Mental health, Parenting, Relationships

Ugly Truth 45: Life Will Break You

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

-Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

Dear Readers,

It’s been a while since I wrote a love letter to myself. Often I write to process or heal, but most of all I write to regain my sight when I lose perspective. The truth is I revisit my own words, perhaps even more often than my dedicated readers.

Both of my parents are struggling, and it breaks my heart. It’s strange the way we’re taught not to treat our children as extensions of ourselves, but as individuals. As I grow older, I feel myself belonging more to a world I can’t understand.

When I look at each of my parents, it’s as if I’m looking into a mirror. I see my love, my compassion, my zest for life, but I also see many things I don’t want for myself. I see my mental illness, my insecurity, my pain. Emboldened by an undue life of untimely grief, my mother and father are generally unhappy people in their own right. So it begs the question: Who am I?

My mother was born into a family of second generation German immigrants and French Canadians, hard working people who turn the soil we all walk upon, but they were also grossly negligent and abusive caregivers. Leaking through generations, my mother was subject to verbal, physical and sexual abuse for most of her developmental years. It goes without saying the toll this takes on the feminine soul. She grew into a strong and irresponsible woman with many health concerns and a big heart, often subject to decisions beyond her control. That said, while I struggle to understand her choices as a mother, it’s easy for me to forgive a woman simply trying to survive her formation.

Alternately, my father inherited an English, German, and Irish descent into madness. He was the only son of a woman who passed away at the age of 40. At the age of 17 he buried his mother, and fathered me one month later. A few short years later his father passed away, having chosen a homosexual lifestyle over the betterment of his own child. By the time he was my age, he was an orphan without a sibling to speak of. Half a lifetime later, he buried half of his friends and family with me crying at his side. Strong though he may be, my father reached his own age of 40, and subsequently learned of the tragic death of his first love. He is no stranger to death and grief, and yet it still strikes deep each and every time. My father continues to grapple with the same swings of mood and general unrest I hold close to my own chest. He can be denying, dismissive, hypocritical, and downright mean. Indeed, he was robbed of his formation altogether.

So here I am at my own age of 30, and maybe the only thing all three of us have in common is having lost a loved one to suicide. While I have certainly suffered the choices of my loved ones, I have surpassed resentment. Sure, I didn’t receive the life or parents I deserved, but neither did they. I am stronger and happier than the two of them combined having been shown exactly what I don’t want for myself, my partner, or my children. It’s a miracle altogether that I am even alive, and I don’t intend on wasting it. In some twisted way I am grateful for an over exposure to grief. In some weird way, nothing bothers me anymore. Despite my sensitive and bleeding nature, I harbor a healthy sense of detachment from my surroundings, quietly holding my breath for the next blow. Like the ocean promises, there will be more. Certainty has taught me nothing is certain but death and taxes, and to be grateful for calm brackish waters.

In releasing all my hardship and chronic pain I have learned that I am deeply loving, generous, and kind. I used to cringe when Christian’s would say that without suffering there would be no compassion, but maturity and a significant amount of anguish has taught me the wiser. Perhaps our greatest truth is loving others despite every reason, hurt and abandonment not to. Perhaps our victory lies simply in choosing love over fear.

At some point, we all face the great divide of forced choice. We must reckon with our knowledge of the world, and choose to venture down that same old dark alley, or find our own pathless wood. What choice do we have really, but to roll with the punches – and love one another in spite of it?

Introspective bullshit aside, I went through many poor coping skills before finding the right ones.

I, for one, choose love – conditionless and motioning forward – without boundary and unashamed.

**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 38: The 7 Stages of Grief & 7 Ways You Can Help

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.”― José N. Harris, MI VIDA: A Story of Faith, Hope and Love

Dear Readers,

First and foremost, I have noticed a big boom in my stats so let me take a moment to thank each and every one of you for your readership. This blog has never been about exposure, fortune or fame. I write because my heart tells me to in hopes of reaching those in need. Also, because there is catharsis for me in the telling.

There is no textbook on how to cope when someone we love dies. To be certain it is differnt for everyone based on the circumstances. Likewise, as we move through these stages it is important to remember that not everyone experiences the same order or frequency. Having been through a great deal of it, I am a firm believer that grief is a great equalizer of the human condition. Indeed, every single one of us will encounter a significant loss in our lifetime which begs the question, why don’t we talk about it more often? You may have heard of the five or seven stages of grief. So, what are they?

1. Shock & Denial:

The initial blow of meaningful loss often leaves us feeling shaken. Our brain has many mechanisms designed to protect us from trauma, and these are part of that structure. Shock and denial may leave you feeling numb or disassociated from your circumstances.

2. Pain & Guilt:

Similar to a physical injury, the shock phase will dissipate and leave you in a state of excruciating mental and emotional anguish. It is crucial that you allow yourself to feel and move through this pain without numbing yourself with drugs or alcohol. Be sure to avoid that awful temptation to suppress as this will most likely extend your grief process. I promise you it will surface, maybe even when you least expect it, so I encourage you to manage it to the best of your ability in the safety and privacy of your own home. You may feel overcome by guilt as you try to rationalize your actions or inactions during an often uncertain and terrifying time.

3. Anger & Bargaining:

Grief can quickly give way to frustration leaving you with a strong and often scary sense of righteous anger. You may cast blame where it is unwarranted or find yourself exceptionally irritable. Do try to be mindful not to direct your anger toward those closest to you as this may have lasting effects on your relationships. You may also question the cosmos asking an endless list of “whys?” and “what ifs?” You may find yourself secretly willing to give up lifestyle choices if only it would bring your loved one back.

4. Depression, Reflection & Loneliness:

It is highly likely that the pain of grief will be the most searing agony you have ever experienced and will leave you feeling especially drained. When you are moving through depression you are beginning to process the magnitude of your loss. You may find yourself keeping your loved one alive by sharing memories. Reflection is a normal part of the grieving process so while I encourage you to be gentle with your friends and loved ones during this time, do not let them invalidate you. Remember, the stages of grief come and go in waves. They may cycle out of order and/or repeat for some time following a loss. You may feel deeply isolated and alone during this time as human psychology remains a solitary experience that can never truly be shared, even with those who love and understand you most of all.

5. The Upward Turn:

As you begin to adjust to your loss you may find yourself slowly returning to your routines with a sense of calm. When discussing grief with others I often point out that while you can certainly heal and move on with your life, loss – especially untimely or violent loss – will leave you forever changed. While our wounds may heal, our scars run deep and we simply learn to carry the pain because we are faced with no other choice. During this phase your depression may begin to lift slightly.

6. Reconstruction & Working Through:

As your functionality returns, you will find yourself more geared up for problem solving and practical solutions to your new normal. Often times these are things we can control when life seems hopelessly chaotic like finances, planning or logistics.

7. Acceptance & Hope:

During this last phase of grief you will come to accept the reality of your loss. Acceptance does not equate instant joy or happiness. It simply means that when your turmoil lessens, you will again be able to function properly and remember your loved one with a peaceful sadness rather than gut-wrenching sorrow. Another hallmark of this phase is planning for the future. Bear in mind that moving forward does not mean you love your lost one any less.

There is power in knowledge. Similar to a diagnosis, understanding what you or a loved one is going through during a time of great tragedy can offer relief, aid us in moving through loss without getting stuck, and restore some lost sense of ability. So now that you’re aware that everything you may be feeling is completely normal and will come to pass, what can you do if you are the partner of someone who is grieving? PsychCentral offers 7 Tips for Supporting Your Partner After a Devastating Loss:

1. Commiserate.

This can be a surprisingly difficult thing to do. When your partner starts talking about all of the negative emotions they’re feeling, your instinct will be to jump in and say “Hey, everything is actually GREAT!” But that doesn’t solve anything and it can make your partner feel like you’re not validating what they’re going through.

But there’s an easy solution. Two easy words that make everything better – “That sucks.”

When your partner is grieving, sometimes, they just need you to acknowledge their pain and loss. So you just nod and say “That sucks,” and, at the least, they’ll know that you’re hearing them.

2. Recognize That You Can’t Fix Everything.

This goes hand-in-hand with #1. Commiserating is important, but it’s also important that you don’t try to project plan your partner to death.

If they’re overcome by pain, it’s not always constructive to say “We can fix this. We can make this better. This is what we can do.”

They just have to live through the bad parts – there’s not normally an easy solution to grief.

While your intentions are admirable, just remember that not everything can be fixed. Occasionally, you just have to endure the bad stuff until the hurt goes away.

3. Hold Their Hand.

It’s a simple act, but it can mean so much. Just sit with your partner. Touch them. Hold them. Put their hand in yours.

Let them know that you’re there for them without ever saying a word. Because sometimes they don’t need to hear words.

They just need to feel the warm body of someone who loves them sitting by their side.

4. Run Interference For Them.

Does your girlfriend’s mom stress her out? When her mom calls, tell her that her daughter is already asleep and you chat with her on the phone for an hour.

Basically, if your partner is struggling with loss, make it your job to reduce the stress in their lives anyway you can.

You know the things that stress them out. Throw yourself in front of those stress bullets and take a few for the person you love.

5. Ask If They Want To Talk About It.

And, if they say “No.” listen to them.

Check in from time-to-time to see if they feel like talking, but, if they don’t, you should NOT press the issue.

Offer yourself as a sounding board if they need it and, if they don’t need or want it, don’t get offended. It’s about them, not you.

6. Pick Up The Slack.

Your partner needs space to grieve and, when they’re suffering, every minor little everyday detail can feel like an intrusion, like something massively unimportant that’s trying to draw focus away from the pain, which, in turn, just makes the pain more painful.

If possible, do whatever you can to reduce the number of things they have to worry about in a day.

Do the laundry, make dinners more often than you normally would, troubleshoot minor household inconveniences without them.

Don’t make a show of it. You’re not looking for a pat on he back for being the best girlfriend ever. You’re trying to make them hurt less. So keep your extra effort on the downlow and give your partner more bandwidth to deal with their pain.

7. Love Them.

Duh, right? But it means a lot. It means everything.

Just find quiet moments to reaffirm to your partner that you really, truly love them.

It can make a huge difference.

Show them that you love them (and tell them too) and maybe they’ll remember that the world isn’t all pain and misery, which is pretty much the best thing you can do for them in that situation.

Have you ever lost someone close to you? What helped you the most?

**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 35: Anger is Actually Sadness

Anger is one letter short of danger. “ -Eleanor Roosevelt

Dear Readers,

In a society that encourages violence and diminishes heartfelt feelings, it is no wonder that most people forget to remember anger is a secondary emotion. Anger is our psychological kevlar. It is there to protect us from emotional anguish and discomfort, as well as to communicate with others in a social setting. Anger is necessary, but what I’m curious about is what people are doing to detect and manage their primary emotions in a way that is constructive.

Anger, while useful, can often derail and distract from the heart of the matter. When managed poorly, it can even cause more harm than good. So I asked myself, why on earth are we skipping the acknowledgement step?

The truth is, no one likes to be vulnerable. So rather than speak up and say those measly but meaningful sentences, we explode. Why is it so hard to say, “You hurt me.” or “I’m sorry.” Why is it easier to fling into a rage that will escalate your vitals, often leaving you feeling drained or embarrassed? I once heard anger described as the bodyguard to sadness. Perhaps too many of us are unwilling or unable to articulate our grief, and so we cling to anger because despite the physical discomfort, it remains an emotional sidestep.

I have struggled with depression most of my life. So often my symptoms manifested as anger or irritability, but I never made the distinction. All I knew for certain was I wanted to be sad in peace, and something as small as daily obligation would send me into a fit of frustration. Likewise, when confronted by the harsh words of friends and lovers, I was extremely defensive. I would deny, almost to the point of delusion. I would accuse and avoid to dodge the pain of an honest conversation. I’m not proud of this, but the truth is it taught me a few things.

1.) The ability to empathize with yourself is invaluable.

Often times we forget that the seat of all our relationships begins with the one we have with ourself. Much of my formative years in therapy involved developing my inner dialogue away from criticism and contempt toward self love. Think about it, what kinds of things are you saying to yourself on a daily basis? If you can’t be honest with yourself, you can’t be honest with others. Most importantly, the ability to comfort yourself alleviates that need from your friends and family who may go to frantic efforts to do so.

2.) It’s okay to be vulnerable.

As members of a pull-up-your-bootstraps society, you may find that others may be denying or dismissive when it comes to heartfelt subject matter. I encourage you not to let their discomfort be your own. These moments can teach us a great deal about ourselves if we actually address them instead of suppress them. When I find myself in these types of situations, I try to imagine the worst case scenario. Then I ask myself if I can live with that outcome. In most cases I can, therefore, I have nothing to lose in being vulnerable with others. The truth is, I have gained a great deal of healing and wisdom in these moments of genuine companionship. Scientific research continues to support the fact that we are social creatures, and a sense of connection to our community alleviates distress. The key is finding those who are worth suffering for.

3.) Accountability starts with communication.

Taking ownership of our emotions and the way others treat us is not always easy. However, the consequence of not doing so seems to be much greater. If you make a mistake, apologize. If you are wrong, say so. If someone hurts you, let them know. If someone tells you you are hurting them, modify your behavior. Communication seems like the simplest road to resolution, and yet we avoid it because it makes us vulnerable. Scroll back up if you still need help with that.

Most of us know by now that anger is a surface emotion, but it’s the knitty gritty of what’s underneath that is truly the most rewarding self work you can do. Next time you get angry, ask yourself why. Perhaps you’re struggling with fear, depression or inadequacy. Perhaps you deny, attack, and avoid because it’s just too painful. Perhaps you’re hungry, tired or lonely. Perhaps you’re like me, and you get angry the moment you feel like you’re stretching yourself too thin.

If you want to see improvement in your relationships and overall happiness, it begins with your sense of self. Ask yourself, do you know how to comfort yourself without behaving impulsively or unfairly burdening others? When was the last time you were truly vulnerable with someone? Are you communicating your needs to others, and responding to theirs in a mature and constructive way?

The truth is, anger is often sadness – we just don’t know it yet. While anger can be a useful vehicle, it requires a great deal of practice, self awareness, and willingness to change to truly examine and manage the whys. It’s not easy, but that which is truly worth it seldom ever is.

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

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

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

Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 30: Today My Son Was Diagnosed

Dear Readers, Today, I fell to tears on my way home from work after a losing sleep battle at 5am, chronic pain, and the challenge of another trying day for my son. Today, Zachary was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Today, I grieve for my son; for the way things will always be harder for him, for the way he can not yet apply insight toward his behavior, for the friends and caregivers who will misunderstand him and unwittingly make things worse, for the way he covers his ears when noises are too loud, for the way his IQ soars but his social life suffers, for the way I fiercely attempt to guard his self-esteem, for the way I fear I wont be vigilant enough, for those who will and do pressure us into difficult decisions, for the way he severely grapples to regulate his emotions, for the songs he sings that so many will mishear, for the constant redirection of a conformist society, for the way his intelligence will always lend itself to his awareness that he is different. If you don’t believe in these diagnoses, do me a favor and keep your opinion to yourself. I can assure you our pain as a family is very real, but it is not unattended. Zachary has received hundreds of hours of counseling, various therapies, behavior intervention plans, the benefits of countless round table committee meetings by his cheerleaders, and accommodations as his progression and challenges fluctuate. For now, I will have to rest in the years of education and instinct I have invested in. I will have to rest in the competence of the team, physicians, teachers and loving family that surround him. For now, I will have to rest in the knowledge that even when I am imperfect, I am enough. Final Summation: The ability to comfort yourself is invaluable. **If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!** For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide! In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!
Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 023: I Desperately Want to Have a Baby (And Why I Won’t)

Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” -Elizabeth Stone

Dear Readers,

When I was young, I swore I would never have children. After experiencing a childhood of abuse and abandonment, I did not believe having children was the right answer for me within the confinements of my family. Add to that a less than desirable predisposition in the way of genetics, and this decision came quite easily. Although, it was not without its heaviness of heart. Still, biology had its way with me, and in 2011 I gave birth to a healthy beautiful baby boy.

My relationship with his father demonstrated the deep love and adoration only young love can bring, and was completely free of any undue abuse or abandonment. Understanding the function of a loving dynamic was new to me, and made it easy to understand how one comes to desire more children if for no other reason than to share that experience with the person you cherish most.

As we grew older, our bond was tested by an enormous strain, and I am sad to say our relationship could not withstand the blow. After amicably parting ways, although not without tears, I again proclaimed, “No more children!” Coming from a blended broken family teaches you a few things. First, you get two of everything, and second, some decisions are never easy no matter how you slice them. After watching my mother struggle so, I was certain I did not want multiple children from multiple partners. I realize this may sound arrogant and narrow minded, but I understood early that this was one of those uneasy decisions.

I remained set in my ways, and did not produce another child over the course of the next six years. In that time I also experienced the love and loss of marriage and divorce, which only reinforced the gratitude I had for my decision. After many failed relationships, I soon swore off relationships altogether. This isn’t that far fetched an idea if you know my father. His bachelor status is well over a decade old, so I had exposure to the kind of predictable protection that this lifestyle choice can provide. Surly, I would never again have to worry about the loss of a loved one, or an unplanned pregnancy. For six months I was resigned to my decision, and settled happily into my new routines. In my son’s seventh year, however, my desire was set aflame by the unexpected love of an old friend, and a ticking biological clock.

Here I am now pushing 30 years old, watching that door close a little more each year as my son grows older – and all I can think about is the daughter I’ll never have. The truth is, I can not reconcile my heart with my mind.

My standard of living is below the demands of a growing family. I live with a myriad of health conditions – some of which are genetic – all of which are exacerbated by the experience of pregnancy. These include mental and physical health. As someone living with chronic pain, I am confident my body could not support a pregnancy without consequence.

Alternately, being in love is a natural causeway. Watching my son mature gives me an inflamed sense of everything as a first and last experience – and it devastates me to the point of distraction. I see my peers almost unanimously growing their families, and I find myself intensely jealous. I day dream of pregnancy, nursing, and all the wisdom I have now that I didn’t have with my son. I cry for the way I feel like something is missing. I cry for the way my son will never be called “brother”. I cry for the way I can not gift my partner. I cry for the name I have already given her.

The truth is, I would consider it flatly irresponsible to produce another child at this point given my health and my circumstances, and yet my grief is unrelenting.

**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!