College, Mental Illness, OCD, Tourette Syndrome

Being Drafted Into the Mental Health War

I am going to take you back in time. We are in the Fall of 2007.  My parents only child has been very sick now for four years. She was diagnosed with Severe Tourette Syndrome in third grade. She has been on over 50 different medications. None of them easing the terror of the nights that are spent twitching and convulsing in bed. My mother would stay by her side all night as the tics were released, doing her best to sing soft calming melodies through the tears she held back. Just last year, 6th grade, my parents only child was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She couldn’t leave the house without a panic attack. She hasn’t brushed her hair in over a month, she hasn’t showered in over two. The doctors try new medications, desperately trying to save the flame in this young girl that seems to be slowly burning out. 7th grade. She is experiencing new and scary thoughts. She doesn’t like them. The thoughts tell her she has to kill herself, but she doesn’t want to. She tells my parents and they move into action without her knowing. They secretly lock up the medication. They secretly hide the knives. They secretly tie a string to her door that leads into their bedroom with a bell on the end. This notifies them each time she opens her door to leave her room. She didn’t want to kill herself, but she felt she had to. The thoughts were so strong one night. She didn’t want to do it. She still saw so much hope in life. She loved her parents and her friends. She ran into my mother’s bedroom crying to tell her the thoughts were loud in her head and my parents took her to the ER. This young girl of 13 years old did not feel safe. She felt she had to die.

Just last year, 6th grade, my parents only child was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She couldn’t leave the house without a panic attack. She hasn’t brushed her hair in over a month, she hasn’t showered in over two. The doctors try new medications, desperately trying to save the flame in this young girl that seems to be slowly burning out. 7th grade. She is experiencing new and scary thoughts. She doesn’t like them. The thoughts tell her she has to kill herself, but she doesn’t want to. She tells my parents and they move into action without her knowing. They secretly lock up the medication. They secretly hide the knives. They secretly tie a string to her door that leads into their bedroom with a bell on the end. This notifies them each time she opens her door to leave her room. She didn’t want to kill herself, but she felt she had to. The thoughts were so strong one night. She didn’t want to do it. She still saw so much hope in life. She loved her parents and her friends. She ran into my mother’s bedroom crying to tell her the thoughts were loud in her head and my parents took her to the ER. This young girl of 13 years old did not feel safe. She felt she had to die.

The thoughts were so strong one night. She didn’t want to do it. She still saw so much hope in life. She loved her parents and her friends. She ran into my mother’s bedroom crying to tell her the thoughts were loud in her head and my parents took her to the ER. This young girl of 13 years old did not feel safe. She felt she had to die.

In the end, she was admitted into a residential program for 14 days and it was discovered that Prozac was the culprit to these suicidal thoughts.  This journey, however, was only the beginning.

It is crazy to look back upon my memories. To see such dark times. Times that do not even seem real. It is as if a film playing in my head and not real life memories. To think that now I am in my first year of my Master’s program, fighting the stigma of chronic OCD. Showing the world that there is hope, there is a life worth living, and there is a future for them. The fight is hard. It is a test created in a way that makes you nearly destined to fail. But if you put every ounce of strength you have into this war called Mental Illness, you can win it. Time and time again you will be enlisted in this mental health army, drafted into battle. Choose to fight, choose to learn, choose to make friends and be an advocate for your life and others affected, choose to win.

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~ Stay Chipper Friends ~


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College, Mental Illness, OCD

In Old New York

It is crazy to think I have been living in Brooklyn for almost a month now.  I have just fallen in love. I love the people – who are not the rude New Yorkers you hear about on TV. I love the beauty of the buildings. I never thought of buildings as art until I was looking across the East River at the Manhattan skyline in awe or walking down a treelined street with brownstones on each side. I love the electricity in the air. How it makes you feel alive. I love how one moment I can be in Downtown Brooklyn and then after walking a few blocks, I’m in Cobble Hill, a historic neighborhood

21686441_10212350970843890_4074793432274276620_nwhere the electricity seems to have disappeared.  Replaced by the sounds of children playing and the sights of young parents pushing strollers. I love how I can take a 20-minute train to Manhatten and feel like I have endless opportunities. But most of all, I love how I can do all of this, experience all of this, and feel all of this, and be making strides in my goal to help others. Not only do I get to live here in New York City, but I am here getting my Masters. I feel so light, so free. OCD doesn’t feel near. I know he still lingers in my brain. He waits. He’ll wait a  month or so until he decides it’s time to come out of hibernation. But for now, I am free to be the best version of me I can be. I’m not weighed down or limited by my brains imbalances. And that right there is all I want. I am going to enjoy this feeling for as long as I can. I’m going to make the most of my time down here. I am so thankful I have been given this chance.

~ Stay Chipper Friends ~


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College, Mental Illness, OCD, Tourette Syndrome

Pomp and Circumstance

There is exactly one month until I graduate from College! It is an unthinkable accomplishment if you look back on my early teenage years. A time where graduating middle school didn’t seem like a possibility. A time where I had to live day by day. A time where I had to push the thoughts of helping others away and worry about myself making it to the next day.  As someone who has ALWAYS worried about others, it was hard for me to concentrate on myself. When my Tourette Syndrome was at it’s worst, I would spend hours upon hours at night convulsing and twitching. I looked as though I was possessed by a demon…I felt like it too. Although it was miserable for me, I remember crying, imagining another young boy or girl doing the same thing at the exact same time. It crushed my heart and made the experience of suffering from an illness even worse. It is one thing to suffer by yourself, and another to know hundreds of thousands of others are barely managing it as well. Research shows that 86% of Tourette sufferers have a comorbid illness. Not only are the majority being squished, pulled, tightened, and yanked by their brain, but 63% suffer from ADHD, 49% from Anxiety, 47% have a learning disability, 34% are on the Autism spectrum, and more than 1/3 suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (Feel free to check out the other statistics Here) Ever since I was diagnosed in 3rd grade, I wanted to do something to help. It wouldn’t be until 8th-grade when I learned specifically how I wanted to help.

After receiving treatment at UPENN’s Center for Treatment and Study of Anxiety, I knew I wanted to be just like my doctors. That dream pushes me forward every day. Now, as I’m just over a month away from graduating, I realize how close I am to that goal. I am SO close and I want it SO badly. I’ve always known I would reach it one day, but it never felt truly real. I couldn’t imagine it becoming a reality. I have trained myself to live in the moment. The choices I make all lead towards that dream, but I didn’t allow myself to think about me actually reaching that goal. The times that I did, I was immediately overwhelmed by the thoughts that I could never reach it. I mean honestly, if you think about it, a girl like me who would have a panic attack at the mention of school one day receiving a bachelor’s degree. Attending the one thing that tortured my mind every day for four years. On top of that, going on to graduate school, receiving a Masters and then a Psy.D (Doctorates in Psychology), having an office and being healthy enough to actually help others instead of myself. It just wasn’t realistic…yet it was the ONLY thing I wanted to do with my life. I had to do it. The only option was to succeed. Here I am, already accepted into a graduate school and one month away from walking down the isle in my cap and gown led by the sound of bagpipes marching in front of me. Do you hear that? That’s me checking off a few more things on my checklist to success with Pomp and Circumstance playing in the background.  Listen to it here 😉

 

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~ Stay Chipper Friends ~


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College, Mental Illness, OCD, Tourette Syndrome

Life Updates

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It has been way too long since my last post. Five months too long!  A lot can happen in five months. For me, almost everything that happened was completely positive. I guess I’ll start with my most exciting experience since my last post. January 5th I left for an amazing trip through my college. I spent ten days in London and 9 days in Germany and one day in Austria learning about World War II, the psychological effects, and the countries. I couldn’t have had a better time. It was my first time overseas and I feel in love with all the different cities! On top of enjoying a once in a lifetime experience, I definitely overcame some self-image issues. When I started falling backward about two years ago, I gained over 40 pounds in a matter of months. Many psychological issues arose with the weight gain such as disordered eating and obsessions over the need to be thin. I was disgusted by how I looked and was ashamed to see myself in pictures. I didn’t feel pretty anymore. My first couple of days in London, I refused to take pictures of myself. I realized when my mom complained that she didn’t see any pictures with me, that I was letting this self-consciousness affect this once in a lifetime trip. These pictures were supposed to capture my memories of the trip and I was going to let my embarrassment take that away from me? I finally took the step and had my friend take my first picture. It was in front of a fountain on the way to the HMS Belfast Navy Ship. It was hard for me, but after taking those first few pictures, my self-confidence has definitely risen! I still feel heavy, I don’t like the stretch marks on my body or my fuller face, but I’m feeling much much better. In the end, I enjoyed an amazing trip, added three countries to my passport (four including a layover at the airport in Amsterdam) and I overcame one of my internal battles.

After returning home, I enjoyed two days of relaxing before going to New York City to see Josh Groban in Natasha and Pierre and the Great Comet on Broadway. Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely adore Josh. With a little help from my grammie, my cousin and I purchased seats on stage. My heart stopped when Josh was singing right in front of me. I don’t think my heart even recovered from such a severe case of melting. January was definitely the Month of Chelsea. Because school wasn’t involved in a way to trigger my OCD, I didn’t have too many mental battles to face. It was a well-needed break. February came as well as the start of my last semester at Hartwick College.  This is the last semester of my senior year! I can’t believe it. What shocks me even more, is the fact that each semester I’m getting better and better. I overcome one challenge and face another which is slightly easier to manage. Of course, there are bad days, which I think too many people (including myself just a year ago) don’t expect. They expect after overcoming a challenge that it’s a fresh start. From here on they can handle everything. The fact of the matter is, life is always going to be two steps forward one step back. Every once in a while it may even be two steps forward three steps back. Although this post is 99% positive, it’s important to realize that there are struggles I face every day. I still have OCD, I still have Anxiety and Depression. That’s okay. It’s part of my life just like any other disease or disorder. The important part is that each day I’m learning new things about myself and my disorders that help me to manage it.

Classes have been going well, I’ve missed more classes than the average student due to Depression rather than OCD. I feel different. Especially when I’m alone. There are days I just have no motivation to leave my bed. In all honestly, it’s not too severe. I just feel it stirring inside of me. For the most part, I’m doing great. Much better than last semester! The fact that I graduate May 20th blows my mind, and the fact that I’ve been applying to Psy.D and Masters programs are shocking. Nobody could have imagined I would be where I am today. To be able live independently, to care for myself, and to be so close to the future I’ve always dreamed of. It makes me tear up every time I think about it…which is often. I’m just so thankful for this life I’ve been given, for the people in it, and the obstacles that have made me stronger.

~ Stay Chipper ~

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College, Mental Illness, OCD, Tourette Syndrome

What Kept Me Going at My Worst

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I grew up a Roman Catholic and the morals and values that faith gave me helped make me who I am today. When someone faces a struggle so big, you can’t help but search for reasons as to why this has happened. For my family, our answer was always “God has a plan.” I truly believe that. God has a plan and everything happens for a reason were the sayings that got me through my hardest times.  I’ve known what God’s plan was since I was 13 years old. I met Dr. Franklin and Dr. Antinoro at UPENN Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety and they introduced me to the lifesaving methods of treating my OCD. I knew after meeting them that they are exactly who I want to be when I grow up. This right here was God’s plan for me. I am struggling now, but one day I can use my experience to help others like myself. I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to please others. I don’t want to offend anyone, I don’t want to upset anyone. I want everyone to be happy, healthy, and in love with life’s adventures. Dr. Franklin and Dr. Antinoro brought back the happiness and hope in my life. That is what I want to do for others.

So, as I had tread my way through the rough seas, this dream of mine, this plan, kept me going. I knew one day I would get better. My parents made sure of that. I would not always live like this. Hope was something I almost always had. Life can’t be this hard forever, right? Right. One day the stormy clouds have to pass. One day the seas have to calm. One day the winds die down. Everything will work out in the end. Everything I’ve gone through will be a life lesson and will make me stronger. These thoughts were essential to getting me through the worst of times. I hope by writing this, someone may read this and become inspired to start thinking this way. Optimism is the only way you’ll get through it all in the end. Why not start now?

 

~ Stay Chipper ~


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College, Mental Illness, OCD, Tourette Syndrome

Speaking on a Panel!

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Tomorrow is a big day! I will be speaking on a panel for the Greater New York State Tourette Syndrome Conference for Educators Day. Although I am no longer a Teen, I will be speaking on a panel for teens with Tourette’s. I have always been outspoken about my illnesses and have wanted to take it the next step further by making a difference. I’m hoping this is the first of many panels to speak on. School would have been impossible if not for the amazing support my school district gave me. They were so willing to learn about my illness and accommodate to my needs. Every teacher, nurse, and principle in my school went above and beyond to help me, so now, I’m able to share my experience with educators who are willing to listen. Maybe my experience will help the students in which these educators will be assisting. I’m excited! As for an update, I’m in my final year of undergrad. Can you believe that? Two years ago I couldn’t see myself here. I was immobile and trapped in my house. Even last year, I didn’t allow myself to get my hopes up on returning to school. OCD is very present in my day to day life, but I’m making my way through. I shower once every five days, which is not ideal. Weekends are unproductive thanks to my avoidance issues, but my new plan with my therapist is to make myself go to the Library on weekends. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve had a few all nighters because of avoidance with writing papers. I realize that if I can’t stop this avoidance of papers on the weekends, then I would not have a change in Graduate School. That’s my current long term goal. Go to Grad School. During the week the Library is where you can find me. I get my work done and honestly, I enjoy my library time. I listen to my study music which consists of the one and only Josh Groban and I easily get my assignments done. It blows my mind how far I’ve come. Barely any OCD with school during the week. It’s truly a miracle. I’m only taking four classes this semester, but in the spring I will be taking five in order to graduate on time. I’m nervous about that. That also means that I have no choice but to pass my hardest class this semester…Experimental Statistics. *cue dramatic music* I have a tutor and I meet with my professor, so we’ll see how it goes. All-in-all, I’m very optimistic about how life is going right now. I see a bright future ahead of me. Life is not an easy road, but with a chipper attitude, you’ll get through it one way or another. Even if that means recalculating and taking a different route.

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~ Stay Chipper ~


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College, Mental Illness, OCD, Rogers Memorial Hospital Blogs, Tourette Syndrome

Why I Journal and Helpful Tips

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Keeping a journal is a great way to organize your thoughts and evaluate what you are feeling. It is advice that doctors and therapists always give. In the past, when that advice was given I would brush it off. It seemed pointless and like a waste of time. I started writing quite a bit last January and continued it during my time in residential treatment in the summer. It was a perfect coping method. I would write just before bed and summarize my thoughts and feelings for the day. There were many nights I just wanted to skip, but I tried to push through. For a while I seemed to have pretty negative entries. That’s when I decided to create this blog. I would share my thoughts and experiences which I wrote in my journal and try to turn my thoughts into more positive ones. Not only did it help me, but I found that there were others that could relate to what I was going through and who found my blog inspirational. It helped me become a little more chipper during a hard time in my life.

When I was in residential treatment at Rogers Memorial Hospital, my therapist unsurprisingly had me write each night. But instead of using it as a way to vent and summarize my day, whenever I mentioned something bad that I did or that had happened, I had to talk about something I learned from that experience and something positive that could come out of it. I had a fear of failure. I used my OCD as a shield to protect me from taking responsibility for my actions.  If I was sick, I didn’t have responsibilities, therefore I had no chance of failing. So each night I would use my journal to remind myself that each day is a learning experience. Every mistake is a chance to learn and grow. Let me tell you, when I remind myself that, it feels good. Same goes for writing positives that happened during the day. Some days when I’m really struggling, my entry for the day is lists of good things that happened. The sun was out, the wind blew against my skin, I saw a dog today, I know one day it will be easier. Isn’t that the perfect mood to fall asleep to? As much as you may just want to brush journaling off, I say give it a try. Below are some tips and topics I use when journaling.

Tips

  • If and when you miss a day journaling, don’t apologize. Don’t think of journaling as an obligation or a chore that needs to get done. Think of it as a way to unwind.
  • Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or writing quality. This is only for your eyes and for getting your thoughts on paper. Don’t be embarrassed.
  • Decide if you want to journal in the morning or night and be consistent. Many people say it is more beneficial to journal in the morning because you are more positive, but I like to summarize my day and list the positives. (I am also not a morning person and like my sleep!)
  • Set a reminder each day to journal on your designated time. Mine is every night at 8:00 pm!
  • Don’t just write about the good things that happened. Like I mentioned before, write about the bad things and how it made you feel, but at the end of that thought remind yourself that life is a learning experience, it will help you grow, and for me, I believe everything happens for a reason.
  • Decide if you want to journal in a notebook or an application. I’ve tried both but tend to stick to a physical notebook. If you want an application, DayOne was really nice. That’s on Mac and iPhone (Update, DayOne got expensive!! When I downloaded it, it was free!) Many people also use Evernote which is on all platforms. I’ve never tried that for journaling though.
  • If you’re artistic try an art journal!! I love looking at the different art journals on Pinterest but I’m not one bit artistic.
  • As suggested by Dr.Mike There is no right or wrong way to journal! These tips are based on how I write mine and some things I’ve learned. If you write differently leave a comment and share your tips! Have fun and use journaling as a time to relax. Write freely. It’s a no judgement zone.

 

~ Happy Writing and Stay Chipper ~


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