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!

chronic pain, Mental health

Ugly Truth 62: Proper Diagnosis is a Long Hard Road

“Calling it lunacy makes it easier to explain away the things we don’t understand.”

-Megan Chance, The Spiritualist

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to Deskraven, your mental health forum. If you’re looking for a vehicle to elevate your voice, please email me at Contact@Deskraven.com!

I don’t know when this blog shifted from topics of mental illness to chronic pain, but I’ve been going through my diagnosis process for the better part of five years. The truth is chronic pain and physical illness can have a profound impact on your mental health.

To recap, in 2017 I became unable to work for four months and applied for disability. I was denied, and had no choice but to reduce my level of functionality from very active roles to a desk job. At that time we thought my pain was related to a car accident that took place in 2015. Last year my leg pain worsened and my ankles swelled up. I was hospitalized for two days where we ruled out neurological conditions and autoimmune disorders.

After seeing a chiropractor and receiving a lumbar region MRI it was discovered that I have a 2mm L5/S1 disc herniation, mild spinal stenosis, and early signs of arthritis. Shortly after I was referred for epidural spinal injections. When I met with my pain management doctor, he started me on Gabapentin to assist with nerve pain and scheduled a nerve conduction study also known as an EMG (see previous post). This test came back unremarkable.

At my follow up appointment this week my pain management doctor pointed out that none of my test results so far explain my pain levels. With that said, he referred me to an OBGYN for a pelvic exam to asses for endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue grows on the outside of the uterus and nearby organ systems. Every month, the tissue swells and sheds on the inside of the uterus leaving the body in what we know to be the female menstrual cycle. With endometriosis, the tissue behaves the same way, swelling and shedding, although because it is outside the uterus it has no where to go resulting in internal bleeding, scar tissue, and immeasurable pain said to be worse than child birth. This condition creates lasting damage and health concerns as the body attempts to cope with the strain of chronic pain, incorrect autoimmune responses, nerve damage, hormonal imbalances, infertility, and digestive troubles. Aside from severe chronic pain, women often report fatigue, headaches, pain during sex, and mood swings that significantly interfere with their ability to function, participate in social activity, or maintain a quality of life. No two cases are exactly the same, and women’s health continues to be a pressing stigmatized issue.

There are four stages of endometriosis depending on the severity and depth of tissue damage. Some women may be in stage one and experience debilitating pain. Others may be in stage four and have no symptoms at all. Surgery is almost always required and may result in anything ranging from laparoscopic procedures to a full hysterectomy. Endometriosis never completely goes away, and must be monitored through out a woman’s life to assess the need for additional surgery. Treatment options also include pain management, pelvic floor physical therapy, and hormone therapy.

I meet my OBGYN on the 31st. My pain management doctor added Cymbalta to my Gabapentin in the mean time. I follow up with him in two months. I have mixed feelings, but I’ll try anything.

I’m in pain everyday. It is tearfully worse around my unmanageable monthly cycles and I do have a history of cesarean surgery. My pain is localized in my lower back, hips, pelvis and shoots down into my legs with what feels like warm stabbing nerve compression and muscle spasms. I feel tingling on the top of my feet. The right side of my body hurts more than the left which consistently throws off my balance. I have trouble walking, standing, driving, sleeping and can not tolerate exercise at this point. I also have a history of migraine, vertigo, mood instability, and my mobility has dramatically decreased.

It stands to reason that I would assume this was a spinal injury, but I’ve been taken down another road entirely. I experienced improper diagnosis and treatment as a teen sequestered in the psychiatric wing of a local hospital as well. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I was correctly diagnosed with the mental health conditions I manage now. I am now 31 and there’s a real possibility that I have been experiencing endometriosis for the past ten years masquerading as something else.

The truth is you can think you know what’s wrong with you and it can be something you never suspected – or – more than one thing. I have had to contact my physicians to confirm prescriptions have been ordered and amend my medical records. I have had to do extensive research of my own, and seek second and third opinions. The truth is we expect doctors to know it all, but they don’t. The truth is doctors make mistakes. It’s so important to advocate for yourself in the medical setting and work as a team. Working with mental health conditions and psychiatrists is no different. I’ve been doing well for a long period of time, but I’m considering returning to therapy.

In some cases 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 can not 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.

Discuss: Have you ever been misdiagnosed or the subject of a medical mystery? 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!

chronic pain, Lifestyle, Mental health, recovery

Ugly Truth 59: Chronic Pain Will Teach You Everything You Need to Know About Yourself

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” -Kahlil Gibran

Dear Readers,

At Deskraven we believe in the collaborative approach that connects those in need with meaningful content and the voice no one else will give them. For more information on how to write for the Deskraven blog or connect with resources on addiction, depression, and suicide prevention – please scroll to the bottom of this post. I encourage you all to participate in the comments section below so we can continue to dialogue on these very important topics.

The truth is I should be doing my homework right now, but I have so much to say. Last week marked the beginning of the end of a very long road. If you know me personally or have been a dedicated Deskraven reader, then you know I am not shy about sharing my diagnoses with my readers. This is because I believe in assigning pain a function so that our suffering may not be in vain. This, emboldened by the power of community, has offered me a great deal of meaningful processing and the subsequent healing that follows. The mission now is to return that information back to the masses.

That being said, I live with Mixed Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and Panic Disorder w/ Agoraphobia. I have many posts archived on all of these disorders if you care to learn more specifically about how these can impact your life. For now, I will be concise.

In short, Mixed Bipolar Disorder is characterized by disorienting mood swings and behavioral changes that often result in significant social and professional consequences. Mixed episodes are unique in that in contrast to Type 1 or Type 2 Bipolar Disorder, Mixed Bipolar Disorder consists of both highs (mania) and lows (depression) simultaneously. This is considered significant because people who experience mixed episodes are at a greater risk of suicide due to the impulsive energy mania provides while also being in a state of depression. This presents differently for each sufferer, but in general I experience a great deal of grief and agitation that can range anywhere from clinical sadness to full blown psychosis if I am not careful to force feed myself self-care and the power of saying, “No.”

Similarly, PTSD is characterized by mood instability, sleep disturbances, and a false sense of reality brought on by trauma. Trauma consists of experiencing something life threatening such as war, relationship abuse, addiction, mental illness, an auto accident, a chronic illness, medical trauma, an untimely death, a sexual assault, etc. – or watching someone we love experience these things. Trauma is relative so what may be traumatizing for you may not be for someone else, or vice versa. Most people who experience these types of life disturbances experience a period of profound grief. Often with the help of a professional counselor or spiritual teacher, we are able to move through, process, and release trauma in a way that both honors our suffering, and releases us from our entanglement to the traumatic event. This allows us to move forward with little to no lasting impact on our mental health. Individuals who become stuck or stagnant in this process develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Finally, Panic Disorder is characterized by panic attacks, the sensation that you will in fact die at any second, physical manifestations of fear including shaking and hyperventilation, and the fear of their inevitable return – usually in public. As you can see, this disorder is incredibly cyclic and self-perpetuating. The good news is this also makes it one of the most treatable mental health conditions. Agoraphobia is often the product of Panic Disorder in that this experience triggers pathologized avoidance of public, wide open spaces, crowds, and any location that may produce the inability to escape to the point that it becomes a clinical phobia that interferes with your quality of life or your ability to leave your home.

For some reason my soul decided that the above conditions resulting in two in-patient psychiatric hospitalizations would not suffice for one lifetime. So, in addition I also experienced a car accident in 2015 that ultimately lead to me developing physical chronic pain. Subsequently, I had several other injuries over the years, including a concussion, but believe this incident to be the most significant. What I should have done was seek treatment from the Orthopedic Surgeon and Physical Therapist I was referred to, and made the person who hit me pay for it. Instead, in my stubborn naiveté, I accepted a $1200 settlement and never went to the doctor. For the first couple of years I had aches and pains, but in general I remained very active and physically fit. Sometime in 2017 my injury worsened.

Suddenly, I found myself collapsing at the side of my bed when attempting to stand up. I found I could no longer tolerate my yoga practice because the nerve pain was excruciating. I could no longer enjoy being active in nature or playing with my son. I experienced neurological symptoms and nearly lost consciousness. My posture began to suffer and I developed difficulty walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, driving…existing. No matter what I did I couldn’t get comfortable. The pain was constant, burning, and sharp; localized in my lower back, shooting into my hip joints, and down into my lower extremities. I experienced inflammation, pins and needles, numbness, muscle spasms and migraines. At the height of this I found myself completely unable to work, slowly losing everything I had worked so hard for, and applying for long-term disability before the age of 30. Countless ER visits, a bajillion CAT scans, innumerable blood draws, and one grueling in-patient hospitalization later we were able to rule out life threatening neurological conditions and auto-immune disorders.

Last week I met with a Spine Specialist and received the MRI I have been seeking for years. Finally, I got some answers: L5/S1 central disc herniation and a narrowing of the spine, sometimes referred to as Spinal Stenosis. In light of these results my doctor referred me for various types of treatment including chiropractic adjustments, a 20-session spinal decompression program, and pain management including spinal steroid injections with the end goal being complete physical rehabilitation. Fortunately, he believes I am not a candidate for surgery at this time. He is also considering additional MRIs as he has seen in his practice a neck injury masquerading as lumbar pain.

After some discourse and the types of answers that only yield more questions, we decided the best course of action would be to get a second opinion before we commit to a decision and begin pain management. Currently, I am spending 2-3 days a week in doctor’s offices, receiving chiropractic treatment, alternating between hot showers and ice packs, consuming copious amounts of ibuprofen, altering my lifestyle as much as I can tolerate, and spending 30-40 minutes a day hooked up to a TENS unit at home with the help of my beautiful wife.

The more doctors you meet the more you realize why medicine is considered a practice. No one really has all the answers. It becomes paramount to advocate for yourself in the medical setting, and to work together to find the best course of treatment for you. Finding a good doctor or therapist is a lot like dating. Chronic pain is not that different from psychological anguish. The outcome is the same, and sometimes it takes time to find the right provider.

Somewhere I read that ruin is a gift life gives us because it is only in the dismantling that we are able to transcend our suffering. In this light, I have come to appreciate my white-knuckling desperation as an indication of teaching, as well as the not so gentle push from my loving wife to seek treatment. Perhaps the key to becoming a true patient is to simply not engage in resistance, the same way mental health recovery means not resisting the good that is being offered to you even though you’ve been told your whole life that you don’t deserve it. It’s okay to feel how you feel, so long as you’re willing to do something about it. The truth is I am as stubborn as they come, however, this trait will never serve me unless I learn how to shift resistance into determination.

Humility has been my calling to self-development and recovery my calling to life. Similar to the way a flower manages to bloom between the cracks in a sidewalk, at some point you learn that overcoming suffering is a choice. I know this experience is going to teach me exactly what I’m made of because the only way out is through. This resilience is revelatory coming from someone who previously held no sense of self-preservation. I say that to say this: Do not ignore your pain in whatever form it takes. Address it.

Healing is not only for you, but for those who love you, and refuse to stand idly by while you concede to what your life has become. The truth is that despite every obstacle you have faced, you do not have to accept victimization or enabling on your path to wellness. The truth is you can decide to take accountability, to change, and to do whatever it takes to reclaim your quality of life. I know there will be days of purposeful set-backs. Sometimes I make progress. Sometimes I cry and the chores don’t get done. Still, I can see myself on the other side of this, and I can’t wait to give my wife the partner she deserves.

Discuss: How has chronic pain impacted your life and mental health?

**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 56: Navigating Spiritual Trauma

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
― Fred Rogers

Good Morning Dear Readers,

Have you ever had a rage dream you were so sure was real? Last night I dreamt of many combative arguments with various friends and family members that involved me insisting they remove themselves from my immediate surrounding. Filled with overwhelming anger and four letter words, I recognized their hurt and betrayal regarding memories of my own that have taken place in real life, and confronted it head on from a position of strength rather than victimization. In my heartfelt conviction I felt vulnerable but strong. Upon waking I was pouring sweat and my heart was pounding with the residual anger. Still, I found solace in the fact that my nightmare remained largely advantageous as it afforded me the opportunity to examine the boundaries my mind implied to better serve me. It was clear to me that despite the intense level of emotion I was experiencing, I was validating my suffering and laying the groundwork to disallow that harmful energy to harness my better self. The more I dig into soul development and trauma work, the more I realize that despite the progress I have achieved there is so much more to unpack. That being said, I have been known to get in my own way as my peace keeping nature drives me to avoid conflict. While mostly favorable, this has no doubt extended my grieving process over the years. I have found that each time I seek to start the conversation and find resolution, it quickly becomes too painful and I pull back. The truth is there are some things I am not yet ready to unravel, and that’s okay.

In a Podcast entitled “Raw Spirituality,” hosted by Alyssa Malehorn and her partner Zack Fuentes, I have gained a plethora of knowledge about the spiritual realm from a New Age perspective. In many instances I disagree with their findings as I frequently find holes in their logic, but for the most part their insight has been very healing and third eye opening. In episode 16 they discuss Soul Fragmentation & Reunification. It is the concept that by acknowledging the traumatic events we endure, we notice that we leave pieces of our soul behind with each negative encounter leading to a fragmented sense of self. The solution then is to recall that energy back to yourself in order to heal and reunify the soul. This creates the space needed to process, grieve, and release our anguish leading to a more reliable integration. It doesn’t take a believer to see how this type of philosophy has a lot to offer us all. If nothing else, it teaches us to sit with and tolerate our grief rather than avoid it. In general, those who face trauma work head on are typically more successful at processing in the long run compared to those who consistently victimize, deny, or distract themselves from it. I know this from personal experience. These spiritual teachings support the idea that self responsibility and psychological barbwire are not synonymous, however, if you find yourself coming up against fear or resistance during this phase, you may require additional support such as that of a therapist to move forward.

Psychologists have long explored the role of dream states as they relate to processing trauma since nightmares remain a hallmark symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Our mind utilizes dream states to relive and process trauma whether we’re ready for it or not. Understandably, this can lead to a multitude of consequences related to emotional distress and disordered sleep. In an article entitled “How to Manage Trauma-Related Nightmares,” The Psychology Group offers up some additional solutions:

Typically, the first step is addressing the cause of the nightmares (in this case, PTSD).

There are evidence-based treatments for trauma or PTSD that are known to be very effective in reducing symptoms. An individual evaluation would be important to address if medication is necessary and to rule out any health risks.

If trauma-related nightmares persist, here are specific evidence-based treatments to address them:

  • Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) and
  • Exposure, rescripting, and relaxation therapy (ERRT).

These treatments share some basic aspects like visual imagery (visualizing a scene or activity in your mind) and nightmare rescripting.

Here is an example of how visual imagery and nightmare rescripting work:

  • Think about a nightmare that comes up frequently

(Where are you? What is happening? Who is present?)

  • What are you feeling? (during the nightmare and when you wake up)
  • How would you like to feel instead?
  • How would the story need to change to feel this way?

It’s hard to convey the nuances in this technique. A trained therapist can help you further by teaching you the specific strategies to rescript the nightmares properly (to address the last two points).

Although individual treatment is very powerful in managing trauma-based nightmares, there are skills that you can try yourself. Such as grounding, and relaxation or breathing exercises.

Grounding techniques are helpful to distract or temporarily get some distance from the distress caused by nightmares by focusing on the present moment.

First, be sure to completely wake up after having a nightmare. The idea is to help you get oriented in the here and now and to re-establish your sense of safety before you go back to sleep.

Tip: it is useful to have a nightlight or a lamp near your bedside to aid you in getting oriented in the present moment

After waking up, begin this grounding technique.

It’s all about your senses. Focus on:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can feel
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

If you need a little more help, you can follow a grounding technique with a simple breathing exercise.

Over the years, self control and grounding techniques (sometimes with a medicinal assist) have been the most beneficial to me. Likewise, I completely avoid horror movies and dark themes of spirituality to see to it that my mind has less invention to leap from. At the peak of my suffering my nightmares would trigger panic attacks, insomnia, and vodka consumption at 9am before I learned how to better manage them. As dreaming remains an unconscious activity, it is paramount to ground yourself in the present moment as described above and stay calm. This is often easier said than done, however, with practice it will become easier to pluck yourself from a frightening dream state and place yourself back in the physical world long enough to process the heart of the trauma. Over time, this will lead to a decrease in the intensity and frequency of your nightmares.

Discuss: What have your dreams taught you as it relates to trauma work?

See below for more Deskraven posts on the topic of PTSD and nightmares:

Ugly Truth 46: June is PTSD Awareness Month!

Ugly Truth 36: Insomnia & Nightmare Exacerbate Depression

Ugly Truth 21: The Hidden Symptoms of PTSD

17 Ways to Cope With PTSD Nightmares

PTSD: How to Cope With Body Memories

**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 53: I Took a Mental Health Day This Week

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.” – Joubert Botha

Good Morning Forum,

Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog, where I aim to lay bare 100 ugly truths about my mental health journey.

If you’ve read this far, then you know I live with Mixed Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia on a consistent basis. Of these, the Bipolar Disorder appears to be the most pervasive and problematic lately. Bipolar Disorder is a progressive life-long illness. That is, it never goes away and in fact, the longer you go without treatment – the worse your episodes become over time.

Episodes of Bipolar Mania and Depression have the potential to cause lasting damage to the learning and memory systems found in the brain. For some of us, Bipolar Disorder also has the potential to become the source of PTSD as a secondary diagnosis, as the episodic nature of Bipolar Disorder can provoke traumatizing psychological experiences and catastrophic social consequences. For me personally, PTSD stems from multiple traumatizing events related to mental illness, abuse, abandonment, suicide, and medical trauma.

The stress of Bipolar Disorder often triggers my underlying anxiety into full blown Panic Disorder, a mental health condition characterized by reoccurring panic attacks. A Panic Attack is a surge of intense fear with severe physical symptoms resulting from perceived danger in the absence of an actual threat, and the fear of their imminent return. It is not uncommon to feel as though you are having a heart attack or dying, often resulting in a visit to the ER. The fear perpetuates the physical response, and the physical response feeds into the fear. I am fortunate to say I haven’t had a significant panic attack in sometime, although last week I could feel those old familiar pains bubbling underneath.

Paired with my deeply introverted nature, it suddenly became blatantly obvious how these things are connected, and why I feel no need to leave the house due to a general fear of people, the inability to escape, and/or wide open spaces that leave me susceptible to harm or humiliation, better known as Agoraphobia.

I could see the crash coming, but there was little I could do to stop it. I could see myself soaring high above my normal energy and productivity levels in the weeks prior. I found myself sleeping and eating less, talking, reading, and writing with frenetic energy, boasting long term goals in the grand scheme of things, and just generally acting outside my character. I was in a Mixed episode.

If you’ve ever been in a Mixed episode yourself, then you know how quickly euphoria can turn to dangerous agitation, motivation to listlessness, and paranoia to psychosis. In the worst case scenario, you may ultimately be faced with suicidal ideation while you try to exist in a psychological space that shares symptoms of both Mania and Depression simultaneously. Most people associate Bipolar Disorder with swinging between the two mood states, but the truth is everyone with this disorder is different, and patterns of mood and behavior tend to be more cyclic than previously thought.

In the aftermath of a Mixed Episode, it is not unusual for people with Bipolar Disorder to describe the sensation of a Depression crash. That is, the emotional fallout that takes place after an episode of Mixed Bipolar or Bipolar Mania. Indeed, what goes up must come down. You may see changes in you or your loved ones. This can last days or weeks, and generally consists of feelings of disconnection, stress, worthlessness, complete exhaustion, and changes in behavior or routines as you come to grips with what you may have just experienced. Suddenly, you may find yourself rooted back in a reality that doesn’t seem to glow as bright. Perhaps you’re even pushing through denial to understand that your mind works differently.

As I continued to soar, I knew the landing would be anything but gentle. Being that I am currently unmedicated, I had no choice but to ride the wave, and pray my insight would keep me as grounded as possible.

By the second week I found myself unable to breathe or sleep effectively, and was toppling into relentless crying spells. All I wanted to do was eat and sleep. I was juggling mental health symptoms, chronic pain, work, school, motherhood, cold-like symptoms in the era of Covid, and had started my menstrual cycle (which is uniquely debilitating for me, but that’s a story for another day.) I felt increasingly overwhelmed by the demands of what it means to function, and soon the day came where I couldn’t get out of bed at all. With the support of my incredible girlfriend, I called into work and took a mental health day. Once the feelings of guilt and insecurity passed, I was instantly humbled by the notion that sometimes mental illness demands self-care take precedence over earthly obligation.

That evening, my sweet girl returned to me and poured into me the healing of good company, validation, and heartfelt conversation. She was so lovingly reassuring, always seeking to provide whatever it is I need, and the blessing was not lost on me. The next day, I began the task of pulling myself out of the clinical Depression that followed. Through it all, the most important thing to me will always be my family, and the due diligence I feel to spare them pain, treat them well, and lift them up – especially when I am drowning. One of my greatest challenges throughout my mental health treatment has been asking for help when I need it. Don’t let it be yours.

If you don’t make your mental health a priority – it has the potential to do it for you. You may feel deeply concerned about the repercussions of taking a mental health day. However, if you don’t listen to the limitations of your mind and body, you may find there is no ambition, family, or hobby to return to. In some cases, the risk may outweigh the benefit of pushing through.

My day of rest allowed me to relax and regroup, although it would be a few more days before I was able to fully regain my footing and move forward. I am slowly beginning to return to myself after the fallout, and putting things in place to return to my psychiatrist just as soon as I am able. Despite my uncertainty, the world went on spinning, and my job was there waiting for me the next day. The truth is, we must make time for our wellness free from shame and stigma, primarily when the consequences of not doing so become so much greater.

Discuss: Have you ever taken a mental health day? Did it help or hurt your circumstances? Did you receive support? Share what you learned 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!