chronic pain, Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 60: I’m Tired

“Fatigue is here, in my body, in my legs and eyes. That is what gets you in the end.”
-Margaret Atwood

Dear Readers,

Sometimes getting better means getting worse first. The truth is I have more than I could ever dream of, but my exhaustion remains paralyzing.

When you have mental illness and chronic pain there’s a part of you that cries every time you have to get out of bed, but you do it because you don’t have a choice and no one truly gives a shit. The bills have to be paid regardless of the despair in your gut or the fire in your bones. Fatigue is a powerful and difficult thing. In fact, almost all of my suicidal ideation stems from this sense of overwhelm.

So far, I have found the only way around this is to take it in stride. Most days I feel good about the progress I have made, am making, and will continue to make; some days I buckle at the knees and I’m forced to listen to my body.

I spend weekends in bed because a two-day recovery is my minimum necessity for pain management, and daylight alone literally drains the energy from my soul. On the other hand, being so sensitive has taught me everything I need to know about boundaries and gravity. Be sure to ask yourself exactly what you need in these moments, and don’t dismiss the answer. My body craves solitude for example. The truth is I am a writer, but it still took me years to develop my use of language.

Why is it so difficult to get the fucking words out? Putting my agony into command has always been a challenge, be it physical or psychological. There is very little that really measures up, and I want to get it right. Sitting there from one specialist to the next, my wife squaring her shoulders beside me because she doesn’t know how to protect me from this, watching the dust settle in the afternoon light – I just want to be heard. Just once, I’d love to be taken care of. I don’t have to ask myself how I got here because I already know the answer. All I can do now is hope and pray for competent physicians. So far I have met some wonderful providers, and others who really make you ponder the meaning of the profession. The truth is honesty is always my best policy in life, in love, and in languishing.

I finally got some answers last week, and for that I am grateful. My TENS unit is giving me relief. I am sleeping better, and experiencing wider ranges of mobility – but I still have a lot of work to do. I know because I feel pushed to the brink, and I’m crying easily these days. I have my next doctor’s appointment on Wednesday, and my mind has a way of making something out of nothing; What if steroid injections don’t work? What if spinal decompression makes things worse? What if I’m never fully able to physically rehabilitate? What if the insurance runs out? What if my depression is always treatment resistant? What if I have to apply for disability again? This week my governor declared a state of natural disaster during a global pandemic for a life threatening ice storm approaching Houston, and suddenly his toll reflects my own. People are dying outside. We would all be better off staying home.

When we’re talking about serious fatigue, it makes the really small stuff feel insurmountable. I find myself in a constant state of mental preparation, and it’s not something an afternoon nap will cure. I wish I never would have taken my vitality for granted. It feels like I’m walking through quicksand underwater with weights on my feet. Soon I can’t breathe, and no amount of sleep or wine is enough. When it is time to sleep, I often can’t without a medicinal assist and when I do, nightmares and screaming neighbors persist. Still, sometimes the absence of something teaches us to truly understand its value.

The exhaustion is a visceral reaction to small daily obligation because my energy is redirected to everything it takes to hold my body upright during the day. I know tapered activities and exercise is the best way to combat this, but I must be patient until I get my spine under control. Unfortunately, I can’t tolerate exertion the way I used to. If I were to lean into it now, I run the risk of injuring myself further. In the meantime, hydration, eating well, and bed rest is ushering me through. The truth is being a full-time working mother, wife, and student will have to wait as I learn to balance these demands with self-care. I am learning how to reorganize my life. If you’re somewhere out there in the ether and you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember you’re not alone. The truth is it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to tell about it.

Discuss: When was the last time you cried? How do you cope with clinical fatigue?

**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, Parenting, Relationships

Ugly Truth 50: 4 Ways to Forgive an Abusive Parent

“I also believe that parents, if they love you, will hold you up safely, above their swirling waters, and sometimes that means you’ll never know what they endured, and you may treat them unkindly, in a way you otherwise wouldn’t.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Dear Readers,

I wrote about my parents in a previous post titled, Ugly Truth 45: Life Will Break You. In it, I unveil all of the heartfelt hurt and truth we share, and how I learned to move forward. I used to think parenting was simple. As I grew into my motherhood, however, I learned nothing is more complex than parenting and family dynamics. In general, most of us need to feel we’re loved, we’re accepted as we are, and our parents are proud of us to grow into resilient productive beings. We generalize our own sense of self worth as a result of the treatment we’re given. Furthermore, we are asked simultaneously to discover just who we are apart from that.

In my first year of college I learned about “tabula rasa,” better known as the “Blank Slate Theory” brought forth by an English philosopher named John Locke who expanded on an idea suggested by Aristotle in the fourth century B.C.. Essentially, this theory suggests all children are born as white boards and their parents hold the markers. That is, we are shaped by our environment. While the Blank Slate Theory is half true, I take issue with the fact that it fails to take our autonomy into account. Certainly we are all born with predispositions and temperaments, regardless of our environment. Surly we inherit personality traits, our quickness to anger, and shared interests genetically. Therefore, the answer to the Nature versus Nurture debate is yes. With that being said, it stands to reason why some people cope better as adults while others fall into addiction. Likewise, it explains why some believe abuse and suicide are acceptable while others would never behave in such a manner.

As children, we hope to emulate our caregivers. In adolescence, we’re more likely to judge them when faced with the fact that our belief system may be different from theirs. As adults, we seek to understand and are quicker to offer up compassion, primarily when faced with our own independence and the humbling experience of our own parenthood.

How then does that translate when abuse takes place? Is there something to be gained other than mistrust and resentment by hearing them out? What happens when the confrontation fails to yield accountability or even acknowledgement on their part? Apology remains the most promising way to rebuild a damaged relationship, but more often than not that doesn’t happen. While immensely helpful, the truth is we don’t need an apology to heal because sincere forgiveness remains an equally powerful alternative.

Maya Khamala at Goal Cast offers 4 solutions on how to forgive your abusers when they’re not sorry.

1.) Accept and acknowledge all the reason’s you’re angry – Make peace with what happened, how you feel, and their response to your confrontation should you choose to go that route.

2.) Write a letter – Get it down in writing. You may decide to share it or keep it to yourself.

3.) Get Physical – Exercise helps us better manage emotional distress.

4.) Seek Therapy – Every person on planet earth can benefit from some well spun therapy, especially during experiences that bring trauma to the surface. Don’t be afraid to seek extra support.

If you or someone you love is in a dangerous situation, please see below to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7.

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

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

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

Mental health

Ugly Truth 49: My Strength Will Always Waver

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

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

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

Child Abuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abandonment and Sexual Abuse

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

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

Mental Illness and my First Suicide Attempt

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

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

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

Suicide in the Family

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

Self Injury and Self Medicating

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

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

The Turning Point

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

Medical Trauma and Chronic Pain

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

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

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

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

Identity Crisis and Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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