How I Learned to Live With the OCD That Disrupted My Life for Years

I spend a lot of time in my own head. Sometimes, being inside my own head can be fun. I like playing games in my head … with … myself. Like, wondering what we do when we no longer need the word “obsolete.” See? Fun.

But other times, it’s not as fun. As a kid, at an age I can’t remember, I started having these weird guilty thoughts that demanded action. For example, when I’d wash my hands and leave the bathroom, all of a sudden I’d think, “You didn’t wash them well enough.” If I tried to shake the thought off, a stronger reprimand would respond: “You want to get other people sick too, if you leave?” So I’d wash my hands and count to a minute. Then wash them again. And again. Eventually I’d be able to leave, but no number of hand-washings could expel these thoughts.

Here’s the tricky thing about obsessive-compulsive disorder: It’s not like I was hearing a voice separate from my own. This was my own voice, my own thoughts, my own commands. It was as if I was both in control and not in control of my thoughts at any given time. Read more »

6 Ways to Detox That Don’t Involve Going on a Juice Cleanse

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good green juice. But juice alone for days on end? No, thank you. But ’tis the season for lifestyle makeovers which inevitably means it’s the season of the detox. And with this season comes the resurgence of the juice cleanse. My Instagram feed is currently filled with folks bragging about how refreshed they feel below photos of mason jar upon mason jar of juiced beets. Then there are the photos posted by local juice shops with discount codes for cleanses in the captions. Clearly, with all the juice cleanse-mania that comes with January, it’s easy to get sucked in.

So if you are currently holding a bottle of liquid vegetables in your hand, having ingested no solids for longer than you’d like to believe, wondering “How did I get here?” you are not alone. But we’re here to tell you, there are plenty of ways to give your body and mind a good reboot without surviving on liquified kale for longer than anyone should ever have to survive on liquified kale. We promise.

To detox, by definition, simply means to rid the body of or to abstain from toxic or unhealthy stuff for a period of time. Below, six ways to do just that while still maintaining your sanity. Read more »

The 19-Year-Old CHOP Patient-Turned-Playwright Whose Poetry Will Make You Cry 

Elizabeth Kennedy

Elizabeth Kennedy

Elizabeth Kennedy, 19, is a poet and playwright who occasionally rocks purple hair. “I dyed it purple after I had pneumonia,” she says. “I was in the hospital and feeling so out of control of my life. My dad went out and bought me the hair dye so I could feel in control of something.”

She had to dye it back to her natural brunette before she began her most recent round of proton radiation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, because the radiation irritates her scalp. Elizabeth was diagnosed with a tumor on her brain stem when she was only seven years old. She’s had two brain surgeries, proton radiation, and three rounds of chemotherapy. She was stable for eight years before heading back to CHOP this fall.

Despite being in and out of hospitals since she was seven, she focuses all of her creative energy into a positive place: her writing. She writes poems constantly, and most recently wrote a one-act play, “The Bureaucracy of Existentialism,” which will be performed at the Shawnee Playhouse this January as part of the Shawnee Original Playwright Series Contest. Read more »

Mythbuster: Suicide Is Not More Common During the Holidays

Going "Home for the Holidays" can be chore — but it's no worse than during the rest of the year.

Going “Home for the Holidays” can be chore — but it’s no worse than during the rest of the year.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn has some good news for people who appreciate accuracy in media: Last year, for the first time in four years, there was a decrease in the number of news stories that falsely associated holiday time with suicide. Annenberg’s analysis notes that the lowest suicide rate is between mid-November and January, yet for many years the majority of news outlets tended to perpetuate the holiday-suicide myth rather than contradict it. Read more »

The Checkup: Why You Should Stop Trying So Hard to Be Happy

• It seems, in this day and age, we are all obsessed with the idea of achieving — and flaunting on social media, of course — happiness: Finding a job that will make us happy, or a spouse, or the perfect pair of fall boots — you name it. But research shows, thinking too much about finding happiness and constantly questioning whether or not we are happy can stop us from actually stumbling on actual happiness. [Medium]
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The Easy Trick to Calm a Crying Baby (and Save Your Sanity)

Parents of newborns have it hard enough: There’s the whole not getting any sleep thing, then there’s the fact that they are now responsible for the life of another human at all times for the next 18 years (!!) — and then there’s the crying. But a video of a Los Angeles-based pediatrician, Dr. Robert Hamilton, performing a baby-holding trick that calms crying newborns could help with that last one. Read more »

How I Loved/Hated Floating in a Dark Pod Filled With Salt Water

Float pod at Flotation Philly

Float pod at Flotation Philly

I am not the kind of person who likes to get wet. I’ve said it before: Water sports are not my thing; I hate showering (but don’t worry, I still do it); and I am not the most advanced swimmer. So, what urged me to call Russ Stewart, owner of Fishtown’s Flotation Philly, and tell him that I really, really wanted to try floating — where you float in a pod or tank filled with salt water for anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes in order to relax or recover from a brutal workout (Hey, marathoners!) — is honestly beyond me. But this past Thursday, that’s exactly where I found myself — and surprisingly, I kind of loved it. But I also kind of hated it, too. Read more »

The Checkup: Why You Cry When You’re Happy, Explained (Finally!) 

• A few years ago, my best friend got married in her parents’ living room and I videotaped the entire thing. But it wasn’t really worth videotaping, because all you can hear is loud, sobbing sounds … coming from me. I swear, they were happy sobs, but still, it is not cute. And for years, I have wondered: Why the heck couldn’t I control my tear ducts?!? So I am oh-so-grateful to have that episode explained to me by the lovely folks over at Science of Us. If you, too, are a happy cryer, click through to learn why. [Science of Us] Read more »

How to Make Friends As an Adult (Without Feeling Like a Weirdo)

A friend and I regularly play a game, where I read a Tinder profile aloud and she has to decide whether to swipe right or left (so say “yes” or “no” to that person) based solely on the person’s condensed-into-90-ish-characters personality. It gives me a glimpse into the world of online dating — a land, having met my boyfriend before the age of Tinder, where I have never ventured — and makes online dating slightly more fun and less miserable for her. Slightly.

As anyone who has ever braved the new world that is Tinder knows, Tinder profiles can get weird. I won’t even get into the story about the one where the guy used, and I quote, “I’m really good at helping people pick out Halloween costumes,” as a pick-up line. But the weirdest Tinder profiles, in my opinion, aren’t the ones like that or the ones where the person aggressively lists off hobbies with periods in between — “Lifting. Gardening. Craft Beer. My Dog.” and so on; the weirdest Tinder profiles are the ones that say anything along the lines of “Just looking for friends.” Like, don’t you know you’re in the wrong place? Read more »

The Serious Dangers of Being Rude

I watch a lot of Grey’s Anatomy. Honestly, it’s embarrassing. So when I read the piece “Rudeness in Medical Settings Could Kill Patients” on Science of Us earlier this week, my first thought was, Wow, I wonder how anyone at Seattle Grace Hospital survived. After all, the premise of the show is essentially people sleeping with each other, then being rude to each other later in the operating room.

What struck me about the piece most, though, wasn’t the Grey’s Anatomy inaccuracies it brought to mind, but how the discussion could easily apply to everyday life, outside of a medical setting. The Science of Us piece talks about a recent study, published in Pediatrics, which found that a simple rude comment from a third-party doctor took a huge toll on the performance of doctors and nurses in a simulated life-or-death situation. And by huge, I mean the teams’ abilities to properly diagnose the condition were impacted by 52 percent, compared with teams working in rude-comment-free environments, and how well they treated the condition was impacted by 43 percent. As the study’s author, Amir Erez, points out, these differences in treating the patient could have been fatal, were it a real-life situation. Read more »

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