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 027: I Am Depressed Again

*Warning: This post makes mention of suicidal Depression.

“Life is like a game of chess.
To win you have to make a move.”
― Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to Deskraven, your Mental Health Forum. Today I want to talk about the elephant in the room. I want to talk about the condition we all share. I want to talk about the swallowing horror we are learning to talk about, but still largely hide. I want to talk about Depression.

Depression is characterized by a distinct loss of interest in previous held joys, loss of energy, appetite fluctuations, excessive sleep or insomnia, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, thoughts of self-harm or suicide, persistent grief or sadness, excessive crying spells, fluctuating moods and agitation or irritability. There are many theories surrounding the influx of Depression in our society, many of which I can get behind. The fact that we have become too civilized for our own good, for example. However, I live with Bipolar Depression which, like me, is a little different from the text book definition.

I experience mixed episodes related to Bipolar Disorder, previously known as Manic Depression. In a mixed episode, the sufferer experiences symptoms of both Mania and Depression simultaneously, and/or in rapid succession of one another. There are so very many different ways we experience mental illness, and Bipolar Disorder is no exception. So, a word of caution should you choose to embark on a conversation of this magnitude: Not everyone experiences Bipolar Disorder the same way. While my episodes are different from that of typical mood swings, my experience of Depression has always been more pervasive than my experience of Mania. More importantly, my Depression has been extremely treatment resistant. Medication helped a great deal in quelling the intense irritability that resulted from the overwhelming guilt I felt as a mentally ill mother. Likewise, medication went to work to tame the instability of my psychology, my insomnia, my paranoia and my psychosis – but there remained an ever present slight slope downward where Depression pulled on my even keel.

Depression is the sound of steel doors clanging shut on your better angels. It is the inability to move, even when movement is what you most need and desire. It is the lie that love is not enough, and you would be better off dead. It is an emotional anguish so significant that you dread entirely its inevitable return. It is an inability, not an unwillingness. Depression robs you of your character, your personality, your passion and your pleasure. It tells you that you are not good enough. That you are a burden. That you are somehow deserving of this inexplicable nauseating grief. That you are nothing more than a self-indulgent cynic. That this life hurts too much to keep going. That the smallest setbacks make mountains out of molehills.

The truth is, when I am un-medicated I drop into a suicidal Depression at least twice per month. True suicidal Depression is not a choice. It is a survivor’s final response to the seemingly endless hour of deeply disorganized, firey, unforgiving madness that is Bipolar Disorder. This is a chemical imbalance. You see, insight is worth less than nothing in the face of mental illness. While it may help you shape your coping skills to better suit your needs and aid in prevention, when you are actually in the thick of that heated, harmful, heady moment staring directly into the abyss, nothing can reach you – not God, not logic, not love – and so you flail, begging to humiliation with bleeding organs and limbs to find the tiniest foothold somewhere along the growing walls of that lightless trench. Suicidal Depression attacks the senses. You can not hear, see, smell, or feel properly, and so you find yourself quickly grappling in the dark. Some describe completed suicide as the final symptom of Depression, and I couldn’t agree more. Completed suicide is the final dark thought and the truth is, it takes a great deal of strength to not grab it.

There are three things that have helped me cope with suicidal Depression, and maybe it will help a handful of the millions around the world who live with this ugly truth. Obviously, the most important thing is to be closely monitored by a physician and practice good medication compliance, but if you’re like me and you don’t have access to health insurance, keep reading.

First and foremost, dismiss. It is important to recognize that when you are suffering from Depression, no matter how real it may feel relative to your experience, your perspective is false. It is essential to recognize the thoughts coursing through your mind. Then, you must find the strength to dismiss them as no good. This takes a great deal of practice as the height of the pain of Depression will completely rob you of the ability to detect the distortion. Be validated in knowing that this is a skill that requires psychological jumping jacks. I like to think of it as meditation, because meditation teaches you to return yourself to the present moment. In this way, I feel that meditation lends itself well to the perspective adjustment we all require when faced with this condition. These gentle reminders can serve you greatly in moments of despair.

Next, distract. When I begin to feel the stinging pricks of Depression, I aim to distract myself as much as possible. Depression is an all consuming monster making it incredibly difficult to get out of your own head. Fortunately, this skill has become increasingly accessible due to our chronically distracted culture. Do try to pay attention to the quality of this distraction, however. I will often find myself buried in a television show, a good book or some form of artistic expression. Do not be afraid to indulge in dark themes, as this can serve as an expressive outlet and comforting validation in a world where those without Depression just simply do not understand. Do, however, guard your mind from themes or content that may trigger your Depression to worsen.

Finally, dig in. Due to the very nature of Depression, we often forget to remember that this too shall pass. One of the great joys of having a mood disorder of this nature is that my episodes are relatively short. While I know people who suffer from chronic Depression (God save them and keep them) for months or years at a time, Bipolar Disorder offers the respite of mania or neutral stability from time to time. This is a blessing dressed up as a curse because while they are not without their own consequence, these phases of Bipolar Disorder allow you to come up for air in a matter of days or weeks.

If you’re suffering from suicidal Depression, call your doctor.

Dismiss, Distract, and Dig in.

For more on this topic read: High-Functioning: When Depression Gets Dressed in the Morning

**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 025: ADHD is Tough Stuff

Dear Readers,

I always knew my son would be exceptional, but I never knew his struggles would be so monumental. His first year of preschool was the year his father and I separated, so we were quick to assume his adjustment period was understandable and temporary. Not only did his troubles not pass, they got worse. Much worse.

This type of milestone is usually joyous, however I soon began receiving phone calls from his preschool on a daily basis. I began to take notice that my son’s tantrums were more severe than what would be considered typical for his age group. He would scream, cry, flail his body, stomp his feet, punch his arms, suffer night terrors, display separation anxiety, and throw furniture. Under extreme distress, he would scratch his own arms and face.

As a young (and dumb) mother, I would often absorb the advice of others too quickly. Many people, including our first family therapist, assumed we needed to make some changes and that I needed to be a stronger disciplinarian. In the spirit of always having room to grow as a parent, I can say consistent discipline is definitely part of the equation of treating children with special needs, but it isn’t an end-all solution. As the years passed, I watched him closely as we worked through hands on play therapy, social skill development, emotional regulation practice, and clearer communication. We made dietary changes, reduced screen time, established routines, tried vitamins and supplements, followed through with consequences, held family meetings, sought a second opinion from a licensed counselor, and increased physical activities. We knew for certain that no matter the outcome, we wanted to exhaust every natural resource available to us before ever considering medication. Our son saw a pediatrician, an allergist, a school psychologist, and family therapist and was ultimately referred out for a behavioral health evaluation. We pursued this, but still no answers came.

As our son grew older, he matured out of some of his maladaptive behaviors only to see the emergence of new ones. His primary years were increasingly difficult, often limited by the scope of his teachers and mentors. We worked hard in therapy and had good days here and there, but we just weren’t seeing the progress we were hoping for. His outbursts were growing increasingly worrisome, although his grades never slipped. In general, our son is attention seeking, active, impulsive, sensory seeking, disruptive, emotional, insightful, and extremely intelligent. He shows a lack of restraint but never a lack of remorse, persistent repetition of words or actions, memory loss and mood swings. He generally demonstrates a proclivity toward anger and lacks social skills. He experiences sleep disturbances, appetite changes, aggression (this is very rare these days – thank goodness), low self-worth and has even talked openly of suicide on more than one occasion.

It goes without saying that our love and worry for our son put an enormous strain on our family dynamic. Not only was I faced with the grief of acceptance, but I had the public school system leaning into me one on side, while his father was pushing in the other direction. Suddenly, I found myself with three thorns in my side. I felt stranded in the middle, and I knew the only way I could cope with this would be with some form of healthy detachment. I knew I needed the relief of a slight emotional unhinging in order to face my son’s behavior as objectively as possible, rather than take it personal. I knew I had to a find a way to apply my professional experience as a Behavioral Therapist to my personal life without having a complete and total nervous breakdown. I knew I needed to advocate for my son free from the opinions of others. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I have been completely successful, because that’s just not true. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve made, or how many nights I’ve cried in my bathroom nauseous with worry. Still, circumstances in which you feel that you have no choice will teach you just what you are capable of. Fortunately for all of us, I was designed to advocate for mental health.

Suspecting Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD), and possibly Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), I went to his teachers with a plan. As a mother, I have started every school year by gently approaching, reassuring and thanking my son’s teachers. I do this for three reasons.

1.) I recognize that they have the most important and most underappreciated job in the world.

2.) I realize that my son can be difficult.

and 3.) I want them to know early and often that they can always come to me to voice their thoughts and concerns.

This concerted effort has served us in more ways than I can iterate. Likewise, we have learned the absence of this unified front comes with enormous consequences.

In speaking with his teachers, we soon began to investigate every possible solution without a formal diagnosis. We discussed the problem behavior we were observing, potential triggers, possible areas of change at home and at school, guidance strategies, positive reinforcement, motivation, social skills development, counseling, occupational therapy, accommodations, ARD committee meetings, more therapy, more dietary changes, and more consistency. (I soon learned that despite our best efforts, our nation’s public school system does a great disservice to children with special needs specifically, and all children in general.) Toward the end of his 2nd Grade year, we finally began to see the upswing of all of our hard work.

Our son has grown immensely in the last year, and he deserves the credit. Many of his extreme behaviors have diminished – praise God! However, he still displays some neurological symptoms like facial tics, as well as an inability to self-regulate or integrate socially. This will be addressed at our Doctor’s appointment next week at Moore Mental Health & Behavioral Services where our son will finally be evaluated and diagnosed. We will all be given the opportunity to remain instrumental in mapping out a treatment plan that best suits our family. Naturally, we have all kinds of mixed emotions about this. Still, I feel this is the next step in armoring our little one with all the support he can possibly receive from the vantage point of long over due relief and early intervention in the face of his emotional turmoil.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from parents in similar situations. Do you have concerns for your little ones that extend beyond the realm of typical worry? What is challenging you the most right now? How has ADHD or other sensory disorders impacted your life?

In closing, we must remember that decisions surrounding mental health and our loved ones are never easy. We must remember to pull together through education and support rather than stigmatizing one another through harsh criticism. We must remember there should never be shame attached to seeking help.

You’re not alone.

**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 024: Medication May Make Things Worse

“The beginning of an attack I always experienced as a swell lurching up from unseen depths, similar to the physical sensation of standing waist-high in the sea when there are no waves but all of a sudden the great body of water heaves itself up as if the planet has shifted a fraction on its axis. That was the signal for me that the nature of reality was about to terrifyingly change.” Glenn Haybittle, The Tree House

Dear Readers,

I have had two panic attacks in three days. This is very unusual, even for me. I suppose if I take into account all the changes in my life recently (or the incredible stress), it makes sense. Still, wisdom is completely useless in the face of clinical grade fear.

Panic Attacks are characterized by severe physical symptoms which may include anxiety. However, Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks are not the same.

After doing some digging I realized I was having an adverse reaction to the Trazodone I was taking. Often times I believe the symptoms I experience stem from the natural course of my mental illness, however, it is important to remember that there are many contributing factors that can influence or change your psychology. Choosing pharmaceuticals as a course of intervention is never easy. Aside from the stigma attached to medication, there is the expense, the inconvenience, and the side effects. I was treating my insomnia and depression, but at what cost? I soon found myself increasingly anxious, agitated and angry. If you know me at all you know my demeanor is quite pleasant and bittersweet, so to appear angry and discontent in front of my friends and family was a pretty big indicator that something was off. I didn’t want to believe it because I was experiencing relief, but I had to acknowledge that I was also trembling with a depression-rage so profound that few understand it. While teetering on the edge of full blown panic attacks and heartbreaking impulses, you tend to find yourself faced with a pretty obvious decision. To be sure, I researched the side effects of this medication. It wasn’t until I scrolled to the bottom to the less likely slash call-your-doctor-right-away-if list of side effects that a light bulb turned on. Suddenly there it was, everything I had been feeling, laid out right in front of me. Black Box Label Warnings for Trazodone include:

  • Worsening depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • A severe rash or hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A painful erection that will not go away (priapism)
  • Panic attack
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Seizure

So, mystery solved. Fortunately, Trazodone has a decent elimination half life so it took only 2-3 days to detox safely from this medication. My insomnia returned, but at least I didn’t want to scratch the face off of everyone I saw or leap from a tall building. The truth is, your diagnosis may not always provide an obvious explanation for your psychological experience. If you or a loved one has a rapid noticeable change in demeanor related to behavior or mental heath, it may be time for a med check.

As always, thank you for reading.

**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 021: The Hidden Symptoms of PTSD

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” –Susan Pease Banitt Dear Readers, I was diagnosed with PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in 2014. While it explained so much, it also left me with more questions than answers. The consequences of traumatic experiences on the mind are visceral and despite common misconception, not isolated to Veterans of war. When I began to dig my heels into real trauma work, I learned just how relative and complex this disorder can be as no two people experience it the same way. Some people are survivors of one major traumatic life event, while others have many. I fall into the latter category, making the recovery process that much more challenging. Much of this disorder includes managing symptoms by understanding their roots and the dynamics of intense fear. The media has done a great service to this population by highlighting things like agitation and mood swings in major motion pictures; however, there is more to unearth about this disorder. Below you will find the less well known symptoms of PTSD in the spirit of offering additional support and resources to those in need. Depersonalization ➡️ Emotional, physical or cognitive detachment from one’s surroundings or sense of self. Feelings or unreality. Nightmares ➡️ Intense graphic dreams of horror with reoccurring themes of traumatic events, feelings of helplessness, harm or entrapment. Avoidance ➡️ Avoiding people, places or things that remind the person of traumatic events often including crowds, particular sights, sounds or smells. Hypervigilance ➡️ Heightened reaction and intolerance toward light, sound, verbal conflict or physical touch. Inappropriate Guilt ➡️ Feelings of worthlessness or regret surrounding the circumstances of one’s trauma, often including convictions that the situation could have been handled differently. Flashbacks ➡️ Sensations of time travel, hallucination and confusion including loss of the present moment and physical, emotional and/or auditory sensory experiences related to past traumatic events. Migraines ➡️ Trauma-related headaches including tension, chronic pain and nausea. Treatment Options Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems. Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a form of psychotherapy in which the person being treated is asked to recall distressing images while generating one type of bilateral sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movements or hand tapping. If you or someone you love is struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, please know you are not alone and help is available. PTSD Help Guide: Symptoms, Treatment and Self-Help for PTSD **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!