chronic pain, Mental health

Ugly Truth 31: What My Chronic Pain Actually Feels Like


“If I only could explain 
How much I miss
That precious moment 
When I was free
From the shackles of chronic pain.”
-Jenni Johanna Toivonen

My chronic pain summary – for future reference and all my fellow pain warriors who suffer from invisible illness.

•Car accident – June 2015
•Orthopedic surgeon referral and slipped disc(s) – June 2015
•Electrical vibration with sound in skull/loss of consciousness – June 2015
•First paralysis episode – August 2017
•13 chiropractic sessions – April of 2019
•Car accident – September 2019
•Cat scan – September 2019

Findings to Date:

Anterior Head Posture (Leaning forward due to an imbalance of muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back.)

Kyphosis (Abnormal curvature of the spine.)

L5/S1 Disc Herniation (Spinal injury that causes unremitting and severe pain, muscle spasms, nerve damage, lack of coordination, numbness in the extremities, overactive reflexes, muscle weakness and at it’s most severe – loss of bladder control.)

Spinal Stenosis (A condition where spinal column narrows and compresses the spinal cord.)

Lumbosacral Radiculopathy
(A disorder that causes pain in the lower back and hip which radiates down the back of the thigh into the leg. This damage is caused by compression of the nerve roots which exit the spine & can lead to sciatica – this is the pain that causes temporary paralysis.)

Migraine with Brainstem Aura

From the American Migraine Foundation:

Migraine with brainstem aura is a migraine-type that has aura symptoms originating from the base of the brain (brainstem) or both sides of the brain (cerebral hemispheres) at the same time. People who experience migraine with brainstem aura also experience migraine with typical aura symptoms, including:

  • Visual (Examples include sparkles or zigzag lights in the vision that may move or get larger. Generally on only one side of your vision).
  • Sensory (Examples include numbness or tingling that travels up one arm to one side of the face).
  • Speech/language symptoms (Examples include trouble producing words even though you know what you want to say or trouble understanding what people are saying).

In addition, people with migraine with brainstem aura get brainstem aura symptoms such as:

  • Dysarthria (slurred speech)
  • Vertigo (feeling of movement/spinning of self or environment)
  • Tinnitus (ringing in ears)
  • Hypacusis (impaired hearing)
  • Diplopia (double vision)
  • Ataxia (Unsteady/Uncoordinated movements)
  • Decreased level of consciousness

Follow-Up:

Neurologist and MRI

If you or someone you love lives with chronic pain, share your story in the comments below!

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

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

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

Mental health

Ugly Truth 028: Restorative Sleep is Essential

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

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

VeryWellHealth writes,

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

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

1.) Sleep Keeps Your Heart Healthy

2.) Sleep May Help Prevent Cancer

3.) Sleep Reduces Stress

4.) Sleep Reduces Inflammation

5.) Sleep Makes You More Alert

6.) Sleep Improves Your Memory

7.) Sleep May Help You Lose Weight

8.) Napping Makes You Smarter

9.) Sleep May Reduce Your Risk of Depression

10.) Sleep Helps the Body Repair Itself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 017: Chiropractors are Practitioners of Pain Relief

Dear Readers, Welcome back to Deskraven where we dispell the myths of human suffering by highlighting the truth. Today we’re talking about chronic pain. As if living with mental illness isn’t enough, many of us also live with medical conditions and/or intense episodes of pain flares for various reasons. This sounds overwheing because it is. I have herniated discs (spinal injury) from a car accident in 2015 that causes severe radiating pain flares in my lower back, shooting pain through my left hip and leg, numbness, tingling, weakness, migraines, neurological symptoms and general alignment issues. Up until recently this was manageable with warm baths, copious amounts of ibuprofen, diet (anti-inflammatory foods), and yoga. Over time the pain worsened and I became unable to do these things. I found myself flailing through sleepless nights and crying with frustration when unable to walk or dress myself. Waking up in the morning instantly overwhelmed me when I was faced with work and transportation obligation. I stopped doing my hair and make up because I didn’t have the energy. I stopped living and was merely trying to survive by spending all of my nights and weekends in bed. Add to that severe panic attacks, the type that violently rattle your cage, and things are bound to knock loose. Yesterday this all came to a head and while I was hunched over in walkless tears once more, I decided to do something about it. The truth is I have been to the doctor several times since my car accident complaining of strange and worsening symptoms, but with no insurance and nothing emergent without an MRI, I was sent home with more questions and continuing chronic pain flares. I knew I didn’t want narcotic medication and I didn’t want to be sent home, I wanted an affordable long-term solution. If you know me then you know I am terribly stubborn and let things go on much longer than they need to. After calling around and doing some price comparisons, I arrived at Joint Chiropractic riddled with anxiety and pain. The receptionist could see this and urged me not to sit since I was having obvious difficulty returning to a standing position. She took my blood pressure and informed me of all the going-ons in the establishment. Minutes later I began my two hour session with Dr. G who was nothing short of validating. After a micro course in chiropractic medicine he poked and prodded me. During his exam he discovered nerve damage, L4 and L5 disc injuries, a slightly abnormal spinal curvature, a crooked tail bone, joint dysfunction and high blood pressure. “You’re a mess,” he said. I laughed half heartedly, relieved to finally have some answers and grateful for his top notch bed side manner. The thing is spinal health is linked to every area of your body and can even influence mental health as a result of neurological symptoms. My injuries are the culprit of debilitating migraines and lonesome physical disability, so I took a deep breath and followed his instruction. He twisted and contorted my body with plenty of snap crackle pops. I laughed. I cried. I shook his hand with genuine gratitude and was given a prescription for a minimum of 10-12 adjustments, ice in lieu of my warm baths which can cause further inflammation, possible x-rays, exercise recommendations, and a prescription strength dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication twice daily. The truth is I am still in pain, but less so. Sometimes alternative medicine can provide a better quality of life than pain management clinics and traditional physicians. I am so proud of myself for being proactive about my care. This is the best thing I have done for myself in a long while, and I am optimistic about the future. Do you experience chronic pain? Have you considered chiropractic care? How do you cope with maintaining a functional quality of life? **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!