Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 42: Why I Quit Drinking for 12 Days

Artist: Leonid Afremov

Good Morning Forum,

Lately there has been so much on my mind, and yet I found myself unable to lift pen to paper. More than that, I found myself falling further away from the small things – those little endeavors that make me an individual. My self awareness has taught me that my inability to create or be cognizant is a sure-fire sign that a change is needed. The devil is in the details, and maybe that is our greatest tragedy.

I come from a deep genetic pool of trauma, alcoholism, mental illness and addiction. In general, I have an addictive personality. Drugs, alcohol, self-injury, and disordered eating have all been on my list of poor coping skills over the years. Anyone who knows me personally knows not to mess with my cigarettes or coffee before 8am, but I would be remiss if I did not confess that while I may not be a textbook alcoholic, I do have a spotted history of problem drinking.

I live with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Panic Disorder and Chronic Pain. I was properly medicated for two years. After two hospitalizations and ten years of therapy, it didn’t take long for me to learn how to self medicate. I have always done my best to balance my poor choices with moderation, mindfulness, yoga, and creative outcomes such as writing, painting and knitting. However, in light of this quarantine and the way the month of April always seems to dig its claws into me, I soon found myself drinking more and coping less.

Since quitting three days ago (again), I have found that each day feels better than the last, although it has not been without its setbacks. I have experienced mood swings, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, blood pressure changes, and extremely vivid dreams and nightmares. As a seasoned scary dreamer, I have learned how to keep myself calm in these scenarios, mostly as a result of PTSD, however these dreams have been visceral even for me.

The truth is I haven’t read an actual physical book in years, something I typically have a passion for and take great pleasure in. I strayed far from my yoga practice, and have felt a general sense of imbalance and unease as a result. I was feeling run down, and had become complacent toward my loss of previously held enjoyment. I became disinterested in my intellectual pursuits, and my education began to suffer a little more than usual. Perhaps in juggling being gentle with myself, I let my personal accountability slide, too.

The good news is I know exactly how to get it all back. I am not a sobriety preacher or twelve-stepper, but I look forward to reclaiming my wellness, restoring my energy, and reconnecting with my loved ones. I look forward to being slightly less cerebral, sleeping a little better, crying a little less, and reading more books.

So often the trouble is just in starting something new to promote a positive change. Certainly, one can not achieve self development without stumbling along the way. We are hardwired to self-sabotage and make excuses for ourselves, even surrounding the things we want most out of life. Perhaps our greatest triumph is learning how to set meaningful boundaries in order to return to ourselves over and over again.

**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 010: Unplug to Truly Connect

“Being connected to everything has disconnected us from ourselves and the preciousness of this present moment.”
L.M. Browning, Vagabonds and Sundries
Good Morning Readers, By now you may know that I have taken it upon myself to take a break from social media for 100 days. You can read more about the whys in Ugly Truth 003: Distraction Posts Work. My hope has been to return to myself, my family, and look down less all while resetting my dopamine signals. Initially, I gave up Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube but chose to maintain WordPress and LinkedIn. I made some small adjustments after the first week such as keeping Facebook Messenger active, and watching YouTube so long as it was television and not YouTubers or comment engagements. The goal is to minimize notifications and time consumption. The reason social media is so damn catchy is due to the instant gratification it provides us measly impatient humans. When you hear that notification sound you are indeed engaging in a behavioral pattern reinforced by feel good chemical changes in the brain, and so you keep coming back for more. While this is fun and mostly harmless, it has caused all kinds of new reflections in our own psychology specifically, and society in general. You might ask, “Jaymie, what’s the big deal?” The big deal is we’re seeing changes that include cultural comparisons resulting in an increase in depression. The trouble is a problem of information access that makes us feel vulnerable and less safe. What’s more, these comparisons are only perceptions – not reality. When you hop online and see how successful John Doe is or that Suzie Q. married Mr. Right, you compare and contrast their life to your own. Unconsciously or otherwise, you begin to see holes in your life where there are none. What you see on social media is a heavily filtered version of the truth. As such, you may think Jane has it all while she backpacks across Europe while never knowing that she may struggle with an eating disorder or inconsolable crying spells behind closed doors. This is because social media is just that – social. We as a species adhere to certain rules of conduct when engaging with one another. The truth is we do this in person too! Social media platforms provide an additional barrier, making it even easier to only see partial truths. So do yourself a favor and stop comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. Over the past two weeks without social media I have noted a couple of things. I have noticed that I am happier! This was most significant the first 2-3 days while my brain recalibrated to the freedom and dopamine signals. Then, like any good high it leveled out and tapered off. Once the euphoria passed, I experienced my first con; I was lonely. Social media provides us with good company, conversation, and entertainment. When it comes to mental health, social media affords us support groups, education, and the knowledge that we are so far from alone in our suffering. I found myself missing the support of friends and loved ones far away. I started missing the nostalgic pictures, countless cat videos, and clever quips – and I still do. I found myself faced with a significant blockade when it came to social networking, a necessity for any working mother. On the flip side, I also found more quality time with my family and developed a new hobby – knitting! Lastly, I noticed my phone holds battery a whole lot longer. The truth is, everything in moderation. Have you ever done a social media detox? What did you learn? **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 009: Hobbies Matter

“If you are losing your leisure, look out! — It may be you are losing your soul.”
Virginia WoolfGood Afternoon Readers,
Welcome back to your mental health forum! This week Deskraven is highlighting the importance of hobbies as we continue to explore the ugly truths of mental health and long winded suffering. It may sound silly, but the ability to leisure appropriately is indeed a skill as well as an indication of general well being. When you live with mental illness, you may find that you have lost interest in your previous passions or your willingness to pursue new ones. This happens for two reasons. First, depression alone is a harsh reality for many people regardless of your diagnosis or lack thereof. Depression is infamous for stealing your light, laughter, and levity. Anxiety robs you of your energy, your will to live and may even be traumatizing. When an individual is traumatized their life is put on pause in order to endure extreme stress, and may halt otherwise typical development as a result. This loss of cognition paired with day in and day out anguish or fear can undoubtedly cause many to stop playing, pursuing and planning. Next, if you’re a psychology major you may be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow offers an honest demonstration of what happens in the human mind when one is exposed to internal suffering and/or external threat. Simply put, his theory suggests that if your most basic needs are not first met such as food, shelter, or safety – then you will never be free to pursue matters of the heart or mind. This may include the ability to create, the ability to accumulate new information or learn new skills. Therefore, the ability to engage in truly rejuvenating leisure skills can take practice, especially if you’ve been thrust into a survival mind set by trauma, abuse, or mental illness. The truth is, we must first tend to our wellness in order to make room for play. Play frees us from bondage while gently returning us to ourselves, and if you’re lucky – you may learn something new along the way. I am a chronic starter who seldom finishes. I am intensely ambitious with endless ideas. However, because I have mental health conditions and pain flares, it doesn’t take long before I become distracted or disembodied by symptoms or inconsistent anxious energy. It can make it very difficult to stay organized. I can quickly become unlike myself, seemingly unable to complete the routine tasks of a day – much less get creative or have fun. When this happens, I am obligated to sacrifice time for self care for as long as it takes in order to recover. Because of this I have started and stopped many projects including employment opportunities, educational goals, creative endeavors and even relationships. To this end, I have opted for a visual presentation of completion by taking up knitting – and you know what? I love it! I find it meditative, creative and practical as a connoisseur of all things plush and warm. I find it fun, affordable, and tactile. Knitting allows me a sense of completion in a relatively short period of time, while also providing a finished product that can be deeply meaningful for my friends and family. The truth is, the antithesis of a generalized lack of ease is returning to the things you love, sensory experiences, and the memory of having tried – even if you fail. Sometimes it is the smallest of things that bring forth the most joy. When was the last time you learned something new? **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!
Blogging, Mental health

Ugly Truth 003: Distraction Posts Work

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” [The Guardian, 25 February 2010]
Hilary Mantel
Dear Readers, The fact is, human beings are not great multitaskers. When we attempt to achieve more by doing more, our ability and efficacy actually suffer. We do indeed thrive best during single task activities in terms of both long and short term goals. It is no secret that distraction is one of the most common coping skills among those with mental health diagnoses, or even common every day stressors. While in the whirlwinds of anxiety or the uncertainty of a mood swing, it becomes so very easy to become lost in a movie, our favorite song, or a soothing task. The trouble is, in an age of information and technology, we are more susceptible to overstimulation, misinformation, and the fluctuations of brain chemistry. I want you to imagine, if you will, just how much information you take in each and every day from billboards, radio, television, news apps, and social media. Try to imagine what that number might be, and then compare it to that number ten years ago. Advertisement was always on the rise, sure, but when compared with today’s breadth and depth of information processing – I find it all a bit staggering. Surely this has to take a toll on our brain health and personal psychology. The truth is, the world wide web connects us to others around the globe minimizing the isolation mental illness can create. Likewise, distraction is a viable coping skill allowing a time frame for symptoms to pass or stress to cease. However, the tools bestowed upon us might also be contributing to the problem. You know that old saying about having too much of a good thing? Well, I do believe we’ve found it. Naturally curious, I embraced this pattern of thought and used my fingertips to research the topic of a social media detox. I was sold on the concept in less than five minutes. Neuroplasticity suggests that our brains are somewhat malleable. It teaches us that we are quite capable of breaking old habits, developing new ones, and recovering from damage. This is great news in the face of an endless supply of blue lit screens and voice-activated convenience. What fascinates me further is that we as a society have given room where previously there was none. We have accepted new social norms that were once blatantly disrespectful. We gently ignore the unprofessional cashier or lack of eye-contact from our peers because it affords us our own indulgences. Not only that, but social media makes our personal lives vulnerable to speculation by friends, family, employers and strangers. At the very least it begs the question, how much is too much? Experts suggest no more than two hours daily of screen time, but we all know we have received leagues more than that ever since the unveiling of Microsoft. Here we are – the same kids from the AOL boom – with handheld computers we couldn’t even imagine, fully equipped with the social media that allows us to compare, delude, debate and depress ourselves. As you can see, this really got me thinking about the person I was, and the person I’ve become as a child of a generation at the center of an age of access. Not only that, but how that influences my mental health. So, I have challenged myself to eliminate social media from my screen diet for 100 days in attempt to reset my dopamine production, and glean some wisdom along the way. My hope is that I will find more time to return to the things I love, and perhaps even find no desire to return to social media at all. I say, this is too much of a good thing. I say, hang up the internet and walk outside! Allow your mind to recalibrate and quiet. What is this incessant need for stimulation? What would you be doing right now if you weren’t staring at your phone? How many fewer books do you read each year? How many fewer hobbies do you pursue? How much time is lost or wasted? How many evenings are spent turned away from family members, lovers, and dinner tables? **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!