An open letter to those who think we should “get over” Trump

Like many of you, my heart sunk into my stomach and churned as I watched the votes come in for Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. I felt the universal pain of anyone who has been discriminated against—women, immigrants, Muslims, minorities, the LGBTQ community, those with disabilities, and the numerous other groups that Trump has been able to offend in such a short amount of time. The sharp pain of the sexual assualt survivors that had to hear this man say that men can “do anything” if they are rich or famous enough. The loss of hope in the children who want to change the future…

It is no secret that I am against what Trump stands for. I cannot simply look past his unreleased tax records, countless lawsuits, and hateful comments toward many groups that I myself or my friends belong to. I have heard some of the people who voted for him say that we can’t take his words too seriously. It’s easy to say this if these words don’t affect you directly or jeopardize your own safety and ability to live freely in this country. I have always been taught to judge someone by their actions and so far, his harsh words have matched many of the things he said that had me so worried.

We were already living in a world where the environment is deteriorating, people are shooting in schools, and groups are divided because of hate. Instead of working on plans to make things better, this president has already created a ban for Muslims, furthered plans to build a wall between the US and Mexico (God help me if I cannot get my avocados), taken away protection for transgender people, and appointed people to his cabinet who are unfit, uninformed, and inexperienced. For any position in this country, you need to have a certain set of skills and experiences to receive the position. It doesn’t make sense as to why this rule isn’t being followed for government positions.

I love this country and one of the beautiful things about it is that we accept those who are different. My grandmother came to this country, like many others, as an immigrant trying to make a better life for herself and her future children. Everyone wants to feel safe and I get that, but spreading hate and shutting people out will only lead to them becoming mad and even more hateful toward us. This can be seen throughout history, which tends to repeat itself. It is also important to note that more guns will not make us safer. They will lead to more deaths and mass shootings, especially since the House approved to do away with background checks for gun sales. Look at the gun deaths for other countries who have stricter gun laws and compare it to the US. There is clearly a problem when the US has about 3 times the gun deaths of any other country and is the world leader in gun violence. That is not something we should ever be proud of. Regulation is key and there needs to be more education about the use of guns and other means of protection in order to decrease these rates.

I am worried about terrorism but the fact of the matter is that most terrorist attacks come from our own citizens. The chances of a terrorist attack being carried out by a refugee is 1 to 3.6 billion per year, which is extremely lower than the chances of getting struck by lightening twice. Refusing refugees who have no other place to go and will die without leaving their country will create hatred against our country. If we open up our country to refugees and help them get through their tough time, we can create more allies and not enemies. Take a look at the current standards for the vetting process. It is extremely difficult already for a refugee to get into the country and there is little to no chance of a terrorist being able to get through that rigorous process.

I highly encourage anyone who stands by Trump’s policies to read the research and not just what they see on their friends’ newsfeeds.

fake news vs real.jpg

As you can see, the most reputable and unbiased sources are the ones in the middle. It just so happens that NPR is one of them and Trump wants to cut funding for it, along with the arts. It seems as though any news that disagrees with Trump or calls him out on his lies is “fake news”. Trump even called CNN fake news when it is clearly a reputable source.

Like I said, I am a proud American, but that does not mean that I have to agree with whatever the president does when I know it is wrong and will have detrimental effects on many different people. Just like any employee would be expected to educate themselves about their position and the issues at hand, it is Trump’s responsibility to consult with others instead of just signing off bills. Whether the president is a democrat or republican, they need to learn to consider what is best for the people as a whole, rather than favoring one particular demographic. Our country was built on fighting against injustices such as racism and inequality. We are also built on the idea of free speech. What the president has done within his short time in office has made me very scared for the future of many aspects of the country that I live in and love. We need to look at the research and understand what is going on instead of blindly believing everything we hear. Although everyone is entitled to opinions, there are some things that are just facts and we need to be aware of these if we want to change our country for the better. We need to treat others with respect and keep everyone safe. We need to promote love and not hate because hate just creates death, war, and even more separation from one another. This country is about coming together no matter what race, religion, sexual orientation, or political party you fall under. Everyone is created equal—not just white men, straight men, Christian men, or men at all—everyone.



Connecting Experience in a Residential Eating Disorder Center to the School Psychology Field

I recently wrote an article for the Florida Association of School Psychologist’s Winter Newsletter. I have reprinted it below so that my readers can see it. You can also check out the actual newsletter here.

Eating disorders are not just about food— they are related to many other factors such as ADHD, allergies, trauma, substance abuse and/or a myriad of mental illnesses. Walking into the residential center as a counselor, I did not expect to also gain experience working with women with substance abuse and serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia. These women have taught me more about life in six months than anything I have learned in school. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from working here is how to keep my sense of self as a human rather than trying to be the completely together and collected therapist that I thought I had to be. While in this center, these women have experienced sickness, death, and as many ups and downs as life has to offer. It is impossible not to become affected emotionally. During this time, I met some of the kindest humans I have ever met in my life. Most of them would care about others so much more than they would themselves that it led to neglecting their own needs. This became more than a job for me. Instead, it also became a lesson to improve my own self-care and most importantly, how to be human while still being supportive and professional. Going into the field of psychology, I had this false idea that I needed to be somewhat emotionless in order to be a good professional. I heard horror stories of friends who visited professionals who then went on to speak about their own problems and completely overshadow the patient and the issue at hand. I was always careful not to self-disclose, until I realized how beneficial a little self-disclosure could be for a patient. It is important to validate the patient’s feelings and let them know that they are experiencing them in a way that is different from others, but it is also good to let them know that they are not alone. Since perfectionism and eating disorders usually go hand-in-hand, I make it known to my girls that I am not perfect. I acknowledge my mistakes when I make them and I use these opportunities to let them help me become a better professional. This becomes a great way of modeling because many girls who have eating disorders are overcritical and have a tough time handling feedback. Instead of continuing a group therapy session that I know the patients aren’t getting anything out of, I make sure to ask them what they need at that time or what they would specifically like to get out of a group. This allows the patients to feel like they are being heard. Since each group of women is different, this discussion allows me to understand the needs of this specific group so that I can cater my groups to them specifically. It is also a great way to turn around a group that is not participating. Sometimes asking the patient what they need or what they would like to get out of a therapy session can not only ensure that both the patient and professional are on the same page, but it lets the patient know that you care. This is especially beneficial for the adolescents, who may not think that they have any say in their treatment or their lives in general. It is so important to allow the adolescent to know that they can have control by choosing to improve their life. Their parents and school faculty members are just tools that they can use in order to guide them toward the right path, but ultimately, they need to be the ones who make the decision that they want to recover. One of the most beneficial things for my own research was asking the adolescents about their experience at school. I realized that many of them had so many different options when it came to where they could stay for lunch. Many of the girls expressed that they would stay in the library, where food was prohibited, in order to work on homework or avoid eating lunch. I would ask them what they thought would help girls who are struggling with an eating disorder be noticed by someone who could help. They said that they would be more likely to confide in a peer than an adult because they were so used to telling the adults they were okay when they really weren’t. They also expressed that it could be very uncomfortable for them to talk to an adult that they haven’t built a relationship with, but a peer with a specific position such as a peer counselor would make the experience much more comfortable. We also discussed how in order to speak to a peer counselor, they would have to fill out a form or go through an adult to start the process. Other girls expressed that they did not have any friends to eat with, which made it easier for them to hide and just not eat their lunch. We discussed the possibility of there being designated leaders in the library or the lunch room who would eat with students who didn’t have anyone to eat with or who were struggling with something in their life. Since adolescence can be extremely difficult and many people may not know what someone else is dealing with, these peer leaders can help inspire hope in students who need it. These peer leaders can be trained to recognize signs of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicidality among students. They could also be there for students to come up to or would approach students who look like they need someone to talk to. During this discussion, when we were sharing ideas and thinking of new ways to help others, I saw the eyes light up in my adolescents for the first time. Their eyes were full of this new hope for the future and pride in the new program they have created with each other. It also helped fuel my inspiration because I was stuck in trying to figure out a way to target students who are struggling with an eating disorder when it was so easy for it to go unnoticed. I’ve had to sacrifice some of my holidays and free time in order to work with these women. Although some days can be draining or difficult, it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I’ve taken the time to get to know the women who are in the center, beyond their eating disorder, and I have learned just how kind, caring, and loving they are. If I had a magic wand that allowed my patients to love themselves and took away all of the obstacles in their life, I would surely use it. Unfortunately, this is not the case, so I must be patient and help them get through it, one day at a time. I have found the importance in saying what you mean inside of waiting until it’s too late. These girls can come and go so quickly, some complete the program ready to tackle ED and take on the world, but others leave without feeling confident that they can recover. Sometimes just letting them know that you believe in them can make a huge difference in their world. All of these are lessons I will surely take into my future experience as a school psychologist because having one positive adult in a child’s life can change their perspective and allow them the confidence to succeed in their academic and personal lives.

What is a School Psychologist?

This week is School Psychology Awareness Week, so I wanted to devote a post to explaining what a school psychologist is and what they do. It seems that many people think a school psychologist is the same thing as a guidance counselor or are not really familiar with the term.

School Psychologists can work in many different settings such as schools (obviously), universities, hospitals, clinics, private practice, juvenile justice programs.

School Psychologists know more about psychology than any educator and more about education than any psychologist. They help bridge the gap between education and mental health in order to figure out how to help the child as best as possible.

School Psychologists perform many different assessments such as for classroom placement, special education or for specific mental health issues. They participate in meetings with other professionals and use their knowledge to come up with the best way to help each specific child. They may work with parents, social workers, special education staff, teachers, principals and many other types of professionals.

School Psychologists may also provide counseling in order to improve behavior, promote social support, and provide emotional support to individuals or groups. They are usually the front runners during a crisis and may provide training, counseling and other methods of support to teachers, students, parents and staff.

To put it simply, School Psychologists work to improve academic achievement, mental health, behavior and student quality of life overall. They can help prevent suicide, support students in stressful times, provide a better plan for a student struggling with school, and make many other positive changes in the lives of students.

How to Survive Grad School

Grad School. You think it would be just as fun as undergrad but a little harder—no. It’s actually A LOT harder. Here are some helpful tips for if you are planning to go or are currently attending Grad school:

Time management is a must

You will most likely be running around all day going to class, work, practicum, or an internship. You will also still have your family obligations, social life and personal well-being. You are going to have to learn to plan everything out and use your time wisely.

Your planner is your best friend

It is very hard to get through Grad school without a planner. That is why it is best to use one to write everything down, even free time. I recommend the Erin Condren. It is also best to put everything on a calendar on your phone, computer and tablet so that you can make sure you don’t miss anything!

A crockpot is the best investment you will ever make

It only takes a few minutes to prepare in the morning and then Voila! you have a hot, home-cooked meal when you get home. It will save you time and money, as well as stop you from going to those awful fast food places. You can score one for about $15-50.

Exercising is more effective at keeping you awake than any amount of coffee

And it actually burns calories. You will also feel more focused, productive and good about yourself—all while avoiding the stomachache that comes with too many cups of coffee, the breath and the yellow teeth. Make yourself do it in the morning or whenever is best for you during the day. It will feel like it will drain you of all the energy you don’t have, but in the end, you will have more.

Find an outside interest

Whether it’s writing, dancing, running, or playing music, find something you can do that makes you feel good and has nothing to do with your program. This will help you avoid getting tired of your program and prevent burnout. It will also help remind you that there are other things in life.

Save and backup everything

We all know computers are not always reliable, so make sure you get an external hard drive to backup all of your files. Professors will usually not consider it an excuse if your hard drive crashed and your 20-page research paper due that same day was lost. Think ahead and avoid any tragedies. Don’t wait until you finish your paper to save it. Save it as often as possible while you are writing it. Have folders to save previous assignments, papers and syllabi. You never know when you might need them in the future.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

That is what your professors are there for. It is better to say you are having trouble earlier, rather than later. Then you are giving them time to actually figure out how they can help you so you can succeed.

Seek comfort in your cohort

Chances are, if you are stressed or having a hard time, they are feeling it too. Reach out to members of your cohort and have a pow-wow once in a while. You can all learn from each other and help each other out.

Build your professional network

Find conferences or volunteer opportunities that pertain to what you want to do in the future so you can stand out from the crowd. Build these relationships so that you can have more than enough options for future jobs or internships. It’s what you know AND who you know.

Do something for yourself every once in a while

Whether it’s a vacation at the end of the semester, a concert, a spa day, or even just a night on the town, do something you enjoy every so often. This will help you reenergize and relax, as well as remind you that there are other things in life you can look forward to.

Don’t get too bogged down by grades

You are probably an overachiever, but you will probably not sustain a perfect 4.0 during your whole time at Grad school—and that’s okay. Getting a B is not the end of the world and nor will your future employers mark you down for not receiving perfect grades. In the real world, it’s your experience and skill set that matters so much more.

Take care of yourself first

No matter if you are working in business or working to become a doctor, you will not be able to help anyone unless you help yourself first. Give yourself some time to relax if you are too stressed and talk to someone if you are struggling. It will make you a better person and worker in the long run.

Eating Disorders: What you should know

Eating Disorders come in all different shapes, colors, forms and sizes. They affect people across all cultures, ages, genders, and backgrounds. Here are some of the most common (but not all) eating disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa

Restricting food, excessive dieting, self-starvation to the point where one is losing a lot of weight in a short period of time. Also related to perfectionist tendencies, lack of control, trauma or difficulty adjusting to a situation, low self-esteem and poor body image.

Common signs

  • Skipping meals
  • Saying negative things about their appearance or themselves
  • Making excuses for eating small amounts or not eating
  • Cutting food into small pieces
  • Mixing around food on plate
  • Talking excessively during meals
  • Loss of energy
  • Unable to enjoy activities they once enjoyed
  • Idolizing “skinny”
  • Disgust or uninterested in food

Bulimia Nervosa

Intake of an excessive amount of food in one sitting (binging) and then making oneself throw up (purging). Related to control, attempting to find balance or control, low self-esteem, poor body image and extreme feelings of guilt after eating. Most have a normal body weight. Could also be paired with anorexia.

Common signs

  • Using the bathroom after meals (frequently)
  • Turning on the shower/faucet when in the bathroom
  • Excessive and frequent coughing in the bathroom
  • Yellowed teeth and/or fingernails
  • Extreme guilt after eating
  • Idolizing a certain body image

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Most common eating disorder. Intake of an excessive amount of food in one sitting, without purging. Immense weight gain and associated health issues.

Common signs

  • Hiding food (in drawers, bags, etc.)
  • Hiding while eating (in the car, in their room, the bathroom, etc.)
  • Feelings of extreme guilt after eating
  • Eating past their point of being full
  • Eating excessively without being hungry
  • Intense preoccupation with food
  • Seem to derive happiness from food
  • Less than active lifestyle

Anorexia is the most deadly mental illness. This is why knowing the signs and getting them help right away is extremely important.

The most important thing to know about eating disorders is that they are not a choice. More likely than not, the fear of gaining weight or the tendency to eat too much, will derive from some underlying cause.

What not to say/do to someone with an eating disorder

Do not force them to eat

Everyone knows that nutrition is important, but force does not work. Threatening the person or making ultimatums will only cause more distress to the person struggling and could lead them to other destructive behaviors in order to gain control (purging, use of laxatives, drug/alcohol abuse, self-harm, running away, or even suicide attempts).

Do not tell them they are not fat

Do you really think that you saying that will solve all their problems? It just makes them feel weird and as if they are crazy. You don’t have to agree with their belief, but at least acknowledge that they feel as if they are fat and get them help.

Do not idolize their disorder

There are some people that will say “I wish I was anorexic”, “you look so skinny” or “you look great”. This only idolizes their disorder and furthers their commitment to it. They will want to receive even more compliments! An eating disorder isn’t something anyone should really want to have, as there are devastating consequences.

Do not tell them they don’t really have an eating disorder

This can happen frequently if the person is a male or a member of a minority group. Eating disorders are often improperly labeled as “a young, white girl’s problem”. This is certainly not the case and you are making the person feel uncomfortable while delaying their recovery. Do not treat them differently from anyone else who has an eating disorder. This could also happen when someone is diagnosed with “Atypical Anorexia” which is self-starvation without being underweight. It could make them feel as if they are not “good enough at being anorexic” and lead to harsher methods of weight loss.

Do not tell them to “get over it”

You don’t tell a person with cancer or HIV to “get over it”, so don’t do it with an eating disorder. It takes a lot of treatment and therapy to recover. You are better off learning more about eating disorders and directing them to an appropriate source of help.

Do not give up on them

Chances are, they really need a friend or support system right now. They may be unpleasant or difficult to be around, but it is not their fault. Show them that you care and reach out to a professional who can help them. Let them know that they are capable of recovering.

Important things to know

Most people who are struggling with an eating disorder have a serious underlying issue that needs to be resolved. This could be trauma, sexual/physical/emotional abuse, bullying, extremely low self-worth, low self-esteem, little/no support system, trouble adjusting (to a move, divorce, etc.), depression, anxiety, self-harm, and/or suicidal thoughts. Therefore, it is important that the person struggling seek treatment in order to resolve the eating disorder and the underlying issue. Failure to seek treatment can lead to other issues and even a relapse after recovery.

People who have struggled or are currently struggling from an eating disorder have triggers that may cause disordered eating. For example, a buffet can be scary for someone with a history (past or present) of anorexia because there are so many food choices (healthy and unhealthy) and they feel overwhelmed. They may also feel anxiety eating around other people and worry that they will think they are eating too little or too much. Someone with binge eating disorder or bulimia may feel the need to eat a lot more than they should and feel guilty afterwards. Another person may have disordered eating during high times of stress. Be mindful of certain triggers and help the person know that they are not strange for feeling this way. Direct the person to a professional if the triggers become very frequent or too overwhelming for them.

If someone is recovered, it is important to look out for what they need. They may have a few slip-ups and that is okay. In this case, it would be inappropriate to recommend treatment. Let them know that you are there for them and remind them the importance of seeking help if it becomes more frequent. Accusing someone of relapsing could make them believe that they are and lead to more frequent behaviors, so it is essential to look for the signs and be sensitive toward them.

If you’re not sure, ASK!

If you see signs of an eating disorder but are not sure, ask them! It is better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you approach them privately, gently and respectfully. Do not accuse them or make them feel ashamed: I.e. “You’re not anorexic, are you?!” Say something like, “I’ve noticed some things that caught my attention and I could be totally wrong but I care about you and want to let you know that if you are struggling, you can talk to me and we can get help together”. You are not expected to be the sole source of support or therapist to them, so it is very important to direct them to a professional. It may even help to go to the therapist’s office or treatment center with them to ensure that they go and feel supported.

Helpful Resources

*Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I call myself, an expert on Eating Disorders. This is an area of interest I have done extensive research on, but the previous statements may not apply to everyone. Each individual experiences things differently and in their own way because everyone has different situations in their life. This needs to be taken into account. The above information speaks about the “general” ideas of Eating Disorders, but I cannot speak for everyone who struggles.

“I don’t want to go to school!”

Whether you are in pre-school or Grad school, this is a common phrase that either you or someone you know has probably said within the past week. It’s so hard waking up in the morning, trying to find time to eat breakfast AND make lunch, and getting there on time while looking good. It can be downright exhausting, right? I have to admit that I have been a repeat offender when it comes to this phrase. It just seems like so much work when you could be having fun. But my perspective changed when I heard about a young woman named Malala.

As a resident of the United States, I have limited knowledge of just how terrible the situation in the Middle East is. I try to keep up-to-date on the happenings in places like Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, but I will never really know just how horrible it is because I haven’t experienced it for myself. I consider myself to be highly empathetic, so I can imagine it, but I can never really know what it is like.

In case you don’t know who Malala is, let me introduce her:

Now 18, Malala has accomplished so much in so little time, despite so many challenges. The first, living in an area of Pakistan ruled by the Taliban, who banned girls from going to school. Malala and her friends knew that they were risking their lives everyday by going to school, but they were brave enough to take that risk because education was that important to them.

Malala started to write anonymous stories about her life under Taliban rule. The stories gave insight to the struggles she went through and allowed people to understand just how bad the situation was. Eventually, the Taliban discovered that the true author behind the diary was Malala, so they set out to kill her.

When she was only 15, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban. Luckily, the bullet ended up in her shoulder, so she was able to survive and work past the injuries. It did not do any damage to her brain. Although she survived, she knew the Taliban would just keep coming after her until she was dead, so she fled to the United Kingdom.

She became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and spoke at the United Nations on her 16th birthday. She also got to meet Queen Elizabeth II, Obama and many other important people. She wrote and published a book about how she was shot by the Taliban and how she was adjusting to her new life in a new place. On her 18th birthday, she opened an all-girls school for Syrian refugees.

Needless to say, I know that I am grateful for having the opportunity to get such a great education, but I know that I need to express it more. I could definitely benefit from less complaining and thinking from another perspective. There are so many women in the world who cannot get an education due to circumstances beyond their control. I am so lucky to be able to receive any degree I want. There is no limit to the amount of knowledge I am allowed to consume. Money is not even an issue because I live in a country that allows students to receive loans for their education. Although it is something I will have to pay back later, it will be worth it because I got the education I needed for my desired profession.

This isn’t just going on in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, where Malala is from. This is happening in many war-torn countries such as Syria and places in Africa. Children and women are being robbed of their education because they fear for their lives. Education shouldn’t be something that has to be fought for—it should be an inherent right for everyone.

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