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!

Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 55: Nature is Nurture & 5 Ways to Reset a Troubled Mind

“A higher level of consciousness can not support a pattern of fear.” -Alyssa Malehorn 

Good Afternoon Readers,

Over the past week I have dedicated a great deal of effort toward altering patterns of behavior that no longer serve me. Interested in the way spiritual practices influence mental health, the Deskraven blog offers you 5 ways to tap into and improve your relationship to yourself:

Practice Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting (IF) has innumerable health benefits. If you’re unfamiliar with Intermittent Fasting, it is the notion that you fast for a period of time followed by opening an eating window for a period of time. The key to success is selecting an IF schedule that best suits your lifestyle, and allows you to build slowly on your success.

Many people begin with 12 hours of fasting (often while you are asleep) followed by a 12 hour eating window. As this form of self-discipline becomes easier, you will graduate to 16:8, 18:6, 20:4, or 23:1 fasting schedules. There are other IF schedules available as well such as eating normally for 5 days while restricting 2 days to 600 calories (5:2), and One-Meal-A-Day (OMAD) that I have also found to be successful.

Currently, I am fasting for at least 20 hours a day and eating in the evening. During my fasting window, I consume only large amounts of water, black coffee, and tea. Over time, your appetite will diminish and adjust accordingly. This is the best schedule for me as I am often busy through out the day, and calorie consumption makes me drowsy, so it offers up the promise of a good night’s sleep.

The health benefits of Intermittent Fasting consist of changes in the function of cells, gene expression, and hormone levels. IF helps you lose weight, burn belly fat, reduce insulin resistance, reduce oxidative stress, and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Moreover, it is beneficial to heart health, cellular repair, and longevity. Lastly, fasting practices offer marked improvement in cognitive functions such as memory, clarity, execution, and unheard of levels of energy.

Not surprisingly, this physical process lends itself well to elevating your level of consciousness as you begin to heal from the inside out. The early days can be extremely challenging as you push though detoxing processes that may produce headaches or irritability, however, this will pass and soon fasting will become as mindless as breathing.

Please note you should never feel unwell while fasting, so be sure to listen to your body and consult with your doctor before prompting any changes in lifestyle. Intermittent Fasting is not suitable for children, or fragile populations enduring health concerns or pregnancy.

Seek Out Nature

After spending a few of my formative years in the Colorado wilderness, returning to Houston, Texas, USA was no easy task. While I returned to improve my access to economy and reduce isolation, I’m afraid the expense came in the form of limiting my access to natural resources. These often consisted of the soul shaking views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the winding fields of colorful and seemingly endless treetops, and the naturally occurring Colorado River with the power to enlighten. Despite my better angels, I took these for granted and quickly lost touch with my higher level of consciousness by returning to the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

Once I became aware of this, it took nothing more than a quick Google search to find a local walking park near my office. I was surprised to learn that such a small gesture had the power to return me to my old sense of self. Even though the natural sources in my community remain largely artificial, it was enough to feel like visiting an old friend. I found that my intellectual stirring quieted and I wanted more, so I started implementing daily walks into my routine. I have come up against waves of discomfort and discouragement as someone living with chronic pain, however, I found that the stress relief and peace of mind that followed was well worth the pain of getting stronger.

Meditate

Meditation remains the best and fastest way to grow your level of consciousness. While you may find this task weird or daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Meditation is a practice that takes time and repetition to find what works for you. It can be as sophisticated as a lengthy past life regression, or as simple as taking five conscious breaths per day while driving or putting away the dishes. Like Intermittent Fasting, and exercise, you will find meditation works the muscles of the mind and will become easier over time.

Recognize and Release Your Limiting Beliefs

Any form of self development will often prompt our inner voices of criticism. It is paramount then to observe, acknowledge, and release these feelings of inadequacy. Essentially, this is the message of meditation at its core. The goal is not to silent, dissolve, or judge your thoughts, but to tap into the greater intuition behind your intentions. This insight will serve you in all areas of your life from professional goals to interpersonal relationships.

Experience a Shift in Consciousness

As you combine positive practice with the results they bring such as an overall improvement in your physical health, a strengthened sense of emotional stability, and a state of mind that promotes more love, connection, compassion, and peace – you will find that a higher level of consciousness can not support a pattern of fear. As someone living with significant mental illness, this realization has been invaluable. As I continue my practices, I continue to observe a reduction in anxiety, a slowness to anger, and a noticable increase in calm confidence.

If you’re like me, these revelations may encourage you to explore deeper themes of your own spirituality, whatever they may be, such as prayer, the afterlife, near death experiences, and alternate planes of existence. The underlying message here is capitalizing on your own human capacity to think and feel with the deep seated knowledge that love and fear can not exist in the same space. Even at it’s most logical, it is clear there is much more to learn beneath the surface of the physical world.

Discuss: What is your favorite mindfulness exercise? What will you do today to nourish your soul?

**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!

Lifestyle, Mental health

Ugly Truth 54: Personal Development is Work

“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
― Alan Watts

Good Morning Readers,

You know, it’s not every day you catch the rain the moment it falls. I shouldn’t be awake and 5am, but sometimes I’m so glad I am. I love those tiny moments of peace and clarity just before the world begins to stir. Nature has so much to offer, if only we would pay attention. So, it got me thinking: What can I do today to strengthen my personal development?

There has been something of what feels like a torrential madness swirling through me lately. It is difficult to articulate, but I always try to maintain my transparency for my readers. The best piece of advice I ever read was to encourage others when you are struggling. While this platform does serve as a vehicle for my own meandering, I also seek to produce meaningful content for you, my readers. As a mental health writer, it is imperative to give something tangible to your audience, something useful.

Unable to sleep, I went down a spiritual rabbit hole this morning. I found some interesting insight I’d love to share with you because I believe whole heartedly a shift in perspective, however temporary, is useful for us all.

Have you ever considered the possibility that mental illness is a natural response to an unnatural world?

The above lecture by MindValley Talks offers a Crash Course on Spirituality (4 Levels of Consciousness and the Big Questions by Alan Watts.) It touches on the social constructs we build, and how they confine us to a certain way of thinking. Imagine, for a moment, if you could rebuild your inner world to serve you rather than torment you? The good news is you can, and like all good things – it requires practice.

At the halfway point in this lecture, the speaker offers up a meaningful exercise by Alan Watts, a British writer and speaker responsible for the interpretation and popularization of Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism for a Western audience (Wiki.) If you have an hour of your day to do some soul work, I’d love to see your responses in the comments below.

The Two Lists

Make a list of everything that you know because you experienced it.

-and-

Make a list of everything that you know because someone told it to you.

Discuss: Who are you? What do you desire? What do you know? Do you have a meditation practice, or are you sleeping on your intuition?

**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 52: Suicide Rates Are Rising Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic

“We need to change the culture of this topic and make it okay to talk about mental health and suicide.” -Luke Richardson

Dear Readers,

It is no secret we are living in unprecedented times.

Our nation’s capital would rather use their election platform to throw temper tantrums and popularity contests than serve those in need. A gruesome pandemic has swept across the globe, robbing us of our wellness, and leaving lasting dents in our populations. Our health care system (which was already atrocious) is now inundated as a result. Unemployment rates sky rocketed while our economy plummeted. Travel industries and non-essential workers were suddenly faced with unique challenges. Schools closed early – if not completely. Grocery stores struggled to supply our panicked demands, and it wasn’t long before meaningful assets were lost and family owned businesses were forced to shut down for good.

Furthermore, consider the cultural crisis of the Blake Lives Matter Movement, the ever pressing women’s rights and LGBTQ+ issues, a lack of access to spiritual services, and the civil war that seeks to divide us all within our already government issued isolation – and it begs the question: What will our mental health response consist of when faced with what it means to be alive in this specific time and place in history? Drawn in this light, we can easily see how dynamic our challenges are from a socio-economic psycho-social perspective.

In some weird way it is no longer special interest groups being targeted, but humanity as a whole. Indeed, it has become frighteningly easy to lose our bearings given the state of things. I do not envy our city leaders who are now tasked with equipping their populations to adapt or die. Is it any wonder why so few of us are sleeping at night? Perhaps the year of 2020 has the potential to be our great equalizer. Perhaps we can choose to come together to find solutions, or be driven further apart by the media and those in positions of power.

The truth is it’s too early to tell. Numbers for suicide rates typically run two years behind, but many clinicians suspect an increase as a direct result of the generational opposition we are currently facing. Interestingly enough, I haven’t done suicide prevention advocacy field work myself since 2018. As both a suicide attempt and suicide loss survivor, this work seems more important than ever. In an interesting article by Townhall, the CDC Control Director, Robert Redfield, attempts to compare the rate of suicide to Covid-19 deaths. In short, he suspects a rise in suicide rates, as well as deaths resulting from substance abuse in the coming reports. Likewise, he cites a disproportionate decline in the mental health of our youth specifically.

Even though things are very loud right now, we must not let the silent epidemic slip under our radar. The truth is our children are in trouble having made more attempts on their life than in years prior. Even more scary, we are seeing more successful completions of suicide by young people than ever before. At first it seems incomprehensible, but then we remember we’re living in an age of information with more platforms than ever before. While many count these as valuable resources to be utilized for good, they also make us more vulnerable to invasion. Let this be a gentle reminder to check in with your kids, especially if they appear to be unaffected.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is a major public health concern. More than 48,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States; it is the 10th leading cause of death overall. Suicide is complicated and tragic, but it is often preventable. See below to learn the signs, action steps, and locate shareable images to spread awareness on your own social media.

**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!

Lifestyle, Mental health

Gratitude is the Guardian of Your Joy

ggsc-gratitude

Dear Readers,

I am not a particularly religious person. I prefer to think of myself as spiritual rather than assign myself a religious label. Instead, I prefer to take the good from all of the major pillars of religion and apply it to my life in a practical way. Unlike most, I am okay with the not knowing. Occasionally, I will experience a thirst for knowledge and attend church for my sheer love of lectures, philosophies, and human understanding. On one of these days, the pastor’s wife stood at the podium and said these words, “Gratitude is the guardian of your joy.” -And it stuck.

These seven words of wisdom highlighted my genuine understanding of fundamental happiness. If we can be grateful, then we can shift our perspective just enough to glean some positivity from a painful situation because gratitude suggests choice. Therefore, there seems an intrinsic link between happiness and choice. As Thanksgiving approaches, these words sit with me still. More so since I am sitting in the unknown of unemployment- one of the most infamous stressors for any young family. So, perhaps a little self-examination will do me well, and help someone else along the way.

6 Things I am Grateful For & the Why:

1.) My Family.

My family dynamic has never been conventional, and so my definition isn’t either. I have had many unions and separations with men and women. One of these was fortunate enough to have produced a child. His father and I are no longer together although we maintain a loving and respectful relationship despite our differences. Somehow, the family we build becomes our own, having less and less to do with blood. There is so much value in the blending of differences, re-definition in the face of traditionalism, and the daily choice.

2.) My Home.

For most of my life I lived with others. I had boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates, friends who never left, and family to take me in. It wasn’t until my divorce that I was faced with the heat of a Texas August, and the choice to provide for myself independent of the provisions of others. I was not without help, of course. Now, almost two years later, the apartment I live in is mine, the bills I pay are mine, the car I drive is mine, the books on my shelf, the clothes on my back, and the food in my pantry is mine. The fear and the responsibility is my own, and the reward all the greater.

3.) My Health.

I am 29 years old and while not in perfect health, my chronic pain and mental health conditions pale by comparison to those I know and love with chronic medical ailments. Having been a caregiver much too soon, I have had a front row seat to the way illness can run amok on individuals, families, and bank accounts. While I would consider my functionality level below that of a typical twenty-something, I still balance the choice to get out of bed each morning.

4.) My Son.

Most people insinuate their children are their life, and it is probably perfectly true. However, my son saved mine and that is a fact. As a young woman, I was in the grips of horrendous grief and madness. My mind, body, and soul were dripping with chemicals and hell bent on fast tracking my self-destruction for a solid five years prior. I made a series of repetitively bad choices in great succession of one another if not to end my life through intent, then through sheer negligence and a complete lack of self-care. I was never malicious toward others. I was simply flailing through pain with zero guidance due to my own lack of language. My pregnancy taught me preservation of self for the sake of someone else, and forced me into fearless maturity. It taught me the choice of good health and good company, safety and security, and my full-time preoccupation with the truth.

5.) My Cat.

Pets provide a strange relationship free from circumstance or condition, one you may even be quick to resent. But if you look hard enough, you’ll notice that our domestic companions await eagerly each day for nothing more than our company and good graces. They misbehave, damage our over-priced goods, and cry into the night. And yet- there remains a middle ground where our choice to care for them meets the purity of their friendship and promised love.

6.) My Diagnoses.

I live with three major mental health conditions. It is something that has taken me all my young life to understand and manage wisely. Human suffering is universal, and therefore, has the power to inform. Suffering teaches compassion, empathy, and gratitude for the boring and mundane through shared experiences of loss and abuse. Suffering provides perspective when the unexpected uproars happen, giving you the strength and reassurance that it could always be worse. It gives us art, boundaries, and grace. Illness gives us the choice to victimize ourselves by ceding to self-absorbed unhappiness and self-medication, or to assign pain a function through self-love and recognition, to release it from its all consuming vanity, and serve those in need.

So it seems this free-association piece has secured my livelihood by circumventing my subconscious, and coming full circle on the reoccurring theme of choice.

What is guarding your joy this holiday season?

**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!