chronic pain, Lifestyle, Mental health, recovery

Ugly Truth 63: Medical Trauma & 15 Tips to Help You Implement Post Traumatic Growth

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
― Rumi

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your patience during this difficult time.

I have had great difficulty writing for others, much less myself. Those of you who know me know that I have been sustaining a medical journey, but I have yet to release the details. It has been greatly overwhelming and difficult to articulate. My studies have stalled, and I am walking on empty. Optimism can be so challenging when faced with a physical illness that brings with it significant limitations, but so few ever talk about it. It is important that I document these happenings for the record.

The Deskraven Blog was inspired by telling the unflinching truth, so if you have something to say please email me at Contact@Deskraven.com.

Today I want to touch on medical trauma, the way it impacts mental health, and what we can do about it. As previously stated in Ugly Truth 62: Proper Diagnosis is a Long Hard Road:

“Medical trauma can meet acute clinical criteria for PTSD. If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you know this has been a hurdle of mine. The truth is trauma and grief are not linear. We cannot always anticipate recovery or relapse, which is why strategic coping skills are so important to develop if you have any intention of coping well. No amount of meditation or eastern scrap of religion could have prepared me for this, but it does help.”

In March of this year my pain management physician referred me to an OB/GYN to assess for endometriosis. Three weeks later I met with a kind and caring family and primary care nurse practitioner named Victoria Cameron, APRN, FNPC-C. During this appointment I had to strip down and sit in a cold sterile room for what felt like forever. I met with a Medical Assistant who was also less than warm. She checked my vitals and assessed my request for birth control in a feeble attempt to regulate my cycle. When I met Ms. Cameron, I brought her up to speed on my medical history and she performed a women’s wellness exam. After our discussion, she referred me to a nearby hospital for an abdominal CT (with and without contrast) to look for signs of scar tissue and any other culprit related to the incessant pelvic pain I experience. Upon my release, I called the nearby hospital to schedule my next appointment for the following Monday. I was informed it would be a four-hour appointment and to be sure I was in a state of fasting upon my arrival.

On April 19th I went to HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest at 9am. After routine Covid screenings and administrative nonsense, I was admitted to the Imaging Department. Thankfully though, this one had a television where I consumed the Derek Chauvin trial. The live footage had me just about near tears before my name was called, as well as that of another woman. The three of us took to the hospital halls where the technician explained to us the procedure we were undergoing. We entered a third room deep in the heart of the hospital. He explained I had to drink 32 ounces of Gatorade spiked with iodine. He elaborated this would light up my organ systems, but I had to wait two hours for the magic to happen. Afterwards, they would set an IV so they could flush my system with saline and more iodine. There I sat pondering the side effects with another young man sitting across from me, and an older gentleman in the corner. I smiled to myself while observing the mediocre artwork medical providers seem to hang unanimously in an attempt to soothe your nerves. With bulging bladders, we all had a good laugh about whether or not we were permitted to use the restroom.

My name was called again and I was escorted to the CT machine where I met a fine young man from Louisiana who asked me to lay down on the imaging bed. He shared details with me about his life while he attempted to set my IV, but failed twice. He moved to the other side and made a third attempt in my right arm. At the time the birth control I had discontinued made me anemic. I heard a woman’s voice enter the room and say, “Her body is too cold.” She requested heated blankets and wrapped my limbs with a soft tone in her voice. Finally, she returned to my left side and was able to set the IV properly.

I was informed via loud speaker that I would be moved in and out of the machine twice, once with the saline flush and once with the iodine. I was asked to take a deep breath in and hold it. He explained the iodine would cause a warm sensation in my sacred center that mimics the feeling of peeing on yourself. He assured me I had not.

Afterwards he released me into the hallways where I promptly proceeded to experience a profound state of confusion. I ended up walking directly into the employee section of the emergency department. When I walked in, they were all surprised to see me – a young woman in civilian clothes who had no business being there. I apologized and explained I was lost. They advised that typically I wouldn’t be allowed to exit the hospital this way, but they would make an exception.

Finally, I made my way outside and realized I was on the opposite side of the building, as far as humanly possible from my vehicle. I took a deep sigh and began walking, overwhelm and weakness in full force. I finally reached my car where I took five minutes to collect myself before driving, or so I thought. On my way home I experienced a rush of tears and anxiety, longing for nothing more than my loving Wife and my own bed. I experienced side effects from the iodine in the coming days, and soon resented the fact that I have always been medically sensitive.

One month later Ms. Cameron called me with my CT results. She explained I have kidney stones and ovarian cysts, an additional symptom of endometriosis. The imaging also showed degeneration of my spine in conjunction with the L5/S1 disc herniation and spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spine). She recommended I see an endometriosis specialist for next steps and offered an alternate form of birth control. Fed up with synthetic hormones, I politely declined. I spoke with my Wife about the plan moving forward, and explained I needed a break from medical appointments for a while. She, in her unfailing love and support, agreed.

On May 20th I saw my pain management physician again where he recommended increasing my Cymbalta. I lasted three weeks before a full-blown panic attack, insomnia, loss of balance, shaky limbs, weight loss, skin reactions, and symptoms of bipolar mania surfaced. I started weening off very slowly as Cymbalta is notorious for a hardcore withdrawal syndrome. I am down to my last two pills, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that warm cranial sensations, agitation, severe nausea, and flashes in my field of vision do not return once I run out completely.

One June 17th I followed up with my pain management doctor with the news where he discontinued my Cymbalta and increased my Gabapentin since my body seems to tolerate it well. He explained the next step is a Lumbar/Hypogastric Plexus Nerve Block. He elaborated I would be put under anesthesia and I agreed, explaining that I have done everything I can to be medically compliant and this is no different.

During the procedure, an anesthetic is injected directly into the nerve root near the lower spine. The medication spiders into the pelvic region and blocks the sympathetic nerve system to help relieve pain associated with the colon, bladder, lower intestines, uterus, and ovaries. He believes this will be beneficial to me because those are the organ systems often impacted by endometriosis. He stated he has seen success stories that result in such significant improvement that some of his patients never return.

One of my biggest challenges has been nerve compression which makes it difficult for me sit, stand, drive or walk. These activities require all of my energy and even some I don’t have, resulting in extreme chronic pain and fatigue. At the height of it, I have experienced episodes of paralysis. I spend all of my down time in bed even when my self-care routine is on point. Even though my Wife’s love is unrelenting, I know she craves the active partner I once was.

The concept is that numbing my body from the waist down will restore my ability to operate from a functionality stand point until my exploratory surgery can be scheduled. If they locate scar tissue as a result of internal bleeding, a third surgery will be scheduled. My hope is that at the very least a nerve block will allow me to tolerate exercise again so I can rebuild those muscle groups. Understandably, my quality of life is suffering greatly, and the recovery time for each of these procedures is getting longer and more intense. I will go under on July 7th at 11am, one day after my son’s tenth birthday.

Each time I endure one of these invasive appointments it triggers my PTSD and takes me back to that deep dark place of being a caregiver at the age of 22. I witnessed someone I love experience everything from biopsies to transplants, even suicidal depression, in the face of a traumatic health scare that was only days away from fatal. This went on for two whole years.

Likewise, I often struggle with the notion that I am failing as a mother. The limitations associated with chronic pain and mental illness requires a delicate balancing act, one that obligates you to carve out time for self-care. This can lead to falsely rooted guilt, especially on days when I can’t get out of bed. The emotional side of me knows I am missing out on important milestones and quality time. The logical side of me knows I am instilling compassion in my son. I have chosen to raise him with raw and transparent communication, but still my paranoia roars and I ask myself, “At what cost?” Add to that the impact of the Covid generation and it’s all too easy to stir the worry pool. I am blessed that I have his father and my devoted Wife to pick up the slack. I shudder to think what I would do without them. However, if you do find yourself less fortunate, Delta Discovery Center offers 15 Trauma Therapy Techniques to Implement to Help You Heal From Trauma:

1. Get Closure

2. Recognize That There is Nothing Wrong With You

3. Link Positive and Negative Material

4. Reclaim Control

5. Get Counseling

6. Don’t Isolate

7. Take Care of Your Health

8. Try to Find Some Deeper Meaning in What Happened to You

9. Learn the True Meaning of Acceptance and Letting Go

10. Become Aware of Emotional Triggers and Learn to Cope with Them Creatively

11. Learn the True Meaning of Acceptance and Letting Go

12. Connect with Nature

13. Clean Up Your Diet

14. Limit Your Media Exposure

15. Know That Your Feelings Are Valid

I have implemented all of these into my life, but there will always be hard days. Above all, number eight has resonated with me the most: Try to Find Some Deeper Meaning in What Happened to You.

Since this journey began, I have moved through the victim mindset into a more spiritual realm. I am made to feel content by the fact that I have found sanctuary within myself and while there will be missteps, I can use my story to help others. Making time for meditation and spiritual development has offered me a great deal of healing in tandem with my medical team, cannabis, and yoga. I never would have imagined that my health would take a nose dive at the age of twenty-eight, but here we are, and I know I’m not the only one.

Throughout my life I have sustained every form of trauma you can imagine. I was born six weeks premature with a heart murmur. I suffered underdeveloped lungs and health issues through out a lot of my childhood. I have experienced child abuse, partner abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, self-injury, suicide, addiction, high risk pregnancy, clinical mental illness of which two in-patient hospitalizations resulted, eating disorders and physical ailments. With that comes equal parts post traumatic stress and post traumatic growth. The most important decision you will ever make will be the path you choose — because the obstacle is the path.

My perspective has shifted from irritable disenchantment with human life to the humbling compassionate understanding that our bodies are only vehicles for an ethereal and eternal soul. This allows me to compartmentalize my suffering and listen to my body.

I have fallen madly in love with nature and solitude, which invites a certain healing I can’t quite articulate. There is something enlightening about how near death experiences usher us into a flow state of surrender. Suddenly eyes and heart wide open; Still, we might easily miss it if we don’t pay attention. This sense of awakening or awareness is reinforced by the understanding that suffering is universal, and deeply designed to help us learn. Indeed, science demonstrates that spiritual practice has the power to physically change the structure of our neurological systems and DNA. Therefore, I spill all the unconditional love I can muster into all of my interactions with others. Every painful experience is an opportunity to advocate your needs, to learn receivership with grace, to love yourself and others more. I encourage you to choose love over fear.

>>>Discussion: What has your trauma taught 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 49: My Strength Will Always Waver

“Silence. How long it lasted, I couldn’t tell. It might have been five seconds, it might have been a minute. Time wasn’t fixed. It wavered, stretched, shrank. Or was it me that wavered, stretched, and shrank in the silence? I was warped in the folds of time, like a reflection in a fun house mirror.”
― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

*WARNING: This post makes mention of suicide, self injury, drug use, and abuse. If you find this type of content triggering, please do not continue reading. If you or someone you love is at risk, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255*

Dear Readers,

As we the near the halfway point of my 100 Truths, I want to take a moment to thank those of you who have followed along this far. It has been a project in introspection, and an excellent conversation starter.

As many of you know, trauma-work has been at the forefront of my healing over the last few years. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been one of my more pervasive diagnoses, and so I find myself being continuously humbled by its rearing ugly head. The truth is sometimes I feel impenetrably strong. Other times I feel one more traumatic event away from losing my last marble. It doesn’t scare me as much as it used to because now I have the tools, but even a well equipped person can stumble backward.

While I spend a great deal of time advocating for others on all things mental health, I often feel unprepared and overwhelmed by what it feels like to be me. For all intents and purposes I should be dead and yet, I am still here. The truth is I still face sensations of disheartened dismay. The truth is I tried to take my own life three times. The truth is I have other family members who have tried and failed, still others who have tried and succeeded. The truth is suicide still crosses my mind as a function of mental illness, but these days I wont act on it. Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I couldn’t agree more.

Child Abuse

Unfortunately, abuse is often generational. When I hear about the awful happenings in the world, I often imagine what the parents of those perpetrators must have been like. While nothing serves as an excuse for abuse, there are certainly explanations found all throughout human psychology. I have written about this before, however as I continue to process, I will go into greater detail in this post.

My mother is a survivor of abuse herself, and her lack of self-understanding was often reflected in her poor choice of partners. For as long as I can remember my parents were rarely in the same room, but my father was the only man who never hit her. My first step-father certainly doled out the worst of it. He was physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive toward my mother and I. The abuse consisted of name-calling, yelling, hair-pulling, hitting, slapping, pushing, shoving, squeezing and biting. Domestic violence was an almost daily occurrence in our home, not to be deterred by the company of others. This man destroyed a handful of my birthdays, relationships, and self-esteem. Adding insult to injury, he went so far as to cheat on my mother with her best friend, and threatened to take my very life.

My mother would later share with me that this was her breaking point. This was the event that finally gave her the courage to leave. She still harbors a great deal of guilt from this time in our life, and while I can not fathom exposing my son to these things, I understand her hesitation. Domestic violence often escalates when the victim attempts to end or flee the relationship.

Fortunately, my mind has managed to block out a lot of what happened. Eventually though, the memories resurfaced and my mother helped me fill in the blanks. These things did happen. I was questioned by police, and from the ages of 3 to 10 I was subject to child abuse on a pretty consistent basis. There were other odd things that took place as a result of our economic status such as exposure to petty home invasions, a general lack of supervision, and abusive babysitters.

Later, my mother met another man who was equally dysfunctional, but slightly less violent. He promised to carry us out of our hell and give us a fresh start. During my teenage years he mostly targeted my mother and younger sister. My previous abuse had grown in me a spine that would not tolerate anymore assault, and I told him so, directly to his red spitting face.

During these years the affairs of my mother would exacerbate the violence, and expose us to more strange men. As far back as my memory allows, my home was filled with undertones of abuse, and the childhood conclusion that the world is an unreliable and unsafe place. In some form of strange validation, my medical records show the early stages of my mental illness during this time with consistent reports of anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.

Abandonment and Sexual Abuse

When I was 12 my father experienced something of an existential crisis paired with a job offer that offered him a leg up, and he could no longer call Minnesota home. After spending the last decade of my life seeing my father every other weekend, which was often the only opportunity I had to escape my abuse and build positive memories, he moved to Texas. This experience caused me to cry more than I ever had before in my young life. It also prompted me to put my feelings on paper for the first time.

When I was 15, I was given the opportunity to drive cross-country with a family friend who would later add to my betrayal. He sexually abused me three times over the course of a month before I finally spoke up. While the abuse stopped, the repercussions of this event has had one of the worst ripple effects that still plagues my family today. You can read the details of what happened in a previous post titled, Trauma Confession Series: Overcoming Avoidance, where I speak about this publicly for the very first time.

Mental Illness and my First Suicide Attempt

The sexual abuse was my tipping point. Not surprisingly, I entered into similarly dysfunctional and abusive relationships and suffered those consequences as well. I began tolerating treatment I shouldn’t because it was what I had been exposed to. On some level, I felt I deserved it – which I would later learn could not be further from the truth. I endured false accusations, control dynamics, manipulation, and abuse for another five years. During this time my trauma aligned with my teenage turmoil and grew into a new kind of monster. Soon, my self preservation completely left me, and I began hurting myself. I started with kitchen knives and safety pins before graduating to razors. The scars were getting harder to hide and wearing hoodies in July was just impractical. So, I began piling on anything I could use to harm myself or alter my mood state including drugs, alcohol, and eating disorders. During this time my grades began to slip as my transcript clearly shows, the violence in my home continued, my mental illness worsened with increased episodes of hallucination and dissociation, and I grew increasingly detached from my surroundings.

One evening, I went across the street to spend the night with a friend. She could see that something was off with me. Looking back now, I can see how gentle and deliberate she was in her intervention and I am grateful, but at the time I was extremely pissed off. She left the room and I began dissociating from my environment once more as I searched for a sharp object. When she re-entered the room she could see me rummaging through her room and I mumbled something about walking into oncoming traffic. “I’ll be right back,” she said. When she returned she fed me some story about her mother driving to the bank and insisted I tag along. I shrugged my shoulders and got in the car. I stared out the window saying very little when I realized we were not at the bank at all. We were in the parking lot of our local emergency room. I snapped into a red hot anger I can still feel 15 years later. How dare she save me?

I sat in that emergency room for a long while refusing to give up my information as my friend pleaded with the nurse to admit me. Eventually I caved and gave my identifying information. During my stay I experienced sucide watch isolation, spiritual phenomena, the probing questions of a much younger child, and I was asked to take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) which was ultimately used to improperly diagnose and improperly medicate me. Unfortunately this is fairly common in dealing with teenagers and complex mental illness. You can read more about self injury, what therapy taught me, and how I freed myself from this in a previous post titled, Trauma Confession Series: Self-Injury & Letting Go.

Suicide in the Family

In the years that followed I continued to fall into bad patterns of behavior. Finally at my wits end, I left home at the age of 17 and never looked back. I bounced around the Midwest for a couple of years before I totally lost my footing. Following an unhealthy relationship with a traumatic ending, I relocated to Texas eager to rebuild. Not long after a failed attempt to purchase a vehicle and enroll in college for the first time, I found myself the recipient of more bad news. Within 24 hours I lost a dear family friend and my maternal grandfather to suicide. You can read the full story in a previous post titled, A Suicide Survivor Story – Part I and Part II.

Self Injury and Self Medicating

Not surprisingly, experiencing loss to suicide shook me to my core and sent me spiraling into an untreated dangerous mind set. At the age of 19 I had slim to no coping skills, and fell deeper into substance abuse and disordered eating to cope with the nightmares alone. Through it all I fought like hell to be better. I was writing feverishly, grasping at mindfulness exercises, and finally confessing to myself that I was attracted to women. The fight within was violent. Eventually the scales tipped against me and the surge of pain I experienced proved to be too great. At the height of it, I found myself waking up hungover in pools of blood and tepid bath water, still fully clothed from the night before. I knew if I didn’t change my circumstances I would die.

My closeness with my father, God help me I love him, was not enough to sustain me much longer. Perhaps he recognized this, and in his fine intuition urged me to make a suicide pact with him. In our shared desperation we promised each other that come hell or high water, and we had had plenty of both at that point, suicide was just simply not an option. So, I set out to make big changes in my life, once more chasing the breath the world seemed determined to squeeze out of me.

The Turning Point

I took a job away from home, traveled excessively, and learned to fall in love again. With the help of my incredible friends and mentors, I began to reconnect with others, with life, and with myself. At the age of 21 I learned I was pregnant, and my life was no longer about me. My body was no longer mine, and my mind no longer failed to blossom. I became an overnight sensation, instantly sober, and determined to practice motherhood with clarity and poise. I returned to Minnesota and the first couple of years were mostly delightful, albeit bouts of post-partum depression, and the sneaking suspicion that something just wasn’t right with me.

Medical Trauma and Chronic Pain

When my son was approaching his first birthday we decided to move to Colorado. It had been our teenage dream to inherit God’s good mountains and a nature mindset for our son. In true fashion, however, just two weeks in our light was once again snuffed out by something I still find myself unwilling and unable to write about. I fear the task is so great I will never be fully able to grasp or express the magnitude of our experience. (Perhaps the best thing to do would be to one day sit down with my journals from that time and tackle the re-telling from the heart.) In short, our 23 year old brother suffered end stage kidney failure and it traumatized us all.

Two years later I moved back to Texas as it always seemed to offer me a soft landing. Shortly after, I was involved in a car accident that left my body never quite the same. I now live with a spinal injury, S.I. joint dysfunction, nerve damage, and migraines on a daily basis.

It wasn’t until I left my decade of trauma behind that I realized just how severely PTSD had impacted my quality of life. I found myself in a strategic but unhappy marriage with the promise of familiarity and family ties. I was young, but I understood my son’s memory was beginning to form, and I had no choice but to take my mental health seriously. It was time to grow up and get honest because white-knuckling it wasn’t working anymore. So, I went back to school for Child Development and Psychology, entered the field of Behavioral Health, and sought mental health treatment. You can read more in depth about what drove me to find a psychiatrist in a previous post titled, Ugly Truth 34: Psychosis Sucks.

After a proper diagnosis, anti-psychotic medication, and a 7 day in-patient hospitalization that offered me crash course therapy as a professional courtesy, I found myself more stable. I knew there was only one thing left to do.

Identity Crisis and Recovery

Two more years passed until finally I was strong enough to come off my medication, end my marriage, and come out as a lesbian. After one more misstep and two more traumatic relationships, I finally embraced trauma work and self development once and for all. I started to confront the abuse, the abandonment, the trauma, and face my personal truth. I began to manage my symptoms differently and write more, which led to the publication of this blog. I got real with myself and my family about my sexuality. I found it flatly irresponsible to date in my current condition, so I began developing concrete coping skills, growing into my skin, and advocating for others to keep myself in perspective. It sounds strange, but in many ways I had to get to know myself again. Once you strip away all the damage and co-dependency, you’re left with nothing short of a raw sense of self. The truth is you have to process and mourn the loss of whatever pain you carry, let it go (really let it go), and replace it with gratitude for the present moment – which you, and only you, are solely responsible for. It sounds simple enough, however, most people are too busy practicing avoidance or denial to notice. I was one of them. Letting go of my pride and my pain taught me just how useful the vulnerable truth can be. It is a natural gateway to becoming a more loving and compassionate human being, which in turn lends itself well to building meaningful relationships.

Today I am blessed to have more peace in my life than ever before. I try to never lose sight of the fact that the life I live now is something I once could only dream of. There were times so unmatched with darkness I was convinced I would never get out alive. At some point though, you have to set boundaries and take responsibility for your own well being. If you consistently victimize yourself, you will remain in a state of helplessness which, interestingly enough, is a learned behavior. Lucky for us, behavior and thought processes alike are malleable in that they can be changed and modified. As I like to say, adapt or die. Put more gently, pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. No amount of traumatic endurance ensures us that bad things won’t happen. Perhaps the most important thing then, is being prepared for when they do.

Today I have the love of an incredibly beautiful woman who spreads warmth and light everywhere she goes. I feel so lucky to have her, but I also know I deserve her. You can read more about her and how hard I fell in a previous post titled, Ugly Truth 37: Loving a Woman Changed my Worldview.

I have a decent outlook on life (with a healthy dose of cynicism), and most of my sanity intact because that is what I set out to build for myself. The truth is I still struggle from time to time with the chemical imbalances of Bipolar Disorder, the triggers of PTSD, and the irrational uncertainty of Panic Disorder. Some of this just never goes away, but you can certainly achieve some semblance of functioning, happiness even. If nothing else, may this post serve as a reminder that surviving and thriving are not mutually exclusive. Living through trauma is almost never linear. You are not alone, and I’m still here to 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

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

Ugly Truth 024: Medication May Make Things Worse

“The beginning of an attack I always experienced as a swell lurching up from unseen depths, similar to the physical sensation of standing waist-high in the sea when there are no waves but all of a sudden the great body of water heaves itself up as if the planet has shifted a fraction on its axis. That was the signal for me that the nature of reality was about to terrifyingly change.” Glenn Haybittle, The Tree House

Dear Readers,

I have had two panic attacks in three days. This is very unusual, even for me. I suppose if I take into account all the changes in my life recently (or the incredible stress), it makes sense. Still, wisdom is completely useless in the face of clinical grade fear.

Panic Attacks are characterized by severe physical symptoms which may include anxiety. However, Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks are not the same.

After doing some digging I realized I was having an adverse reaction to the Trazodone I was taking. Often times I believe the symptoms I experience stem from the natural course of my mental illness, however, it is important to remember that there are many contributing factors that can influence or change your psychology. Choosing pharmaceuticals as a course of intervention is never easy. Aside from the stigma attached to medication, there is the expense, the inconvenience, and the side effects. I was treating my insomnia and depression, but at what cost? I soon found myself increasingly anxious, agitated and angry. If you know me at all you know my demeanor is quite pleasant and bittersweet, so to appear angry and discontent in front of my friends and family was a pretty big indicator that something was off. I didn’t want to believe it because I was experiencing relief, but I had to acknowledge that I was also trembling with a depression-rage so profound that few understand it. While teetering on the edge of full blown panic attacks and heartbreaking impulses, you tend to find yourself faced with a pretty obvious decision. To be sure, I researched the side effects of this medication. It wasn’t until I scrolled to the bottom to the less likely slash call-your-doctor-right-away-if list of side effects that a light bulb turned on. Suddenly there it was, everything I had been feeling, laid out right in front of me. Black Box Label Warnings for Trazodone include:

  • Worsening depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • A severe rash or hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A painful erection that will not go away (priapism)
  • Panic attack
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Seizure

So, mystery solved. Fortunately, Trazodone has a decent elimination half life so it took only 2-3 days to detox safely from this medication. My insomnia returned, but at least I didn’t want to scratch the face off of everyone I saw or leap from a tall building. The truth is, your diagnosis may not always provide an obvious explanation for your psychological experience. If you or a loved one has a rapid noticeable change in demeanor related to behavior or mental heath, it may be time for a med check.

As always, thank you for reading.

**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 007: Psychomotor Agitation Hurts

Psychomotor agitation is an increase in purposeless physical activity often associated with depressive and manic episodes of bipolar disorder. It’s a classic symptom that most people readily associate with mania: restlessness, pacing, tapping fingers, dashing about meaninglessly, or abruptly starting and stopping tasks. While psychomotor agitation can take many forms and vary in severity, it is an indication of a mental tension that cannot be managed and one that manifests physically with frenetic activity. – Marcia Purse, VeryWell Mind Good Evening Readers, Welcome back to 100 ugly truths about mental health! Last night I began to sink after I triggered myself while reading some old writings. Suddenly I was flung into the flashbacks of the memories I was revisiting. The walls around me soon fell away and I found myself off the ground. I reached for my loved ones in attempt to take my own advice. I flailed while trying to remember my coping skills, but I was just no match for my slipping mood. It wasn’t long before I jumped to distraction, whirling through my nightly routine without ever actually accomplishing anything. I was spinning, frantic, agitated and growing angrier with each passing moment. What was happening to me? When you’re diagnosed with a mental health condition it provokes a sort of self examination. It is a natural response to want to peel away the dysfunction from your personality. I crave understanding and logic when faced with the mystery of madness, so I excused myself for a breath of fresh air after confessing to my partner that I was unwell. It never takes Google long to come up with an explanation, and there it was, psychomotor agitation. This symptom is generally associated with mood disorders, PTSD, and anxiety. Similar to the relationship between panic attacks and fear, psychomotor agitation is a physical manifestation of internal events. The truth is if you or your loved ones don’t have the insight to spot this, you may not understand why you feel the way you do. Fortunately, because this symptom is physical it doesn’t take long for other people to notice. My partner will often point out that my face is changing and I’m not quite myself. My eyebrows will furrow, my lips will purse, and I commonly catch myself in an angry cleaning frenzy. As indicated above, abruptly starting and stopping tasks is a hallmark of this frenetic energy. It can be very draining, damaging even, causing you to act unlike yourself and possibly hurting others in your path. The truth is this is something I’ve only recently started working on. Mindfulness is a lifestyle people use for many reasons, but the practice of self awareness is key when managing mental illness. You have to hold yourself accountable if meaningful change is ever going to happen. This agitation carried over into my morning and I was filled with regret when I was unable to process the loud clangings of my 7 year old. Ultimately, I couldn’t shake it on my own and turned to medication. Relationships are often a social tool. They are extensions and reflections of ourselves. When I lived alone I had a very hard time with symptom management because I didn’t have an informing audience. The truth is, sometimes it takes an exterior observation to see more clearly. Insofar, isolation has been my most powerful coping skill when agitation occurs. Isolation is often seen as a maladaptive behavior, but under these circumstances it is a useful way to decompress and protect loved ones from your irrational anger. How do you cope with agitation? Have friends or loved ones ever pointed out your strange behavior? This evening, I challenge you to quiet your defense mechanisms and be receptive to the truth. **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!