Mental health

Ugly Truth 39: Low Self-Esteem & Five Things You Can Do About It

“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember ~ the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.” -Zig Ziglar

Dear Readers,

The role self-esteem plays in our personal wellness cannot be understated. Certainly, the things we say to ourselves have the power to significantly alter the way we perceive the world and our place in it. During early childhood, we begin to develop our sense of self based on the stability of our environment and the temperament of our caregivers. Likewise, unfavorable conditions such as abuse, abandonment or trauma often complicate the path to becoming a wholly healthy and well-adjusted person. In the event that self-love has been lost, there are five steps to improve self-esteem including changing the narrative, proper goal setting, accountability, practicing gratitude and repetition.

 Changing the Narrative.

Understanding cognitive dissonance is probably the single most powerful tool when working to improve self-esteem. So often we fall into patterns of thinking that include self-loathing or reflect the criticism of our parents. Learning to detect and dismiss distorted thinking is extremely difficult and requires a great deal of practice. Consider the things your inner monologue is telling you throughout the day. If your self-esteem is suffering, chances are these thought patterns are deeply negative and self-deprecating. Therefore, learning to reassign value to ourselves can be deeply useful. The good news is the human brain is indeed malleable, and our thoughts can be reshaped in a relatively short period of time by altering our behavior.

Proper Goal Setting.

When setting goals, we often fall into the mindset of going big. However, sometimes less is more. The ability to set an appropriate goal for yourself can aid in improving self-esteem by providing momentum from short-term goals to long-term ones. Similarly, acknowledging your accomplishments (rather than your shortcomings) is a positive tool that can bolster your confidence by highlighting your capacity, rather than your inability or unfinished business. Additionally, the cycle of self-discipline is highly reinforcing, and most likely to keep you motivated during times of lulling productivity.

 Accountability.

Personal accountability is essential when wanting to redefine any part of yourself, and self-esteem is no different. Put simply, be the change you want to see and do not make excuses. If you want to lose weight, set your alarm an hour earlier and carve out time to exercise. If you want to sleep better at night, shift your routines and follow through. So often, the solution to improve your relationship with yourself lies within your willingness to start a positive change. So, simply begin.

Practicing Gratitude.

Mindfulness, meditation and gratitude is a meaningful component of any walk toward wellness. Shifting our inner perspective from negative to positive esteem starts with recognizing our immediate surroundings as good and helpful. Take five minutes each day to figure out how being grateful translates in your daily life. Maybe it’s a mental list, a moment of silence, or a journal entry. Likewise, practicing gratitude invites us to restore a sense of agency by properly aligning our focus with our priorities in the present moment rather than what should have, could have, or would have been.

Repetition.

Like any good thing in life, improving self-esteem takes time and practice. In fact, all of the steps above require a great deal of both to offer meaningful change to your life. There will be road blocks and setbacks aplenty, but do not be discouraged. The important thing is that you return to yourself each day, and continue to let your love language to yourself take precedence.

**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!
Mental health

Ugly Truth 004: Positivity Only Goes So Far

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.”

– Glenn Close Greetings Readers, Welcome back to the Ugly Truth Series brought to you by Deskraven. Let us use this space to explore the ugly truths of mental illness in order to spark conversation, embolden our language, and demystify stigma. Today we’re talking about the ever preached power of positivity – and where it stops short. I know two things about genuine happiness. One, positivity takes practice and two, happiness is only real when shared. Likewise, like most things this translates differently if you’re someone who suffers from mental illness. Try as you might, you may find there is a cap on your positivity practice, especially if you have a mood disorder. In my experience I have found that I can successfully practice positivity and apply it to my life right up until my chronic pain flares past my ability to see a silver lining. This isn’t necessarily because pain causes anguish, although it undoubtedly does, but because it can pose as a significant distraction to most everything else. This makes my ability to practice positivity secondary, and my outlook will often suffer as a result. Positivity is not walking around with a delusional sense of glee, but instead choosing gratitude and joy even when your circumstances suggest otherwise. It is maintaining some sliver of hope in the face of adversity. And when hope can not be maintained, radical acceptance must take its place – bringing me to ugly truth #3. Positivity is important, essential even, but when you have a mental health condition the dynamics of joy and choice change considerably. Particularly when the moods you experience are chemical rather than circumstantial. Radical acceptance allows us to accept our state of mind or environmental triggers as truth. This paired with the wisdom that this too shall pass can offer peace of mind, even when positivity struggles to find its way through. We can combat this with mindfulness. So here’s a how-to list with some of my methods to assist you in remaining intentional in your positivity practice. Practice Gratitude Gratitude is achieved when we take the time to be grateful for what we have, rather than focusing on what we’re lacking. This can be done using a thought practice or a journal to list things like family, partners, employers, pets, or achievements. If you’re like me, you may break it down even further by celebrating food, water, shelter, warmth, or a day of good health. Words of Affirmation Reciting positive affirmations to yourself may seem hokey, but in reality I have found the ability to self sooth a most invaluable skill. Offering yourself reassurance and comfort during a stress trigger or mental health episode can help keep you grounded, as well as relieve your friends and family of the duty. Self-Care Self-Care is useful in terms of practicing positivity because it demonstrates self-love. This also takes practice and will be different for everyone. As an introvert, I prefer wind down rather than charge up techniques. Comedy and Cuteness Laughter is essential to my well-being. I was raised by two parents with a genuine and solid sense of humor and so found the value in it very early. When you have a mental health condition you may suffer from over-thinking. Good humor and the cuteness of infants or animals helps to pluck me from the conundrum of getting in my own way by offering some light heartedness and those feel-good hormones of belly laughter. Likewise, affection legitimately reduces stress levels. Healthy Risk-Taking Research shows that risk taking reinforces positivity by providing the satisfaction the memory of taking a risk can provide. Anytime we attempt to or actually dispel fear almost always results in meaningful personal growth. This is especially true for anxiety sufferers where fear runs irrationally rampant. The truth is mental health conditions can rob us of our lenses. Positivity is where the practice of one day at a time relieves the fear of big picture thinking. What helps you maintain positivity? Additional Reading: 11 Ways to Boost Positive Thinking, Psychology Today **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: Self-Harm & Letting Go

No where in this world is safe when your abuser’s words run laps in your head, circling and creating negative thoughts. Abuse kills from a distance too. -Kellie Jo Holly, Healthy Place Trigger Warning: Mention of self-harm. Dear Readers, Welcome to the end of the Trauma Confession Series! I hope it has aided you in some way. If you’re an abuse survivor, you may find that motivational self-talk doesn’t exist in your repertoire. When you become victimized by others one of two things will happen. You may externlize your suffering in explosive outbursts of anger resulting in misdirected harm toward others, or you may deeply internalize the dialogue and engage in self-injury. In my case, I know the latter to be true. I was 14 the first time I cut myself. I was in a long-distance relationship with a well-intended though very controlling person at the time. He also used this maladaptive coping skill, and was the first person to place this impulse in my mind. Add to that an entire subculture of teens in my school district who were also utilizing self injury to cope with an insufficient home life and the stressors of adolescence. When banded together in secrecy, this phenomenon quickly grew from superficial trendiness to deep winding incisions made by embedding razor blades all over my body. In general, I have found that I have an addictive personality. I turned to substance abuse and unhealthy relationship patterns at a very young age. I believe this to be a result of poor examples in my environment that reflected my self worth, or lack thereof, and a complete lack of meaningful guidance from my elders. None the wiser, I soon found myself flailing in frantic efforts to avoid my pain. I would go on to inflict harm on myself with increasing severity for one more year in secrecy. Soon, my self injury grew beyond my ability to manage it and people began to take notice. This pushed my self harm to exponentially higher levels for the next ten years. The trouble with self injury is that while it is certainly a poor coping skill, it is a coping skill nonetheless – and it works. Many people who report on self harm will tell you they do it to serve as a distraction, to reflect their inner turmoil on their external canvas, to release the endorphins that can soothe emotional distress, to function as a cry for help, and/or to indulge in the addiction that may develop apart from outward circumstances. There has been a great deal of research on this topic in recent years. Some Facts – 1 in 12 teens engage in some form of self injury such as cutting, burning, or other life threatening behavior. Women are more susceptible to self injurious behavior than men. Men engage on a more dangerous scale of self harm, including increased rates of suicide completion. About 50 percent of those who engage in self mutilation begin around age 14 and carry on into their 20s. Approximately two million cases are reported annually in the U.S. While my relationship to self harm was definitely prolonged by my attempts to emotionally regulate myself, it was also a reflection of and exacerbated by the abuse I suffered. If you come to feel your personal truth is worthless, flawed, or somehow deserving it will likely be reflected in the personal narrative you tell yourself. Fortunately, this can be changed. One of the key components of my many years in therapy was understanding the power of negative thinking. The abuse dynamic is problematic for many reasons, including the fact that it can reinforce the negative thoughts we have about our own sense of self worth. It is quite obvious how easily one can become intertwined in this mind trap, but it is important that you know this is a lie. This re-victimization can prolong suffering, and often frustrates friends and family who want to help. Ultimately, this path lead me to two suicide attempts, two inpatient psychiatric hospital stays averaging between four and nine days, five medications, and six diagnoses. In some ways, I believe I am responsible for re-traumatizing myself and extending my road to recovery. My mental health history is a result of both genetics and environment. I suffered an intensely abusive and abandoning childhood. I also had a succession of unhealthy romantic relationships as a teen and young adult. I have confirmed cases of child abuse, sexual abuse, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, addiction, and completed suicide running through my family history. This is relevant because it both validates my experience, and allows me to drive a wedge between myself and my episodic symptoms long enough to separate myself from the jargon, and truly get to the heart of the matter. This separation seems paramount to wellness, and is not something many people can achieve. Naturally, our identities become intertwined with our suffering over time. This is an error. I am not going to spill a bunch of hogwash to you about positive thinking in the face of abuse. Instead, I will remind you that YOU ARE WORTHY, YOU ARE NOT DESERVING OF PUNISHMENT OR DEATH, and SELF UNDERSTANDING IS THE CORNERSTONE OF RECOVERY. After ten years of therapy, there was one psychiatrist who narrowed down my self depreciating behavior in five minutes. He illuminated for me what is called an Obsessive Compulsive Personality. He illustrated that as a result of my chaotic and traumatic life I had tethered myself to a vehement need for control. However illusory, this belief system convinced me I was somehow protecting myself by controlling all the variables. The problem is this is virtually impossible, a phantasm survival tactic, and severely consequential to interpersonal relationships. Whenever I was placed in a situation I could not control, a work environment for example, I would internalize all my anxiety only to spill it all over my friends and family where I subconsciously found the consequences to be minimal. This would lead to unbearable guilt, and was reflected in my subsequent eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation. This introduced me to the art of letting go, and suddenly things became clearer. This very same concept can be applied to our past grievances, however heinous. For some reason, we as humans attach value and a reflection of self to our circumstances. This doesn’t have to be the case. I still have hard days with a touch of self-loathing. This is mostly a function of unrelated mental illness, or my own poor decision making that resulted from various forms of abuse, but I no longer engage in self injury, substance abuse, or risk taking behavior. When I become triggered, my family keeps me grounded. My family is my reason. Do not let your past hijack the present moment. Acknowledge the experience. Accept the truth. Allow the grief. Understand your psychology. Confront the closure. Take action or inaction. Let. It. Go. **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

17 Ways to Cope with PTSD Nightmares

“Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and hereafter she may suffer–both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams.”
Bram Stoker, Dracula

Dear Readers,

Insofar as I can tell, daymares and nightmares are not all that dissimilar. Even if our consciousnesses of them changes, the method used to keep the wolf at the door is the same.

For as long as I can remember I have had nightmares. I believe this was a result of intense childhood stress. It wasn’t long before my nightmares would carry over into my days, and I would come to experience the early warning signs of psychosis as a child. In some ways, it is amazing how abuse and abandonment can bend and sway our minds to survive. However, often times those childhood survival skills, dissociation for example, become problematic as an adult.

It wasn’t until Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder manifested itself in me in early 2009, when I lost two family members to suicide in 48 hours that I began having nightmares on a truly horrific scale. I was 19. This was proceeded five years later by the experience of caregiving for a terminally ill family member where I was exposed to a constant state of stress, fear, surgical procedures, poverty, and the monstrous dysfunction that entered my young home.

In the beginning my nightmares consisted of highly detailed apocalyptic themes. I vivdly remember bleeding skies, firey seas, and the demise of loved ones in violent and catastrophic ways. I recall being chased, attacked, or trapped. I would wake up frightened, panicked, crying and trembling – unable to separate myself from the sensation of the dream I was so sure was real. When this happened, it was not unusual for me to drink vodka at 9am, chain smoke on the front steps, and call loved ones. I would journal feverishly in some attempt to connect the dots. I would flail, avoid, and investigate. It would take me hours, sometimes days, to shake it off.

In the following years, I started experiencing full blown flashbacks. Flashes of light, sensations of time travel, reliving of trauma, guilt, remorse, and grief. I cried more. I drank more. I made more 4am phone calls. While my insomnia worsened, I began to notice over a period of time that going outside and sitting in the sunlight offered some relief and perspective, and my need to self medicate lessened. By way of necessity, this is how I came to understand Grounding Techniques.

Grounding Techniques are skills put into practice that ground you in the present moment by exposing the five senses to sensation. These might include:

1. Holding ice in your hands

2. Enjoying a warm cup of tea

3. Going outside to take in nature

4. Listening to music

5. Identifying five things you see in your environment

6. Mindfulness meditation

7. Diaphragm breathing

8. Physical affection from a loved one

9. Taking a warm bath

10. Wearing or diffusing essential oils

11. Exercise

12. Drinking copious amounts of water

13. Tasting something sweet or salty

14. Touching something soft or soothing

15. Engaging with a pet

16. Watching or listening to comedy

17. Checking a clock or calendar

The purpose of using Grounding Techniques is to pluck you from the trauma of a nightmare or flashback, and place you back in the reality of the present moment while also teaching you to self soothe in an unharmful way.

It is ten years later and I still experience nightmares of the same intensity, but with less frequency. I have trained myself to de-escalate upon waking, making my recovery time much shorter. If this helps only one person find a millisecond of relief, then I have accomplished what I set out to.

What is your favorite Grounding Technique?

**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!