Mental health

Ugly Truth 007: Psychomotor Agitation Hurts

Psychomotor agitation is an increase in purposeless physical activity often associated with depressive and manic episodes of bipolar disorder. It’s a classic symptom that most people readily associate with mania: restlessness, pacing, tapping fingers, dashing about meaninglessly, or abruptly starting and stopping tasks. While psychomotor agitation can take many forms and vary in severity, it is an indication of a mental tension that cannot be managed and one that manifests physically with frenetic activity. – Marcia Purse, VeryWell Mind Good Evening Readers, Welcome back to 100 ugly truths about mental health! Last night I began to sink after I triggered myself while reading some old writings. Suddenly I was flung into the flashbacks of the memories I was revisiting. The walls around me soon fell away and I found myself off the ground. I reached for my loved ones in attempt to take my own advice. I flailed while trying to remember my coping skills, but I was just no match for my slipping mood. It wasn’t long before I jumped to distraction, whirling through my nightly routine without ever actually accomplishing anything. I was spinning, frantic, agitated and growing angrier with each passing moment. What was happening to me? When you’re diagnosed with a mental health condition it provokes a sort of self examination. It is a natural response to want to peel away the dysfunction from your personality. I crave understanding and logic when faced with the mystery of madness, so I excused myself for a breath of fresh air after confessing to my partner that I was unwell. It never takes Google long to come up with an explanation, and there it was, psychomotor agitation. This symptom is generally associated with mood disorders, PTSD, and anxiety. Similar to the relationship between panic attacks and fear, psychomotor agitation is a physical manifestation of internal events. The truth is if you or your loved ones don’t have the insight to spot this, you may not understand why you feel the way you do. Fortunately, because this symptom is physical it doesn’t take long for other people to notice. My partner will often point out that my face is changing and I’m not quite myself. My eyebrows will furrow, my lips will purse, and I commonly catch myself in an angry cleaning frenzy. As indicated above, abruptly starting and stopping tasks is a hallmark of this frenetic energy. It can be very draining, damaging even, causing you to act unlike yourself and possibly hurting others in your path. The truth is this is something I’ve only recently started working on. Mindfulness is a lifestyle people use for many reasons, but the practice of self awareness is key when managing mental illness. You have to hold yourself accountable if meaningful change is ever going to happen. This agitation carried over into my morning and I was filled with regret when I was unable to process the loud clangings of my 7 year old. Ultimately, I couldn’t shake it on my own and turned to medication. Relationships are often a social tool. They are extensions and reflections of ourselves. When I lived alone I had a very hard time with symptom management because I didn’t have an informing audience. The truth is, sometimes it takes an exterior observation to see more clearly. Insofar, isolation has been my most powerful coping skill when agitation occurs. Isolation is often seen as a maladaptive behavior, but under these circumstances it is a useful way to decompress and protect loved ones from your irrational anger. How do you cope with agitation? Have friends or loved ones ever pointed out your strange behavior? This evening, I challenge you to quiet your defense mechanisms and be receptive to the truth. **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 006: Mental Illness Isn’t Trendy

“Stigma against mental illness is a scourge with many faces.”
Elyn R. Saks
Good Afternoon Readers, Today I read an out-pouring of depression authored by another blogger that so resonated with me. She described the loneliness, the worthlessness, and the lack of familial support she was experiencing. She was expressing fear for losing her job after repetitive no call-no shows. She described the inability to get out of bed and the love of her husband. It all sounded so familiar. It reminded me next of a comment I read elsewhere that proclaimed concern for mental illness becoming a trend, or an excuse for poor behavior. When suddenly it all came together in one final thought: Who on earth would ever choose this? While depression is fairly common, it can manifest itself in many ways creating trenches of misunderstanding even among its sufferers. I will use myself as an example. I have Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Depression is not the same as Unipolar Depression. What’s more, I do not experience typical manic depressive mood swings. I experience mixed states. In a mixed episode, symptoms of both mania and depression exist simultaneously. For me, depression may present itself in the classic form of fatigue, grief, loss of interest, and suicidal thoughts – OR – it may present as irritability, agitation, anger, guilt or rage. I believe this variability is why I went misdiagnosed for a decade, and why stigma continues to thrive. Mixed episodes are markedly difficult to spot and stigma finds fuel in misinformation. We fear what we do not understand, and remain a generally discriminating species as a result. I have to bully myself every morning to do what I need to, and cry through it more often than not. I suffer from irrational fears and false beliefs. Under extreme stress I hallucinate, have panic attacks and nightmares. I have considerable mood swings, paranoia, and insomnia. I have chronic pain, flashbacks, and anxiety so severe it changes my vitals. If you think this is trendy, then perhaps you should see a doctor yourself. Perhaps the concept that one should “snap out of it” or “get over it” has been addressed by the rising mental health awareness in recent years. Perhaps the number of diagnoses have increased because our detection has improved, and we now know the importance of early intervention. The truth is, mental illness is not a trend or an excuse. It is a valid medical condition that responds to treatment. Have you ever been marginalized because of mental illness? **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 005: Being Sick Makes Everything Harder

“Every sickness has an alien quality, a feeling of invasion and loss of control that is evident in the language we use about it.”
Siri Hustvedt, The Shaking Woman, or A History of My NervesGood Morning Readers, As we continue this ugly truth series regarding mental health, consider your own secret truths. Has something been vexing you? Are you in a conflict that no one knows about? The purpose of this series is to shed light on all the things we want to say, but often don’t for fear of harsh judgment or loss. Perhaps I can provide a voice where there is none. Perhaps I can help a young man or woman in another part of the world feel less alone. I have been writing this series as things arise with very little prior planning. Last night I came down with some kind of nasty virus. When the tears stopped, it got me thinking about the relationship between body and mind. Being sick is no fun for anyone, but the ugly truth is physical ailments often compound the struggles of those of us with mental illness. As if symptom management is not overwhelming enough in a fast paced and unforgiving society, we are then faced with an attack on the body as well. In general, I am a fairly sensitive person so it doesn’t take much to knock me down. I don’t get sick often, but when I do it is legitimately severe. In the same way, I feel the exceptional strength my father instilled in me from an early age. Still, physical sickness often reduces me to tears due to the noise and discomfort of it all. Likewise, my lack of sleep is often worsened making me even more susceptible to fatigue induced tears. The truth is, I am a mother, a girlfriend, and a caregiver who lives with mental illness and chronic pain. I spend all of my time caring for others because that’s the nature of my heart. However, when I fall ill my capacity falls short and I am unable to indulge the need of a day in bed. The truth is I cried through making waffles for my son this morning. The truth is my boyfriend offered to help, but there is nothing to be done. The truth is I drank Theraflu instead of my morning coffee. The truth is, life goes on whether we like it or not regardless of our health or energy levels. In a pull-up-your-boot-straps culture, one has little time or sympathy for sickness. This is a mistake. Adapt or die is a common and reoccurring theme in my life. The truth is, I write all the time about self-care, but the American way seldom encourages self preservation unless we are still somehow in service to others. This is stigmatizing. If nothing else, today I offer you validation. What have you had to sacrifice lately? **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 004: Positivity Only Goes So Far

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.”

– Glenn Close Greetings Readers, Welcome back to the Ugly Truth Series brought to you by Deskraven. Let us use this space to explore the ugly truths of mental illness in order to spark conversation, embolden our language, and demystify stigma. Today we’re talking about the ever preached power of positivity – and where it stops short. I know two things about genuine happiness. One, positivity takes practice and two, happiness is only real when shared. Likewise, like most things this translates differently if you’re someone who suffers from mental illness. Try as you might, you may find there is a cap on your positivity practice, especially if you have a mood disorder. In my experience I have found that I can successfully practice positivity and apply it to my life right up until my chronic pain flares past my ability to see a silver lining. This isn’t necessarily because pain causes anguish, although it undoubtedly does, but because it can pose as a significant distraction to most everything else. This makes my ability to practice positivity secondary, and my outlook will often suffer as a result. Positivity is not walking around with a delusional sense of glee, but instead choosing gratitude and joy even when your circumstances suggest otherwise. It is maintaining some sliver of hope in the face of adversity. And when hope can not be maintained, radical acceptance must take its place – bringing me to ugly truth #3. Positivity is important, essential even, but when you have a mental health condition the dynamics of joy and choice change considerably. Particularly when the moods you experience are chemical rather than circumstantial. Radical acceptance allows us to accept our state of mind or environmental triggers as truth. This paired with the wisdom that this too shall pass can offer peace of mind, even when positivity struggles to find its way through. We can combat this with mindfulness. So here’s a how-to list with some of my methods to assist you in remaining intentional in your positivity practice. Practice Gratitude Gratitude is achieved when we take the time to be grateful for what we have, rather than focusing on what we’re lacking. This can be done using a thought practice or a journal to list things like family, partners, employers, pets, or achievements. If you’re like me, you may break it down even further by celebrating food, water, shelter, warmth, or a day of good health. Words of Affirmation Reciting positive affirmations to yourself may seem hokey, but in reality I have found the ability to self sooth a most invaluable skill. Offering yourself reassurance and comfort during a stress trigger or mental health episode can help keep you grounded, as well as relieve your friends and family of the duty. Self-Care Self-Care is useful in terms of practicing positivity because it demonstrates self-love. This also takes practice and will be different for everyone. As an introvert, I prefer wind down rather than charge up techniques. Comedy and Cuteness Laughter is essential to my well-being. I was raised by two parents with a genuine and solid sense of humor and so found the value in it very early. When you have a mental health condition you may suffer from over-thinking. Good humor and the cuteness of infants or animals helps to pluck me from the conundrum of getting in my own way by offering some light heartedness and those feel-good hormones of belly laughter. Likewise, affection legitimately reduces stress levels. Healthy Risk-Taking Research shows that risk taking reinforces positivity by providing the satisfaction the memory of taking a risk can provide. Anytime we attempt to or actually dispel fear almost always results in meaningful personal growth. This is especially true for anxiety sufferers where fear runs irrationally rampant. The truth is mental health conditions can rob us of our lenses. Positivity is where the practice of one day at a time relieves the fear of big picture thinking. What helps you maintain positivity? Additional Reading: 11 Ways to Boost Positive Thinking, Psychology Today **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, Relationships

A Day in the Life of an Agoraphobic

Dear Readers,

In general, I try to balance my publications between personal insight and information. When I can’t quite find the words I tend to shamelessly borrow from others, with due credit of course, and psychology is no exception. Dean Koontz once wrote,

“There is a fine line between a weary recluse and a fearful hermit. Finer still, is the line between hermit and bitter misanthrope.”

So, what is agoraphobia and how does it tie in to all this talk of shut-in isolation?

Agoraphobia is the extreme or irrational fear of being in open or public spaces or – more specifically – an abnormal fear of becoming helpless in a situation from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing. This is characterized by the physical sensation of panic which includes panic attacks associated with Panic Disorder, or anticipatory anxiety of which avoidance is the result.

To simplify, an individual who is diagnosed with Panic Disorder will often develop Agoraphobia as a secondary diagnosis due to the intense fear and trauma associated with past panic attacks in which convictions of harm or death appear imminent to the individual. The mere idea of this occurring outside the comfort of one’s home – or at a location where escape may not seem obvious – urges the individual to stay indoors. Thus begins a behavioral change that is characterized by severe anxiety, fed by fear, and reinforced by avoidance.

What sets Agoraphobia apart from the aforementioned weary recluse or bitter misanthrope is desire. Having lived with this disorder myself for 14 of my 29 years, I can say it is highly complex, relative, and variable among those who have it. Yet, almost unanimously, this population reports a fervent desire to live the lives they were once able to free from the unimaginative loneliness that follows:

To be able to travel with their children.

To chase dreams and self-development.

To do the grocery shopping.

To go on a date with their spouse.

To make a phone call.

To drive a car.

Agoraphobia can be sudden or progressive, entirely depleting of one’s quality of life, and often sends relationships into ruin. The sufferer can find relief with the help of a professional in proper exposure therapy, medication management, or cognitive behavioral practices to retrain their mind on the matter of fear. It is a taxing tear-filled battle with setbacks a-plenty, while some never recover at all.

In my case, every outing is different. Sometimes I go out and about within my comfort zone. Sometimes I go outside my comfort zone for a limited period of time. Sometimes I stay home for days on end. I often experience severe anxiety in the evenings about any obligations I may have the following day. Sometimes, the mere thought of driving alone can send me into a paranoid catastrophizing thought-pattern complete with crying spells, trouble breathing, and disruptive disturbing throughts. I shake, become nauseous, and dissociative. If I have an interaction with someone in public, my mind assumes they will hurt or embarrass me in some way. Naturally, the impulse is to flee this inflamed misrepresentation of complex traumatic events in my past.

As you can see I can rationalize these things, but it doesn’t stop a survivor’s brain from going off-balance. I have learned to practice self-care, coping skills, exit strategies, symptom management, proactivity and the power of “no”. I used to socialize, travel, attend concerts, museums, and school functions regularly. Now I rely on others frequently, and on the hard days – I still fall into extended patterns of avoidance.

If I were on my own I would be a quickly contented cat-lady. Instead, I often grieve for the active partner my boyfriend deserves, the socially engaging mother my son needs, or my deep longing for nature. My self worth often suffers due to the goals I can’t reach from within the confinement of my home, fluctuating timelines, and functional capacity. For now, it’s something I continue to chip away at.

If you or someone you love suffers from this disorder, please give them compassion. Ask them what they need from you to cope differently. Offer support without enabling. Their fear is founded and help is available, but it’s all for naught if you fail to acknowledge the calamity that has disproportionately swallowed them whole.

**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!