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.

victory

 

~ 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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Mental Illness, OCD, Tourette Syndrome

Now Is Not Enough

Mortality is a topic that recently popped into my mind very late at night. I am someone who has always suffered in the present. OCD, Anxiety, you name it. Looking towards a better future is my way of coping with my struggles.

“Tomorrow will be a better day”

“When I’m a psychologist I can help others like myself”

“One day I will reach my dreams”

…I focus on the future. My dreams push me forward each day and give me purpose. Yet they are all based in the future…and that future is not a guarantee. There is a possibility that I may not live to reach those dreams. The one thing I am guaranteed is today, and that is not enough for me to be happy. Each day I dream about the office I will have, how it will look, and the people I will help as they sit beside me fighting their mental illness. Yes, I appreciate each day. The beauty of the world around me. The way laughter fills my entire body with golden happiness. How it feels to be loved by friends and family. The wet kisses of my puppies. The sunset that repeats it’s glorious masterpiece each night. Is it wrong that these beautiful moments aren’t enough for me? If I happened to die today, my life would be very much incomplete. Is that because I’m young? Just some late night thoughts and realizations I thought worthy of a blog post.

~Stay Chipper Friends~


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Mental Illness, OCD, Tourette Syndrome

Best Advice Coming Out of Treatment

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 your ladder. 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.

 

I wish you the best of luck on your recovery.

 

~ 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

dr-franklin-and-dr-antinoro

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, 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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