Mental health

Ugly Truth 46: June is PTSD Awareness Month!

“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.”

-Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror


The Facts:

*PTSD is not just Veterans of War
*Rape Victims Have a 49% Chance of Developing PTSD
*7-8% of the U.S. Population Will Have PTSD at Some Point
*Women are Twice as Likely to Develop PTSD
*Symptoms can Take Months or Years to Develop

*Individuals with PTSD are 2-4 Times More Likely to Develop a Substance Use Disorder
*78% of Those with a Diagnosis Experience Depression in Their Lifetime
*People who Suffer From PTSD are More Likely to Commit Suicide
*1/3 of Veterans with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Also Meet Criteria for PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience.

Events That Can Lead to PTSD Include:

*serious accidents *physical or sexual assault

*abuse, including childhood or domestic abuse *exposure to traumatic events at work, including remote exposure

*serious health problems, such as being admitted to intensive care *childbirth experiences, such as losing a baby

*war and conflict *medical trauma

*civil unrest *pandemics

PTSD develops in about 1 in 3 people who experience severe trauma. It’s not fully understood why some people develop the condition while others do not. While treatment is available, some symptoms may never diminish.

Symptoms Include:

physical pain

nightmares or flashbacks

depression or anxiety

withdrawl or avoidance

repression

emotional numbing

insomnia

hyperarousal

irritability

guilt or shame

Discuss: Does PTSD impact your life in some way? Share your experience in the comments below.

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

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

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

Mental health

Ugly Truth 028: Restorative Sleep is Essential

“Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.” 
― Edgar Allan Poe

Dear Readers,

Greetings from the Deskraven blog, where your mental health finds a voice! Today we are going to explore the power of truly restorative sleep because last night I went to bed an hour earlier, and I feel like a new woman. I believe discussing this is worth while since sleep hygiene has everything to do with our over all health, and very little to do with our daily planning as a cultural whole. When we deprioritize sleep, it often trickles down into every area of our life in general, and exacerbates mental illness specifically.

As a fellow insomniac, I feel that beginning with an exploration of my lack of sleep is a great place to start. Insomnia is characterized by the inability to stay asleep, fall asleep, or both. This may be linked to diet, mental health, illness or chronic pain. This may be genetic, circumstantial or environmental. I personally have suffered from an inability to fall asleep and stay asleep, however the inability to stay asleep proves more problematic. Over the years I have found that even if I only manage to gather 4-5 hours of sleep per night, I can function in an acceptable manner if these hours are consecutive. Interestingly, a full 9 hours of sleep is completely useless to me if I wake up 500 times over the course of that time frame, often leaving me even more exhausted and frustrated than before. In order to achieve better sleep, we must first identify what is keeping us up at night.

My inability to properly slumber began in childhood. I was raised in a very stressful environment chock full of abuse, domestic violence, and abandonment. While there are moments of fleeting joy in my memory, my insufficient childhood most certainly contributes to my troubles with sleep as an adult. I was frequently woke to the sound of yelling, breaking glass, loud music or the sight of my mother with bags at her hip urging us out the door before anyone would notice. This lead to a chronic sense of instability and a complete lack of safety, and therefore less sleep. I was told by my second step-father that it was not unusual for me to talk in my sleep. In my lifetime I can recall one incidence of sleepwalking that resulted in me waking up at the bottom of a staircase. How the fall didn’t wake me I will never know. I am grateful to say that this has never happened to me as as an adult. My father is a natural night owl, so it seems at least some part of my restlessness may be genetic.

As the years went by, I was exposed to a number of traumatic events ranging from sexual abuse to medical trauma that resulted in a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder around the age of 24. This illness greatly reduces one’s quality of life, and is certainly not without consequence in terms of quality rest. I found myself juggling the flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, and nightmares of PTSD, the racing thoughts, pressured speech, and flight of ideas of Bipolar Disorder, and the draining Panic Attacks of Panic Disorder. Add to that a pair of chronic pain conditions and the joys of entering into motherhood myself. Indeed, this is a fine recipe for little to no real actual sleep.

In the beginning I would often self-medicate with alcohol or over the counter sleep supplements such as Unisom. After being diagnosed with a slew of mental health concerns, my psychiatrist found it pertinent to find a way to get me to sleep above all else. By the time I arrived in his office I was getting so little sleep that is was criminal – and it was keeping me sick with paranoia and in the unruly planning stages of deceitful psychosis. Naturally, he prescribed a sleep aid and off I went to dreamland. Still, there is much to be said for the difference between sedation and true natural restoration, not to mention the side effects. A person with mental illness requires more sleep than the average bear because the mind and body are under constant duress. Stress paired with sleep deprivation is a nasty devil which brings sleep to the very top of my self-care list. So, what are the benefits of sleep?

VeryWellHealth writes,

In the past, sleep was often ignored by doctors and surrounded by myths. Now, though, we are beginning to understand the importance of sleep to overall health and well-being. We’ve learned, for example, that when people get less than 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night, they are at a greater risk of developing diseases.

All the more reason to get some sleep, right? Here are 10 reasons why you should call it an early night.

1.) Sleep Keeps Your Heart Healthy

2.) Sleep May Help Prevent Cancer

3.) Sleep Reduces Stress

4.) Sleep Reduces Inflammation

5.) Sleep Makes You More Alert

6.) Sleep Improves Your Memory

7.) Sleep May Help You Lose Weight

8.) Napping Makes You Smarter

9.) Sleep May Reduce Your Risk of Depression

10.) Sleep Helps the Body Repair Itself

The value of sleep really can not be understated here. As you can see, many of the things on the list above are involved in maintaining a sense of balance to our mental health. Our bodies and minds heal while we sleep, making us less susceptible to illness, mood instability, anxiety or psychosis. Sleep improves cognitive functioning helping us to maintain our wit and humor through out the day. Sleep allows our mind to file our knowledge properly ushering us into greater information retention and planning, not to exclude coping skills and overall physical health.

Over the years I have learned to train myself to keep calm and quiet (even while waking from the gasping tugs of a nightmare) long enough to fall asleep. This way, even if I do not lose consciousness in a timely manner, I am still resting my body. I utilize bubble baths, essential oils, and sleep masks to block out the tiniest of light sources. I try to keep a routine, but I’m not very good at it. I avoid eating before bed, but I’m not very good at that either. I try to yoga more often, but chronic pain has a habit of getting in the way.

The truth is, there are countless reasons to stay awake: meal planning, friends, family, studying, cleaning, children, pets, crisis intervention, intimacy and trying to leave enough time to leisure into our favorite TV show are all just a few things that can knock us out of our sleep patterns. As someone attempting to manage my health in a more holistic way, I can say for certain that quality sleep is the single most important and powerful tool against what ails me.

Maybe it’s time to ask yourself, are you really accomplishing more by staying awake? What helps you get to sleep?

**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!

Mental health

8 Things You Should Never Say to Someone With an Anxiety Disorder

“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.”

~Anais Nin

Dear Readers,

Recently, it has come to my attention that many people in my life do not understand anxiety disorders, and though it may never be intentional, the words I am hearing are hurtful if not altogether incorrect. So, here are the facts both in general, and in relation to my personal experience. Finally, 8 things you should never say to someone with an anxiety disorder.

Did You Know?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

My Diagnoses

Mixed Bipolar Disorder

-Mixed features refers to the presence of high and low symptoms occurring at the same time, or as part of a single episode, in people experiencing an episode of mania or depression (which may or may not include psychosis). In most forms of bipolar disorder, moods alternate between elevated and depressed over time. A person with mixed features experiences symptoms of both mood “poles” — mania and depression — simultaneously or in rapid sequence.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

-Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), once called shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome, is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. PTSD is a lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. Families of victims can also develop PTSD, as can emergency personnel and rescue workers.

Most people who experience a traumatic event will have reactions that may include shock, flashbacks, anger, nervousness, fear, and even guilt. These reactions are common, and for most people, they go away over time. For a person with PTSD, however, these feelings continue and even increase, becoming so strong that they keep the person from living a normal life. People with PTSD have symptoms for longer than one month and cannot function as well as before the event occurred.

Panic Disorder

-A panic attack is a sudden strong feeling of fear. You’ll have four or more of these signs:

Pounding or fast heartbeat

Sweating

Trembling or shaking

Shortness of breath or a feeling of being smothered

A choking feeling

Chest pain

Nausea or stomach pains

Feeling dizzy or faint

Chills or hot flashes

Numbness or tingling in the body

Feeling unreal or detached

A fear of losing control or going crazy

A fear of dying

An attack usually passes in 5-10 minutes, but it can linger for hours. It can feel like you’re having a heart attack or a stroke. So people with panic attacks often wind up in the emergency room for evaluation.

Agoraphobia

-If left untreated, panic disorder can sometimes lead to agoraphobia, an intense fear of being outside or in enclosed spaces.

It’s not unusual to worry sometimes. But when your fears keep you from getting out into the world, and you avoid places because you think you’ll feel trapped and not be able to get help, you may have agoraphobia.
With agoraphobia, you might worry when you are in:

Public transportation (buses, trains, ships, or planes)

Large, open spaces (parking lots, bridges)

Closed-in spaces (stores, movie theaters)

Crowds or standing in line

Being outside your home alone

You may be willing to go just a handful of places. This cuts down on the chances of panic. You may even dread leaving your house. But the good news is there are treatments that can help.

8 Things You Should Never Say to Someone with a Mental Health Condition

*”You need to relax.”
*”Why?”
*”Get it together.”
*”Get over it.”
*”You need Jesus.”
*”You need medication.”
*”It’s always drama with you.”
*”What’s your problem?”

Sources

Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

**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

PTSD: How to Cope With Body Memories

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Dear Readers,

Someone reached out to me last Spring and asked if I knew anything on the topic of body memories. I didn’t, so I did some digging. What I found was an explanation for staggering bodily sensations that can result from trauma.

Put simply, most people associate memory with the brain. Even though science does not fully back this phenomena just yet, there remains a number of people who describe the debilitating weight of the physical anguish of an emotional or psychological condition. Perhaps most pervasive is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This disorder typically manifests itself after an individual experiences any traumatic event where their fight-or-flight response is provoked such as war-related combat, abuse, sexual assault, mental illness, loss of a loved one, or being close to someone in a traumatic situation. PTSD is characterized by reliving the trauma through flashbacks or memories, avoidance of similar situations or stimuli that may trigger or mimic recollection of the event, nightmares, behavioral changes, mood swings, guilt, insomnia, memory loss and isolation.

In some cases, body memories can last despite cognitive memory loss of the traumatic event. Designed to protect us, our bodies can certainly grieve harmful circumstances while our mind simply exits, or dissociates from, the situation. As a result, our ability to be intimate or affectionate with others is highly altered from our typical reactions. Often lacking conscious awareness, our relationships suffer greatly due to the inability to acknowledge or explain what is happening.

PTSD is a condition that I personally live with. In my case, for example, body memories may explain why I have jump reactions to my environment, hyper-peripheral vision, or knee-jerk reflexes when someone is trying to be intimate with me. This has improved through therapeutic practice, trust and logic. However, at its pique, this inability to tolerate touch, louder than reasonable sounds (breaking glass specifically), or even leave the house really took a toll on my partner. It might also explain why we may feel the same way around a certain time each year.

Healthy Place offers more information regarding how to cope with this.

From the above referenced article by Jami Deloe:

“Dealing With Body Memories in PTSD Recovery

There are things that I can do to deal with what my body is feeling (Relieve Symptoms of PTSD: Allow Your Body To Shake). These are the things that help me get through the tough times with body memories in PTSD recovery:

Allow myself to feel the feeling. This isn’t easy. My first inclination when I am feeling a negative emotion is to shut it down, or stuff it away. I’ve learned that denying the emotion isn’t a healthy way to deal with unwanted feelings. Ignoring or avoiding the feelings is like putting a band-aid on a severed limb, it won’t work. The feelings will fester and bubble up until they are properly dealt with. 

Pay special attention to self-care. When I am dealing with any PTSD symptom, I have to remember to take care of myself. This means eating when I’m hungry, sleeping when I’m tired, and doing things that make me feel better. Sometimes just allowing myself to relax and do nothing is what is best for me — the laundry can wait.

Talk to someone about it. While my tendency is to isolate, I know that if I express how I am feeling to someone else, it lessens the power that the negative feelings have over me.

Tell myself the truth. Telling myself the truth is vital. Whether I am having a flashback, body memory, or just thinking about my traumas, I have to remind myself that I have survived and I’m no longer in that situation. It sounds simple, but it is profound in healing from PTSD to remember that no matter how devastating the trauma was, it’s over, and I survived.

Body memories, like every other PTSD symptom, can be healed. It takes a lot of self-awareness, a little bit of willingness and being honest with yourself, but it can be done.”

Do you experience body memories associated with PTSD? Please share your insights in the comment section 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!