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 😉

 

Success Check List.png

~ Stay Chipper Friends ~


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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

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