Mental health, Parenting, Relationships

Ugly Truth 45: Life Will Break You

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

-Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LGBTQ+, Relationships

Ugly Truth 41: True Love Keeps You Humble

Two young smiling women embracing and sharing a moment on a beautiful sunny spring day. They could be lovers or a friends. Copy space has been left

Dear Alice,

You’re sleeping beside me this very moment, and I sincerely doubt you know the impact you’ve had on me. So, let me remind you:

I hope, most importantly, you know how much your family loves, acknowledges, and respects you for all the hard work you do.

You put others before yourself, even when you find the situation to be obligating and irksome.

You aim to see the perspective of others, which is a wise habit I hope to adopt.

You give back to your community that you are never ashamed of, and your capacity to love is beyond my wildest imagination.

Even while you sleep beside me, I miss you to tears, but I know your need for rest is more important than my own.

Somehow, you keep me strong and humble all at once, and I will always be grateful for that.

So, even when you’re doubting yourself, your actions, or your circumstances – rest assured that you constantly impact those around you and lead by example.

I see you, I appreciate you, and I love you. ♥️

Appreciate your partner. Learn from your mistakes. Dont falter, and tell about it.

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

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

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

Mental health, Relationships

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

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

Dear Readers,

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

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

1. Shock & Denial:

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

2. Pain & Guilt:

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

3. Anger & Bargaining:

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

4. Depression, Reflection & Loneliness:

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

5. The Upward Turn:

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

6. Reconstruction & Working Through:

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

7. Acceptance & Hope:

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

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

1. Commiserate.

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

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

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

2. Recognize That You Can’t Fix Everything.

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

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

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

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

3. Hold Their Hand.

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

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

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

4. Run Interference For Them.

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

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

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

5. Ask If They Want To Talk About It.

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

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

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

6. Pick Up The Slack.

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

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

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

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

7. Love Them.

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

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

It can make a huge difference.

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

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

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

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

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

Relationships

Ugly Truth 32: Relationships Are Conditional

“Your love is as stable as you are: It’s not about how good a person makes you feel, but rather what good you can do for them.”
-Criss Jami, Killosophy

Dear Readers,

As we move through life, we may find ourselves in a state of change where we have no choice but to suddenly evolve. If you know me personally, then you know my walk has been anything but traditional, and not without mistake. Which is why coming to grips with myself and getting it right – maybe for the first time – has provoked in me a momentous life change. A change for joy, love, truth and choice. I have known since childhood that I have a capacity to fall in love with women, but nothing could have prepared me for this.

When we are young we are taught to hold ourselves to certain standards based on the words and actions of others. This conduct is often instrumental in the way we build our relationships with others. If you question your self worth, then it should come as no surprise to you if you find yourself in a relationship that is dysfunctional or toxic. Likewise, once you define what you have to offer with maturity rather than control, your relationship dynamics will change considerably.

You see, I met a girl. For the first time her stability and strength reflected my own in a way that was not only hardly comparable to anyone I’ve ever known, but also dawned on me a revelation of self that has fundamentally changed me for the better. She has revived in me things I feared would stay sleeping forever, and yet it is not in the fleeting flowery sense of an unlasting infatuation. My love for her was born from a place of enormous respect, a trait I learned is a condition of the way I love and am loved in return.

Along with respect came a list of relationship conditions that have so satisfied my life that I thought it pertinent to share with others the beauty and importance of what it means to love someone with responsibility and intention. This is not to be confused with unconditional love, but rather explores the primary concepts of the lasting relationships that we all hope for. When done correctly, unconditional love will naturally result from that free from doubt or coercion.

Mutual respect is so important and so complex that it is my number one condition. Respect includes outlining those standards I mentioned earlier, which can vary considerably from person to person. My standards include one’s ability to work hard, protect, provide, practice humility, contribute and reciprocate responsibly in all areas of life. Respect also lends itself well to admiration, which includes exceptional skill sets that I do not possess, but am greatly impressed by, such as being personable or bilingual. Alice has gifted me with all of these things and more.

When I met Alice, we were looking for nothing serious. We took our time to place boundaries and build friendship where most people dive head first into romance. This is not easy, but oh so worth it. The importance of friendship is that it carries you through hardship when the relationship goes through periods of suffering. We used this time and space to discuss everything – and when I say “everything” – I mean everything. We devoted many words and hours to discussing common goals and interests, likes and dislikes, what we were looking for in a partner, bottom lines, dreams, desires and deal breakers. We discussed living situations, finances, sex, children, religion, politics and why we felt our previous relationships had failed. We laughed, cried, learned each others love languages, and walked each other through an aggressive phase of validated fear without ever letting go of hands. We discussed our flaws openly, and kept judgment from creeping in. We built a framework to protect ourselves from the thoughts and opinions of others, both positive and negative. We do not ask the other to sacrifice fundamental parts of her being, mismanage priorities, or engage in dramatic behavior. I say all that to say my third condition of a healthy romance is communication.

If you can not communicate effectively with others, you are going to have a very hard time within your romantic endeavors. We teach others how to treat us. As such, communication requires a self awareness and vulnerability that most people are not willing to engage in. If you find this quality in someone, do not take it lightly. Likewise, if you have not developed this part of your personality free from dysfunction, or find yourself to be inherently uncompromising, you have no business being in a relationship and an ethical obligation to stay single.

In my discussions with Alice, I soon learned how important trust is to her. Trusting someone means so much more than being faithful. It is the belief that your partner will hold you with care and concern no matter what happens. It requires an err of caution, and a mindfulness for the other person when dealing in raw emotion. It means occasional reassurance and reinforcement through action. The more I got to know Alice, the more my heart grew to know a conviction so severe that I would rather die than hurt her.

Next is laughter. Alice has this inexplicable knack for positive energy and joy. The first time we met her smile completely grabbed me. I genuinely adore this character trait as her ability to be incessantly playful protects me from my own dark moods. Her laugh is infectious and my new favorite sound.

As important as humor is to me, my love for this character trait is not one dimensional. Alice’s playfulness is matched by her capacity to pull back into modes of deep thinking and feeling. Her complexity allows her a great range of spirit that I deeply share and admire. We laugh to tears one moment, and attend to the next with great strength and seriousness when the situation calls for it.

Lastly, chemistry! Physical affection isn’t everything, but boy is it important. If you have ever found yourself on a date with no chemistry, you know it can devolve into an awkward nightmare pretty quickly. Likewise, when you meet someone who can communicate with your body in a sexual and compatible way, it can be a mind altering experience that makes you question the universe and grasp the meaning of life. I knew from the moment Alice touched me that I never wanted her to stop. She has an appreciation for beauty, an attention to detail, a hyper focus in strength and tenderness that I didn’t even know I needed until I received it for the first time.

So, there you have it! Eight carefully thought out conditions of what it takes to be in a healthy relationship thanks to the most beautiful person I have ever met. I hope to learn from her for many years to come. If you find yourself falling in love with someone, do yourself a favor and take your time.

Respect. Admiration. Friendship. Communication. Trust. Laughter. Capacity. Chemistry.

What do you require in a relationship?

Mental health

Ugly Truth 008: Spoon Theory is Real

Do not try and bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth…there is no spoon. Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. – The Matrix Dear Readers, This week, I did something kind for someone else at the expense of myself. Perhaps this is why kindness is so rare, because it does indeed come at a cost. The truth is, Spoon Theory deeply applies when you have a chronic illness, even in the face of intrinsically motivated choices. If you’re not familiar with the idea, Spoon Theory is a disability metaphor that suggests you are allowed a fixed number of spoons each day in terms of energy, and you must decide carefully how to spend your spoons. Likewise, when they are gone, they are gone. When you have a health condition of any kind, you must divy up your time in a strategic way so as to ensure your most basic needs are met. This may be in the form of a shower, cooking, cleaning, socializing or working. Once fatigue sets in, you’re out of moves for the day. This is why you’ve might of heard me say, “I’m out of spoons.” Currently, I work as a Caregiver to a family with great needs. They are good people who have entrusted me to help them. Having worked in the industry for ten years I have come across all types of people. So far I have learned that I am passionate about helping those with a legitimate need, rather than a convenience of good wealth. I am someone who craves work with a purpose, but even I have my limitations. Still, I pushed through an act of kindness this week and not only was it recognized, but rewarded. Naturally, I suffered physically for my efforts, but at the end of the day I felt good about this small victory. After a blundering week of tears and losses, I had some wins to be accounted for. I find relief in assigning pain a function. Suffering allows compassion and unconditional love. The truth is, reciprocity is the key when achieving kindness through sacrifice, and we must share our spoons wisely. When was the last time you lifted a burden for someone else? Additional Reading: The Surprising Risks of Being Nice, The StartUp **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!