Mental health

Ugly Truth 36: Insomnia & Nightmares Exacerbate Depression

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

chronic pain, Mental health

Ugly Truth 31: What My Chronic Pain Actually Feels Like


“If I only could explain 
How much I miss
That precious moment 
When I was free
From the shackles of chronic pain.”
-Jenni Johanna Toivonen

My chronic pain summary – for future reference and all my fellow pain warriors who suffer from invisible illness.

•Car accident – June 2015
•Orthopedic surgeon referral and slipped disc(s) – June 2015
•Electrical vibration with sound in skull/loss of consciousness – June 2015
•First paralysis episode – August 2017
•13 chiropractic sessions – April of 2019
•Car accident – September 2019
•Cat scan – September 2019

Findings to Date:

Anterior Head Posture (Leaning forward due to an imbalance of muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back.)

Kyphosis (Abnormal curvature of the spine.)

L5/S1 Disc Herniation (Spinal injury that causes unremitting and severe pain, muscle spasms, nerve damage, lack of coordination, numbness in the extremities, overactive reflexes, muscle weakness and at it’s most severe – loss of bladder control.)

Spinal Stenosis (A condition where spinal column narrows and compresses the spinal cord.)

Lumbosacral Radiculopathy
(A disorder that causes pain in the lower back and hip which radiates down the back of the thigh into the leg. This damage is caused by compression of the nerve roots which exit the spine & can lead to sciatica – this is the pain that causes temporary paralysis.)

Migraine with Brainstem Aura

From the American Migraine Foundation:

Migraine with brainstem aura is a migraine-type that has aura symptoms originating from the base of the brain (brainstem) or both sides of the brain (cerebral hemispheres) at the same time. People who experience migraine with brainstem aura also experience migraine with typical aura symptoms, including:

  • Visual (Examples include sparkles or zigzag lights in the vision that may move or get larger. Generally on only one side of your vision).
  • Sensory (Examples include numbness or tingling that travels up one arm to one side of the face).
  • Speech/language symptoms (Examples include trouble producing words even though you know what you want to say or trouble understanding what people are saying).

In addition, people with migraine with brainstem aura get brainstem aura symptoms such as:

  • Dysarthria (slurred speech)
  • Vertigo (feeling of movement/spinning of self or environment)
  • Tinnitus (ringing in ears)
  • Hypacusis (impaired hearing)
  • Diplopia (double vision)
  • Ataxia (Unsteady/Uncoordinated movements)
  • Decreased level of consciousness

Follow-Up:

Neurologist and MRI

If you or someone you love lives with chronic pain, share your story in the comments below!

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 026: Being Different in a Regular World

“A mother need not be perfect, she only need be good enough.”

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to Deskraven, your mental health forum! Today we are talking about the tricky moments of being a meaningful guardian. As we enter into the weekend, let us reconsider our children as individuals rather than lord over them.

In my nearly nine years as a parent, nothing could have prepared me for yesterday morning. There is no rule book for children, but I’d like to think a common sense approach is somewhat universal. Sure, most of us know the basic needs of children: warmth, shelter, proper nutrition, cognitive development, affection, guidance and well fitting shoes – but the mind can seldom conceive of the tough clever quips of our children’s harder inquiries.

I do not support the tabula rasa (blank slate) theory that some Early Childhood Educators adhere to. Likewise, I find it plainly unethical to impose religious views on impressionable young minds. Instead, I believe our children are born with inherent temperaments and tendencies, and it is our job to nurture and direct their self development. For example, you may notice that your first child is naturally stubborn and sensitive while noting that your third child is laid back and inquisitive. Loving them equally, these two children maintain very different social-emotional needs.

My son is named Zachary, and he is seven years old with a temperament much like the stubborn sensitive child described above. My son faces challenges associated with an exceptional IQ and neurological differences. As such, supporting his personal truth while protecting and strengthening his self-esteem has always been my foremost priority.

Zachary has always been an exceptional communicator. In order to gauge his self confidence, I will casually check in with him by saying something like, “Hey buddy, how ya feelin’?” Usually his response is an honest reassurance, or a dilemma he is trying to navigate in school. However, on this day, among my words of affirmation, my sweet insightful son shed light on the fact that he feels loved, valued, and cherished by his family – but less so by the outside world.

In an instant my chest tightened and my eyes filled to the brim with tears as I carefully explained that life often includes a great deal of suffering, and that the magic can be found in the many good things that come along when we always seek to do our best and make good choices as good human beings.

While I countinued to hearten my son, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed and discouraged by the harsh reality of the truth. The truth is you will not find every person that you meet agreeable, and not everyone will think highly of you. Some may even mistreat, abuse or abandon you, but this intolerance is a reflection of personal perception often having nothing to do with the outward circumstances. The task then is to shake it off while keeping your self worth intact.

My boy has always marched to the beat of his own drum. We have battled social norms and school district regulations to give him this right, while also expecting reasonable adaptive skills. As a result he spends a lot of time listening to negative feedback, redirection, and constructive criticism. The fact that he is different poses a challenge, but it is also a brilliant opportunity to teach him the value of self-love, and offer him positive balance at home where the world so often stops short. The fact that he is gifted and talented simply means he learns differently, not that he is better or worse. The fact that I am a compassionate parent serves not only his best interest, but also affords me more patience and grace with my own irksome personality traits. Likewise, my own battle and professional training with all things mental health has uniquely equipped me to advocate for and counsel my son.

As our time together came to a close, I built him up as fast as I could in the time allotted by our morning commute. As we pulled into the carpool lane the right rear passenger door flung open, and he was greeted by a smiling face. I kissed him smack on the lips and poured all of my hope into that one tiny moment, watching closely as he held himself a little straighter. I wiped my tears and took a deep breath while he went on to conduct himself beautifully in his classroom that day. “Raising boys is hard,” I thought to myself.

Perhaps on this day I said something that stuck. Perhaps on this day I was good enough.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 025: ADHD is Tough Stuff

Dear Readers,

I always knew my son would be exceptional, but I never knew his struggles would be so monumental. His first year of preschool was the year his father and I separated, so we were quick to assume his adjustment period was understandable and temporary. Not only did his troubles not pass, they got worse. Much worse.

This type of milestone is usually joyous, however I soon began receiving phone calls from his preschool on a daily basis. I began to take notice that my son’s tantrums were more severe than what would be considered typical for his age group. He would scream, cry, flail his body, stomp his feet, punch his arms, suffer night terrors, display separation anxiety, and throw furniture. Under extreme distress, he would scratch his own arms and face.

As a young (and dumb) mother, I would often absorb the advice of others too quickly. Many people, including our first family therapist, assumed we needed to make some changes and that I needed to be a stronger disciplinarian. In the spirit of always having room to grow as a parent, I can say consistent discipline is definitely part of the equation of treating children with special needs, but it isn’t an end-all solution. As the years passed, I watched him closely as we worked through hands on play therapy, social skill development, emotional regulation practice, and clearer communication. We made dietary changes, reduced screen time, established routines, tried vitamins and supplements, followed through with consequences, held family meetings, sought a second opinion from a licensed counselor, and increased physical activities. We knew for certain that no matter the outcome, we wanted to exhaust every natural resource available to us before ever considering medication. Our son saw a pediatrician, an allergist, a school psychologist, and family therapist and was ultimately referred out for a behavioral health evaluation. We pursued this, but still no answers came.

As our son grew older, he matured out of some of his maladaptive behaviors only to see the emergence of new ones. His primary years were increasingly difficult, often limited by the scope of his teachers and mentors. We worked hard in therapy and had good days here and there, but we just weren’t seeing the progress we were hoping for. His outbursts were growing increasingly worrisome, although his grades never slipped. In general, our son is attention seeking, active, impulsive, sensory seeking, disruptive, emotional, insightful, and extremely intelligent. He shows a lack of restraint but never a lack of remorse, persistent repetition of words or actions, memory loss and mood swings. He generally demonstrates a proclivity toward anger and lacks social skills. He experiences sleep disturbances, appetite changes, aggression (this is very rare these days – thank goodness), low self-worth and has even talked openly of suicide on more than one occasion.

It goes without saying that our love and worry for our son put an enormous strain on our family dynamic. Not only was I faced with the grief of acceptance, but I had the public school system leaning into me one on side, while his father was pushing in the other direction. Suddenly, I found myself with three thorns in my side. I felt stranded in the middle, and I knew the only way I could cope with this would be with some form of healthy detachment. I knew I needed the relief of a slight emotional unhinging in order to face my son’s behavior as objectively as possible, rather than take it personal. I knew I had to a find a way to apply my professional experience as a Behavioral Therapist to my personal life without having a complete and total nervous breakdown. I knew I needed to advocate for my son free from the opinions of others. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I have been completely successful, because that’s just not true. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve made, or how many nights I’ve cried in my bathroom nauseous with worry. Still, circumstances in which you feel that you have no choice will teach you just what you are capable of. Fortunately for all of us, I was designed to advocate for mental health.

Suspecting Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD), and possibly Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), I went to his teachers with a plan. As a mother, I have started every school year by gently approaching, reassuring and thanking my son’s teachers. I do this for three reasons.

1.) I recognize that they have the most important and most underappreciated job in the world.

2.) I realize that my son can be difficult.

and 3.) I want them to know early and often that they can always come to me to voice their thoughts and concerns.

This concerted effort has served us in more ways than I can iterate. Likewise, we have learned the absence of this unified front comes with enormous consequences.

In speaking with his teachers, we soon began to investigate every possible solution without a formal diagnosis. We discussed the problem behavior we were observing, potential triggers, possible areas of change at home and at school, guidance strategies, positive reinforcement, motivation, social skills development, counseling, occupational therapy, accommodations, ARD committee meetings, more therapy, more dietary changes, and more consistency. (I soon learned that despite our best efforts, our nation’s public school system does a great disservice to children with special needs specifically, and all children in general.) Toward the end of his 2nd Grade year, we finally began to see the upswing of all of our hard work.

Our son has grown immensely in the last year, and he deserves the credit. Many of his extreme behaviors have diminished – praise God! However, he still displays some neurological symptoms like facial tics, as well as an inability to self-regulate or integrate socially. This will be addressed at our Doctor’s appointment next week at Moore Mental Health & Behavioral Services where our son will finally be evaluated and diagnosed. We will all be given the opportunity to remain instrumental in mapping out a treatment plan that best suits our family. Naturally, we have all kinds of mixed emotions about this. Still, I feel this is the next step in armoring our little one with all the support he can possibly receive from the vantage point of long over due relief and early intervention in the face of his emotional turmoil.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from parents in similar situations. Do you have concerns for your little ones that extend beyond the realm of typical worry? What is challenging you the most right now? How has ADHD or other sensory disorders impacted your life?

In closing, we must remember that decisions surrounding mental health and our loved ones are never easy. We must remember to pull together through education and support rather than stigmatizing one another through harsh criticism. We must remember there should never be shame attached to seeking help.

You’re not alone.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Mental health

Ugly Truth Series 001: Love is Not Enough (Suicidal Depression)

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.” George Orwell, 1984 Trigger Warning: This post makes mention of suicide. Dear Readers, I’ve been told I think too much, and they’re not wrong. I had a plan laid out for the next Deskraven series. I had hoped to shed light on my personal life in a framework entitled, “Family Matters.” I planned to reveal and explore the challenges and rewards blended families face with children who are not neurotypical. However, this will have to wait for another time as more important matters arose this morning. In a fit of spiraling suicidal depression, I decided it pertinent to discuss the ugly truths of mental health instead. This topic took precedence over family dynamics due to the danger and depth involved. As well as the personal notes on my own heart, the way suffering is universal, and the stigma attached to this subject. This concept bloomed some despite my tears. Therefore, I have challenged myself to publish 100 ugly truths about mental health over an extended period of time. I have no idea how long it will take, nor do I know if I will splice in other content along the way. All I know for certain is this is a pressing conviction on my writer’s brain, and I encourage you to chime in along the way. Ugly Truth 001: Suicidal Depression Having multiple diagnoses can make symptom management tricky. Knowledge is power, but sometimes you have to do the best you can with what you’ve got regardless of the source. These disorders are multifaceted and dramatically impact my quality of life. I have lost jobs, friends, relationships, and my own will to live more than once. This morning, one of these internal storms was triggered by severe fatigue in the face of obligation, robbing me of my joy and ability to self regulate. Lately, I’ve been exhausted, completely overstimulated, and stumbling to communicate despite good intentions. I have been anxious, depressed, and worried (yet ever ambitious) for the future. I didn’t sleep well last night, and PMS is in full swing. I was trying to get a fucking grip when my partner let one slip of the tongue slice through me. It wasn’t intentional, but my mind has the unadoring ability to misinterpret information. I know the blocks were stacked against me this morning from a self-care perspective alone. I paused to rationalize it and empathize with myself, but I couldn’t stop crying. Suddenly, I found myself hoping for the big nap. I couldn’t help but seek the relief the sky provides, regardless of whatever lives there. Then came the river of lies:
“They’ll be better off without me…”, “I am a burden to everyone…”, “I can’t cope with the pain…”, “I am only 29, I can’t go on through a lifetime of this…”, “I am so tired…” “I am not strong enough…” “I am gonna throw up…” -and so on. I have done enough self work to catch myself in a suicidal state and be objective, but it doesn’t stop the impulse or the inner truth – and that is the piece I don’t think many people can understand. Suicidal ideation is not always circumstantial or ego-centric. Sometimes, it is not a reflection of an insufficient life. Sometimes, it is a pure and simple brain chemical mishap resulting in a state of mind you just can’t turn away from. Sometimes it is an irrational mood event much like mania or anxiety. I often pray that I will always be strong enough to step away from the ledge, and endure any amount of suffering if it means my son has his mother. However, I would be lying if I said I never thought about going for one final swim. And that is what makes this an ugly truth, the fact that the love of our children is not an opponent for suicidal depression. I know I am not the only one. So, this post is dedicated to the countless mothers and under-reported fathers out there who are confined to their beds and uncharacteristic harmful ways. This post is dedicated to those of you who would rather sleep than live because nothing is enough to spare you a most significant darkness. Even true love, our most precious human gem, can not always redirect an irrational mind. The truth is, you can not see clearly in a suicidal state. All you know is you want the anguish to stop, and you’ll go to great lengths to get it. The truth is sometimes love is not enough. Suicide is inherently self indulgent – yes – as most mental illness related actions (or inactions) are. However, it does not reflect the common misconception of cowardice or selfishness. Similarly, suicide does not reflect the worth of the survivor. Yes, it takes considerable strength and bravery to stay when you want to leave, but suicidal ideation is simply a desperate miscalculation reinforced by misinformation. Stay tuned for more ugly truths as I aim to inform and minimize mental health stigma. You can read more about my story as a survivor of suicide in A Suicide Survivor Story pt. I & II. If you or someone you know is struggling, trained counselors are ready to listen and help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK The Crisis Text Hotline: Text CONNECT to 741741 Additional Reading: How To Deal With Suicidal Thoughts—From 7 Women Who’ve Been There, Women’s Health Magazine **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! Have you survived a suicidal depression, an attempt, or lost a loved one to suicide? Please share your stories in the comments. You’re safe here. You’re not alone.