Harper Hanson

@harperhanson | contributor
The Mighty has given me a place to relate and understand what not only I am going through, but others as well. The Mighty has given me hope that life can and will get better. I hope to give you a place to relate and a place to feel as if you are not alone. I write about my conditions: -OCD -Degenerative Disc disease -Depression -Generalized Anxiety Dissorder -Panic Attacks -Social Anxiety -Chronic Pain
Community Voices
Community Voices
Harper Hanson

7 Gifts to Give Someone Who Is Struggling Right Now

I received these gifts during difficult times of my life and they’ve had a lasting impact on me. I wanted to share them with you, in hopes that you can use them to help someone else. 1. A letter Writing a letter to tell a person how much you care about them means a lot when they are going through a difficult time. Sharing happy memories, and other things that make you smile, can truly give hope to another person. It is important to remind them that you are there for them and care about how they are doing. Sometimes I like adding pictures or drawings into the envelope with the letter, so they can have something to look at and remind them that you are there. 2. A jar of quotes I received one of these from one of my best friends. It was a mason jar filled with 365 quotes, one for each day of the year. Each quote was different and contained motivational and inspiring messages that gave me hope when I read it. The amount of quotes, the sentiment of the quotes and the jar can be customized to the person. My pick: Jar of smiles ($24.99) 3. A Jellycat stuffed animal This brand of stuffed animal is, in my opinion, truly the softest and cutest brand of stuffed animal. With many selections from corduroy to fluffy, Jellycat has many choices. A stuffed animal is just a good reminder to embrace your inner child and give you some joy and softness for when you are feeling down. My pick: Jellycat stuffed animal ($22.50) 4. Socks Socks are great gifts because they keep your feet warm and can be fun to look at too. I personally like motivational socks or funny socks to keep my mood up, and give me that little reminder that I can make it through the day. My favorite brand of sock is Blue Q. My pick: Blue Q Socks ($10.99) 5. iTunes gift card Often when struggling, I would rely on music to put me in a better mood. An iTunes gift card gives options for what music you want to buy and what you want to listen to. My pick: iTunes gift card ($25-$200) 6. Art supplies Whether it be a simple coloring book or a pack of watercolors, getting creative juices flowing always helps my mood. It is a fun way to either try something new or do something relaxing. Art allows you to express yourself and provides an outlet for many people. My pick: Adult coloring book ($7.79) 7. A journal Journaling is always something I have loved to do, especially while going through a tough time. I like getting a nice journal that I can keep for years to come to reflect on what was going on in my life at that time. My favorite brand is Moleskine. My pick: Moleskine journal ($14.79) Have you received a helpful gift that you would add to this list?

Harper Hanson

The Choice I Made to Make the Most Out of My Life With Chronic Pain

Pain — chronic pain, has been a part of my life for five years. It engulfs me when I am struggling and lingers next to me even on my best of days. For so long I found my self dreading the future because my present seemed so miserable: all hope of living a happy life seemed so far away. While I know I will always have pain, accepting that was not always easy. My future, like it is for many, is undecided. Instead of letting that make me worry, I choose to let it excite me. My pain and present should not dictate my future, but my will and determination to live my life to the fullest despite my pain and despite my present, should. I do not know the bigger picture of my life, but have chosen to let that change me rather than frighten me. I choose to let it change the way I live each day so one day in the future I will look back and thank myself for not letting pain dictate me. Realizing my pain is present every moment, and not allowing it to stop me from doing the things I love, allows for a stronger future. Before, I held a short term perspective of “my life is always going to be bad,” but as I took a step back to look at the bigger picture, I thought my pain will always be here, but my “suffering” does not have to be. So instead I chose to do the things that change not only my life, but others as well, and that has helped make all the difference for me today and my future self.

Harper Hanson

My Experience With Exposure and Response Prevention in Pictures

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a type of therapy most commonly used to treat OCD and phobias. This is the act of doing exposures to prove to one’s brain that their fear/thought is illogical. In order to prove to the brain that the fear is not reasonable, one must do that fear in a series of exposures that build up in advancement. Many people have asked me what this entails and the best way I could describe it was through my camera lens, taking pictures of what I do on a daily basis. 1. This is my ban book. In here, I track all of my submits, resists and undos of my compulsions. This day was particularly hard and I had over 300 head compulsions. (My head compulsion entails throwing my head back in order to protect myself or undo something I have thought or done.) 2. This is my fidget collection. I keep at least four fidgets on me at all times for times of high anxiety and to resist skin picking. Often during hard exposures, I whip out a fidget and keep my hands busy to keep from any tapping or other compulsive behaviors. 3. This is me completing a book exposure in which I am placing my hand on a book and holding it there until I am habituated. The obsession with a book is that if I touch it, something bad will happen. 4. Flipping the pages of a book is another exposure for me. It also coincides with the same fear of something bad happening, but was the next step in this set of book exposures. 5. My medications are a big stable in my life. Without them, my mental illness as well as chronic pain would be uncontrollable. Although they do not fix the problem, they do make it easier to fight and get up every day. 6. I recently just began wearing gloves to stop from skin picking. Although very hard and anxiety provoking, I am able to resist the urge. 7. This is a lipstick exposure. Not only is lipstick a sensory thing for me, it is also a contamination obsession. This exposure works by putting lipstick on my hands and having to leave it on all day. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Harper Hanson

15 Quotes That Helped Me in Mental Illness Recovery

My mental illness took over my life for 10 years. I was not functioning, not working, not living, as I was engulfed by my OCD, anxiety and depression. The time I spent in treatment was the hardest experience of my life, but also the most enlightening. Often on hard days, I would look at quotes to help me feel not so alone, and to give me reminders of hope. Here are 15 quotes that helped me make it through recovery. I hope they can help you as much as they helped me. “We accept the love we think we deserve.” — Stephen Chbosky, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” — J.K. Rowling “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” — Wilhelm Stekel “The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.” — Juliette Lewis “Recovery is scary but also is remaining exactly the same.” — Anonymous “Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.” — Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” — J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” “Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.” — J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” “…to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated.” — J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” “This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace on Earth.” — Sadako Sasaki “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.” — Ernest Hemingway “I’m not a complication of symptoms. Not a casualty of shitty parents and an even shittier make up. Not a problem. Not a diagnosis. Not an illness. Not something to be rescued. I’m a person.” — Jenifer Niven, “All the Bright Places” “Depression is a prison where you are both the suffering prisoner and the cruel jailer.” — Dorothy Rowe “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make other people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” — Robin Williams “You wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired the night before, and that, my love, is bravery.” —Anonymous

Harper Hanson

My Harm OCD Treatment for Intrusive Thoughts With Knives

Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website . I was standing in the kitchen, grabbing a butter knife from the drawer. My mom was standing behind me, and I had the sudden thought to fling the knife backward and into her head. Every time I picked up a knife, I had the thought of stabbing a loved one. It got to the point where I avoided knives at all costs. For the longest time, I had no idea why I had these thoughts, and it terrified me that I might actually act on them one day. It wasn’t only knives; driving a car, I would have the thought of hitting a pedestrian. These were the two main thoughts that petrified me, but I dealt with many random ones daily. Most of these thoughts would be of harming other people, or myself, and it wasn’t until in a partial hospitalization program for my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that I learned these were intrusive thoughts. To combat these thoughts, I did a plethora of exposures, which all made me carry out the thought with which I struggled. It started out slow with just having a butter knife in my room, several feet from me, and then escalated to me holding a sharp chef’s knife to a behavioral specialist’s back and walking down the hallway saying “ I might kill you.” While this sounds extreme, and it was, I was able to conquer my intrusive thought over knives and proved to myself it was just a thought. To combat the thought of hitting a pedestrian with a car, it started with me sitting in the driver’s seat of the car and holding the wheel without the ignition on. Eventually, I got up to driving in a parking lot with a behavioral specialist running in front of the car. Again, while this was an extreme process, it was effective and proved to my brain that I was in control. If you experience intrusive thoughts, I want to tell you what I had to learn to defeat my intrusive thoughts. It is just a thought. You do not have to act on this thought. This thought does not make you a bad person, nor dictate who you are. You are in control and have the power to overcome these thoughts. Something that helped me with my intrusive thoughts was the fact that everyone has intrusive thoughts. The difference between a person with OCD and without, is that a person with OCD becomes obsessive over it, then the thought becomes distressing, so they might have to do a compulsion to stop or undo the thought. My partial hospitalization program changed my life and gave me the tools and abilities to live normally. I still have intrusive thoughts, but know how to handle them. They are no longer distressing, nor do I have to do a compulsion to combat them. It was the hardest work I have ever done, but it was really worth it. For anyone who is dealing with intrusive thoughts, it can get better with work and time. I believe in you and wish you all the best. You are not alone, and you are in control. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

Harper Hanson

When Chronic Pain Takes Away Your Freedom as a Teenager

Chronic pain has made me lose a lot. It started slowly, with having to quit my favorite sport (trampoline and tumbling) and then gained speed when I lost my ability to take a shower without sitting down. I have degenerative disc disease and have dealt with chronic pain for four years. I am only 17, and as a teenager you are usually just starting to use and discover all your freedom, but for me, I see it slipping away right in front of me. It was hard to see all the kids in my grade getting their driver’s license and me being stuck in the car with my parents because I am not allowed to drive with the medications I am on. It is hard to see people run up the stairs to class when I am moving slowly, gripping the railing because stairs cause so much pain. It is emotionally painful to see the difference between “normal” people and a person, like me, with severe chronic pain. When I first got my diagnosis, I was relieved. No more questioning of where this pain was coming from, but if I had known how much I’d lose, I think I would have thought differently. It makes me feel pathetic that I can’t stand without wincing, let alone get dressed in the morning. Going to the bathroom hurts, sitting hurts, standing hurts, lying down hurts; normal functions everyone does, pain now dictates for me. I guess I never realized the little freedoms I had before pain; they were so simple but life-changing. The freedom to walk up the stairs, to play a sport, to go to the bathroom, to sleep peacefully; these are things I never thought I would have difficulty with. I never would have imagined not doing any of them. My freedom of everyday life functions is slipping away a little bit every day, and that has different effects. I have always dealt with depression, anxiety, and OCD, but when my pain started to get get gradually worse, all my mental illnesses worsened too. My mental illnesses and chronic pain walk hand in hand, trampling my insides, making life very difficult to live, but I did find light in the darkness. I have realized life is hard, unfair and sometimes downright cruel, but it also has its beauties, and if you choose to look at those, it often becomes more manageable. There is a quote in a song by The Head and The Heart called “Another Story, saying, “The sun still rises even with the pain.” This quotes reveals the hardest thing I had to accept with chronic pain; life still continues even if I am in pain. I just wanted my pain to go away so I could get on with life, but the truth is, I still live, even with the pain. No matter what living looks like for me that day, I try to make the most out of it (even if it is laying on the couch watching the sixth Harry Potter for the fourth time that day). Even on the days where I am bawling because I just can’t take it anymore, I let myself bawl. Sometimes you need to just let yourself cry and say, “Yes this sucks and I don’t want to deal with my pain,” and that is OK. Today I am writing this in hopes it not only helps give me a reason to continue to fight but also helps you too. I may not know you or what you are going through, but I want to let you know you are so brave, and the pain you are in is unfair and it does suck, but life can get better if you want it to. The pain might always be there, but hopefully your hope will be there too. I really do wish you all the best and hope one day you will find peace. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty Image by Antonio Guillem

Harper Hanson

Finding Happiness in Each Day Despite the Frustrations of Chronic Pain

Dear chronic pain, I hate you, but I can’t imagine life without you. I want you gone, but I am scared for when that happens. I want to get better, but don’t want to do what it takes to get there. You are very confusing, and I am not sure if that makes me mad at you or at the world. You make my life a living hell. You push me down and pursue kicking me when I’m lying on the ground. You make me question whether life is worth your pain, and I loathe you for that. I had finally gotten in a good place and you come crashing in as if to say I don’t deserve to be healthy. You make me hurt not only physically but emotionally. You make me cry, you make me scream, you make me wince, you make me dream. Dream of a life without you, a life where I am healthy, but then you rip those dreams away with a lightning strike down my leg or a stab in my spine. I don’t get why nothing has helped ail you. I have put needles in you, steroids, numbing medicine, I have shocked you, I have done exercises, I have been in a brace, I stopped bending and twisting, I gave up my physical activity, I gave up my life to try to stop you. I want my life back and I will fight you in whatever way that looks like. I have given up too much to let you win, and even though you take over some days, I will try to find happiness in every day. I will not be engulfed by your nastiness. I am a garden and you are just a weed. Sincerely,Harper We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Lead photo via shtonado on Getty Images