Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 54: Personal Development is Work

“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
― Alan Watts

Good Morning Readers,

You know, it’s not every day you catch the rain the moment it falls. I shouldn’t be awake and 5am, but sometimes I’m so glad I am. I love those tiny moments of peace and clarity just before the world begins to stir. Nature has so much to offer, if only we would pay attention. So, it got me thinking: What can I do today to strengthen my personal development?

There has been something of what feels like a torrential madness swirling through me lately. It is difficult to articulate, but I always try to maintain my transparency for my readers. The best piece of advice I ever read was to encourage others when you are struggling. While this platform does serve as a vehicle for my own meandering, I also seek to produce meaningful content for you, my readers. As a mental health writer, it is imperative to give something tangible to your audience, something useful.

Unable to sleep, I went down a spiritual rabbit hole this morning. I found some interesting insight I’d love to share with you because I believe whole heartedly a shift in perspective, however temporary, is useful for us all.

Have you ever considered the possibility that mental illness is a natural response to an unnatural world?

The above lecture by MindValley Talks offers a Crash Course on Spirituality (4 Levels of Consciousness and the Big Questions by Alan Watts.) It touches on the social constructs we build, and how they confine us to a certain way of thinking. Imagine, for a moment, if you could rebuild your inner world to serve you rather than torment you? The good news is you can, and like all good things – it requires practice.

At the halfway point in this lecture, the speaker offers up a meaningful exercise by Alan Watts, a British writer and speaker responsible for the interpretation and popularization of Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism for a Western audience (Wiki.) If you have an hour of your day to do some soul work, I’d love to see your responses in the comments below.

The Two Lists

Make a list of everything that you know because you experienced it.

-and-

Make a list of everything that you know because someone told it to you.

Discuss: Who are you? What do you desire? What do you know? Do you have a meditation practice, or are you sleeping on your intuition?

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

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

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

Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 016: Pride Gets in the Way of Love

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

Women who Love Women: Falling In Love and Out of Touch

“I seem to have run in a great circle, and met myself again on the starting line.”
Jeanette Winterson, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit
Dear Readers, Something you may or may not know about me is that I have struggled with my sexuality most of my life. I have identified as bisexual, lesbian, and polyamarous before doing away with labels all together. I have been blessed to have romantic and platonic relationships with both men and women. My first sexual encounters were with females, and it wasn’t long before I started learning my preferences. In high school, I fell in love with a beautiful girl for the first time, and was then pursued by another. Unfortunately, the relationship crashed and burned due to a jealous love triangle, of which I was the epicenter. However, I never forgot how much she taught me about myself. It was this relationship that resulted in my first brush with discrimination. I was harassed at school for openly being myself. My mother cried and pleaded, begging me not to hurt her. She told me she would never accept it, and she never did. I faced discrimination from employers who preferred to look the other way, nevermind the church and always some non-believing male trying to push his way in. At the end of my 10th grade year I moved to Texas and enrolled in a new school. I was still coming to terms with myself, but remained mostly transparent with my preference for women. I pursued two girls that year while men pursued me, but neither lasted. I always knew what I wanted. Still, I stumbled with the acceptance and the inner circle dynamics that come with a definitive learning curve. After all, men and women are as contrasted a specimen as two things can be. In 12th grade I entered into an open relationship with a male that allowed me the freedom to pursue female partners. It was a delightful time in my life although, my union with my primary partner at the time was very unhealthy and soon went from accommodation to possessiveness. As a result, my relationships with women at the time suffered greatly, and never matured past casual encounters. It wasn’t until I was free from this relationship and relocated again that I began to date women exclusively, determined to be happy once and for all. And then…there she was one day, standing before me in a polka dot blouse, dark hair flowing in the wind and those puppy dog eyes. She would grow to become the greatest love tragedy of my life. I dreamt of her last night and it swelled in me an endless pool of memories and emotions. Sadly, we have lost touch which is one hundred percent my doing, but it wasn’t always that way. There were many years of love in the sunshine, missed opportunities, and the soft landing of my very best female friend. This woman and I were very different, and yet similar in all the ways that mattered. She came from a wealthy family. I did not. She was well-liked and active in her academics. I was not. She was precious, loving, and tolerant. I was not. She was social, outgoing, and daring. Still, I was not. She taught me the language of mental health for the first time, of which I was in very much denial at the time. She taught me the priority of relationships and would vocalize them often. She was loyal and unfailing to a fault, always rushing to my aid no matter the hour. She valued family, friends, and struggled with her faith. She exercised good humor, ambition, and generosity. She balanced productivity with the wisdom a day in bed can bring. She always knew just what to say, even when I didn’t want to hear it. She put others first, even when her health was failing her. She loved her sweet, sweet kitty girl – Sophie – who I miss even now. She was beautiful. I admired her. I loved her. Oh my God, I loved her. With this admission I sat straight up in bed with an epiphany blooming behind my eyes. I began to cry. I was so joyful, and then equally fearful. When I informed her, however, she did not reciprocate and the anguish struck deep. We tried to maintain a friendship, but this seldom survives once one-sided feelings come to the surface. Over time, she had a change of heart and we reconnected once more, although I think some small part of me was never quite able to trust it. My inability to be vulnerable matched her inability to communicate dispassionately which created long lasting damage in our relationship. Our arguments were often trivial but severe, a reflection I believe of the unresolved hurt we both experienced while trying to be close to one another in every capacity over the years. As time passed, things changed again and I moved out of state. Over the course of this time, countless letters and phone calls were sent and received. Once more her heart was changing and she found greater meaning in our connection. I was delighted, but also clueless about the depths of that adoration. She never informed me that she had high hopes to try again upon my return, and in my idiotic blindness I entered into another poor relationship pattern before I even considered the notion of her and I finally being together. You cannot fathom my regret. This time, the tables were turned. She was the one who was hurting, and it was simply too late. Soon, my relationship ended and once more we were both available, only this time I was too wrapped up in my grief and misbehavior to see clearly. I rejected her long before she became brave enough to utter the words – …what if? And I’ll never forget the look on her face, or the breaks in her voice. Before I learned to manage my illnesses differently, I clung to very poor defense mechanisms at the great expense of others. Whenever I found myself suffering, I would repeatedly self-destruct. I would internalize and isolate with every intention of losing everyone close to me. Ultimately, the end result was suicidal action. My warped sense of logic convinced me that by pushing everyone away, I could end my life in peace – virtually free from guilt. How sickening and self-indulgent depression can be. I didn’t see it at the time, but this is what I was doing. This was the beginning of the end and somehow, my most beloved, brilliant, beam of light got swept up with the others. Some of my friends stuck around long enough to understand, forgive, and rebuild. But she hasn’t – and I don’t blame her. The truth is, she gave me so much more than I deserved. Having been a self-sabotager most of my life, it comes as no surprise that I sucked the life out of the relationship that could have so changed me with vapid excuses like fear, immaturity, and ill-timing. I know I hurt her immensely, and I will never forgive myself for that because not only did I lose the potential of a lifetime, I mistreated my closest and most passionate friend. I cast fear and doubt into her heart. I lost a friend who saved my life more than once. Shortly after, I embraced the work of personal development through therapy, reading, and writing. I grew in more ways than I can count. Sadly, this relationship suffered the most as a result of myself, and I can’t help but feel what can best be described as a double-consequence. Comprehension and change wont bring her back. I’m afraid it’s too little, too late. I will always think of her when the morning light hits the corners of a room just right because she brought me such warmth over the years. She loved me when I couldn’t love myself. She held me just right, and made me laugh with tears in my eyes. She visited me in the hospital. She gave me countless gifts, experiences, friends and resources. She taught me the value of accountability. She taught me the truth of having loved and lost – twice – against not loving at all. Following our final falling out, I dated a handful of girls that were lovely, some that were not so lovely, and some that just reminded me that I let go of something truly special. If I could see her now I would apologize. I would not deviate with fear. I would choose love. I hope you do too, in whatever form it takes. **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

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!