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!

Blogging, Mental health

Provider Tales: Deskraven Welcomes Special Guest Randy Withers, LCMHC!

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view.”
– Henry Ford

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog where I tackle the ugly truths of mental health as it relates to parenting and relationships – and what you can do about them. If you’ve been a reader for some time, then you know my writing style consists of pairing comprehensive mental health articles with personal insight and resources. Having held the spotlight for two years to find my own healing, I am now more eager then ever to offer up the Deskraven platform to hear your stories, as well as those of mental health providers. My hope is that we can continue to serve each other and our mental health community by sharing our stories and normalizing mental health language.

In this new series I will be sharing Reader Tales and Provider Tales on behalf of anyone who wants to participate. If you’re interested in sharing your mental health story in confidence, or know someone who is, please email me at contact@deskraven.com to find out how it works! As we move forward together, you will notice an interview template with the intention of readability. These questions may change or evolve over time.

Without further adieu, I give you Randy Withers, LCMHC! Earlier this year my good friend and colleague reached out to tell me the Deskraven Blog wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. He gave me the opportunity to write for his project, Blunt-Therapy, a blog about mental health, addiction, counseling, and relationships – edited by a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. I could think of no greater advisor in the same vein of mental health writing so I jumped at the offer. You can check out our first collaboration, “5 Ways You Can Help the LGBTQ+ Community Fight Stigma”, available on Blunt-Therapy.com.

This time, the tables have turned and Mr. Withers has graced the Deskraven audience with his invaluable wisdom! In addition to being the Managing Editor for Blunt-Therapy.com, Randy boasts a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Education. He is recognized as a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC). Furthermore, he is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist (LCAS) who has done extensive work with LGBTQ+ clients and survivors of various types of abuse.

THE INTERVIEW

Provide a little backstory. Who are you? Where are you from? What inspired you to enter the mental health profession?

My name is Randy Withers, LCMHC. I’m a licensed therapist in North Carolina, where I work at a state psychiatric facility and see clients in private practice. I am also the managing editor of Blunt Therapy, a blog about mental health. I am originally from Florida, where I worked as an educator for over a decade. For most of that career, I was an academic advisor and counselor, which is where I learned that mental health counseling was my true passion. I went back to school in 2011 and have been in the field ever since. I went to Florida State and I have a dog named Daisy, who is smarter than I am.

Have you ever experienced mental health struggles in your personal life?

I have battled depression and anxiety for more than 25 years. If I’m honest, probably since I was a small child. I’ve never felt comfortable around other people. I’ve always felt different. The problem grew worse as I got older. It led to a severe case of depression about 12 years ago, which almost killed me. So yes, you could say that I have experienced mental health struggles.

As a provider, what do you consider to be the most important aspect of mental health treatment?

I’m a big advocate of a holistic approach to mental health. I don’t really believe that any one thing is most important. Having said that, for obvious reasons I’m a huge proponent of good therapy. Often, people have no idea where to start the process of managing their mental illness. A good therapist provides direction, accountability, and most importantly – hope.

Mental health treatment usually requires a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Most importantly, it requires that the client accept responsibility for their situation and for them to be willing to do whatever it takes to tackle it.

As a provider, what challenges have you faced?

Graduate school was intense. It was a three-year program and quite demanding. But I was well-trained, so it was worth it. My biggest challenge personally has been working at various agencies with people in charge who have no business making clinical decisions. In North Carolina, you don’t have to be a doctor or a therapist to own a mental health agency. Most of these places are profit-driven and run by incompetent fools. Thankfully, I work at a hospital now that is well-run and well-managed by talented clinicians. And so is my private practice. It is, quite simply, the difference between night and day.

Many therapists struggle with issues related to boundaries. They get too emotionally invested in their clients, or they work too much, or they get burnt out. Thankfully, I’ve never really struggled with that. At least, not for a while. Good boundaries are essential for mental health.

As a provider, what would you consider your greatest accomplishment?

This is a hard question. Often, you don’t really know how effective you are. Therapy is like pouring wet concrete. It takes a long time to dry, and often you’re not there to see the finished product. I suppose if I had to focus on specific accomplishments – I have prevented a handful of suicides and even homicides by talking some clients off the proverbial ledge. One time I even took a handgun from someone. I used to work at agencies that liaised with Child Protective Services, so I can also say that I was able to protect a number of children from abuse and neglect.

Have you ever experienced stigma as a direct result of being a mental health provider? How did you react?

I wouldn’t say stigma. It’s not exactly that. But being a therapist is an inherently isolating field. You are a keeper of secrets and a witness to extreme trauma. It’s hard to shut that off sometimes. Truthfully, the biggest problem I’ve faced is in the dating world. I’d say about half of the women I’ve dated simply could not separate my career from me as a person. In fact, several months ago while on a first date, my date spent the better part of 90 minutes telling me all about her childhood trauma and her awful mother. Not exactly first date material. I have a policy of politeness and compliance, so I listened and tried to be helpful. But you can’t really move forward after something like that.

Fortunately, my current girlfriend is a psychiatric nurse and couldn’t care less about what I do for a living. It’s really nice.

What piece of advice would give to those suffering from a dual diagnosis?

That you can’t treat one without the other. Does an alcoholic drink because they are depressed or are they depressed because they drink? Doesn’t matter. You’ve got to stop drinking and treat the depression. You have to conceptualize the problem as an actual medical illness, because it is. It is chronic, unforgiving, and requires a lifetime of support and management. But I’d also say that you can have hope. I’m dually diagnosed and my quality of life is pretty high.

What piece of advice would you give to friends and family who want to support someone with a mental health condition?

The problem with friends and family is that they want to fix things that they don’t understand. I remember, for example, my mom telling me to look on the bright side of things when I was clinically depressed. That’s just not helpful. My advice? If you want to be helpful, start by learning all you can about whatever disorder it is that your loved one struggles with.

What are your favorite mental health resources?

I’m a huge proponent of two seemingly different things. The first is CBT. The second is 12-Step programs. Both of which share the same goal, which is to help people change the way they think about things. So, for me, the recovery community is a huge resource. For the CBT, I really like worksheets. You can get these on sites like TherapistAid.com or you can order workbooks off Amazon. However, these really should be done under the supervision of a mental health professional.

I also believe in online counseling, but it depends on the issue. Severe mental illness? No. Relationships, self-esteem, goal setting, etc. Absolutely, yes.

I would encourage you all to visit Blunt Therapy, which is my blog. I and about two dozen other writers focus on topics related to mental health, therapy, addictions, and parenting. We’ve got some good stuff.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Medium.

Discuss: Did Randy’s words resonate with you? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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

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

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

Mental health, News

Ugly Truth 40: What it Really Feels Like to be Tested for Covid-19

FILE – In this Wednesday, March 25, 2020 file photo, medical personnel are silhouetted against the back of a tent before the start of coronavirus testing in the parking lot outside of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. As cases skyrocket in the U.S. and Europe, it’s becoming more clear that how healthy you were before the pandemic began plays a key role in how you fare regardless of how old you are. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Dear Readers,

It began with a slight feeling of unease. Progressively, I began to feel worse with symptoms of dizziness, body aches, nausea, extreme fatigue, sore throat and lower ear pain. Like most young people, I dismissed all the early warning signs as hay fever or some lesser form of a more common illness. After all, I was taking all of the sanitation precautions, and I wasn’t experiencing any coughing or shortness of breath. Surly, my overactive imagination was at it again with its wild inventions of what-if. It wasn’t until a sustainable low-grade fever arrived that I realized something may be wrong.

At the discretion of my employer it was imposed on me that I get tested for Covid-19, also known as the Corona Virus. If you have had access to any living breathing news source or conversational human being in the past three months then you are more than well informed on the state of things. As if our generation has not endured enough, we are now faced with the harsh realities of a full blown pandemic.

With the help of my girlfriend (who recently proposed to me! :D), I located an Online Screening Tool which is designed to assess your level of risk. If you are considered at risk, the system provides you with a Screening ID code and a number to call. For those of us in Harris County Texas that phone number is 713-814-4501. Do expect extended wait times. It took me a minimum of two 40 minute intervals waiting on hold to reach someone. During this call you will be screened again, and provided with a Screening ID that may be the same or different from your original code. If the representative deems you are at risk and/or an at-will participant they will direct you to the nearest testing site by providing a time and location. They also ask that you not eat anything before your test. Water is okay. Keep in mind the Screening ID is good for one day only. If you decide not to use it to visit a testing site that very day, you will need to pre-screen yourself again and obtain a new code. While many locations are now open to the public, you still require pre-approval, an appointed time, and a location. If you do not meet criteria but still want to be tested, you may need a doctor’s recommendation. Please do not just show up to one of these drive-thru sites and expect to be seen.

Next, my pre-screener told me to write my Screening ID on a legible piece of paper and place it on the dash board of my vehicle. She stated I was free to travel to the testing site after we hung up. Have your ID ready (a Driver’s License will suffice) and for the love of God, DO NOT ROLL DOWN YOUR WINDOW until the third and final check point when instructed to do so. Expect high security, low contact, and some confusion.

*You must TRAVEL ALONE and/or each passenger in the car MUST HAVE THEIR OWN SCREENING ID.*

My testing site was a 20 minute drive to Legacy Stadium in Katy, TX. The testing site itself is fairly obvious, however, finding the entrance point may require some reading and sign following – which you can expect more of for the duration of this process. Upon arrival, I passed several police vehicles, read the signs, and followed the arrows zig-zagging my way across the roped off parking lot to my first check-point. The first masked lady approached my car and leaned forward to speak to me through my driver side window. Your natural instinct will be to roll down your window. DON’T DO IT. She confirmed my Screening ID, time of arrival, and instructed me to scan a QR Code for further instruction. I have an Android device so I was unable to complete this step, however, it is not terribly important. She advised I write my phone number down next to my Screening ID, place my Driver’s License on my dash board, and turn on my hazard lights before waving me through to the next check-point.

Next, there was an instructional video on display demonstrating the self-swab process. Be mindful of where you get your information from because I promise you this part was not as scary as the media made it sound. If you have ever had a true nasal swab before, then you know the only thing more miserable is strep throat itself. Rest assured, these tests can be self-administered and are painless. During this time, the second masked man approached my car with a checklist. He asked me if I was experiencing an emergency, if I was “okay”, and if I had enough gas to idle in line a while. I gave him the thumbs up to which he responded with the a-okay hand gesture and returned to his post. The Texas Search and Rescue team was there to direct traffic and identify stopping points. I waited less than five minutes for the cars ahead of me before pulling forward. A pair of women emerged from the tent to my left in protective gear. They leaned over my windshield to collect the information on my dash board, confirmed my identity, and completed the registration process before walking away again. Upon their return they placed a biohazard labeled testing kit under my left windshield wiper, and nodded at me in approval before waving me through to the third and final check-point.

Finally, I arrived at the actual testing site after watching another instructional video on how to administer this test while maintaining proper distance. I was told to roll down my window, reach into the bucket on the table, open the swab, and break off the top. Using a combination of yelling and gesturing to make up for the 6 feet of distance and masked muffling, my instructors walked me through removing the informational pages to keep for my future reference, placing the swab into my left nostril, swirling it around and leaving it in place for 15 seconds. I was then instructed to repeat this on the right side of my nose, place the swab in a liquid-filled vile, replace the cap, and place the kit along with the trash back into the bucket on the table – all without never leaving my vehicle. One woman then told me to expect a call in 3 to 5 business days from one of two labs with the results, and waved me on my merry way.

Ultimately, the entire process took maybe 20 minutes beginning to end. While the experience of it seems surreal and cinematic, there were no extended wait times and the only true hardship I had was coping with my own anxiety.

My hope is that this post will save you from the hassle I faced in obtaining this information should you find yourself being asked to get tested for Covid-19. In the meantime, please maintain proper sanitation practices, social distancing, and common sense.

Update: My test results came back negative, however, I remain in quarantine due to unresolved symptoms at this time.

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

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

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

Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 30: Today My Son Was Diagnosed

Dear Readers, Today, I fell to tears on my way home from work after a losing sleep battle at 5am, chronic pain, and the challenge of another trying day for my son. Today, Zachary was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Today, I grieve for my son; for the way things will always be harder for him, for the way he can not yet apply insight toward his behavior, for the friends and caregivers who will misunderstand him and unwittingly make things worse, for the way he covers his ears when noises are too loud, for the way his IQ soars but his social life suffers, for the way I fiercely attempt to guard his self-esteem, for the way I fear I wont be vigilant enough, for those who will and do pressure us into difficult decisions, for the way he severely grapples to regulate his emotions, for the songs he sings that so many will mishear, for the constant redirection of a conformist society, for the way his intelligence will always lend itself to his awareness that he is different. If you don’t believe in these diagnoses, do me a favor and keep your opinion to yourself. I can assure you our pain as a family is very real, but it is not unattended. Zachary has received hundreds of hours of counseling, various therapies, behavior intervention plans, the benefits of countless round table committee meetings by his cheerleaders, and accommodations as his progression and challenges fluctuate. For now, I will have to rest in the years of education and instinct I have invested in. I will have to rest in the competence of the team, physicians, teachers and loving family that surround him. For now, I will have to rest in the knowledge that even when I am imperfect, I am enough. Final Summation: The ability to comfort yourself is invaluable. **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 018: The Wisdom in Letting Go

“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.” Deborah Reber
Dear Readers,
Perhaps the most important thing we can learn from maturity is that grief alone is not reason enough to take action. Often times we feel overwhelmed by loss, stricken by sadness, or consumed by longing for a past lover, friendship, idea, or goal. However, just because we feel something doesn’t mean we should do something. Perhaps one of the greatest hallmarks of maturity is understanding the difference between feelings and actions. Perhaps acceptance indicates growth, especially when things do not go in your favor. In a previous post I wrote about one of the greatest love affairs of my life that just so happened to be with a woman. I haven’t seen or truly spoken to her in years, and yet every so often I find myself dreaming of her. When this happens I experience a stressful influx of grief. It is not unusual for me to spend the following day or two in a puddle of nostalgia and bittersweet tears, ruminating and revisiting old correspondence. It is not uncommon for me to reach out to her and to try desperately to mend the silence once more, begging to rebuild for the umpteenth time. The truth is as much as I miss her, I admire her for staying away. Like a moth to a flame I just never wanted to give up on her. Perhaps because our relationship was deeply fruitful and unique. Perhaps because we shared countless interests, hours of laughter, movies and entirely too much chocolate. Perhaps because her friendship circle became my own and so my loss was greater. Perhaps because she challenged and loved me simultaneously. Perhaps because I finally found the accountability she had been screaming at me to take for all those years, and I wanted to show her. Perhaps because she always made me laugh. Despite our ability to turn a perfectly good ladies night into a verbal anger match, no one could ever understand me quite like she did. Perhaps no one ever will – and I’m learning that that’s okay. Acceptance does not necessarily mean failure. Sometimes it just means acknowledging your emotions and being strong enough to feel them without acting on them. Accepting her absence in my life has not been dissimilar to grieving the death of a loved one, but I’ve learned to fill the hole with unconditional love. Maybe one day she will change her mind and reach out. Maybe enough is enough. I can admit that I sometimes self medicate in an attempt to toss and turn a little less when grief creeps up my spine, but the truth is as soon as the risk begins to outweigh the benefit, it’s time to let go. The art of letting go has been a reoccurring theme in my decade old stack of therapy notes. This focal point was a reflection of my incessant need for control. This need manifested as control because control mimics safety. As a child of abuse and trauma, safety became a suitable priority in all areas of my life, so I became preoccupied with avoiding harm and abandonment through dangerous control attempts. My opportunities for control were found in abusive relationship dynamics, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive behaviors, even senseless manipulation and chaos creation. By no fault of my own, I found dysfunction to be the natural state of things rather than the unnecessary uproar that it is. Somehow, the maladaptive behaviors I had learned as a child became problematic as an adult, and yet they comforted me because they were familiar. This is self-sabotaging behavior and more importantly, the concept of true control is a fallacy. The truth is children do better when they know better. I had to learn to accept healthy loving dynamics and reject mistreatment. I had to learn to fall in love with myself independent of relationship reflections. I had to learn to find joy in the mundane and avoid the impulses of boredom and excessive discomfort. I had to learn to stay present long enough to acknowledge, accept and process pain without fighting or fleeing. Those lost live on in my memories and my ability to continue loving them in the retelling. I am no longer bound by the guilt of the agitation I experienced as a result of my lost sense of control. I now understand the value of staying in the presence of pain, thinking before I speak, and disregarding actions attached to thoughts or feelings. While not entirely free from self-loathing (also a control dynamic), I no longer harm myself and instead aim to empathize. Whether you are freeing yourself from pain or people, it is only when you can let go that you can truly possess. **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!