Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 58: The Teachings of Adversarial Love

“I’m coping with my trauma by trying to find different ways to heal it rather than hide it.”
-Clemantine Wamariya

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog where we unearth the ugly truths of mental illness as it relates to life, love, and happiness.

In my spiritual quest to process and release the trauma that binds us all I began to learn about the lasting impact relationship injury can have on future intimacy, as well as the soul contracts we may not even realize we’re tangled up in. In general, insecurity is not a personality trait of mine, but recently I have been feeling more of it so it prompted me to look inward.

In examining my past relationships I realized they all hurt me in their own way, and I no doubt casted my own pain toward them. Indeed, no one escapes companionship unthwarted. While seeking out my relationship patterns I noticed they would invariably come to an end around the two year mark like some sick clockwork. Likewise, I found myself chasing the unobtainable, often seeking those who lacked a promising foundation, let alone mutual respect and reciprocity.

My current relationship offers a stark contrast to control dynamics and the threat of an invariable end, and yet I found myself soaking in a tearful uncertainty as if past transgressions were any indication of what the future may hold. A large part of therapeutic work involves accepting the good that is being offered to you without question, however, I find value in dismantling previously held beliefs that result from mistreatment. Am I deserving of love? Am I capable of sustaining another blow? Do I have unresolved hurt? The answer to all of these is a resounding yes.

True love is passionately engaging, but more importantly it is practical and mature. It never seeks to harm, create jealousy, or endorse possessiveness. Love remains the most written about subject in music, film, art, and other areas of the creative industry. Even the Bible offers a famous and promising passage: love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Within my reflection I found a most reoccurring theme of fear that surfaced as a product of hate, manipulation, infidelity, trauma, and abuse. In the past I was consistently exposed to lying, cheating, stealing partners. Partners who tore me down. Partners who informed me of my inadequacy, my inability to communicate, and left me with the kind of manipulative circular reasoning that would make even the most sound mind question her sanity. Partners who indicated to me I would be nothing without them. Partners who physically restrained and abused me. Partners who resorted to name calling and weaponized my vulnerability. Partners who robbed me of my peace of mind, my sound sleep, and my financial stability. Partners who slit their wrists in front of me.

In the face of adversarial love I found that when I wasn’t being abandoned, I was being told on a regular basis that I was unreliable, insufficient, and incorrect – and maybe I was. I had a lot of work to do. In learning how relationships serve as a reflection of self, it became apparent that my self worth was greatly suffering. The truth is we accept the love we think we deserve, and we teach others how to treat us, indirectly or otherwise. Clearly, I needed to raise my bar in more ways than one.

Fortunately, my first liberation in mindfulness work was learning that being less controlling in how we love allows the experience itself to take precedence over the fear of it passing. In a world where autonomy has only recently become desirable, the most radical thing we can learn is the fact that true reassurance lies in the space we provide our loved ones to choose us everyday, not in the ugly jealous strides we make to exert our possession over them.

My mind can rationalize the hurt I’ve endured, and the way it contributes to my behavior. I have had to rebuild and relearn my own definitions of healthy relationship dynamics as they relate to trust, intimacy, and devotion. I have had to tap into those areas of my life that exist apart from my partner, and begin to nurture them in order to be a more loving and less wounded human. The heart and body are different creatures, however. They keep score – and if you’re not careful to grieve properly – the wound will spread to other major organs. Healing from relationship trauma begins with setting hard fast boundaries that allow you to insulate yourself long enough to do the work. Take ownership of your well-being with the understanding that no one can do it for you. Remember you are safe and capable of creating lasting change in your life. Remember the ability to discern between the idea of something, the memory of it, and the reality of it.

Sadly, many people would rather be abused than be alone. I think it’s safe to say we have all fallen for the idea or concept someone is offering us, even if the reality of it is littered with red flags. Likewise, human memory is inherently faulty. You must consider the possibility that the way you remember things, especially traumatic things, isn’t the way it went. We tend to remember how we felt during an experience rather than the experience itself. I would be the first to admit I have turned to others to validate my memories for me, and it has been very helpful.

Ultimately, you should never go into any kind of relationship that asks you to compromise fundamental parts of yourself, or your ability to communicate them effectively. While no relationship is perfect, your heart will never seek to change or fix the right partner. While some work is required in every union, there should also be equal parts natural flow – that space that allows you to rest in the love and peace you’ve created for one another – free from doubt, stress, and drama.

Finally, the spiritual perspective teaches us about the potential for soul mates and twin flames. The idea is that they are sent by our higher self for our own soul’s growth and development. There is a lot to unpack here, but that is another Blog for another day. For now, ponder all that you have learned from those who have hurt you the most. It may feel impossible, but seek out the value of your suffering. Our perpetrators have the potential to be our greatest teachers.

True love is a victory march, not a sprint or a competition. Do not let your past overcome your successes, or cause a great dividing disservice to your current life. It is important to honor your grief, even your regret, but don’t allow it to take up residence with what you value now. Don’t allow the actions (or inactions) of others to invent dissatisfaction or breed contempt in your relationship. Whenever I catch myself slipping, all I have to do is look at her – and remember the way she casts the very light I could never manifest for myself on my most ambitious days. Oozing with gratitude never fails me.

Discuss: How has your past impacted your current relationship? What is your communication like with your partner? What lessons have you learned from those who have betrayed you?

**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 39: Low Self-Esteem & Five Things You Can Do About It

“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember ~ the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.” -Zig Ziglar

Dear Readers,

The role self-esteem plays in our personal wellness cannot be understated. Certainly, the things we say to ourselves have the power to significantly alter the way we perceive the world and our place in it. During early childhood, we begin to develop our sense of self based on the stability of our environment and the temperament of our caregivers. Likewise, unfavorable conditions such as abuse, abandonment or trauma often complicate the path to becoming a wholly healthy and well-adjusted person. In the event that self-love has been lost, there are five steps to improve self-esteem including changing the narrative, proper goal setting, accountability, practicing gratitude and repetition.

 Changing the Narrative.

Understanding cognitive dissonance is probably the single most powerful tool when working to improve self-esteem. So often we fall into patterns of thinking that include self-loathing or reflect the criticism of our parents. Learning to detect and dismiss distorted thinking is extremely difficult and requires a great deal of practice. Consider the things your inner monologue is telling you throughout the day. If your self-esteem is suffering, chances are these thought patterns are deeply negative and self-deprecating. Therefore, learning to reassign value to ourselves can be deeply useful. The good news is the human brain is indeed malleable, and our thoughts can be reshaped in a relatively short period of time by altering our behavior.

Proper Goal Setting.

When setting goals, we often fall into the mindset of going big. However, sometimes less is more. The ability to set an appropriate goal for yourself can aid in improving self-esteem by providing momentum from short-term goals to long-term ones. Similarly, acknowledging your accomplishments (rather than your shortcomings) is a positive tool that can bolster your confidence by highlighting your capacity, rather than your inability or unfinished business. Additionally, the cycle of self-discipline is highly reinforcing, and most likely to keep you motivated during times of lulling productivity.

 Accountability.

Personal accountability is essential when wanting to redefine any part of yourself, and self-esteem is no different. Put simply, be the change you want to see and do not make excuses. If you want to lose weight, set your alarm an hour earlier and carve out time to exercise. If you want to sleep better at night, shift your routines and follow through. So often, the solution to improve your relationship with yourself lies within your willingness to start a positive change. So, simply begin.

Practicing Gratitude.

Mindfulness, meditation and gratitude is a meaningful component of any walk toward wellness. Shifting our inner perspective from negative to positive esteem starts with recognizing our immediate surroundings as good and helpful. Take five minutes each day to figure out how being grateful translates in your daily life. Maybe it’s a mental list, a moment of silence, or a journal entry. Likewise, practicing gratitude invites us to restore a sense of agency by properly aligning our focus with our priorities in the present moment rather than what should have, could have, or would have been.

Repetition.

Like any good thing in life, improving self-esteem takes time and practice. In fact, all of the steps above require a great deal of both to offer meaningful change to your life. There will be road blocks and setbacks aplenty, but do not be discouraged. The important thing is that you return to yourself each day, and continue to let your love language to yourself take precedence.

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

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

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

Relationships

Ugly Truth 33: Love is All There Is

Dear Readers,

Tonight I experienced an overflowing of the heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lifestyle, Mental health

3 Ways to Cope with Discouragement

“I read somewhere… how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions. Facing the blind death stone alone, with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.”

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Dear Readers,

As much as I love writing for others, it is important sometimes to write for myself. All of the topics featured here are an extension of a recent personal struggle, and this is no different.

This week I was struck with a series of blows, but also some small victories. My fluctuating days, though dispairing they may be, then inspired me to investigate the fine line of positive thinking as it relates to mental health. One of the most important things I learned in therapy is the power of negative thinking.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

-Henry Ford

As someone who has lived through a great many heartfelt experiences of pain, it is only natural that I developed a catastrophizing mind along the way. It continues to take daily work to untangle the habit of seeing the danger in everything, including success.

The sensation of discouragement for any living thing can be a harsh blow, but for those of us living with mental health conditions, it can often lead to proufound devastation and a resurfacing of symptoms. This is significant because the role of goal setting is paramount in recovery, and can become fragile when faced with opposition. Therefore, it becomes pertinent in knowing the steps one can take to retrain their brain.

Mental Health America outlines three ways to cope with discouragement in their article, Stay Positive:

Foster Optimism

▪ Write about a positive future

▪ Search for the silver lining

Practice Gratitude

▪ Write a gratitude letter

▪ Keep a gratitude journal

▪ Remind yourself to savor

▪ Share your good news

Avoid Negative Thinking

▪ Avoid dwelling on downers

▪ Change unhealthy self-talk

▪ Ask yourself if your negative thought is really true

▪ Remember any achievements that disprove your insecurity

▪ Imagine what you’d tell a friend

▪ Beware of all-or-nothing thinking

▪ Consider alternative explanations

There you have it, some self work we can all adhere to! If it were up to me, I would add self-compassion, self-care, and worry limitation to this list. The truth is there is so much we can do to reverse our thinking, and it starts with problem solving in the present moment. Like anything skillful, these things take practice.

What do you do to feel strong?

**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

Gratitude is the Guardian of Your Joy

ggsc-gratitude

Dear Readers,

I am not a particularly religious person. I prefer to think of myself as spiritual rather than assign myself a religious label. Instead, I prefer to take the good from all of the major pillars of religion and apply it to my life in a practical way. Unlike most, I am okay with the not knowing. Occasionally, I will experience a thirst for knowledge and attend church for my sheer love of lectures, philosophies, and human understanding. On one of these days, the pastor’s wife stood at the podium and said these words, “Gratitude is the guardian of your joy.” -And it stuck.

These seven words of wisdom highlighted my genuine understanding of fundamental happiness. If we can be grateful, then we can shift our perspective just enough to glean some positivity from a painful situation because gratitude suggests choice. Therefore, there seems an intrinsic link between happiness and choice. As Thanksgiving approaches, these words sit with me still. More so since I am sitting in the unknown of unemployment- one of the most infamous stressors for any young family. So, perhaps a little self-examination will do me well, and help someone else along the way.

6 Things I am Grateful For & the Why:

1.) My Family.

My family dynamic has never been conventional, and so my definition isn’t either. I have had many unions and separations with men and women. One of these was fortunate enough to have produced a child. His father and I are no longer together although we maintain a loving and respectful relationship despite our differences. Somehow, the family we build becomes our own, having less and less to do with blood. There is so much value in the blending of differences, re-definition in the face of traditionalism, and the daily choice.

2.) My Home.

For most of my life I lived with others. I had boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates, friends who never left, and family to take me in. It wasn’t until my divorce that I was faced with the heat of a Texas August, and the choice to provide for myself independent of the provisions of others. I was not without help, of course. Now, almost two years later, the apartment I live in is mine, the bills I pay are mine, the car I drive is mine, the books on my shelf, the clothes on my back, and the food in my pantry is mine. The fear and the responsibility is my own, and the reward all the greater.

3.) My Health.

I am 29 years old and while not in perfect health, my chronic pain and mental health conditions pale by comparison to those I know and love with chronic medical ailments. Having been a caregiver much too soon, I have had a front row seat to the way illness can run amok on individuals, families, and bank accounts. While I would consider my functionality level below that of a typical twenty-something, I still balance the choice to get out of bed each morning.

4.) My Son.

Most people insinuate their children are their life, and it is probably perfectly true. However, my son saved mine and that is a fact. As a young woman, I was in the grips of horrendous grief and madness. My mind, body, and soul were dripping with chemicals and hell bent on fast tracking my self-destruction for a solid five years prior. I made a series of repetitively bad choices in great succession of one another if not to end my life through intent, then through sheer negligence and a complete lack of self-care. I was never malicious toward others. I was simply flailing through pain with zero guidance due to my own lack of language. My pregnancy taught me preservation of self for the sake of someone else, and forced me into fearless maturity. It taught me the choice of good health and good company, safety and security, and my full-time preoccupation with the truth.

5.) My Cat.

Pets provide a strange relationship free from circumstance or condition, one you may even be quick to resent. But if you look hard enough, you’ll notice that our domestic companions await eagerly each day for nothing more than our company and good graces. They misbehave, damage our over-priced goods, and cry into the night. And yet- there remains a middle ground where our choice to care for them meets the purity of their friendship and promised love.

6.) My Diagnoses.

I live with three major mental health conditions. It is something that has taken me all my young life to understand and manage wisely. Human suffering is universal, and therefore, has the power to inform. Suffering teaches compassion, empathy, and gratitude for the boring and mundane through shared experiences of loss and abuse. Suffering provides perspective when the unexpected uproars happen, giving you the strength and reassurance that it could always be worse. It gives us art, boundaries, and grace. Illness gives us the choice to victimize ourselves by ceding to self-absorbed unhappiness and self-medication, or to assign pain a function through self-love and recognition, to release it from its all consuming vanity, and serve those in need.

So it seems this free-association piece has secured my livelihood by circumventing my subconscious, and coming full circle on the reoccurring theme of choice.

What is guarding your joy this holiday season?

**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!