chronic pain, Mental health

Ugly Truth 61: Pain Management

“Surrender is an incredibly difficult topic in light of chronic illness, because loss is often continued and sustained.”
-Cindee Snider Re, Finding Purpose: Rediscovering Meaning in a Life with Chronic Illness

Dear Readers,

Deskraven was designed with community in mind. If you’re interested in writing for the Deskraven Blog, please email me at Contact@Deskraven.com to obtain a copy of the interview questions. There’s no catch, and you may submit your writing anonymously if you wish.

Sometimes I surrender to the process. Other times I demand more of myself and those who love me. Chronic pain is a tricky thing, and the truth is I am starting to lose heart.

Earlier this month I had an MRI that revealed an L5/S1 disc herniation and spinal stenosis. Still, these did not explain my pain levels, so my chiropractor referred me for pain management. Initially, he had spinal steroid injections on his mind. However, with a more conservative approach my Wife and I went for a second opinion. Ultimately, we located our own pain management physician who is also a spinal specialist. After my first exam he asked to view my MRI images himself, started me on Gabapentin, and referred me for a complete Nerve Conduction Study/EMG to asses my nerve damage before moving forward with epidural spinal injections. Today was that day, and let me just say if you have never experienced one of these, count yourself blessed because it’s some kind of monster.

Upon arrival my neurodiagnostic tech greeted my Wife and I. Even though he was awesome, knowledgeable, and forthcoming about the level of discomfort I would experience, nothing could have prepared me for this.

He explained that there would be three phases to the procedure. First, he would adhere leads to my lower extremities and use electrical stimulation to measure my nerve response. He would begin on a low setting and increase accordingly along my lower back, legs, and feet. Next, he would adhere leads to my forehead and feet to measure my brain’s response time to S1 nerve stimulation, an area thought to be damaged in my case. Finally, he would insert small needles into my legs, feet, and back to measure my nerve response in a flexed position versus a relaxed state. He stated treatment routes can range anywhere from nerve surgeons to physical therapy based in the results. He informed me the procedure would last thirty to forty five minutes, and we began.

I took a deep breath and did my best to relax even though I was anxious and cold. I tolerated the first round fairly well being that I have experience with a TENS unit at home. It felt very similar along my legs and feet, however, as he increased intensity so too did my discomfort. It was interesting to detect abnormalities in my response to stimulation on my left and right side. The right side of my body seems to be notably problematic due to spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spine) and the subsequent nerve damage. My Wife sat across the room observing my limbs jumping on the table as the tech wound up his tools and administered increasing shocks to various parts of my body. I took comfort knowing she was there, and I was able to relax into a state of meditation. The tech asked if I was okay, and we had a good laugh about good patients and bad patients. He confided in me that some people scream and cry, and it isn’t unusual for them to walk out altogether. It didn’t take long before my meditation broke and I was overcome by wincing pain. Suddenly, I could understand why.

Next, the tech applied electrode gel and medical adhesive to my forehead right where your third eye might be, as well as on the top of my head. This was relatively painless, a gentle respite from what was to come. He explained this was used to measure brain activity in relation to sensation in the S1 nerve specifically. And so I sat, for two important minutes in complete silence, careful not to move.

Next came the needles, and even though I kept my humor about me to aid in my composure, I knew the next part would require I call the warrior in me to the surface. The tech explained he would insert small needles into three locations on each leg, and four on either side of my spine for a total of ten. The insertion of each needle was tolerable, but then he added intense electrical stimulation and asked me to flex and hold various positions. During the time of the recording, a loud crackling sound could be heard emitting from the computer speakers. As if the excruciating pain some may equate with torture wasn’t enough, I felt as though I could be scooped up by space creatures at any second. I began to groan and hum a bit, noticing some parts of me were significantly weaker and more pain producing than the rest. Lastly, he asked me to turn onto my tummy where he would repeat the same procedure on my lower back. Surprisingly, this wasn’t as painful as the others, likely due to the fact that I was already defeated and there’s more tissue to absorb the shock and pinch.

Finally, my Wife tied up a few loose insurance ends and my shoes were returned to me. The tech informed me he would forward his findings to a neurologist and we would have the results at my follow up appointment with my pain management doctor in three weeks. I thanked him and wished him a safe drive home. He handed us his business card and wished us well before I stumbled out the door.

The first thing I did was crawl into the car and light a cigarette. I felt all of my medical trauma adding up. I knew the tears would come, but not yet. First we had errands to run and children to mother. I felt as though I left my body more than once and nothing really mattered outside the dissociative cloud I had moved into. I just wanted to collapse into my Wife who I am so grateful for and shut the world out. I just wanted to take a moment to validate my suffering. I just wanted to fall apart and not worry about anything else. Soon the demand became too great, my boundaries crumbled in my vulnerability, and I moved into a state of overwhelm. Even though my loving well intentioned Wife was going on about practical things, I couldn’t hold it anymore and my eyes welled up with tears. Naturally she was concerned, but I reassured her it had nothing to do with the groceries. I’ve worked hard to push my processing delay forward with the wisdom that it’s okay and perfectly healthy to cry. I have been a brilliant suppressor who constantly seeks to release that part of herself.

Finally, we returned home and the night ensued with challenging parenting, wine, reflection, and warm water.

I could sit here and tell you ten clever Deskraven ways to cope with chronic pain, but the truth is I haven’t uncovered anything yet that has truly provided meaningful relief. Like psychology, it seems to be nothing more than symptom management and breakthrough pain despite your best efforts. There are good days and there are hard days. Today was most definitely a hard day.

So, here I lay in a tepid puddle measuring my mental health against physical defeat, sharing all of this with you for the sake of the one person who needs to read it. Please do not despair. You are not alone. Tomorrow will be mostly bed ridden sleep, and hard prayer for the answers I know are coming. When they do, I promise to share them with you, too.

Discuss: How has chronic pain impacted your life? How do you cope?

**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!

chronic pain, Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 60: I’m Tired

“Fatigue is here, in my body, in my legs and eyes. That is what gets you in the end.”
-Margaret Atwood

Dear Readers,

Sometimes getting better means getting worse first. The truth is I have more than I could ever dream of, but my exhaustion remains paralyzing.

When you have mental illness and chronic pain there’s a part of you that cries every time you have to get out of bed, but you do it because you don’t have a choice and no one truly gives a shit. The bills have to be paid regardless of the despair in your gut or the fire in your bones. Fatigue is a powerful and difficult thing. In fact, almost all of my suicidal ideation stems from this sense of overwhelm.

So far, I have found the only way around this is to take it in stride. Most days I feel good about the progress I have made, am making, and will continue to make; some days I buckle at the knees and I’m forced to listen to my body.

I spend weekends in bed because a two-day recovery is my minimum necessity for pain management, and daylight alone literally drains the energy from my soul. On the other hand, being so sensitive has taught me everything I need to know about boundaries and gravity. Be sure to ask yourself exactly what you need in these moments, and don’t dismiss the answer. My body craves solitude for example. The truth is I am a writer, but it still took me years to develop my use of language.

Why is it so difficult to get the fucking words out? Putting my agony into command has always been a challenge, be it physical or psychological. There is very little that really measures up, and I want to get it right. Sitting there from one specialist to the next, my wife squaring her shoulders beside me because she doesn’t know how to protect me from this, watching the dust settle in the afternoon light – I just want to be heard. Just once, I’d love to be taken care of. I don’t have to ask myself how I got here because I already know the answer. All I can do now is hope and pray for competent physicians. So far I have met some wonderful providers, and others who really make you ponder the meaning of the profession. The truth is honesty is always my best policy in life, in love, and in languishing.

I finally got some answers last week, and for that I am grateful. My TENS unit is giving me relief. I am sleeping better, and experiencing wider ranges of mobility – but I still have a lot of work to do. I know because I feel pushed to the brink, and I’m crying easily these days. I have my next doctor’s appointment on Wednesday, and my mind has a way of making something out of nothing; What if steroid injections don’t work? What if spinal decompression makes things worse? What if I’m never fully able to physically rehabilitate? What if the insurance runs out? What if my depression is always treatment resistant? What if I have to apply for disability again? This week my governor declared a state of natural disaster during a global pandemic for a life threatening ice storm approaching Houston, and suddenly his toll reflects my own. People are dying outside. We would all be better off staying home.

When we’re talking about serious fatigue, it makes the really small stuff feel insurmountable. I find myself in a constant state of mental preparation, and it’s not something an afternoon nap will cure. I wish I never would have taken my vitality for granted. It feels like I’m walking through quicksand underwater with weights on my feet. Soon I can’t breathe, and no amount of sleep or wine is enough. When it is time to sleep, I often can’t without a medicinal assist and when I do, nightmares and screaming neighbors persist. Still, sometimes the absence of something teaches us to truly understand its value.

The exhaustion is a visceral reaction to small daily obligation because my energy is redirected to everything it takes to hold my body upright during the day. I know tapered activities and exercise is the best way to combat this, but I must be patient until I get my spine under control. Unfortunately, I can’t tolerate exertion the way I used to. If I were to lean into it now, I run the risk of injuring myself further. In the meantime, hydration, eating well, and bed rest is ushering me through. The truth is being a full-time working mother, wife, and student will have to wait as I learn to balance these demands with self-care. I am learning how to reorganize my life. If you’re somewhere out there in the ether and you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember you’re not alone. The truth is it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to tell about it.

Discuss: When was the last time you cried? How do you cope with clinical fatigue?

**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 53: I Took a Mental Health Day This Week

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.” – Joubert Botha

Good Morning Forum,

Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog, where I aim to lay bare 100 ugly truths about my mental health journey.

If you’ve read this far, then you know I live with Mixed Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia on a consistent basis. Of these, the Bipolar Disorder appears to be the most pervasive and problematic lately. Bipolar Disorder is a progressive life-long illness. That is, it never goes away and in fact, the longer you go without treatment – the worse your episodes become over time.

Episodes of Bipolar Mania and Depression have the potential to cause lasting damage to the learning and memory systems found in the brain. For some of us, Bipolar Disorder also has the potential to become the source of PTSD as a secondary diagnosis, as the episodic nature of Bipolar Disorder can provoke traumatizing psychological experiences and catastrophic social consequences. For me personally, PTSD stems from multiple traumatizing events related to mental illness, abuse, abandonment, suicide, and medical trauma.

The stress of Bipolar Disorder often triggers my underlying anxiety into full blown Panic Disorder, a mental health condition characterized by reoccurring panic attacks. A Panic Attack is a surge of intense fear with severe physical symptoms resulting from perceived danger in the absence of an actual threat, and the fear of their imminent return. It is not uncommon to feel as though you are having a heart attack or dying, often resulting in a visit to the ER. The fear perpetuates the physical response, and the physical response feeds into the fear. I am fortunate to say I haven’t had a significant panic attack in sometime, although last week I could feel those old familiar pains bubbling underneath.

Paired with my deeply introverted nature, it suddenly became blatantly obvious how these things are connected, and why I feel no need to leave the house due to a general fear of people, the inability to escape, and/or wide open spaces that leave me susceptible to harm or humiliation, better known as Agoraphobia.

I could see the crash coming, but there was little I could do to stop it. I could see myself soaring high above my normal energy and productivity levels in the weeks prior. I found myself sleeping and eating less, talking, reading, and writing with frenetic energy, boasting long term goals in the grand scheme of things, and just generally acting outside my character. I was in a Mixed episode.

If you’ve ever been in a Mixed episode yourself, then you know how quickly euphoria can turn to dangerous agitation, motivation to listlessness, and paranoia to psychosis. In the worst case scenario, you may ultimately be faced with suicidal ideation while you try to exist in a psychological space that shares symptoms of both Mania and Depression simultaneously. Most people associate Bipolar Disorder with swinging between the two mood states, but the truth is everyone with this disorder is different, and patterns of mood and behavior tend to be more cyclic than previously thought.

In the aftermath of a Mixed Episode, it is not unusual for people with Bipolar Disorder to describe the sensation of a Depression crash. That is, the emotional fallout that takes place after an episode of Mixed Bipolar or Bipolar Mania. Indeed, what goes up must come down. You may see changes in you or your loved ones. This can last days or weeks, and generally consists of feelings of disconnection, stress, worthlessness, complete exhaustion, and changes in behavior or routines as you come to grips with what you may have just experienced. Suddenly, you may find yourself rooted back in a reality that doesn’t seem to glow as bright. Perhaps you’re even pushing through denial to understand that your mind works differently.

As I continued to soar, I knew the landing would be anything but gentle. Being that I am currently unmedicated, I had no choice but to ride the wave, and pray my insight would keep me as grounded as possible.

By the second week I found myself unable to breathe or sleep effectively, and was toppling into relentless crying spells. All I wanted to do was eat and sleep. I was juggling mental health symptoms, chronic pain, work, school, motherhood, cold-like symptoms in the era of Covid, and had started my menstrual cycle (which is uniquely debilitating for me, but that’s a story for another day.) I felt increasingly overwhelmed by the demands of what it means to function, and soon the day came where I couldn’t get out of bed at all. With the support of my incredible girlfriend, I called into work and took a mental health day. Once the feelings of guilt and insecurity passed, I was instantly humbled by the notion that sometimes mental illness demands self-care take precedence over earthly obligation.

That evening, my sweet girl returned to me and poured into me the healing of good company, validation, and heartfelt conversation. She was so lovingly reassuring, always seeking to provide whatever it is I need, and the blessing was not lost on me. The next day, I began the task of pulling myself out of the clinical Depression that followed. Through it all, the most important thing to me will always be my family, and the due diligence I feel to spare them pain, treat them well, and lift them up – especially when I am drowning. One of my greatest challenges throughout my mental health treatment has been asking for help when I need it. Don’t let it be yours.

If you don’t make your mental health a priority – it has the potential to do it for you. You may feel deeply concerned about the repercussions of taking a mental health day. However, if you don’t listen to the limitations of your mind and body, you may find there is no ambition, family, or hobby to return to. In some cases, the risk may outweigh the benefit of pushing through.

My day of rest allowed me to relax and regroup, although it would be a few more days before I was able to fully regain my footing and move forward. I am slowly beginning to return to myself after the fallout, and putting things in place to return to my psychiatrist just as soon as I am able. Despite my uncertainty, the world went on spinning, and my job was there waiting for me the next day. The truth is, we must make time for our wellness free from shame and stigma, primarily when the consequences of not doing so become so much greater.

Discuss: Have you ever taken a mental health day? Did it help or hurt your circumstances? Did you receive support? Share what you learned 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 47: I’m Manic Again

“I’ve never thought of you like that,’ said Christopher. ‘How could I? If you were any other woman, I could tell you I loved you, easily enough, but not you– because you’ve always seemed to me like a part of myself, and it would be like saying I loved my own eyes or my own mind. But have you ever thought of what it would be to have to live without your mind or your eyes, Kate? To be mad? Or blind?”

-Elizabeth Marie Pope, The Perilous Gard

Dear Readers,

I worked 4 hours overtime at 3am and I still haven’t slept. Sleep deprivation is one of my strongest triggers for changes in mood.

I’m hyper, unusually upbeat, and laughing to tears. My thoughts are racing and my words are coming out jumbled. I’m over confident and insecure. My appetite is fading. I can’t stop talking or moving – I’m trembling and my heart is racing. I’m safe, in good company, and in control. I have a flight of ideas although they are seldom productive. Fortunately, there hasn’t been any psychosis yet.

Reminding myself to keep my stress levels low until I can manage to sleep. Choose recourse, not discourse.

Discuss: Have you ever experienced mania? What was it like for you?

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

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

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

Mental health

Ugly Truth 46: June is PTSD Awareness Month!

“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.”

-Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror


The Facts:

*PTSD is not just Veterans of War
*Rape Victims Have a 49% Chance of Developing PTSD
*7-8% of the U.S. Population Will Have PTSD at Some Point
*Women are Twice as Likely to Develop PTSD
*Symptoms can Take Months or Years to Develop

*Individuals with PTSD are 2-4 Times More Likely to Develop a Substance Use Disorder
*78% of Those with a Diagnosis Experience Depression in Their Lifetime
*People who Suffer From PTSD are More Likely to Commit Suicide
*1/3 of Veterans with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Also Meet Criteria for PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience.

Events That Can Lead to PTSD Include:

*serious accidents *physical or sexual assault

*abuse, including childhood or domestic abuse *exposure to traumatic events at work, including remote exposure

*serious health problems, such as being admitted to intensive care *childbirth experiences, such as losing a baby

*war and conflict *medical trauma

*civil unrest *pandemics

PTSD develops in about 1 in 3 people who experience severe trauma. It’s not fully understood why some people develop the condition while others do not. While treatment is available, some symptoms may never diminish.

Symptoms Include:

physical pain

nightmares or flashbacks

depression or anxiety

withdrawl or avoidance

repression

emotional numbing

insomnia

hyperarousal

irritability

guilt or shame

Discuss: Does PTSD impact your life in some way? Share your experience 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!