear. In general, I can tell the difference between what’s real and what isn’t, but not always. Upon arriving home, I felt strange but mostly okay. This is what a textbook would describe as depersonalization, a sensation of being outside one’s self or that nothing is real. I sat out on my patio in some attempt to release the day (grounding technique) when I caught myself within the flickers of flashbacks and racing internal dialogue. This feels like time travel in a gag reel. The sensation of flashbacks following hallucinations is intense, and I physically shook my head in attempt to keep myself grounded in the here and now. That’s when the person I  lived with noticed I wasn’t quite right, and offered to help in anyway he could. I thanked him, and sat this way a few minutes longer. When relief didn’t come I decided to take a bath. One thing I have learned over the years is that even when my wires cross, I can usually tolerate it if I stay calm and stop talking. This often includes isolating myself so I can better distinguish my surroundings, and not become overstimulated or agitated. Coping with mental illness has everything to do with self-awareness and requires practice. In the bathtub I remained in a state of detached rumination, fighting the good fight – but I was tiring quickly. I realized then that I needed a distraction while waiting for my brain chemistry to correct itself. I logged into one of my online support groups where thousands of people exist who are just like me. After posting what I was experiencing, I received nothing short of an outpouring of love and support within seconds. Remember, distraction and the knowledge that you are not alone is invaluable while tumbling like Alice down the rabbit hole. Within two hours the fog lifted. Although I am less familiar with articulating the post-psychosis depression that followed, I am proud to say I navigated this episode unassisted by medication. I say that to say this: Even though Bipolar symptoms are more chemical than environmental, this is an opportunity to understand the relationship between trauma work and triggers that can flip a seemingly unrelated switch when living with multiple mental health conditions. The truth is, they are related and rarely travel alone. Many people with mental illness can not digest stress properly. Processing pain is extremely distressing, so it is not uncommon to find yourself suddenly faced with new mountains while seeking self-development. While hallucinations are a facet of my Bipolar Disorder diagnosis, they are also almost always linked to past abuse or abandonment and/or tied to a future fear of harm. This distrust for humans is a natural response to an unnatural childhood. The manifestation of my mental illness is simply the product of a mind unable to properly place the context of this logic. Likewise, psychosis is one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized topics in mental health. Here are eight more myth busting truths for you: Yes, I am mostly cognizant in-between breaks with reality. No, I am not alone. 100,000 young people experience psychosis each year. Yes, we are your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. No, I am not at risk to harm others when this happens. Those with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime than they are to be perpetrators. Yes, loved ones can help by picking up on red flags and assisting in a predetermined action plan. No, I am not embarrassed. Education and proclamation has afforded me the opportunity to rid myself of shame. Stay tuned for the next phase of this Trauma Confession Series: Confrontation. **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

17 Ways to Cope with PTSD Nightmares

“Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and hereafter she may suffer–both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams.”
Bram Stoker, Dracula

Dear Readers,

Insofar as I can tell, daymares and nightmares are not all that dissimilar. Even if our consciousnesses of them changes, the method used to keep the wolf at the door is the same.

For as long as I can remember I have had nightmares. I believe this was a result of intense childhood stress. It wasn’t long before my nightmares would carry over into my days, and I would come to experience the early warning signs of psychosis as a child. In some ways, it is amazing how abuse and abandonment can bend and sway our minds to survive. However, often times those childhood survival skills, dissociation for example, become problematic as an adult.

It wasn’t until Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder manifested itself in me in early 2009, when I lost two family members to suicide in 48 hours that I began having nightmares on a truly horrific scale. I was 19. This was proceeded five years later by the experience of caregiving for a terminally ill family member where I was exposed to a constant state of stress, fear, surgical procedures, poverty, and the monstrous dysfunction that entered my young home.

In the beginning my nightmares consisted of highly detailed apocalyptic themes. I vivdly remember bleeding skies, firey seas, and the demise of loved ones in violent and catastrophic ways. I recall being chased, attacked, or trapped. I would wake up frightened, panicked, crying and trembling – unable to separate myself from the sensation of the dream I was so sure was real. When this happened, it was not unusual for me to drink vodka at 9am, chain smoke on the front steps, and call loved ones. I would journal feverishly in some attempt to connect the dots. I would flail, avoid, and investigate. It would take me hours, sometimes days, to shake it off.

In the following years, I started experiencing full blown flashbacks. Flashes of light, sensations of time travel, reliving of trauma, guilt, remorse, and grief. I cried more. I drank more. I made more 4am phone calls. While my insomnia worsened, I began to notice over a period of time that going outside and sitting in the sunlight offered some relief and perspective, and my need to self medicate lessened. By way of necessity, this is how I came to understand Grounding Techniques.

Grounding Techniques are skills put into practice that ground you in the present moment by exposing the five senses to sensation. These might include:

1. Holding ice in your hands

2. Enjoying a warm cup of tea

3. Going outside to take in nature

4. Listening to music

5. Identifying five things you see in your environment

6. Mindfulness meditation

7. Diaphragm breathing

8. Physical affection from a loved one

9. Taking a warm bath

10. Wearing or diffusing essential oils

11. Exercise

12. Drinking copious amounts of water

13. Tasting something sweet or salty

14. Touching something soft or soothing

15. Engaging with a pet

16. Watching or listening to comedy

17. Checking a clock or calendar

The purpose of using Grounding Techniques is to pluck you from the trauma of a nightmare or flashback, and place you back in the reality of the present moment while also teaching you to self soothe in an unharmful way.

It is ten years later and I still experience nightmares of the same intensity, but with less frequency. I have trained myself to de-escalate upon waking, making my recovery time much shorter. If this helps only one person find a millisecond of relief, then I have accomplished what I set out to.

What is your favorite Grounding Technique?

**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!