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“U.S. star goalie Tim Howard puts name on Tourette syndrome ‘leadership academy'”

 

 

Tim Howard during USMNT practice session

Tim Howard during USMNT practice session (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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This July 18, 2014 Philly region NewsWorks article talks about United States  Star Goalie Tim Howard who has Tourette Syndrome, but uses his fame as a goalie to help educate others about the disorder by allowing himself to be seen in front of 40,000 people playing soccer despite the tics he has as a result of having Tourette’s Syndrome.  He also helps with a foundation for helping kids who have been diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome to learn to shine despite their diagnosis.  He wants people to know that just because you have Tourette Syndrome, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to drive or do the things others do.

*Side Note*

I would like to note that I do understand that Tourette Syndrome is not a Mental illness but is a neurological disorder.  I do however know that it is possible for someone with Tourette Syndrome to have a comorbid mental illness, and it is because of the idea that it is possible for someone with Tourette’s to also have a mental illness that I felt this article was a good one to share here.  My other line of thinking is that I found the piece to be a bit of an inspiration not because I have Tourette’s,, but because it offered a view of someone who overcame something that easily could have been used as a reason to give up.  I commend Tim Howard for his success and hope that others will view this as a way that one man used a sport he loved as a way to help him educate others and hopefully inspire others along the way.  I have known a couple of people who have Tourette’s Syndrome, and I know that for them it can be very frustrating for them when their tics are in overdrive.  Once I realized what was happening with regards to their tics, I was able to look beyond the tics and see a couple awesome people beyond the tics.  Which for me was a lesson in getting to know someone as a person and not focusing on their illness, deformity, or disability.  I don’t know what if any other diagnosis Tim Howard has, but I do know that he is on the right track with regards to helping others understand Tourette’s Syndrome a little better.

 

 

Maysoon Zayid: I got 99 problems… palsy is just one

Maysoon Zayid: I got 99 problems… palsy is just one #TED : http://on.ted.com/qbZC

Tough times in my world

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rather then post a news article, I’m opting to get a little personal and share some of my recent struggles, but in addition to my struggles, I wanted to share what I’m doing to work through them in hope that others might get ideas of things they can try if they are struggling as well.

Here’s some of the highlights of what has happened with me.

  • During the last week of July 2013 I made the tough decision to Retire my Service Dog, “Tippy”  I saw she was developing cataracts, and she has battled a chronic skin condition for about 5 years, on top of developing bladder stones over the past year.  Initially I thought maybe I could retire her, she could stay with me as a pet and I would just not work her, but I quickly found that going places without her, even those places that I am comfortable being, were extremely difficult to go to.
  • The first week of August 2013 I broke the news that I was retiring Tippy to my friends and family
  • By the end of the 2nd week of August, I realized without a doubt I needed to replace Tippy so I got in contact with the organization I got Tippy from to see if they had any dogs that were close to being ready to be placed, or had washed out of the program because of a refusal to retrieve or something along those lines that wouldn’t be a problem for me with the type of work I needed Tippy’s replacement to do.
  • Things progressed and on September 11, 2013, I dropped off Tippy with the organization, and came home with “Ora” who later got renamed to “Orca” because even though I really like the name “Ora” I kept calling her “Oreo” which is my cat’s name, so for my sanity I added a letter to her name and made it “Orca” which has been simpler for me.
  • September 18, 2013 I had spent the day with my Mom getting some items for Orca, and enjoying a nice meal out in a resteraunt, we had an awesome day.  I got home that evening, and was checking my email since I’d been gone all day, and the first email I spotted was one from a friend telling me that Rachel Freund had passed away that morning after battling cancer for some time.  I was devastated by this news

Since early July 2013, I have been on an emotional roller coaster to put it mildly.  Retiring Tippy has been very difficult, but I feel like it is the right decision, Orca has helped to fill that void but she has lots to learn, so training with her has helped me to keep my sanity on some level.  Losing Rachel, while on some level I’m not surprised, because of the severity of her cancer, I feel a huge sense of loss because she was one of us, she was a mental health consumer, and advocate not only for herself, but for many others, and the world lost one of the most awesome people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.  She inspired me to develop an interest in politics and I was one who when I met her really didn’t want anything to do with the political realm.  I still have a lot to learn where politics are involved, but Rachel gave me a good foundation to build on.

So, with all the struggles I’ve had since probably June when I started noticing Tippy’s health was deteriorating and retirement was likely going to need to happen, what have I been doing to help keep myself from sinking too deep into depression or otherwise getting overwhelmed by circumstances?

Well, here’s a list of things I’ve done, maybe it will give others ideas of things they can try as well.

  • Bought a mountain bike
    • I have loved riding a bike since I was a kid, but hadn’t rode in about 10 years.  Retiring Tippy was a seemingly odd motivator to get the bike, but my idea in getting it was that it would not only help with my weight loss goals, but also would allow me to be a little more independent and need to rely less on others at least during the times when the roads aren’t icy.  In addition to being transportation and exercise, it is also something that has proven to be awesome for helping me to manage the stress I’ve been under
  • Training Orca
    • I would be doing this even if I wasn’t stressed, but training with her has helped to keep me from getting stuck inside my head by keeping at least some of my focus outside of myself and on her needs
  • Gaming
    • Gaming has been a HUGE help through everything, there was a period where text just wasn’t making sense to me, so I wasn’t able to do any blogging, but I found that not only YouTube videos that were educational in nature were helpful, but also gaming was as well.  I’ve been playing World of Warcraft and The Sims 3 for years, and over the past couple years have played SimCity, Skyrim, Defiance, and recently started toying with Warframe.  When I was angry or frustrated I seemed to gravitate to Defiance, Warframe, Skyrim and WoW.  When I was feeling empty, hollow or like my head was mush, I found that Sims 3, SimCity and World of Warcraft were helpful.  They let me step back from my struggles and take a break from my emotions for a bit so I could regroup.
  • Socializing
    • This one has been tricky, some days I want to be around people while other days there doesn’t seem to be enough distance between me and other humans, but a few select people who I’ve been able to keep close to me through all of this, they have made me smile, been supportive, allowed me to cry and vent to them, while at the same time allowing me to have a sounding board to bounce my thoughts or ideas off of.  Sometimes we hung out and would joke around, while other times were more serious in nature, but regardless of the tone of our gathering, these folks played a huge role in helping me keep things in perspective and to them I am grateful.
  • Exercising
    • Yes I said that dreaded word …. exercising.  I have come to realize that exercise can be anything from doing housework to going for a walk or bike ride.  Being physically active has been a huge thing for me as well, it has helped prevent me from staying in bed all day (Orca helps with that as well) I feel better emotionally when I’ve been active, it helps me to clear my head and refocus myself, while at the same time burning calories.  I tend to feel more relaxed when I’ve been physically active then I do when I laid around the house doing close to nothing physically active.
  • Cleaning my home
    • Okay another dreaded thing with that one, but for me I found that doing housework, even though I’m not a huge fan of doing the cleaning, the result of having things look less cluttered and less overwhelming visually helps me with my anxiety and has an added benefit of keeping me physically active.

So I guess you could say that for me I’ve had to focus on balancing my need to process emotions out by countering them with things that keep my mind and body active.  I have days that are horribly difficult to keep going and do stuff, but then other days it’s like I can’t wait to go for a walk with Orca and do some training with her.  I also found that what works great one day may not work well the next day, so there is a bit of trial and error involved with the things I’ve tried.  I think for me the key has been not allowing myself to give up, and balancing emotional overload with positive healthy activities.

Now that I’m able to comprehend what I read once more, blogging and web design are also helping me to not get stuck inside my head,  I’ve had a lot happen in a short period, on top of the anniversary of one of the toughest times in my life, which always causes me to struggle in September, since the year that terrorist flew planes into the twin towers.  That year, I had lost my job, was on the verge of becoming homeless, and was struggling with some severe mental health issues among which was a conversion disorder that manifested itself as blindness.  that fateful morning of 9/11 I was attending a school for the newly blind where I was pretty much learning how to navigate the world around me without the ability to see.  Medically my eyes were fine, but my brain was so overloaded with stress that to deal with the overload, it had to shut something down and in my case it was my vision.  It was because of the conversion disorder that I had to quit my job, because I wasn’t working I lost my apartment, and at the same time was hospitalized for mental health reasons.  I was at a very low point, and even though overall things have been better since that year, I always get kind of moody in September because of the anniversary of the year I nearly lost everything and then had to deal with emotions surrounding the well-known terrorist attack on 9/11.  So for me, September is a tough month to begin with, and this one has had both sadness and joy compounding things.

So yeah doing the things I listed above have truly been things that helped me keep my sanity through this tough month.  None of them are overly huge, but sometimes small things can make the biggest difference and allow me to succeed.

Thank you to all my readers for being patient with my lack of posts and downtime here on Pennsylvania Mental Health Issues, it means a lot to me that folks would stick around even though I had to step back and stop blogging for a bit.  I feel like I’m starting to get my mojo back though with blogging, so hopefully I’ll get back on track again and it will be blogging as usual so to speak 🙂

“ARC Issues Guidelines for Coping with Stress during Recent Traumatic Events”

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This April 20, 2013 article on the GanDaily.com website talks about tips from the American Red Cross for coping with tragic events.  As the article points out it’s been a rough week for our country, with a bombing, flooding and a fertilizer plant explosion, I feel like I’ve reached a bit of a breaking point myself.  I have an anxiety disorder that causes issues for me under the best of conditions. With tragedies that make it into national headlines my anxiety sky rockets.  Not so much because I’m directly affected by what is happening, but I tend to fear for the lives of others, I hope they will make it through in one piece, but at the same time questions like “what would I do in their shoes?”  or “what if that happened in my area?”  the way my brain is wired it goes into overdrive trying to figure out answers to these and many other questions.  I see an increase in the frequency of my panic attacks, and find that I tend to struggle more with leaving home.  Yes, often I realize my fears are irrational, and that what happened in Texas, Boston or the midwest isn’t happening here, which helps me stay grounded.  On the other hand there are things mentioned in this article that I have worked on doing myself.  A prime example would be not allowing myself to be glued to the tv or other media outlets when there is something big happening.  I don’t need to know the play-by-play details of the horror to know it’s bad …. I allow myself to watch a few minutes here and there but then go into what I call a personal “media blackout” where I do anything I want as long as it doesn’t involve the media.  The media blackouts allow me to regroup, refocus, and in many ways not put myself into a major tailspin with my anxiety issues.  A wise therapist I once had suggested to me at one point that maybe I should “strive for balance as opposed to normality” it took awhile for me to understand what was meant, by it, and I feel like in many ways I’m still learning about it.  What I know at this point though is that normal doesn’t work for most people (myself included) it’s an elusive carrot on a stick of sorts we think we see it, but can never seem to do what we think we see.  I’ve found that balance is more realistic and often times more achievable.  I chose not to glue myself to the live feeds of the Boston marathon bombing, not because I didn’t care, but because I needed to keep myself healthy. I chose to allow myself a few minutes of media coverage so I would be aware of what was occurring, but at the same time I chose to do things like play Sims 3 or World of Warcraft to occupy my mind.  I also chose to do things like tackle some of the clutter in my home, or go for a walk, or simply relax with my knitting and sometimes even reached out and talked to friends or family members about anything that didn’t focus on the horrors that were unfolding.  For me, I feel that making these choices were examples of what my former therapist was saying when she suggested I strive for balance.  It’s about what is going to keep me functioning at a level that is healthy.  I feel that the tips offered in the article from the American Red Cross magnify balance as opposed to normality and they are simple tips that could be applied to anyone’s life.  Take time to balance your life even if it is just for a moment, because without balance none of us will be of any benefit to those around us.

 

“Helping Children Make Sense of the Senseless”

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This April 16, 2013 article found on the Philly.com website talks about ways to help kids come to terms with tragedies like the one at the Boston Marathon

“Sellersville woman speaks out about her mental illness”

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This March 18, 2013 article on the Philly.com website talks about one woman’s effort to change how others view those with mental illnesses.

 

“SPOTLIGHT ON: Acts of Faith and Giving During Challenging Times”

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This is a spotlight found on the I’m The Evidence Campaign website, it was posted for November/December based on the information on the page.  The piece talks about a couple different Mental Health organizations that have struggled due to budget cuts, and what kind of determination and creative thinking has allowed them to keep going despite financial problems.

2013 is here and so is my yearly post about what I hope to accomplish :)

For the past few years, I’ve posted a sort of to-do list of things I want to work on or accomplish in some way over the coming year.  This year is no exception, though I admit I usually have this done by December 31 of the previous year, so I’m running a little behind compliments of starting the year out with a cold and not feeling up to doing much of anything beyond sleeping and sniffling.  Today is the first day in about a week I’ve felt something nearly human, so I thought I would work on my list for the coming year and see what I can come up with.

  • Continue my quest to lose weight yeah I know a stereotypical resolution, but it’s something I’ve been working on for the past year and am making some slow progress, I’ve lost about 30 pounds in the past year, and hope that by next year I can lose another 30 pounds maybe a little more, but not so much that I’m losing it at an unhealthy rate.
  • In conjunction with my weight loss goal, I want to reach a point where I need to buy some new clothes because my existing clothes are too big for me.
  • I would also like to work on something that I haven’t been able to do in a long time, because of anxiety issues.  I want to see if I can get to where I can ride the bus on my own again.  I know to some it may seem like one of those things some would say why is that a goal you just go stand at the bus stop and when the bus arrives you get on ride to your destination and get off, what’s the big deal?  well, for me, my anxiety disorder has prevented me from riding it, because I feel trapped and by the time I get to where I need to go I’m so anxious that I find it almost impossible to do whatever it is I rode the bus to go do.  I rely heavily on other people to get me from place to place, and I want to be more independent if I can and I think that working on riding the bus and finding ways to make that doable for me would be a huge step in the right direction.  I have a Peer Specialist and I think it’s something she could help me work on, she just doesn’t know I’ve considered this yet, so I think she’ll be impressed that I’m even thinking about it.
  • I would like to work on my research project more than I have been.  I started researching the history of Warren State Hospital, a couple of years ago, and over the past 6 months that project has been on the shelf gathering dust for the most part, so I would like to try to work on it at least one day per month this year, more if I feel inclined to but my basic goal is one day per month.
  • With the latest school shooting, I have seen a huge increase in the stigma people have towards me as someone with a mental illness.  The media found out the shooter had Autism and since then the myth about mental illness and violence has been magnified about a thousand times greater than it was prior to the shooting.  I use a Psychiatric Service Dog to help me manage my anxiety, depression, and help with medication reminders.  Someone who seemed genuinely interested in service dogs was talking to me and very friendly until they asked what type of work my service dog did.  When I said she is a Psychiatric Service Dog the person literally had a look of panic on her face and she took 2 steps back away from me, then told me she was “in a hurry”.  So this goal stems from that experience.  I want to find creative ways to help people realize that not every person with a mental illness is violent or should be criminalized because of the actions of a  very small minority.  I’ve had other similar experiences like the one I described but until the recent shooting they were scarce, now it seems like all I have to do is say I have an anxiety disorder and people flee.  I want to be a diplomat and try to help people realize that Lanza wasn’t like the majority of people with mental illnesses.  I don’t know exactly how I will do this, but it is my hope that I can leave a positive impact on the people I come in contact with when I’m out running errands and that maybe I can help at least one person realize that I’m not a criminal because someone else messed up.
  • My last goal for the coming year is to write and publish at least one article per month over the coming year.  The topic doesn’t matter, it could be an opinion paper on how red the tomatoes are in my grocery store, or something more serious like a tribute to someone who means a lot to me. Pretty much any topic will be fair game, I just need to have it published by the end of each month.

Those are things I hope to work on or do this year.  most items will not be finished at the end of 2013, but I hope to be able to show something that demonstrates I made progress on them.  The weight will be easy to measure, while the stigma related goal will be a lot tougher to measure, for it I think I’ll simply have to document responses I get from people I come in contact with and hope its a fair gauge of what is really happening with that issue.  I may use my writing goal to help with the stigma goal, and maybe write a letter to the editor about what it’s like to have a mental illness since the latest school shooting.  The bus goal is probably going to be my most challenging goal in that I haven’t ridden the fixed route bus in probably 3 or 4 years, and for me any change in routine even if it is a positive change can throw me for a loop, so While I’m hoping I can carry out the bus goal, I’m scared out of my mind of that one.

 

“Top rookie with anxiety issue joins Rockets’ camp”

Basketball

Basketball (Photo credit: mvongrue)

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This October 8, 2012 article on the Cumberland Sentinel website talks about Rookie basketball player Royce White and how he’s trying to manage his anxiety and the travel demands of playing basketball for the Rockets.

“What we should fear after Aurora”

Aurora Borealis, the colored lights seen in th...

Aurora Borealis, the colored lights seen in the skies around the North Pole, the Northern Lights, from Bear Lake, Alaska (Photo credit: Beverly & Pack)

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This July 31, 2012 article found on Philly.com’s website, offers a sense of understanding while pointing out that violence exists in our world, while explaining some of the thinking that crosses our minds as we try to heal and move past incidents like Aurora.

I had previously posted a rather rambling post filled with my own frustrations, which I believe may have resonated with some, but ruffled feathers of others.  I still don’t believe that what happened in Aurora was right on any level, but I have come to the realization through other things in my life, that the question of “Why?” is one that there is sometimes not an answer to. Like many others I have wanted to blame this or that or some other thing for what happened, but in the end the only one responsible is the guy who pulled the trigger.  We may not know why he did it, or even be able to understand his reasoning if we do learn what his motive was.  This isn’t to say that what he did was right, just that it wasn’t anyone other than the shooter who choose to cause chaos at a seemingly safe place.  My anger and frustration about the situation does nothing to correct any problems that may have allowed him to make his choice, but if I focus on what can be done to help others heal, and maybe prevent a similar situation from occurring.  I don’t know what the answer is, just that it is going to take each and every one of us, myself include, working together and putting our own agenda’s aside and taking a hard look at the effect that anger and hatred has on this sort of incident when used in an accusing way.  Take a moment to ask yourself what you can do to have a positive impact on someone else instead of perpetuating the fury that the shooter in Aurora displayed as he and he alone chose a path of destruction.  My heart goes out to those who were in the theater, as well as the friends and families of them.  Let’s focus on healing, and overcoming instead of pointing fingers and placing blame.

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