My Experience with UMB Counseling Center | Article S16

We have a counseling center on campus. It’s located on Quinn, second floor, all the way down the hall. I’ve heard people have mixed results from the counseling center. For me, they’re competent there and the counselors are pretty great. But maybe that’s the bias of my own experience coloring my vision. However, if it hadn’t been for the counseling center, I don’t know where I’d be today.

I went to the counseling center the first time when I was struggling with procrastination, having ended off my freshman year. I went biweekly to a counselor, my first ever time in therapy, and found the experience to be quite helpful. True, my changes in the procrastination didn’t come until January 2014 but, hey, things take time. No biggie. The second time I went to the counseling center, things were a lot different.

Now let me just say that my case isn’t the typical case. Had I known I was dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and been able to relay that information appropriately to the counseling center, I wouldn’t have met with a graduate student in training and I would have been sent off campus for support and treatment. But, as things happened, I was actually diagnosed by the counseling center on our campus.

Meeting with a graduate student (who we’ll name Steve, which isn’t their real name) once a week was pretty good. I got an introduction to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT approaches and had quite a few thought records to fill out–which are basically X number of columns that determine what an intrusive thought was that I’d had, what emotions that brought up, the intensity of those emotions and what I did about them, more or less. I also got my first–okay, second–introduction to mindfulness there, too. Mindfulness in its shortest definition is when you can experience your thoughts or feelings separately from yourself in a nonjudgmental manner, letting them float down the river to come to pass. Also, it’s being involved in the present moment 100%. Sound good? Okay.

Naturally, with the OCD I experienced some times of crises during the fall of 2014. I made crisis appointments at the counseling center appropriately…annnnd found out it was the OCD deceiving me and what to do about that. Also, while at the counseling center I was first introduced to safety plans and coping strategies, as well as learning more about the OCD such as when certain behaviors I engaged in were reassurance seeking (unhelpful) and thought action fusion or when I had a thought and immediately equated it to being an action.

Things got complicated when I genuinely became a danger to myself. The first time I tried to kill myself was in January 2015 on campus. Amazingly, I opened up to a friend about how I was feeling, unfortunately that was after my attempt occurred (but I was still on campus). I didn’t get professional help that day. I just went to work afterwards and counted my blessings. But the OCD and the depression weren’t stopping there.

The first time I was hospitalized was at the end of January. I missed my train in the morning and having rescheduled my therapy appointment getting off the phone, I thought aloud to myself “I’m not sure if I won’t kill myself before next week.” Omen number one. I got on the train when it came but was in a full blown crisis and, of course, incapable of thinking clearly. I got off the train, had what depression would call “a great idea” before finding another individual walking up and down the platform quite a ways away from me. “Damn,” I had thought and decided to make the phone call that I intended to make having gotten off the train to begin with.

I called the counseling center, then. Which was mildly inconvenient since I wasn’t anywhere near campus at all. But alas, it was call them, call a hotline or act on a suicidal thought. My options at the time seemed limited.

After speaking with them, and my voicing the concern that it didn’t make any sense to me to not kill myself first and then proceed to the hospital, it was decided that I could not make the proper judgment call to keep myself safe and needed to be sent to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY. I still didn’t understand it, but I had signed a waiver the week prior so they had permission to contact my parents (who were in the dark about any of this), thank goodness.

Thus became my first hospitalization.

My second hospitalization, many crisis appointments thereafter and countless bouts of scratching myself later, came at the beginning of March, a day after self-injury awareness day (which is March 1st). I went through three people this time. I had seen my nurse practitioner that morning and just so happened not to mention how suicidal I was (it was an unfortunate combination of her not asking further and my not volunteering important information, oops). I got a call hours later from my crisis manager at my insurance–scheduled to call me to check-in every few weeks–whom I told half-jokingly, half-seriously where I was regarding my own life. I rolled off the coping strategies I could do although I hadn’t any intention to do so.

I had hit a new low: so resigned to my situation of depression and unrelenting OCD that I genuinely believed nobody would do anything to stop me from killing myself. Luckily, I was wrong about that. The counseling center stopped me. I had the materials with me to kill myself and when revealed as such the reaction was NOT to let me wander off to my own death but rather to send me off to the hospital.

I was picked up by the ambulance from Quinn that very afternoon.

When I returned to school, I officially shifted away from the resource of the counseling center to the therapist off-campus I had been seeing since February twice a week. I had one other crisis appointment at the counseling center in May 2015 again when I was suicidal on campus and had incidentally seen my professor outside and confessed to them the crisis I was in. Naturally, I was brought to the counseling center. I had therapy that afternoon so I managed until I got there, but the coping strategies and support was beneficial for me.

Since then, I haven’t needed to go back to the counseling center. Granted, I was on leave from school in fall 2015, but I’ve used other positive coping strategies this semester that’s kept me level headed and at bay from their resources. I call that a victory, personally.

In conclusion, not everyone will find the counseling center on our campus helpful for them. There are many reasons why this may be–ranging from cultural values to fear of help-seeking to not knowing the services available to worry about the stigma to just not meshing with the therapists there. All of these reasons and then some are understandable.

For me though, the counseling center has been beneficial. I’m glad I was diagnosed with the OCD there, since it could have been many difficult years otherwise before I received the diagnosis. I’m grateful for all the introductions to mindfulness and CBT practices and safety plans and positive coping strategies I gained from them. I’m honored that so much of the hope instilled in me came from Steve and the other therapists there, and that I was reminded so often of my true values, what the OCD was and wasn’t, and that the OCD and the depression were treatable diagnoses. I’m thankful for that one person who asked me whether or not I wanted to recover and that I said part of me did and part of me didn’t, because that combination of Q&A enlightened me more than I could have imagined.

Ultimately, I’m grateful for the help that I received when I needed it so dearly. I’m glad we have such a great counseling center on our campus and the resources and support that they offer there. My experiences weren’t always pretty and I wasn’t always honest, but I’m glad that I, too, sought help. Without help from professionals, my friends, my family and my toolbox of coping strategies, I don’t know where I’d be today. I just know that where I am officially is too wonderful to ever trade.

Article #5 Mass Media. Written April 10.2016

Healthy Working Through

Daily Prompt: Healthy

What comes to my mind today with this topic relates to procrastination, of which I am doing still as of right now. Interestingly enough though, I did come across a blog post that featured Japanese tea house practices like wabi and sabi which is the paper that I’m not writing as of right now and the past few days. But makes me think about it more, and how I need to go write that….like, now.

But let me discuss this partially, okay? That’s all I ask for. A few moments, up until 4:00p.

So I’ve got a paper to write. And two finals to study for as well. And what did I do? I made a blog. Completely unrelated. Fun, yes. Interesting, yes. Helpful, I hope so!

But here I am. On a blog, blogging it up, joining the blogging party. So far it’s been nice. I got bored a couple of times and so went to find other people to chat with (as I still don’t know the blogging etiquette of this site or blogging in general – I should look that up next). I would like to talk more with you peoples. You’re all pretty snazzy in your own way. It’s refreshing. =]

Let’s toss in a photo, here, shall we?

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An acrylic painting for the display alcove in my teahouse project. See, I’m being relevant =D

So what do I need to do with my paper? A good question, self, a good question. Now I have written out a little of a brainstorm idea. And if I could write 4 pages today that will be good. I likely have to accept that the paper’s draft is going to be chaotic and explosive, and that’s okay. I’ve just got to work on getting the ideas down on paper – the research part and finding two other articles for the research part – as well as working with the text I do have and plowing through the ideas I have with the physical project and the alterations I want to make with it for the paper as well.

See? I’m brainstorming. This isn’t so bad. I just gotta remain calm and plan it out. That’s how I’ll keep my brains together. *nods*

I like working on building up my audience here, so far. I have been needing to implement some self-care basics though, like reminding myself that I’m not responsible for what other people do with their lives beyond this website. And that the first person I need to take care of is myself. And then just practice letting go of others’ situations and carrying on doing what I can to bring this blog to life and empowering others out there to use some of the tools I provide in their own recovery journeys. All I can do is be there for each of you, and I don’t mind that, in fact, I’m volunteering for it. I’d like to be there for you if you need me. So don’t be second guessing it, if you need to talk, shoot me a message. I’ll do my best to respond, that’s all I can promise. ❤ I’m good with asking re-directing questions. Trust me 😉

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To all my new followers out there! Enjoy this positive message example ❤ Yes, it’s a dragon 😉

It’s time for me to go work up on my outline. Find those other articles and OH SHIT I wonder if I could use a mindfulness article! FUCK YEAH I’M SMART. I may want to build other resources but maybe I can include that within my work…. This could become very, very interesting. Well, my due date is Tuesday morning before I see a friend of mine. So, that’s what I have to work with, good or bad.

I’ll update you guys when I’m able. Oh gosh, accountability and everything.

This has been a healthier post by me! Also, I finally realized how to make the schedule posts work ahaha. I made a whoopsie the other day XD (apparently you have to actually hit the schedule button XD)

Take care you guys!! I’ll see you later on tonight. ❤ ❤ ❤

I believe in all of you to make a sweet, amazing recovery!

God damn it I forgot my title! XD

Fly Higher Than -4.24

Motivational message. ❤

Importance of Self-Care | Article S16

Practicing good self-care is beneficial for anyone. And it is critical for those of us who deal with mental health issues. I’d like to discuss the components that make up good self-care and provide some of my own illustrations on the matter. So, let’s jump right in!

Self-care is defined as the things we do for ourselves that helps take care of us and promotes wellness. We all have an idea about the people who matter in our lives yet we can often forget that our number one person to keep cared for and well is ourselves. If you don’t take care of you, it’s unlikely that anyone else will.

The first component of self-care I’d like to discuss is getting enough sleep. This is a huge one for me, as with anyone, lack of proper sleep can lead to decreases in concentration, impulse control and an increase in poor decision making. Also, falling asleep in class really isn’t the greatest past time. Each of us has different amounts of sleep that sit right with our mind and body. For me, on average I need about ten hours of sleep. Whenever I wind up heading to bed later than 9pm or not sleeping well through the night, I amount a small sleep debt that really knocks up the intensity of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And, trust me it’s no fun at all.

Going hand in hand with sleep, is eating well. This means three meals a day with snacks, again with some variation between individuals. Due to the fact that I’m on the thinner side, any time I’ve been hospitalized they’ve always pushed me to introduce Ensure into my diet, to go alongside the meals I was eating (and not in place of!). Recently I’ve gotten a taste for a variety of food such as raspberries, apple and oranges. Adding these to my meals has been a lovely new change.

Of course, if I start slipping with my eating habits and my sleeping habits in unison, I run into some pretty big problems for sure. This used to be a big issue for me during my low points and I can definitely say that my lack of sleep and lack of proper nutrition played a huge role in my impulsiveness of acting on my thoughts. Even to this day, if this cycle begins to occur I have to remind myself of my own self-care needs, regulate my emotions and just let the OCD play out in my head rather than in reality.

Aspect number three of self-care is getting in exercise. Some of you may be aware of the benefits of exercise including releasing endorphins, uplifting mood and even helping with chronic pain (I remember that last one from an essay I had to write). I’m not the greatest at keeping up with exercise (I do the majority of my walking around campus each day) and have yet to find forms of exercise I can do all year round rather than just in warm weather, but for what I do enjoy there is tennis, ping pong and swimming. Yoga is another alternative that I’m interested in taking up soon.

Keeping up with proper hygiene is also an aspect of self-care. My novice ways of time management mean I tend to slip up in this area. Good hygiene involves things like dental care and showering. With some mental health struggles a good balance of hygiene can be a genuine problem, and I sympathize with anyone out there having to deal with it.

Maintaining positive coping strategies is also a great way to keep up with good self-care. Coping strategies is a topic I will discuss in-depth in other articles, but simply put they are the strategies we use when we need to cope with our emotions or unwind from all the stress piling up on our desks. After having a tough week with exams, I like picking out a few days to incorporate artwork such as drawing, scrapbooking and coloring. This helps me not only get some creativity out but also refreshes me from any burnout I’ve endured from academic work. Coping strategies are also crucial for me when it comes to managing the OCD and keeping up with my recovery.

Keeping appointments is another important component of good self-care. Whether this means attending therapy, psychiatry or doctor’s appointments, getting in touch with your treatment team is highly important–especially if you find yourself only having time to cope or are struggling with your self-care. We all need a tune up from time to time!

Limit your drug and alcohol intake. I don’t have much experience with this portion of self-care aside from the basics. Limiting this type of intake will be beneficial for your practicing self-care and is especially important if you’re also dealing with mental health issues. Particularly, if you’re feeling suicidal it’s best for you to avoid these substances. I do know for many of the treatment programs I was involved in that many of them discourage substance use while a patient is also receiving psychological care.

Tea! There are many types of tea out in the world and some can be quite beneficial. Explore the options!

Meditation can be a great self-care tool–anything lasting from four minutes to an hour, the possibilities are endless. I personally enjoy the work of the YouTube channel TheHonestGuys if you’re interested in a starting point online.

Lastly, there’s structure. The pinnacle of all the things, keeping up with a well-disciplined and fun schedule is highly, highly important. If you’ve had treatment providers for your mental health or have past experiences to guide you, it won’t come as a surprise to you how forsaken unstructured time can be. I’ll set aside whatever it is I’d enjoy doing with my unstructured time to instead spend it with a tea party that the OCD hosts inside my head. A great time that becomes, oh geez. I’m not yet a master at time management yet I continue to work on creating weekly schedules and daily goals to keep myself on track.

Ultimately, self-care is all about taking good care of yourself, treating yourself well and choosing a healthier lifestyle for both your mind and your body. After all, you’re the only you you’ve got! If you don’t already know, there are some great resources on campus that help promote health and wellness, if you’re interested in learning more! And the Counseling Center is available if you’re in crisis and need someone to talk with. There are also a variety of hotlines you can either call or text if need be.

Let us all kick up some good self-care habits as the end of the semester comes upon us! Stay safe, everyone.

Article #4 – Mass Media. Written April 8th 2016