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 36: Insomnia & Nightmares Exacerbate Depression

Dear Readers,

Depression and insomnia are the strongest risk factors for frequent nightmares. Likewise, research shows nightmares and insomnia exacerbate more dangerous forms of depression, including suicidal ideation, among women specifically.

Bipolar patients report bizarre dreams with death and injury themes before their shift to mania. It was found that dreams of bipolar depressed patients have more anxiety than those of unipolar patients. Dreams of bipolar patients, particularly those with rapid cycling, may show evidence of the subsequent shift prior to noticeable affective and behavioral changes.

Having flashbacks to traumatic events, also called re-experiencing, is a hallmark symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. For roughly half of PTSD patients, those flashbacks occur at night while sleeping, often referred to as “replicative nightmares.” Others may dream more indirectly or symbolically.

I have been formally diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),  Bipolar Disorder (mixed type), and a couple of anxiety disorders. So which one is it? I don’t know anymore – but I’m tired, and you’re not alone. ❤

**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 027: I Am Depressed Again

*Warning: This post makes mention of suicidal Depression.

“Life is like a game of chess.
To win you have to make a move.”
― Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to Deskraven, your Mental Health Forum. Today I want to talk about the elephant in the room. I want to talk about the condition we all share. I want to talk about the swallowing horror we are learning to talk about, but still largely hide. I want to talk about Depression.

Depression is characterized by a distinct loss of interest in previous held joys, loss of energy, appetite fluctuations, excessive sleep or insomnia, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, thoughts of self-harm or suicide, persistent grief or sadness, excessive crying spells, fluctuating moods and agitation or irritability. There are many theories surrounding the influx of Depression in our society, many of which I can get behind. The fact that we have become too civilized for our own good, for example. However, I live with Bipolar Depression which, like me, is a little different from the text book definition.

I experience mixed episodes related to Bipolar Disorder, previously known as Manic Depression. In a mixed episode, the sufferer experiences symptoms of both Mania and Depression simultaneously, and/or in rapid succession of one another. There are so very many different ways we experience mental illness, and Bipolar Disorder is no exception. So, a word of caution should you choose to embark on a conversation of this magnitude: Not everyone experiences Bipolar Disorder the same way. While my episodes are different from that of typical mood swings, my experience of Depression has always been more pervasive than my experience of Mania. More importantly, my Depression has been extremely treatment resistant. Medication helped a great deal in quelling the intense irritability that resulted from the overwhelming guilt I felt as a mentally ill mother. Likewise, medication went to work to tame the instability of my psychology, my insomnia, my paranoia and my psychosis – but there remained an ever present slight slope downward where Depression pulled on my even keel.

Depression is the sound of steel doors clanging shut on your better angels. It is the inability to move, even when movement is what you most need and desire. It is the lie that love is not enough, and you would be better off dead. It is an emotional anguish so significant that you dread entirely its inevitable return. It is an inability, not an unwillingness. Depression robs you of your character, your personality, your passion and your pleasure. It tells you that you are not good enough. That you are a burden. That you are somehow deserving of this inexplicable nauseating grief. That you are nothing more than a self-indulgent cynic. That this life hurts too much to keep going. That the smallest setbacks make mountains out of molehills.

The truth is, when I am un-medicated I drop into a suicidal Depression at least twice per month. True suicidal Depression is not a choice. It is a survivor’s final response to the seemingly endless hour of deeply disorganized, firey, unforgiving madness that is Bipolar Disorder. This is a chemical imbalance. You see, insight is worth less than nothing in the face of mental illness. While it may help you shape your coping skills to better suit your needs and aid in prevention, when you are actually in the thick of that heated, harmful, heady moment staring directly into the abyss, nothing can reach you – not God, not logic, not love – and so you flail, begging to humiliation with bleeding organs and limbs to find the tiniest foothold somewhere along the growing walls of that lightless trench. Suicidal Depression attacks the senses. You can not hear, see, smell, or feel properly, and so you find yourself quickly grappling in the dark. Some describe completed suicide as the final symptom of Depression, and I couldn’t agree more. Completed suicide is the final dark thought and the truth is, it takes a great deal of strength to not grab it.

There are three things that have helped me cope with suicidal Depression, and maybe it will help a handful of the millions around the world who live with this ugly truth. Obviously, the most important thing is to be closely monitored by a physician and practice good medication compliance, but if you’re like me and you don’t have access to health insurance, keep reading.

First and foremost, dismiss. It is important to recognize that when you are suffering from Depression, no matter how real it may feel relative to your experience, your perspective is false. It is essential to recognize the thoughts coursing through your mind. Then, you must find the strength to dismiss them as no good. This takes a great deal of practice as the height of the pain of Depression will completely rob you of the ability to detect the distortion. Be validated in knowing that this is a skill that requires psychological jumping jacks. I like to think of it as meditation, because meditation teaches you to return yourself to the present moment. In this way, I feel that meditation lends itself well to the perspective adjustment we all require when faced with this condition. These gentle reminders can serve you greatly in moments of despair.

Next, distract. When I begin to feel the stinging pricks of Depression, I aim to distract myself as much as possible. Depression is an all consuming monster making it incredibly difficult to get out of your own head. Fortunately, this skill has become increasingly accessible due to our chronically distracted culture. Do try to pay attention to the quality of this distraction, however. I will often find myself buried in a television show, a good book or some form of artistic expression. Do not be afraid to indulge in dark themes, as this can serve as an expressive outlet and comforting validation in a world where those without Depression just simply do not understand. Do, however, guard your mind from themes or content that may trigger your Depression to worsen.

Finally, dig in. Due to the very nature of Depression, we often forget to remember that this too shall pass. One of the great joys of having a mood disorder of this nature is that my episodes are relatively short. While I know people who suffer from chronic Depression (God save them and keep them) for months or years at a time, Bipolar Disorder offers the respite of mania or neutral stability from time to time. This is a blessing dressed up as a curse because while they are not without their own consequence, these phases of Bipolar Disorder allow you to come up for air in a matter of days or weeks.

If you’re suffering from suicidal Depression, call your doctor.

Dismiss, Distract, and Dig in.

For more on this topic read: High-Functioning: When Depression Gets Dressed in the Morning

**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

Trauma Confession Series: When Trauma Work Wakes Other Sleeping Monsters

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”
Roald DahlDear Readers, Today I hope to dispel some myths and promote understanding. Yesterday we discussed acknowledging, allowing, and accepting our grieving process after childhood trauma in Trauma Confession Series: Mourning. Well, no sooner than I mentioned the possibility of comorbid mental health conditions resurfacing did I experience psychosis in combination with the tag-a-long depression that follows. So, let’s talk more about what that means and (perhaps more importantly) what that doesn’t mean for me. Do keep in mind psychosis is always relative to the individual, and varies greatly among the population. It started yesterday while walking down a warm sidewalk at 4pm. Suddenly, I noticed peripheral shadows and distinguishable sounds along the wooded pathway. This included walking feet and whispering voices following me along the fence line. Then the thought hallucinations, commonly referred to as delusions, surfaced with the conviction that I was being followed, and certain harm would come to me. Fortunately, this is the only delusion I experience and it consists solely of other people’s intentions toward me. I have never felt grandiosity or that I was a deity. I have never had false visions despite evidence to the contrary. However, it is worth noting that these things are progressively degenerative. I believe my episodes of psychosis are linked to Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) and trauma (PTSD), and are not to be confused with Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder. After about an hour of this, I rode home in a moving vehicle still distracted, but virtually free from fear. In general, I can tell the difference between what’s real and what isn’t, but not always. Upon arriving home, I felt strange but mostly okay. This is what a textbook would describe as depersonalization, a sensation of being outside one’s self or that nothing is real. I sat out on my patio in some attempt to release the day (grounding technique) when I caught myself within the flickers of flashbacks and racing internal dialogue. This feels like time travel in a gag reel. The sensation of flashbacks following hallucinations is intense, and I physically shook my head in attempt to keep myself grounded in the here and now. That’s when the person I  lived with noticed I wasn’t quite right, and offered to help in anyway he could. I thanked him, and sat this way a few minutes longer. When relief didn’t come I decided to take a bath. One thing I have learned over the years is that even when my wires cross, I can usually tolerate it if I stay calm and stop talking. This often includes isolating myself so I can better distinguish my surroundings, and not become overstimulated or agitated. Coping with mental illness has everything to do with self-awareness and requires practice. In the bathtub I remained in a state of detached rumination, fighting the good fight – but I was tiring quickly. I realized then that I needed a distraction while waiting for my brain chemistry to correct itself. I logged into one of my online support groups where thousands of people exist who are just like me. After posting what I was experiencing, I received nothing short of an outpouring of love and support within seconds. Remember, distraction and the knowledge that you are not alone is invaluable while tumbling like Alice down the rabbit hole. Within two hours the fog lifted. Although I am less familiar with articulating the post-psychosis depression that followed, I am proud to say I navigated this episode unassisted by medication. I say that to say this: Even though Bipolar symptoms are more chemical than environmental, this is an opportunity to understand the relationship between trauma work and triggers that can flip a seemingly unrelated switch when living with multiple mental health conditions. The truth is, they are related and rarely travel alone. Many people with mental illness can not digest stress properly. Processing pain is extremely distressing, so it is not uncommon to find yourself suddenly faced with new mountains while seeking self-development. While hallucinations are a facet of my Bipolar Disorder diagnosis, they are also almost always linked to past abuse or abandonment and/or tied to a future fear of harm. This distrust for humans is a natural response to an unnatural childhood. The manifestation of my mental illness is simply the product of a mind unable to properly place the context of this logic. Likewise, psychosis is one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized topics in mental health. Here are eight more myth busting truths for you: Yes, I am mostly cognizant in-between breaks with reality. No, I am not alone. 100,000 young people experience psychosis each year. Yes, we are your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. No, I am not at risk to harm others when this happens. Those with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime than they are to be perpetrators. Yes, loved ones can help by picking up on red flags and assisting in a predetermined action plan. No, I am not embarrassed. Education and proclamation has afforded me the opportunity to rid myself of shame. Stay tuned for the next phase of this Trauma Confession Series: Confrontation. **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!