Mental health

Trauma Confession Series: The Letter

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
Michael J. FoxDear Readers, In my previous post Trauma Confession Series: Confronting Abuse, we discussed the importance of taking back power and the tough-love approach as an abuse survivor. As promised, I took the time to pen a few words of harsh truth for my perpetrators. I have yet to decide when I will actually send it, and will likely alter it a bit more. I place value in the short and simple, assuming these type of people seldom find the time to read – or genuinely give a shit about what I have to say. So I will not pour my heart into it, for it would only be a gift wasted. Instead, I choose facts. For those of you who have followed along these past few weeks, asked questions, or contacted me as a result of my work – I want to express my most heartfelt gratitude. You’ve offered a warm response to the most honest series I’ve ever written. I remain humbled, aware and empowered by it. The Letter
I want you to know that I am healing from trauma as a direct result of the things you did to me as a child. The next step is confrontation and resolution. So I have decided to tell you, and the world, in words. I want you to know that you hurt me. I want you to know that you objectified a child. I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten. I want you to know it caused a decade of self loathing and poor choices resulting in near death experiences. I want you to know that I know that I am not the only one. I want you to know your behavior is unacceptable, and does not go unnoticed. I want you to know that your selfishness cost me 15 years of therapy, multiple hospital stays, and psychotropic medication. I want you to know your lack of acknowledgment hurts more than the abuse. But also – I want you to know I’ve put the work in, and you can’t hurt me anymore. I want you to know that you should keep your hands to yourself. I want you to know I seek to forgive you, but it hasn’t happened yet. I want you to know I found strength in suffering. I want you to know I found restoration in self love. I want you to know I found solace in self care. I want you to know that I chose to break the cycle with my children. I want you to know that you will suffer isolation as a consequence, and these words as a reminder. For additional reading on confrontation and boundaries when recovering from trauma visit Confronting an Emotional Abuser, Psychology Today Other posts in the Trauma Confession Series in order of appearance: Overcoming Avoidance (my story) Love After Abuse (my relationship) Mourning (my grief) When Trauma Work Wakes Other Sleeping Monsters (my diagnoses) Confronting Abuse (my decision) **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

Trauma Confession Series: Love After Abuse

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
— Anais Nin, 1903-1977

Dear Readers,

This series is as much for me as much as it is for you. I am doing the work and taking you along for the ride. Today I want to talk about love after abuse, which can be much more difficult than it sounds. Though silly it may seem, the truth is our mind and body can have two separate experiences from the same sensation. Even though our mind may understand the affection we’re receiving is of a good and loving nature, our bodies may still flinch or back away reflexively after surviving childhood or relationship abuse.

If you have ever experienced the urge to pull away from someone you’re deeply in love with, then you know the pain and confusion that follows for all involved. This may be a romantic parter, a friend, a family member, or a child. The good news is there are ways to correct the crossed wires that were laid when you were exposed to abuse.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline writes in a September 2018 article, Learning to Love Again After Abuse,

You may also feel helpless to begin rebuilding the foundation of self-empathy, a necessary component in the process of healing and loving again. Self-empathy allows you to connect to your feelings and your experiences in a way that enables you to identify with the part of you that is alive, energetic, fun and worth loving again.

Self-love is so important when you’re attempting to heal and thrive again. This is not to be confused with self indulgence or self pity. The ability to self soothe and practice self-compassion becomes invaluable when you’ve been made to feel isolated, powerless, and unworthy by physical, verbal, or sexual violence. This is because self-love is just that, a form of self-care and self-preservation that can not be taken away from you therefore remedying the aforementioned isolation, powerlessness, or unworthiness you may feel. Empathizing with one’s self allows you to find the value in your talents and contribution, and restore the self worth that never truly left to begin with.

So, that tackles the emotional stuff, but what about touch tolerance? The real work lies in exposure to positive touch. It means staying in the moment when loved ones offer affection, facing the discomfort, and building trust through reassurance and repetition. I do this through positive interactions with my son, affection from my partner, and receiving healing touch from medical providers. Over time, the mind begins to associate positive touch in a healthy way, and your intolerance toward touch will lessen. Strangely enough, getting tattoos has been one of the most healing things I’ve ever done.

If you’re the partner of a loved one who has survived abuse, OneLove offers solutions for you, too. From Helping Your Partner Heal From Relationship Abuse,

1. Validate your partner’s feelings

In some cases, it’s likely that your S/O already feels crazy about what he or she is saying, so the last thing they need is their partner to reinforce that feeling. Remember to validate how they feel and not merely just respond with logic. Their feelings may not be rational, but they’re real and they need to be reminded that how they feel is valid.

2. Don’t allow your partner to dismiss their experiences

Rather, give weight to what they’ve gone through. Before they met you, they may have been shushed about their experiences or not have dealt with their feelings at all. Internally, they may believe the lie that it wasn’t “that bad” or they’re overreacting. But as their partner, it’s vital that you don’t allow them to dismiss their experiences as insignificant. Give weight to what they’ve been through, let it settle on their shoulders and allow them to mourn it; this is an important part of the healing process.

3. Listen, listen, listen

Whether it’s 2 am before work in the morning, or over dinner – try to be a listening ear. This will allow them to know that you’re a safe place and they’re not “too much” for you. More often than not, your partner may just need you to hear them out. Great damage can come from internalizing everything and not sharing what’s on our heart. You may have to hear the same thing a thousand times over, but all those times are contributing to the healing of your partner.

4. Be patient

The after-effects of trauma can come in swells and some seasons will be harder than others. Sometimes, it might seem like 3 steps forward, 2 steps back. But from the beginning, make the decision to be patient with your partner. Patience is a tangible depiction of our long-term commitment and is one of the most loving things you can do for your S/O. With this, keep in mind that there is no end goal; you just want healing for them and the timeline of healing looks different for everyone. Be patient and gracious.

5. Rejoice in the baby steps

It’s easy to get discouraged during the healing process because it can feel slow. But keep an eye out for the baby steps and when they come, make a big deal of them. Did your partner seem more comfortable with you today? Rejoice. Did they have a personal revelation? Rejoice. Did they let you approach them physically without tensing up? Rejoice. In the moment, these may not seem significant, but they are crucial to the healing process. Notice them and refer to them often as a means of encouraging your partner and keeping them from getting discouraged.

To summarize, surviving abuse is never easy, but healing and thriving is a possiblity if you’re willing to put forth the work. It all starts with overcoming avoidance, embracing acknowledgement from yourself and others, and building on healthy positive experiences.

Coming up: Navigating repressed memories of abuse, and implementing coping skills!

**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

17 Ways to Cope with PTSD Nightmares

“Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and hereafter she may suffer–both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams.”
Bram Stoker, Dracula

Dear Readers,

Insofar as I can tell, daymares and nightmares are not all that dissimilar. Even if our consciousnesses of them changes, the method used to keep the wolf at the door is the same.

For as long as I can remember I have had nightmares. I believe this was a result of intense childhood stress. It wasn’t long before my nightmares would carry over into my days, and I would come to experience the early warning signs of psychosis as a child. In some ways, it is amazing how abuse and abandonment can bend and sway our minds to survive. However, often times those childhood survival skills, dissociation for example, become problematic as an adult.

It wasn’t until Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder manifested itself in me in early 2009, when I lost two family members to suicide in 48 hours that I began having nightmares on a truly horrific scale. I was 19. This was proceeded five years later by the experience of caregiving for a terminally ill family member where I was exposed to a constant state of stress, fear, surgical procedures, poverty, and the monstrous dysfunction that entered my young home.

In the beginning my nightmares consisted of highly detailed apocalyptic themes. I vivdly remember bleeding skies, firey seas, and the demise of loved ones in violent and catastrophic ways. I recall being chased, attacked, or trapped. I would wake up frightened, panicked, crying and trembling – unable to separate myself from the sensation of the dream I was so sure was real. When this happened, it was not unusual for me to drink vodka at 9am, chain smoke on the front steps, and call loved ones. I would journal feverishly in some attempt to connect the dots. I would flail, avoid, and investigate. It would take me hours, sometimes days, to shake it off.

In the following years, I started experiencing full blown flashbacks. Flashes of light, sensations of time travel, reliving of trauma, guilt, remorse, and grief. I cried more. I drank more. I made more 4am phone calls. While my insomnia worsened, I began to notice over a period of time that going outside and sitting in the sunlight offered some relief and perspective, and my need to self medicate lessened. By way of necessity, this is how I came to understand Grounding Techniques.

Grounding Techniques are skills put into practice that ground you in the present moment by exposing the five senses to sensation. These might include:

1. Holding ice in your hands

2. Enjoying a warm cup of tea

3. Going outside to take in nature

4. Listening to music

5. Identifying five things you see in your environment

6. Mindfulness meditation

7. Diaphragm breathing

8. Physical affection from a loved one

9. Taking a warm bath

10. Wearing or diffusing essential oils

11. Exercise

12. Drinking copious amounts of water

13. Tasting something sweet or salty

14. Touching something soft or soothing

15. Engaging with a pet

16. Watching or listening to comedy

17. Checking a clock or calendar

The purpose of using Grounding Techniques is to pluck you from the trauma of a nightmare or flashback, and place you back in the reality of the present moment while also teaching you to self soothe in an unharmful way.

It is ten years later and I still experience nightmares of the same intensity, but with less frequency. I have trained myself to de-escalate upon waking, making my recovery time much shorter. If this helps only one person find a millisecond of relief, then I have accomplished what I set out to.

What is your favorite Grounding Technique?

**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!

literature, Mental health

Deskraven Book Series: No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One

e7a882866097d4b3c6825c8784ee61dc

A Deskraven Book Review

“On December 16, 1989, my husband had been unable to survive a similarly harsh winter, killing himself in the waning light of a late Saturday afternoon. My once-familiar world exploded with his suicide; in an instant, the life we had built together during our marriage of twenty-one years ended, without discussion or time for goodbyes.”

Page 5, Paragraph 2

When I first spotted Carla Fine’s No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One (1997) in the psych section of Barnes&Noble, I scoffed in disbelief. After all, how could anyone possibly articulate what suicide does to the human condition? I found this to be an important question, and one that inevitably lead to an answer. As a survivor of suicide and of close kin to mental illness, the literature was deeply aligned with my own heart. Because of this, it took me an exceptionally long while to navigate its 224 pages. I found myself walking away in ten page intervals with shock, anger and moments of clarity. While the pathology of suicide is a common topic on my bookshelf, I was surprised and enlightened by Fine’s emotional approach and generous helping of real personal development. I found her work to be in high contrast to the cold clinical literature I often find myself reading. Rather than checking those rigid question boxes, Fine walks us gently through the bizarre and often senseless grief suicide can bring while offering tangible solutions. This collaborative narrative offers long overdo validation while prioritizing the phenomenon of post-traumatic growth through shared loss. It was remarkably difficult to find more information on this author, but you can learn more about her work and speaking engagements by visiting her website.

CONTENTS

PART ONE: INTRODUCTION

1. Letting Go of Silence

PART TWO: THE SUICIDE

2. The World Explodes

3. The Initial Impact

4. The Final Farewell

5. The Stigma

PART THREE: THE AFTERMATH

6. The Blame and Guilt: Searching for the Whys

7. The Helplessness: Haunted by the What-Ifs

8. The Roller Coaster of Emotions

9. Legal and Financial Problems

PART FOUR: THE SURVIVAL

10. Beginning the Mourning

11. Effect on Families

12. Getting Help

13. The Public Suicide

14. Long-term Effects

15. Forgiving Them/Forgiving Ourselves

PART FIVE: AFTERWORD

16. Making Sense of the Chaos

PART SIX: RESOURCES

17. Organization and Resource Material

18. Support Groups for Survivors

19. Bibliography

PRAISE FOR NO TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

“I know of no other work on this subject that is so comprehensive and rich in exposition…a work of hope and great love for those who have killed themselves and those whom they leave behind. This is a must-read for all psychiatrists and their patients.”

-Michael F. Myers, M.D., American Journal of Psychiatry

“Powerful…vividly honest…offers hope in its summary of predictable patterns of adjustment.”

-Library Journal

“Our society’s inability to deal with suicide and survivors is articulated in a way that will benefit all…Perhaps if everyone could read this book, the suicide rate and our social inappropriateness to survivors would change.”

-Frank Campbell, President, American Association of Suicidology

FINAL THOUGHTS

The variables of suicide are dissimilar than that of a natural death. Thus, the psychological experience of grief is altered significantly and demands careful attention. Providing a message of wisdom and hope, No Time to Say Goodbye is an excellent tool for those of us still grappling in the dark. Due to the social stigma and isolation of suicide I thought it especially important to share this work. May it push you to ask those difficult self-seeking questions, and restructure your thinking on the lives of those who are touched by the untimely loss of a loved one.

VISIT OTHER DESKRAVEN BOOK REVIEWS

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog – and Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook

Prozac Nation

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE IS IN NEED OF ASSISTANCE IN CRISIS INTERVENTION PLEASE CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

3577927_060818-wpvi-suicide-prevention-lifeline-big-phone-number3-img

DfLDdCIW0AEGFbg

**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

A Suicide Survivor Story – Part II

21359134569473D72C

Trigger Warning- The following tale is a suicide survivor story. It makes mention of gun violence, suicide, grief and trauma. If this will upset you, please do not read it. If you or someone you love needs assistance, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
Disclaimer- I am not a licensed therapist. A suicide survivor is someone who has survived the loss of a friend or loved one to suicide, not to be confused with surviving an attempt.

PART TWO

Dear Readers,

If you are reading this and have not read Part I of this series, please go back and start there so the following post is in context.

The following morning, April 8th, 2009 the phone rings again- this time it is my mother. She tells me to wake my father. My father worked the night shift so I was cautious about her request, but she insisted. So, I knocked on my father’s door to wake him. I told him my mother was on the line insisting she speak to him. Bear in mind my father and I were still reeling with the tears and sleeplessness of Bob’s passing just one day prior. I exited the room and pressed my ear to the door when I heard my father gasp. Turning around, I went back to that same patio and lit a cigarette while weighing all the possibilities in my mind.

Someone was hurt.

Someone was dead.

Someone had cancer.

Who could it be?

What could it be?

Why could it be?

My father appeared in the doorway. Saying nothing, he passed me the phone. With tears rolling down his cheeks, he lifted one of the chairs and placed it next to mine. I held the phone to my ear and heard my mother’s words. “He did it,” she said.

My mother’s father, Lyle Montgomery, had died early that morning from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. He was 62 years old.

gpa

I was in shock, complete and utter disbelief. How could this be? How could my entire family be shattered by suicide in less than twenty-four hours? My father and I cried relentlessly for hours. I could not stop even long enough to pee. Grief is a very strange thing. While sitting on the toilet I saw my dad emerge in the hallway and said, “We have to do something. We have to get out of here.” He agreed. So that very day we packed up and headed to Galveston Island. It is difficult to recall the details in a state of shock, but all we knew was that we needed to be together, and we needed a change of environment.

We decided to do our best to honor these losses by making an attempt to indulge in all of the things these men no longer could. Nature, wine, laughter, food, good company music, shelter and sea. With sand in our toes we cried into our champagne together, nearly taking out a seagull in the process. Being that we both survived this life on the value of good humor, we made what room we could for healing and joy. We vowed to one another that day to never choose suicide as a viable option – no matter what. Some say happiness is only real when shared, but I think the same can be said of grief.

My grandfather, Lyle, had spoken openly about suicide in the years prior. He had health conditions that caused him a great deal of pain and limited ability, exacerbating his suicidal ideation. This was not a weak man. He was a tough well-worn American businessman who loved the outdoors. He was a concrete cornerstone, the very foundation of our family. He loved his family and took pride in his home. He took great effort to make the holidays special and record home videos. He demanded togetherness, good food, and entertainment – even if it wasn’t all together functional. Like anyone, he had his own history including the abandonment of his mother, the casting away of his siblings, and the fact that he was a recovered alcoholic. He hadn’t always been the best father or husband, and viewed his grandchildren as a second chance to love well. Our family was fairly well-known in the town where I grew up. My grandfather owned his own business and participated in local sports while my grandmother was a nurse at the very same hospital I was born in. She also filled a leadership role in the church.

Toward the end, my grandpa Lyle was diagnosed with a benign cyst that was located on that back of his neck near his spine. Here was this man, this almighty superhero of a man in the eyes of his grandchildren, a man I had never seen frightened of anything in my life – and he was scared. He was scared of surgery. He was scared of pain. He was scared of living if it meant the quality of his life would change. Here was this man who hadn’t attended church in forty years who was now attending church, and people were noticing. I can say that I was not entirely surprised by the fact that he took his own life, even though my mother resents me for it. In fact, I resent him for taking my mother from me, but that’s a tale for another day.

After his surgery nothing was the same. His mobility lessened – a significant loss to an otherwise healthy, active, hard-working man. He soon became over-medicated, falling asleep at the dinner table with lit cigarettes in his hand – towels laid out to catch the ashes and spills. This highly opinionated leader and conversationalist became reduced to narcotic-saturated slurring and sadness.

Everyone who spoke to him in his last days said that he was not in his right mind. I remember our last phone call. He was angry with me for moving away. He viewed my leaving as abandonment. Respectfully, we disagreed. He could hardly speak and when he did he spoke openly of an indifference toward life. I told him I loved him. I reassured him. I told him he needed to travel more, to get out of Minnesota where the cold sucks the life from your bones. He agreed and we hung up. That was the last time I heard his voice.

So, why am I telling you all of this? I am telling you this to teach you three things:

1.) Suicide can happen to ANYONE .
2.) There are warning signs, but not always, and they can vary considerably.
3.) We never truly let go of suicide loss. We are changed forever by our grief, and simply learn to carry it.

The most meaningful revelation in my healing came five agonizing alcoholic years after this tragedy fractured my family. It seemed so simple, almost trivial. I was driving down Main Street in a small mountain town in Colorado where I lived at the time when a Pearl Jam song came over the radio. The sun was shining in through the windows on a beautiful day when suddenly it occurred to me that they were dead and I am alive. It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.

I knew then that neither one of these men would want me wallowing forever in grief. In that moment I realized that this was a choice they had made completely independent of my ability to help them. I realized I was not responsible, that I could not have done anything differently, that THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE, and that perhaps the outcome would have been the same regardless. More than that, I was going to use my pain to help others, to educate and dismantle stigma and say these things out loud, to enlighten those who may consider suicide and share the burden of suicide survival.

I still cry when April rolls around each year and I consider that my children will never have the joy of knowing these men, but I have not walked away entirely empty handed. Suicide has taught me how even in the pinnacle of pain we can be made better for it, how the aftermath of trauma affords us the opportunity to grow, how a shared sense of community grants us sanctuary in an often isolating grief, and to take nothing for granted.

**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!