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!

Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 35: Anger is Actually Sadness

Anger is one letter short of danger. “ -Eleanor Roosevelt

Dear Readers,

In a society that encourages violence and diminishes heartfelt feelings, it is no wonder that most people forget to remember anger is a secondary emotion. Anger is our psychological kevlar. It is there to protect us from emotional anguish and discomfort, as well as to communicate with others in a social setting. Anger is necessary, but what I’m curious about is what people are doing to detect and manage their primary emotions in a way that is constructive.

Anger, while useful, can often derail and distract from the heart of the matter. When managed poorly, it can even cause more harm than good. So I asked myself, why on earth are we skipping the acknowledgement step?

The truth is, no one likes to be vulnerable. So rather than speak up and say those measly but meaningful sentences, we explode. Why is it so hard to say, “You hurt me.” or “I’m sorry.” Why is it easier to fling into a rage that will escalate your vitals, often leaving you feeling drained or embarrassed? I once heard anger described as the bodyguard to sadness. Perhaps too many of us are unwilling or unable to articulate our grief, and so we cling to anger because despite the physical discomfort, it remains an emotional sidestep.

I have struggled with depression most of my life. So often my symptoms manifested as anger or irritability, but I never made the distinction. All I knew for certain was I wanted to be sad in peace, and something as small as daily obligation would send me into a fit of frustration. Likewise, when confronted by the harsh words of friends and lovers, I was extremely defensive. I would deny, almost to the point of delusion. I would accuse and avoid to dodge the pain of an honest conversation. I’m not proud of this, but the truth is it taught me a few things.

1.) The ability to empathize with yourself is invaluable.

Often times we forget that the seat of all our relationships begins with the one we have with ourself. Much of my formative years in therapy involved developing my inner dialogue away from criticism and contempt toward self love. Think about it, what kinds of things are you saying to yourself on a daily basis? If you can’t be honest with yourself, you can’t be honest with others. Most importantly, the ability to comfort yourself alleviates that need from your friends and family who may go to frantic efforts to do so.

2.) It’s okay to be vulnerable.

As members of a pull-up-your-bootstraps society, you may find that others may be denying or dismissive when it comes to heartfelt subject matter. I encourage you not to let their discomfort be your own. These moments can teach us a great deal about ourselves if we actually address them instead of suppress them. When I find myself in these types of situations, I try to imagine the worst case scenario. Then I ask myself if I can live with that outcome. In most cases I can, therefore, I have nothing to lose in being vulnerable with others. The truth is, I have gained a great deal of healing and wisdom in these moments of genuine companionship. Scientific research continues to support the fact that we are social creatures, and a sense of connection to our community alleviates distress. The key is finding those who are worth suffering for.

3.) Accountability starts with communication.

Taking ownership of our emotions and the way others treat us is not always easy. However, the consequence of not doing so seems to be much greater. If you make a mistake, apologize. If you are wrong, say so. If someone hurts you, let them know. If someone tells you you are hurting them, modify your behavior. Communication seems like the simplest road to resolution, and yet we avoid it because it makes us vulnerable. Scroll back up if you still need help with that.

Most of us know by now that anger is a surface emotion, but it’s the knitty gritty of what’s underneath that is truly the most rewarding self work you can do. Next time you get angry, ask yourself why. Perhaps you’re struggling with fear, depression or inadequacy. Perhaps you deny, attack, and avoid because it’s just too painful. Perhaps you’re hungry, tired or lonely. Perhaps you’re like me, and you get angry the moment you feel like you’re stretching yourself too thin.

If you want to see improvement in your relationships and overall happiness, it begins with your sense of self. Ask yourself, do you know how to comfort yourself without behaving impulsively or unfairly burdening others? When was the last time you were truly vulnerable with someone? Are you communicating your needs to others, and responding to theirs in a mature and constructive way?

The truth is, anger is often sadness – we just don’t know it yet. While anger can be a useful vehicle, it requires a great deal of practice, self awareness, and willingness to change to truly examine and manage the whys. It’s not easy, but that which is truly worth it seldom ever is.

**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, Relationships

Women who Love Women: Falling In Love and Out of Touch

“I seem to have run in a great circle, and met myself again on the starting line.”
Jeanette Winterson, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit
Dear Readers, Something you may or may not know about me is that I have struggled with my sexuality most of my life. I have identified as bisexual, lesbian, and polyamarous before doing away with labels all together. I have been blessed to have romantic and platonic relationships with both men and women. My first sexual encounters were with females, and it wasn’t long before I started learning my preferences. In high school, I fell in love with a beautiful girl for the first time, and was then pursued by another. Unfortunately, the relationship crashed and burned due to a jealous love triangle, of which I was the epicenter. However, I never forgot how much she taught me about myself. It was this relationship that resulted in my first brush with discrimination. I was harassed at school for openly being myself. My mother cried and pleaded, begging me not to hurt her. She told me she would never accept it, and she never did. I faced discrimination from employers who preferred to look the other way, nevermind the church and always some non-believing male trying to push his way in. At the end of my 10th grade year I moved to Texas and enrolled in a new school. I was still coming to terms with myself, but remained mostly transparent with my preference for women. I pursued two girls that year while men pursued me, but neither lasted. I always knew what I wanted. Still, I stumbled with the acceptance and the inner circle dynamics that come with a definitive learning curve. After all, men and women are as contrasted a specimen as two things can be. In 12th grade I entered into an open relationship with a male that allowed me the freedom to pursue female partners. It was a delightful time in my life although, my union with my primary partner at the time was very unhealthy and soon went from accommodation to possessiveness. As a result, my relationships with women at the time suffered greatly, and never matured past casual encounters. It wasn’t until I was free from this relationship and relocated again that I began to date women exclusively, determined to be happy once and for all. And then…there she was one day, standing before me in a polka dot blouse, dark hair flowing in the wind and those puppy dog eyes. She would grow to become the greatest love tragedy of my life. I dreamt of her last night and it swelled in me an endless pool of memories and emotions. Sadly, we have lost touch which is one hundred percent my doing, but it wasn’t always that way. There were many years of love in the sunshine, missed opportunities, and the soft landing of my very best female friend. This woman and I were very different, and yet similar in all the ways that mattered. She came from a wealthy family. I did not. She was well-liked and active in her academics. I was not. She was precious, loving, and tolerant. I was not. She was social, outgoing, and daring. Still, I was not. She taught me the language of mental health for the first time, of which I was in very much denial at the time. She taught me the priority of relationships and would vocalize them often. She was loyal and unfailing to a fault, always rushing to my aid no matter the hour. She valued family, friends, and struggled with her faith. She exercised good humor, ambition, and generosity. She balanced productivity with the wisdom a day in bed can bring. She always knew just what to say, even when I didn’t want to hear it. She put others first, even when her health was failing her. She loved her sweet, sweet kitty girl – Sophie – who I miss even now. She was beautiful. I admired her. I loved her. Oh my God, I loved her. With this admission I sat straight up in bed with an epiphany blooming behind my eyes. I began to cry. I was so joyful, and then equally fearful. When I informed her, however, she did not reciprocate and the anguish struck deep. We tried to maintain a friendship, but this seldom survives once one-sided feelings come to the surface. Over time, she had a change of heart and we reconnected once more, although I think some small part of me was never quite able to trust it. My inability to be vulnerable matched her inability to communicate dispassionately which created long lasting damage in our relationship. Our arguments were often trivial but severe, a reflection I believe of the unresolved hurt we both experienced while trying to be close to one another in every capacity over the years. As time passed, things changed again and I moved out of state. Over the course of this time, countless letters and phone calls were sent and received. Once more her heart was changing and she found greater meaning in our connection. I was delighted, but also clueless about the depths of that adoration. She never informed me that she had high hopes to try again upon my return, and in my idiotic blindness I entered into another poor relationship pattern before I even considered the notion of her and I finally being together. You cannot fathom my regret. This time, the tables were turned. She was the one who was hurting, and it was simply too late. Soon, my relationship ended and once more we were both available, only this time I was too wrapped up in my grief and misbehavior to see clearly. I rejected her long before she became brave enough to utter the words – …what if? And I’ll never forget the look on her face, or the breaks in her voice. Before I learned to manage my illnesses differently, I clung to very poor defense mechanisms at the great expense of others. Whenever I found myself suffering, I would repeatedly self-destruct. I would internalize and isolate with every intention of losing everyone close to me. Ultimately, the end result was suicidal action. My warped sense of logic convinced me that by pushing everyone away, I could end my life in peace – virtually free from guilt. How sickening and self-indulgent depression can be. I didn’t see it at the time, but this is what I was doing. This was the beginning of the end and somehow, my most beloved, brilliant, beam of light got swept up with the others. Some of my friends stuck around long enough to understand, forgive, and rebuild. But she hasn’t – and I don’t blame her. The truth is, she gave me so much more than I deserved. Having been a self-sabotager most of my life, it comes as no surprise that I sucked the life out of the relationship that could have so changed me with vapid excuses like fear, immaturity, and ill-timing. I know I hurt her immensely, and I will never forgive myself for that because not only did I lose the potential of a lifetime, I mistreated my closest and most passionate friend. I cast fear and doubt into her heart. I lost a friend who saved my life more than once. Shortly after, I embraced the work of personal development through therapy, reading, and writing. I grew in more ways than I can count. Sadly, this relationship suffered the most as a result of myself, and I can’t help but feel what can best be described as a double-consequence. Comprehension and change wont bring her back. I’m afraid it’s too little, too late. I will always think of her when the morning light hits the corners of a room just right because she brought me such warmth over the years. She loved me when I couldn’t love myself. She held me just right, and made me laugh with tears in my eyes. She visited me in the hospital. She gave me countless gifts, experiences, friends and resources. She taught me the value of accountability. She taught me the truth of having loved and lost – twice – against not loving at all. Following our final falling out, I dated a handful of girls that were lovely, some that were not so lovely, and some that just reminded me that I let go of something truly special. If I could see her now I would apologize. I would not deviate with fear. I would choose love. I hope you do too, in whatever form it takes. **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!