I have always been one for fresh starts. My go-to saying was, “this week is a new week, I’m starting over.” By doing this, I seemed to expect everything to be better. I expected smooth sailing. When the time came that I would fall back into my unhealthy habits, I would become disappointed in myself, in my circumstances, and in life. My lovely therapist and treatment team I’ve had over the years has given me a new mindset to use when I want to “start over.” Below I’ve listed what they have said and put my own spin on it with the ladder technique.
Create a destination. (Mine is overall mental health that I can live with more easily)
Remember that no matter how many setbacks you have, you will neve fall further than before. Each setback teaches you about yourself and your illness.
Look at treatment as climbing a ladder to your destination.
Realize that treatment is most of the time two steps forward one step back. Some days it may be two steps forward two steps back, or even two steps forward three steps back. My favorite days, however, are the three steps forward one step back. After a while, you may see more of those days. But it is important to realize that the steps backward are going to make an appearance and it is natural in treatment. Realizing this helps with that disappointment that sets in when having a fallback.
Evaluate each week how far along you are on yourladder. Remember that you can never start back at the beginning as you have learned more through the journey than you did at the start of it. There is no rush to get better. It is a slow process. Take time to appreciate the little victories.
My absolute favorite day of my trip to England and Germany was an excursion I took from London to Stonehenge and Bath. It was in the low 20s° F and it ended up being the windiest day of our entire trip. Stonehenge was absolutely amazing to me. I’ve dreamed of visiting ancient sites since I was old enough to understand the History Channel. I knew how much I would enjoy it. What I didn’t expect was how much I would enjoy Bath. Before planning our trip I didn’t even know what Bath was.
My story of Bath began with my small excursion group running back onto our tour bus out of the wind and cold, with hot chocolate in our hands. (Honestly the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.) I took my hat, gloves, and scarf off and settled in for our bus ride to Bath. Our bus driver Lorey maneuvered the bus through the windy roads of the English countryside while our tour guide Leslie picked up her microphone and started pointing out a farm up ahead. She noted how she loved giving tours at this time because of the pigs. You see, the pigs are bred for meat, so at this time we were able to see the pigs walking about. I didn’t understand her fascination with the pigs. I’m a huge animal lover, but she was going on about the pigs as if they were the Queen of England. It ends up, the pigs play a huge role in the creation of Bath!
The myth states that in the 9th Century BC there was a king who developed leprosy. He was banished and forced work as a pig farmer. He raised them, fed them, led them to safety. Eventually, the pigs caught the kings leprosy. He and the pigs were on a constant journey to find acorns, the pig’s favorite treat. On their search, the pigs started to roll in the mud next to a hot spring. Immediately the pigs were cured of their ailments. The king was shocked and quickly followed suite…rolling in the mud near the hot spring. The king was cured of his leprosy. He was so thankful for the magical hot spring that he decided to create a city around it.
The Romans found healing in these waters as well and around 50 AD they built the famous Roman Baths. They built the temple and dedicated it to their healing gods. Crowds flooded to the baths seeking healing and long lives. The people faded eventually traveling elsewhere in the 4th Century AD. The stone structures were turned into wooden huts until it was eventually abandoned.
The Saxons took over Bath in the 6th Century and it flourished once again. It continued to be a bustling city through the middle ages. People still went to the hot springs for healing. Visions of angels were said to have come to some who bathed in the springs. Cathedrals were built and all was well until plague hit. The waters still were of interest to those who heard of it’s healing properties.
In the 1700s Bath was a fashionable place to live for the wealthy. There was beautiful architecture and the Pump room was built which allowed easier access to the healing water of the baths. Although it was a fashionable city to live in, most of its occupants were poor. The 1800s took the city of Bath in a new direction. It boomed like never before. It became a large and important town. It’s importance quickly faded with industry growing faster outside of Bath. It returned to being a market town for tourists and shoppers. Bath was very unsanitary at this time. It caused sickness in the town.
The 1900s brought to Bath the new technologies such as electricity, trams and eventually buses. World War II came in like a storm and damaged over 1,500 buildings. It recovered however, museums were built, and to this day tourism thrives. How could it not? It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.
As I walked down the cobblestone streets taking in as many sites as I could, I stopped to take a picture of the Bath Abby Cathedral, I didn’t immediately notice the man with pigeons all over his arms and head. He called out to me, “Hey there! Would you like to try?” I laughed, shocked to see a man covered in birds and confused about what he was asking. He smiled at me encouragingly and said, “Just put your arms out!” I was in a daze, not understanding what putting my arms out would mean. I did as he said and in less than a second, a half a dozen pigeons flew on me. I couldn’t stop laughing, my smile brighter than the sun shining above me. My heart tingled with happiness. Here I stood in an ancient city, with marble buildings surrounding me, and The Pigeon Man smiling in front of me taking my picture. It felt like a dream.
Was it the bathwater I had just drunk with the hopes of a healthy future? Was it the magic of the acorns giving me this unbelievable feeling of happiness? Was it God looking down at me in front of his majestic cathedral in Bath Abby? I’m not sure what made me feel so light, but I can still feel my heart tingle with the memory.
As I write about that amazing day, I can’t help but do what I do best and connect it to my struggles. This amazing city has a historic and monumental past. The past full of ups and downs, victories and defeats, healing and illness. But what do we remember this city for? The healing of the bath water. Why is that? I think it is because we as humans always carry with us a hope for a better future.
Millions of people have stood in front of the ancient baths with hope bubbling up in their chests before taking the first step into the water. Hope. It is the most powerful emotion I have ever felt. It pulls me forward in my darkest of times and it happens to be the exact same emotion that founded the City of Bath. The joy I felt there represents the bright future ahead. There will be healing and illness on my way to that future, there will be victories and defeats before reaching that destination, but I will get there.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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”
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~
Cinderella was playing on ABC Family today! For some reason I have always related with Cinderella. I’m a goody two shoes all around, doing what I’m told, helping others, and so on. And as a teen, specifically High School, that was not considered “cool”. Having faced many hardships with my health, I had to grow up fast. Being the optimist that I am, with my hardships I still find laughter in the little things, I find love within my family, and I constantly find hope for a happier life. It’s like Cinderella says, “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, a dream that you wish will come true” And that friends, is a fact. I’ve had many dreams come true. To some people my dreams may occur in their everyday life, but to me, knowing that makes me want to fight even harder.
I still have my scheduled post for Monday at 9:00 so be on the look out!
Don’t forget to email me at Chipperchelseakay@gmail.com!