Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 58: The Teachings of Adversarial Love

“I’m coping with my trauma by trying to find different ways to heal it rather than hide it.”
-Clemantine Wamariya

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog where we unearth the ugly truths of mental illness as it relates to life, love, and happiness.

In my spiritual quest to process and release the trauma that binds us all I began to learn about the lasting impact relationship injury can have on future intimacy, as well as the soul contracts we may not even realize we’re tangled up in. In general, insecurity is not a personality trait of mine, but recently I have been feeling more of it so it prompted me to look inward.

In examining my past relationships I realized they all hurt me in their own way, and I no doubt casted my own pain toward them. Indeed, no one escapes companionship unthwarted. While seeking out my relationship patterns I noticed they would invariably come to an end around the two year mark like some sick clockwork. Likewise, I found myself chasing the unobtainable, often seeking those who lacked a promising foundation, let alone mutual respect and reciprocity.

My current relationship offers a stark contrast to control dynamics and the threat of an invariable end, and yet I found myself soaking in a tearful uncertainty as if past transgressions were any indication of what the future may hold. A large part of therapeutic work involves accepting the good that is being offered to you without question, however, I find value in dismantling previously held beliefs that result from mistreatment. Am I deserving of love? Am I capable of sustaining another blow? Do I have unresolved hurt? The answer to all of these is a resounding yes.

True love is passionately engaging, but more importantly it is practical and mature. It never seeks to harm, create jealousy, or endorse possessiveness. Love remains the most written about subject in music, film, art, and other areas of the creative industry. Even the Bible offers a famous and promising passage: love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Within my reflection I found a most reoccurring theme of fear that surfaced as a product of hate, manipulation, infidelity, trauma, and abuse. In the past I was consistently exposed to lying, cheating, stealing partners. Partners who tore me down. Partners who informed me of my inadequacy, my inability to communicate, and left me with the kind of manipulative circular reasoning that would make even the most sound mind question her sanity. Partners who indicated to me I would be nothing without them. Partners who physically restrained and abused me. Partners who resorted to name calling and weaponized my vulnerability. Partners who robbed me of my peace of mind, my sound sleep, and my financial stability. Partners who slit their wrists in front of me.

In the face of adversarial love I found that when I wasn’t being abandoned, I was being told on a regular basis that I was unreliable, insufficient, and incorrect – and maybe I was. I had a lot of work to do. In learning how relationships serve as a reflection of self, it became apparent that my self worth was greatly suffering. The truth is we accept the love we think we deserve, and we teach others how to treat us, indirectly or otherwise. Clearly, I needed to raise my bar in more ways than one.

Fortunately, my first liberation in mindfulness work was learning that being less controlling in how we love allows the experience itself to take precedence over the fear of it passing. In a world where autonomy has only recently become desirable, the most radical thing we can learn is the fact that true reassurance lies in the space we provide our loved ones to choose us everyday, not in the ugly jealous strides we make to exert our possession over them.

My mind can rationalize the hurt I’ve endured, and the way it contributes to my behavior. I have had to rebuild and relearn my own definitions of healthy relationship dynamics as they relate to trust, intimacy, and devotion. I have had to tap into those areas of my life that exist apart from my partner, and begin to nurture them in order to be a more loving and less wounded human. The heart and body are different creatures, however. They keep score – and if you’re not careful to grieve properly – the wound will spread to other major organs. Healing from relationship trauma begins with setting hard fast boundaries that allow you to insulate yourself long enough to do the work. Take ownership of your well-being with the understanding that no one can do it for you. Remember you are safe and capable of creating lasting change in your life. Remember the ability to discern between the idea of something, the memory of it, and the reality of it.

Sadly, many people would rather be abused than be alone. I think it’s safe to say we have all fallen for the idea or concept someone is offering us, even if the reality of it is littered with red flags. Likewise, human memory is inherently faulty. You must consider the possibility that the way you remember things, especially traumatic things, isn’t the way it went. We tend to remember how we felt during an experience rather than the experience itself. I would be the first to admit I have turned to others to validate my memories for me, and it has been very helpful.

Ultimately, you should never go into any kind of relationship that asks you to compromise fundamental parts of yourself, or your ability to communicate them effectively. While no relationship is perfect, your heart will never seek to change or fix the right partner. While some work is required in every union, there should also be equal parts natural flow – that space that allows you to rest in the love and peace you’ve created for one another – free from doubt, stress, and drama.

Finally, the spiritual perspective teaches us about the potential for soul mates and twin flames. The idea is that they are sent by our higher self for our own soul’s growth and development. There is a lot to unpack here, but that is another Blog for another day. For now, ponder all that you have learned from those who have hurt you the most. It may feel impossible, but seek out the value of your suffering. Our perpetrators have the potential to be our greatest teachers.

True love is a victory march, not a sprint or a competition. Do not let your past overcome your successes, or cause a great dividing disservice to your current life. It is important to honor your grief, even your regret, but don’t allow it to take up residence with what you value now. Don’t allow the actions (or inactions) of others to invent dissatisfaction or breed contempt in your relationship. Whenever I catch myself slipping, all I have to do is look at her – and remember the way she casts the very light I could never manifest for myself on my most ambitious days. Oozing with gratitude never fails me.

Discuss: How has your past impacted your current relationship? What is your communication like with your partner? What lessons have you learned from those who have betrayed 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!

Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 55: Nature is Nurture & 5 Ways to Reset a Troubled Mind

“A higher level of consciousness can not support a pattern of fear.” -Alyssa Malehorn 

Good Afternoon Readers,

Over the past week I have dedicated a great deal of effort toward altering patterns of behavior that no longer serve me. Interested in the way spiritual practices influence mental health, the Deskraven blog offers you 5 ways to tap into and improve your relationship to yourself:

Practice Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting (IF) has innumerable health benefits. If you’re unfamiliar with Intermittent Fasting, it is the notion that you fast for a period of time followed by opening an eating window for a period of time. The key to success is selecting an IF schedule that best suits your lifestyle, and allows you to build slowly on your success.

Many people begin with 12 hours of fasting (often while you are asleep) followed by a 12 hour eating window. As this form of self-discipline becomes easier, you will graduate to 16:8, 18:6, 20:4, or 23:1 fasting schedules. There are other IF schedules available as well such as eating normally for 5 days while restricting 2 days to 600 calories (5:2), and One-Meal-A-Day (OMAD) that I have also found to be successful.

Currently, I am fasting for at least 20 hours a day and eating in the evening. During my fasting window, I consume only large amounts of water, black coffee, and tea. Over time, your appetite will diminish and adjust accordingly. This is the best schedule for me as I am often busy through out the day, and calorie consumption makes me drowsy, so it offers up the promise of a good night’s sleep.

The health benefits of Intermittent Fasting consist of changes in the function of cells, gene expression, and hormone levels. IF helps you lose weight, burn belly fat, reduce insulin resistance, reduce oxidative stress, and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Moreover, it is beneficial to heart health, cellular repair, and longevity. Lastly, fasting practices offer marked improvement in cognitive functions such as memory, clarity, execution, and unheard of levels of energy.

Not surprisingly, this physical process lends itself well to elevating your level of consciousness as you begin to heal from the inside out. The early days can be extremely challenging as you push though detoxing processes that may produce headaches or irritability, however, this will pass and soon fasting will become as mindless as breathing.

Please note you should never feel unwell while fasting, so be sure to listen to your body and consult with your doctor before prompting any changes in lifestyle. Intermittent Fasting is not suitable for children, or fragile populations enduring health concerns or pregnancy.

Seek Out Nature

After spending a few of my formative years in the Colorado wilderness, returning to Houston, Texas, USA was no easy task. While I returned to improve my access to economy and reduce isolation, I’m afraid the expense came in the form of limiting my access to natural resources. These often consisted of the soul shaking views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the winding fields of colorful and seemingly endless treetops, and the naturally occurring Colorado River with the power to enlighten. Despite my better angels, I took these for granted and quickly lost touch with my higher level of consciousness by returning to the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

Once I became aware of this, it took nothing more than a quick Google search to find a local walking park near my office. I was surprised to learn that such a small gesture had the power to return me to my old sense of self. Even though the natural sources in my community remain largely artificial, it was enough to feel like visiting an old friend. I found that my intellectual stirring quieted and I wanted more, so I started implementing daily walks into my routine. I have come up against waves of discomfort and discouragement as someone living with chronic pain, however, I found that the stress relief and peace of mind that followed was well worth the pain of getting stronger.

Meditate

Meditation remains the best and fastest way to grow your level of consciousness. While you may find this task weird or daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Meditation is a practice that takes time and repetition to find what works for you. It can be as sophisticated as a lengthy past life regression, or as simple as taking five conscious breaths per day while driving or putting away the dishes. Like Intermittent Fasting, and exercise, you will find meditation works the muscles of the mind and will become easier over time.

Recognize and Release Your Limiting Beliefs

Any form of self development will often prompt our inner voices of criticism. It is paramount then to observe, acknowledge, and release these feelings of inadequacy. Essentially, this is the message of meditation at its core. The goal is not to silent, dissolve, or judge your thoughts, but to tap into the greater intuition behind your intentions. This insight will serve you in all areas of your life from professional goals to interpersonal relationships.

Experience a Shift in Consciousness

As you combine positive practice with the results they bring such as an overall improvement in your physical health, a strengthened sense of emotional stability, and a state of mind that promotes more love, connection, compassion, and peace – you will find that a higher level of consciousness can not support a pattern of fear. As someone living with significant mental illness, this realization has been invaluable. As I continue my practices, I continue to observe a reduction in anxiety, a slowness to anger, and a noticable increase in calm confidence.

If you’re like me, these revelations may encourage you to explore deeper themes of your own spirituality, whatever they may be, such as prayer, the afterlife, near death experiences, and alternate planes of existence. The underlying message here is capitalizing on your own human capacity to think and feel with the deep seated knowledge that love and fear can not exist in the same space. Even at it’s most logical, it is clear there is much more to learn beneath the surface of the physical world.

Discuss: What is your favorite mindfulness exercise? What will you do today to nourish your soul?

**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!

LGBTQ+, Lifestyle, Relationships

Ugly Truth 48: Why I Haven’t Been Writing

“We just could not slow down. We were evolving into something greater, perhaps too much for our own good. And one thing always remained as I moved on. I saved a little bit of love just in case you would ever return home.”
Robert M. Drake, Beautiful Chaos

Dear Readers,

Please forgive my absence. The truth is, I haven’t had the energy or the wherewithal to write, but I am here now. During these unprecedented times most of us are no doubt exhausted. The BLM Movement, the election year, the Corona Virus, the rioting from coast to coast, the police brutality, the racism, and the ghastly death toll of 2020 has been weighing heavily on my introverted empathetic nature. Add to that an unexpected hospitalization, a few big life changes, the demands of obtaining a college education, and my own mental health and I find myself more misanthropic by the second. This calls to mind a quote I enjoy about how if children knew the truth about life, they wouldn’t have the heart to begin at all. Perhaps this not knowing where to begin has rooted itself in my writer’s block. But then I see her and once more I overflow.

Through it all Alice has never left my side. She stays through my dark of night and the way I think too much. She stays when I’m tearful and uncertain. She laughs with me about ridiculous hypotheticals when I can’t sleep. She tells me she wishes she could carry my pain for a day so I wouldn’t have to. She shares with me her inner most secrets trusting that I’ll guard them. She carves into my bias and shifts my perspective constantly. She is a phenomenal listener, skilled communicator, purposeful teacher, and talented conversationalist. She challenges me to be better because she knows I am capable. She inspires me to be more open hearted because she knows I am deserving. She understands the difference between intimacy and sex, and has the biggest heart of any human I have ever met. She beats herself up because she always wants to give me more than she has, but the truth is, she is more than enough – above and beyond, infinitely so.

With our one year anniversary fast approaching, I find myself more and more grateful for the way Alice quiets my chaos – and I am not the only one. She is a loving daughter, attentive mother, true friend, and exceptional employee. She remains grounded in the work that has to be done to balance her career goals with parenting life and interpersonal relationships. She dreams up ways to do better for herself and our family. She remains ever romantic, kind, and generous. When I am galivanting through my many moods and doubting my self worth, she sees the good in me. She gently plucks me from my own head and reminds me how to be happy in the present moment. Alice is so strong and selfless that you would never guess something was hurting her unless she told you. She restores in me things that I thought I had lost forever. She deserves all of my honor and respect, and I can’t wait to marry her.

Please hear me when I say that if you meet someone who builds you up rather than tears you down in an already challenging world, keep them close. RealSimple offers 14 Realistic Signs You’re in a Healthy Relationship:

1. You Speak Your Mind

Relationships thrive when couples can express themselves freely and honestly. That means no topic is off-limits, and you both feel heard. Consistent communication is vital to building a lasting life together.

2. You Have Your Own Space

Just because you’re in love doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment together. Taking time to pursue your own interests and friendships keeps your relationship fresh and gives you both the opportunity to grow as individuals—even while you’re growing as a couple.

3. You Fight

Disagreements are normal, so if you aren’t fighting, chances are you’re holding back. But when people in healthy relationships fight, they fight productively and fairly. That means avoiding name-calling or put-downs. It also means striving to understand your partner instead of trying to score points. And when you’re wrong? You apologize.

4. You Like Yourself and Your Partner as You Are Now

Healthy relationships should be based in reality. Chances are your relationship won’t suddenly get better if you win the lottery, have a baby, or move into your dream house. So don’t base your partnership on the hope that it will change. You recognize that neither of you is perfect, and you accept and value each other for who you are right now—not who you might become.

5. You Make Decisions Jointly

You don’t call all the shots—neither does your partner. From what movie to see to how many children to have, you make decisions together and listen to each other’s concerns and desires. Sure, this may mean you watch Transformers again on Saturday night—but on Sunday night, it’s your turn.

RELATED: 6 Signs Your Relationship Is Going to Last

6. You Find Joy

Healthy relationships are full of laughter and fun. This doesn’t mean you’re giddy every hour of the day—or that your partner doesn’t drive you up the wall sometimes—but it does mean that your life together is mostly happy in sometimes simple ways. (Making dinner, laughing at the same things, finishing each others’ sentences…)

7. You Find Balance

Sometimes your partner needs to work longer hours while you play chauffeur and head chef. Or you must devote time to an elderly parent while your spouse tackles the chores. That’s life. What matters is that, in the long run, your trade-offs seem fair.

8. You Treat Each Other With Kindness

Nothing is a stronger sign of a healthy relationship than treating the person you love with care, consideration, empathy, and appreciation. If you find yourself showing more respect to people you hardly know than you show your partner, take a step back and revisit your priorities.

9. You Trust Each Other

Healthy relationships are built on trust and a commitment to communication without reservations or secrets. Want to know how much you trust each other now? Take this quiz from the University of California, Berkeley.

10. You Let Things Go

Your partner will annoy you. You will annoy him or her, too. You will say things you don’t mean. You will behave inconsiderately. The important thing is how you deal with all this. So they forgot to pick up milk for the second time? Tell them you’re disappointed, of course—then let it go.

11. You Are Intimate

Sex is an important part of healthy relationships, but it’s only one part, and it’s different than intimacy, which is less about physical satisfaction than about bonding, friendship, and familiarity. If you’re in a healthy relationship, you’ll feel connected—in and out of bed.

12. Your Relationship Is Your Safe Place

Your relationship should be a safety net—a stable place to come home to at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you don’t fight—it just means that when things are hard, you’d always rather see your partner than anyone else.

13. You Talk to Your Partner, Not to Other People

When you have issues and concerns, you share them with your partner, not your coworkers at Happy Hour. You’ll always have your friends as a sounding board, of course, but not as a crutch to avoid hard conversations with your significant other.

14. You Say the Magic Words

“I love you,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry.”

Discuss: Have you found your person? Tell me about them 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, 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!