LGBTQ+, Lifestyle, Relationships

Ugly Truth 48: Why I Haven’t Been Writing

“We just could not slow down. We were evolving into something greater, perhaps too much for our own good. And one thing always remained as I moved on. I saved a little bit of love just in case you would ever return home.”
Robert M. Drake, Beautiful Chaos

Dear Readers,

Please forgive my absence. The truth is, I haven’t had the energy or the wherewithal to write, but I am here now. During these unprecedented times most of us are no doubt exhausted. The BLM Movement, the election year, the Corona Virus, the rioting from coast to coast, the police brutality, the racism, and the ghastly death toll of 2020 has been weighing heavily on my introverted empathetic nature. Add to that an unexpected hospitalization, a few big life changes, the demands of obtaining a college education, and my own mental health and I find myself more misanthropic by the second. This calls to mind a quote I enjoy about how if children knew the truth about life, they wouldn’t have the heart to begin at all. Perhaps this not knowing where to begin has rooted itself in my writer’s block. But then I see her and once more I overflow.

Through it all Alice has never left my side. She stays through my dark of night and the way I think too much. She stays when I’m tearful and uncertain. She laughs with me about ridiculous hypotheticals when I can’t sleep. She tells me she wishes she could carry my pain for a day so I wouldn’t have to. She shares with me her inner most secrets trusting that I’ll guard them. She carves into my bias and shifts my perspective constantly. She is a phenomenal listener, skilled communicator, purposeful teacher, and talented conversationalist. She challenges me to be better because she knows I am capable. She inspires me to be more open hearted because she knows I am deserving. She understands the difference between intimacy and sex, and has the biggest heart of any human I have ever met. She beats herself up because she always wants to give me more than she has, but the truth is, she is more than enough – above and beyond, infinitely so.

With our one year anniversary fast approaching, I find myself more and more grateful for the way Alice quiets my chaos – and I am not the only one. She is a loving daughter, attentive mother, true friend, and exceptional employee. She remains grounded in the work that has to be done to balance her career goals with parenting life and interpersonal relationships. She dreams up ways to do better for herself and our family. She remains ever romantic, kind, and generous. When I am galivanting through my many moods and doubting my self worth, she sees the good in me. She gently plucks me from my own head and reminds me how to be happy in the present moment. Alice is so strong and selfless that you would never guess something was hurting her unless she told you. She restores in me things that I thought I had lost forever. She deserves all of my honor and respect, and I can’t wait to marry her.

Please hear me when I say that if you meet someone who builds you up rather than tears you down in an already challenging world, keep them close. RealSimple offers 14 Realistic Signs You’re in a Healthy Relationship:

1. You Speak Your Mind

Relationships thrive when couples can express themselves freely and honestly. That means no topic is off-limits, and you both feel heard. Consistent communication is vital to building a lasting life together.

2. You Have Your Own Space

Just because you’re in love doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment together. Taking time to pursue your own interests and friendships keeps your relationship fresh and gives you both the opportunity to grow as individuals—even while you’re growing as a couple.

3. You Fight

Disagreements are normal, so if you aren’t fighting, chances are you’re holding back. But when people in healthy relationships fight, they fight productively and fairly. That means avoiding name-calling or put-downs. It also means striving to understand your partner instead of trying to score points. And when you’re wrong? You apologize.

4. You Like Yourself and Your Partner as You Are Now

Healthy relationships should be based in reality. Chances are your relationship won’t suddenly get better if you win the lottery, have a baby, or move into your dream house. So don’t base your partnership on the hope that it will change. You recognize that neither of you is perfect, and you accept and value each other for who you are right now—not who you might become.

5. You Make Decisions Jointly

You don’t call all the shots—neither does your partner. From what movie to see to how many children to have, you make decisions together and listen to each other’s concerns and desires. Sure, this may mean you watch Transformers again on Saturday night—but on Sunday night, it’s your turn.

RELATED: 6 Signs Your Relationship Is Going to Last

6. You Find Joy

Healthy relationships are full of laughter and fun. This doesn’t mean you’re giddy every hour of the day—or that your partner doesn’t drive you up the wall sometimes—but it does mean that your life together is mostly happy in sometimes simple ways. (Making dinner, laughing at the same things, finishing each others’ sentences…)

7. You Find Balance

Sometimes your partner needs to work longer hours while you play chauffeur and head chef. Or you must devote time to an elderly parent while your spouse tackles the chores. That’s life. What matters is that, in the long run, your trade-offs seem fair.

8. You Treat Each Other With Kindness

Nothing is a stronger sign of a healthy relationship than treating the person you love with care, consideration, empathy, and appreciation. If you find yourself showing more respect to people you hardly know than you show your partner, take a step back and revisit your priorities.

9. You Trust Each Other

Healthy relationships are built on trust and a commitment to communication without reservations or secrets. Want to know how much you trust each other now? Take this quiz from the University of California, Berkeley.

10. You Let Things Go

Your partner will annoy you. You will annoy him or her, too. You will say things you don’t mean. You will behave inconsiderately. The important thing is how you deal with all this. So they forgot to pick up milk for the second time? Tell them you’re disappointed, of course—then let it go.

11. You Are Intimate

Sex is an important part of healthy relationships, but it’s only one part, and it’s different than intimacy, which is less about physical satisfaction than about bonding, friendship, and familiarity. If you’re in a healthy relationship, you’ll feel connected—in and out of bed.

12. Your Relationship Is Your Safe Place

Your relationship should be a safety net—a stable place to come home to at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you don’t fight—it just means that when things are hard, you’d always rather see your partner than anyone else.

13. You Talk to Your Partner, Not to Other People

When you have issues and concerns, you share them with your partner, not your coworkers at Happy Hour. You’ll always have your friends as a sounding board, of course, but not as a crutch to avoid hard conversations with your significant other.

14. You Say the Magic Words

“I love you,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry.”

Have you found your person? Tell me about them in the comments below!

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!

Mental health

Ugly Truth 47: I’m Manic Again

“I’ve never thought of you like that,’ said Christopher. ‘How could I? If you were any other woman, I could tell you I loved you, easily enough, but not you– because you’ve always seemed to me like a part of myself, and it would be like saying I loved my own eyes or my own mind. But have you ever thought of what it would be to have to live without your mind or your eyes, Kate? To be mad? Or blind?”

-Elizabeth Marie Pope, The Perilous Gard

I havent slept and I worked 4 hours overtime at 3am. Sleep deprivation is one of my strongest triggers for changes in mood.

I’m hyper, unusually upbeat, and laughing to tears. My thoughts are racing and my words are coming out jumbled. I’m over confident and insecure. My appetite is fading. I can’t stop talking or moving – I’m trembling and my heart is racing. I’m safe, in good company and in control – but not really constructive. More importantly, my babygirl loves me anyway.

The true experience of a manic episode is somewhat different and difficult to explain. So, for the sake of awareness – which I almost always am – welcome to hashtag hell.

Is anyone else out there?

Note to Self: Choose recourse, not discourse.

#mania #manic #manicdepression #manicepisode #insomnia #pressuredspeech #abnormallyupbeat #jumpy #weird #agitated #talkingnonsense #increasedenergy #exaggeratedsenseofself #inflatedselfesteem #wellbeing #euphoria #distractibility #hallucinations #psychosis #increasedsexdrive #decreasedappetite #crash #BipolarinRealLife #MentalHealthAwareness

Mental health

Ugly Truth 46: June is PTSD Awareness Month!

“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.”

-Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror

June is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Month! Suddenly it seems so fitting.


THE FACTS:

*PTSD is not just Veterans of War


*Rape Victims Have a 49% Chance of Developing PTSD


*7-8% of the U.S. Population Will Have PTSD at Some Point


*Women are Twice as Likely to Develop PTSD


*Symptoms can Take Months or Years to Develop


*78% of Those with a Diagnosis Experience

Depression in Their Lifetime


*People who Suffer From PTSD are More Likely to Commit Suicide


*1/3 of Veterans with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Also Meet Criteria for PTSD


*Individuals with PTSD are 2-4 Times More Likely to Develop a Substance Use Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience.

Types of events that can lead to PTSD include:

serious accidents

physical or sexual assault

abuse, including childhood or domestic abuse

exposure to traumatic events at work, including remote exposure

serious health problems, such as being admitted to intensive care

childbirth experiences, such as losing a baby

war and conflict

medical trauma

civil unrest

pandemics

PTSD develops in about 1 in 3 people who experience severe trauma.

It’s not fully understood why some people develop the condition while others do not. While treatment is available, some symptoms may never diminish.

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:

physical pain

nightmares or flashbacks

depression or anxiety

withdrawl or avoidance

repression

emotional numbing

insomnia

hyperarousal

irritability

guilt or shame

Do you or someone you love live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

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!

Mental health, Parenting, Relationships

Ugly Truth 45: Life Will Break You

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

-Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

Dear Readers,

It’s been a while since I wrote a love letter to myself. Often I write to process or heal, but most of all I write to regain my sight when I lose perspective. The truth is I revisit my own words, perhaps even more often than my dedicated readers.

Both of my parents are struggling, and it breaks my heart. It’s strange the way we’re taught not to treat our children as extensions of ourselves, but as individuals. As I grow older, I feel myself belonging more to a world I can’t understand.

When I look at each of my parents, it’s as if I’m looking into a mirror. I see my love, my compassion, my zest for life, but I also see many things I don’t want for myself. I see my mental illness, my insecurity, my pain. Emboldened by an undue life of untimely grief, my mother and father are generally unhappy people in their own right. So it begs the question: Who am I?

My mother was born into a family of second generation German immigrants and French Canadians, hard working people who turn the soil we all walk upon, but they were also grossly negligent and abusive caregivers. Leaking through generations, my mother was subject to verbal, physical and sexual abuse for most of her developmental years. It goes without saying the toll this takes on the feminine soul. She grew into a strong and irresponsible woman with many health concerns and a big heart, often subject to decisions beyond her control. That said, while I struggle to understand her choices as a mother, it’s easy for me to forgive a woman simply trying to survive her formation.

Alternately, my father inherited an English, German, and Irish descent into madness. He was the only son of a woman who passed away at the age of 40. At the age of 17 he buried his mother, and fathered me one month later. A few short years later his father passed away, having chosen a homosexual lifestyle over the betterment of his own child. By the time he was my age, he was an orphan without a sibling to speak of. Half a lifetime later, he buried half of his friends and family with me crying at his side. Strong though he may be, my father reached his own age of 40, and subsequently learned of the tragic death of his first love. He is no stranger to death and grief, and yet it still strikes deep each and every time. My father continues to grapple with the same swings of mood and general unrest I hold close to my own chest. He can be denying, dismissive, hypocritical, and downright mean. Indeed, he was robbed of his formation altogether.

So here I am at my own age of 30, and maybe the only thing all three of us have in common is having lost a loved one to suicide. While I have certainly suffered the choices of my loved ones, I have surpassed resentment. Sure, I didn’t receive the life or parents I deserved, but neither did they. I am stronger and happier than the two of them combined having been shown exactly what I don’t want for myself, my partner, or my children. It’s a miracle altogether that I am even alive, and I don’t intend on wasting it. In some twisted way I am grateful for an over exposure to grief. In some weird way, nothing bothers me anymore. Despite my sensitive and bleeding nature, I harbor a healthy sense of detachment from my surroundings, quietly holding my breath for the next blow. Like the ocean promises, there will be more. Certainty has taught me nothing is certain but death and taxes, and to be grateful for calm brackish waters.

In releasing all my hardship and chronic pain I have learned that I am deeply loving, generous, and kind. I used to cringe when Christian’s would say that without suffering there would be no compassion, but maturity and a significant amount of anguish has taught me the wiser. Perhaps our greatest truth is loving others despite every reason, hurt and abandonment not to. Perhaps our victory lies simply in choosing love over fear.

At some point, we all face the great divide of forced choice. We must reckon with our knowledge of the world, and choose to venture down that same old dark alley, or find our own pathless wood. What choice do we have really, but to roll with the punches – and love one another in spite of it?

Introspective bullshit aside, I went through many poor coping skills before finding the right ones.

I, for one, choose love – conditionless and motioning forward – without boundary and unashamed.

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!

Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 44: Manipulation is Abuse & 9 Phrases to Watch Out For

“Just because something isn’t a lie does not mean that it isn’t deceptive. A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.”
-Criss Jami

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog where I lay bare 100 Ugly Truths!

If you’ve ever been the victim of skillful and unscrupulous manipulation, then you know even the wisest of folks can have the wool pulled over their eyes. The truth is, we all manipulate our environment to survive, but when does it become toxic? Business Insider offers 9 phrases to look out for:

1. MONITORING – Manipulative people always have an eye on their victim.

In the first stages of a romantic relationship, it’s normal to feel butterflies, and want to know what your new partner is doing all the time. However, if the person you’re starting to be intimate with is manipulative then their affection and attention could be love bombing.

Not replying to the barrage of messages may end with you being on the receiving end of your partner’s wrath, which is a huge red flag. You deserve your space, and anyone worth your time will know and respect this.

2. OBJECT CONSTANCY – They don’t have any empathy.

Everybody falls out sometimes, especially in romantic relationships. However, the level to which manipulative people like narcissists get angry with their significant others is beyond what is acceptable.

Those with personality disorders like narcissism lack something called “object constancy,” which is the ability to keep your positive feelings about someone whilst also being angry, annoyed, or disappointed in them.

When they hurl insults and scream at their partner, narcissists don’t feel any of the affectionate feelings they once had. That’s why they can seem like a completely different person in these moments, like Jekyll and Hyde. Their reaction is so powerful it can make the victim feel as though they must be in the wrong, which means they start altering their behaviour to make their controlling partner happy.

3. MOTH TO A FLAME – They will appear very attractive.

Contrary to popular belief, manipulative people often seek out those who are strong and confident to prey on, because it makes them feel superior. Targeting vulnerable people doesn’t make them feel powerful, so they will often go after you because they see the positives in you.

In a relationship, they want other people to know that someone as great as you has chosen to be with them. It’s only behind the scenes that they start to bring you down, because that way they can start to break your confidence. Lower self-esteem makes it more likely you’ll stick with a controlling partner, because you may feel like it’s what you deserve.

4. FLIPPING THE SCRIPT – All is not what it seems.

Manipulative people are masters of smoke and mirrors. If you are their target, they will have intensely studied you, and will know all of your strengths and weaknesses.

These are the tools they need to know how to wind you up. Often, they will also accuse you of the very things they have done themselves. For example, if they have cheated on you, they may accuse you of being unfaithful. If they are constantly cancelling your plans, they might tell you you’re guilty of not giving them any freedom.

Confusing their partner and making them emotional makes manipulative people feel victorious.

Ultimately, to a manipulator, everything is a game. The only way to get out of the game is to leave the relationship and establish no contact.

5. GASLIGHTING – Prepare for reality to warp.

The term “gaslighting” was coined from the 1944 film “Gaslight” where a man controls and tricks his wife into believing she is losing her mind. Nowadays it is a term to describe how manipulative people gain power over someone else by making them feel like they are going crazy.

Manipulators lie, make things up that never happened, but say things in such a convincing way and with such conviction, that their victims end up believing it is the truth.

It happens slowly, a small lie here and there, so the victim doesn’t see the bigger deceptions coming. It’s like the “frog in the saucepan” analogy — the water in the pan is heated up slowly so the frog doesn’t realise it is starting to boil to death.

6. PERSPECTICIDE – You may live in fear.

Beyond gaslighting is something called “perspecticide.” This happens when the manipulative person has made someone believe so many things that aren’t true, they no longer know what is real.

When this happens in romantic relationships, the victim is effectively a prisoner in their own life, not being allowed to do anything or even think on their own terms. The controlling partner may cut off resources like money, a phone, or transport to make sure the victim cannot do anything for themselves.

Even things like their own beliefs and religion are compromised, because the victim lives in total fear of putting a step out of line all the time.

7. TRAUMA BONDING – Getting away will be tough.

From the outside, people may look into abusive relationships and wonder how the victim stuck around for so long. One of the answers is something called “trauma bonding.”

Manipulative, abusive people tend to be cruel to their partners, and hurl insults at them. They sometimes are also physically violent. However, they didn’t start off this way when they were reeling in their victim.

Manipulators also give their partners intermittent periods of love and compliments to get them to stick around. These moments are given when the partner has “behaved” or has done something right. It’s a way of being conditioned, and the victim gets biologically addicted to the emotional push and pull.

8. ‘BUT HE DIDN’T HIT ME’ – Psychological abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse.

One of the most worrying things a person can say when they’re in a damaging, toxic relationship is: “but he didn’t hit me.”

Psychological abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse, but it’s harder to identify because there aren’t physical scars. Unfortunately, manipulative people are often aware of this, and they can use this to their advantage. They know physical violence is the breaking point for many people, and so they will abuse and control their partner in every way up until that point.

“When people say, ‘but he didn’t hit me,’ what they often mean is that they would leave if they were hit,” said Lisa Aronson Fontes, a psychology researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “Their partners exert control one thousand ways but may stop short of hitting, if they know that would ‘break’ the relationship.”

9. BARGAINING – Don’t compromise on your safety.

Manipulators do not like losing. If you take a step back, or you leave a relationship with them, they will beg for a second chance if they think they can still gain something from you. 

They are likely to give the fight of their life to keep you around. They might tell you how they will change, or how you will never find someone who loves you as much as them. However, all the promises are empty, and it’s not in your best interests to get back with them out of fear. 

So there ya have it folks! Having been on the receiving end of all of these behaviors, I can assure you manipulation is very real. It often starts out subtle, and ends up somewhere you could never imagine from those you love and trust most. Sometimes it takes an objective perspective, someone looking in from the outside, to shed light on the situation

All explanation aside, never compromise on your well-being. Remember, we teach people to love us the way we think we deserve. The hallmark of manipulation is conditional love. Watch out for inconsistencies, passive-aggressive behavior, psychological attacks when you’re stressed or sleep deprived, spoon-fed lies, circular reasoning, and apology without action. This is abuse, and totally unacceptable.

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!