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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#OCDCON2016, Mental Illness, OCD

I’m Going To #OCDCON

I'm Going To #OCDCON

It’s been a while since my last post. I have realized just how much I relied on getting my thoughts and feelings out on here when I was sick last year. Now that I’ve been doing so well, I haven’t had too many thoughts poisoning my brain. I have thrived this summer. I took on an internship with the Director of Mental Health which has been amazing. My supervisor has given me many jobs and even made me the event organizer for a Suicide Prevention event. I’ve gathered speakers, booked two venues, and ordered promotional items. It has been a lot of fun.  It has shown me that I will be able to not only function, but thrive in the real world once I get out of school. A year ago, these thoughts would have put me into a panic attack, but now I am filled with such excitement!

I’m feeling ready for the real world. To take on responsibilities, to push myself to work harder, and to envision my future. With a future in mind, I’m taking my first steps by not only taking an internship with the Mental Health Department of the county but to fly to Chicago and attend the Annual OCD Conference by myself. This will be my first conference and I’m so excited to see what this experience holds. I can’t wait to hear everyone’s stories and to meet professionals in the field. It will give me a look at what specifically I want to do in the Mental Health field, what different positions there are, and to possibly network and gain connections. I truly feel like I’m ready to face this big scary world. I’m finally taking steps towards my dreams of helping others and I am just amazed by how far I’ve come.

~ Stay Chipper ~


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

Why I Journal and Helpful Tips

Why I Journal and Helpful Tips.jpg

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

How to Overcome Anxiety and Panic Attacks

How to Overcome Anxiety AndPanic Attacks

Struggling with anxiety and panic attacks is hard. It has the power to overwhelm you and take over. Everyone experiences different symptoms, but these are some tricks that I’ve learned throughout my years of treatment and experience with anxiety and panic attacks. I hope they help!

  1. Awareness and Acceptance (Mindfulness)This is the newest treatment technique that is being practiced for anxiety and OCD. You need to first acknowledge the anxiety, accept that it’s there, and let it go away on it’s own. Remember that this anxiety will pass, that you are safe, and that there is nothing wrong with being anxious. Don’t force the anxiety to go away, just use the tools listed below to help the natural process of it subsiding occur.
  2. Breathing Breathing is the best technique for myself and was the go-to advise for many of my doctors. When I feel myself starting to hyperventilate, I know that’s the time to start counting my breaths. I breath in on a four count, and exhale on a four count.

    breath..1…2…3…4..exhale..1…2…3…4..

    This helps relax the body and slow the heart rate. An optional addition to breathing is visualizing. I imagine golden sunlight entering my mouth and spreading through my body and then when I exhale a black smoke comes out of my fingertips and mouth (or nose depending on how you are comfortable breathing….I’m a mouth breather).

    The black smoke is all the negative energy inside me and the golden sunlight is everything good in the world.

  3. Relax the bodyMany people (including myself) tend to tense their body or tap when anxious. I often shake my leg and tighten up. I thought it was the only way to get rid of my anxiety. I felt I needed to release that energy inside me, but I learned that the action of tightening and shaking increases the heart rate and tricks my body into thinking there is a reason to panic. This was a hard habit to stop. This is when I would concentrate on my breathing and visualization that I talked about in step two. It took my mind off the need to move my body. I found that my anxiety passed much faster when I didn’t shake because my mind wasn’t focused on getting rid of the anxiety, it was just allowing it to slowly go away on it’s own.
  4. Play relaxing music I personally tend to play Zen or yoga music when I feel my anxiety coming on. I have a playlist on Spotify for free that I put on shuffle. I let the relaxing sounds fill the room and concentrate on the music. The goal is to keep your mind away from racing thoughts and focus on relaxing the body and mind.
  5. The Body Scan This is a type of meditation that focuses on the sensations of your body. There are many CD’s with body scans, but I tend to use YouTube or Google. This is a type of mindfulness. Like I mentioned in step 4, the goal is to keep the mind away from racing thoughts. To slow down the brain and relax the body the body scan has you focus deeply on what your body is feeling. Many have, you start at your feet and slowly move your way up to your head. It’s a great way to step out of your mind for a while and relax. On those days where you just seem to be extra anxious, it’s a great technique to calm the body and soul. Another way to use the body scan is by doing it every morning for a few minutes to start the day relaxed, or if you tend to have trouble falling asleep at night doing the body scan before bed.

    This link is a great link to a body scan on youtube. The channel also has other meditations that I’ve enjoyed and worked well.

    And for a little fun…

  6. Coloring! (Or any arts and craft)

    This is a great way to have a little fun while trying to get your mind off your anxiety. When I was in residential treatment at Rogers Memorial Hospital we all loved coloring! I personally type in google images “Adult coloring pages” and print away! It’s nice to have a folder filled with pages you like so when anxious it’s easy to grab and go. Coloring books can be fun as well. I’ve kept some of my favorite coloring pages from Rogers and have them hanging in my room.Honestly, any craft is great for the mind. If you want to get more in depth than just coloring making collages are very fun and easy. Below is my favorite collage I’ve made which says “Fly High”

    Fly high.JPG

This list is the main set of tools I use, if you have others that work for you, share them in the comments! Remember, these emotions of panic, fear, and anxiety will pass…even if it takes a while. You’re safe and will be okay.
~Stay Chipper~


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College, Mental Illness, OCD, Tourette Syndrome

Everything Happens For A Reason

Everything Happens For A Reason.jpg

If there was a way for me to share every detail of my mental health journey, people wouldn’t believe me. They would think I’m exaggerating. I’ve been to countless numbers of doctors in all different states and I’ve been admitted to hospital after hospital which insurance wouldn’t always cover. When I was eight, doctors diagnosed me with a severe case of Tourette Syndrome and OCD. There was no way they could prepare me for what was ahead, there wasn’t even much they could do for me besides prescribe pills. As a child, I didn’t realize how sick I was.

I knew I wasn’t like the other kids. I knew they didn’t have to leave the classroom multiple times a day to tic in the nurse’s office. I understood that they didn’t breakdown with body convulsions after a long day of holding them in at school. I knew they never felt so much emotion trapped inside them that they needed their mother to push them over the edge just to feel a release. Did they cry almost every night? Did they hear their parents cry over them at night? Did their parents sit for hours at a time and watch them when they were asleep; delighted that for once their daughter’s body wasn’t twitching? I knew the answers, yet somehow I always had hope that I would overcome it.

Doctors didn’t expect me to complete school, heck, neither did I. I couldn’t eat without gagging, shower without screaming. The mention of homework put my body in a state of paralysis which we later found out was called a Conversion Disorder. Any act of cleanliness such as brushing my teeth or brushing my hair was impossible. Sometimes after two weeks of no bathing or brushing my hair I’d feel strong enough to have my mom try to free my knotted hair. She’d sit me down and spend an hour or two brushing my hair so we wouldn’t have to cut it off. I took life one day at a time. My parents were lost as to what to do. I was days away from going into a group home for the disabled. They couldn’t keep me living the way I was. While researching my father found The Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania. They slowly helped me get better, but I needed more intensive treatment. That’s when I went to Rogers Memorial After my time there I was doing better. 

After coming home after 3 months of living in Rogers back in 2010 I did pretty well. I managed to make it into high school out of pure determination and help from my school and family. My senior year I even did the early admittance program to the local community collage. That June, I walked down the isle in my high school auditorium with my cap and gown and graduated from high school. Nine years of somehow making it through grade after grade with what I had gone through was shocking. Nine years of working twice as hard as the other students to not only attend class, but do well in them. Nine years of proving to the world that I could do it. My school had always recognized my struggles and they awarded me the Triple C Award for Character, Courage, and Commitment. The three C’s reminded me of how strong I was and I decided I wanted to continue my schooling.

August 21st 2013 I left for college. I did pretty well the first semester. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the signs of my OCD were showing up. The spring was hard. I didn’t understand what this internal resistance towards school was. It didn’t click that something was wrong. On top of that I started getting dizzy and had passed out a few times. I managed to make it through that spring semester and then spent the summer with my family figuring out why I was dizzy. The Cleveland Clinic diagnosed me with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) I went back to college for my Sophomore year but was struggling too much the first few weeks. I had brain fog and felt weak. I thought it was my POTS but would later realize that it was my OCD making me feel this way. My brain was manipulating me and I didn’t even realize it. I took a medical leave from college and things quickly crumbled. I couldn’t shower, I couldn’t think about school, nobody could even say the word around me without going into a panic attack. I started getting disgusted by my body. I felt like it was wrong to eat and when I did that I had to get it out. I purged often and binged every once in a while. I was paralyzed and trapped inside my home once again. We made the call to Rogers Memorial Hospital once again and I was added to the waiting list. The two and a half months of waiting were awful, but I finally got the call that it was my turn. It was 1 and a half weeks in the eating disorder center and three months of the OCD program. Months of fighting against every instinct my brain told me. Facing everything that scared me and having a panic attack after panic attack until my brain started to become retrained. I learned tools that would change my life…but just because I knew how to use them didn’t make it easy. In fact, it is very, very hard. They are tools that I have to use everyday, and most likely will always have to use. Although they are hard, they are the reason I’m able to function in everyday life.

After my time at Rogers came to an end, I got to go home. I was home for exactly one week before I was back at college…the very thing that is the root of my OCD. It was a hard semester. I missed quite a few of the classes because of the anxiety and ended up failing one of them. I received two C’s and a B in the others. I wasn’t too upset, I made it though my first semester back at college! January Term (a full class squeezed into the single month of January) I retook the class I got an F in. I missed more classes but ended up getting a C- in the class….sadly, I needed a C+ in order to continue in my major. Now it’s the Spring semester of my Junior year and I’m doing beyond amazing. I haven’t felt this good since July when my parents came to visit me at Rogers. I’m retaking the January Term class and haven’t missed a single class. In fact, out of all of my classes this semester I’ve only missed one because of my anxiety. I’m honestly thriving. Not only am I thriving, but I found out I will be graduating on time…I’m going to graduate next June. I’m going to accomplish my dreams, I’m going to prove to all the doctors that couldn’t see me going to college that I did it. The girl that was days away from going into a group home for the sick, with people with Down Syndrome and debilitating diseases is going to graduate college. It is so close. I’m almost there, and it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had. This week has been everything I dreamed of, and everything I never thought I’d feel again. I know in a few weeks I’ll fall back, but you know what? I’ll rise back up again. I have the tools, I have the strength, and I have the motivation. I’m going to be okay, and that single thought makes me cry with relief.

~ Stay chipper because it always gets better ~


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College, Mental Illness, OCD

Look What I Found!

Look What I Found

I was spending some free time watching youtube. One of the guys I subscribe to named Alex posted a video back in October announcing a new product for procrastination. I couldn’t believe how perfect the timing was after mentioning in my last post my motivation problem. He and his wife Mimi run their own company and he explained how hard it is to be your own boss and get things done. Because of that, he created the Productivity Planner. He talks about how you can even use these techniques in a notebook of your own. There is also a free PDF download available if you go to this site here.  I was very happy with the price. I recently purchased an appointment book to plan my entire day, but I find that it doesn’t do too much for me.  The cheapest one I found was $25, and that is the exact price of this Productivity Planner.

 


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The official Productivity Planner website is here

Alex Ikonn’s Youtube Channel is here