Tag Archives: intrusive

Radio host suffers with OCD

Amazing story written by Trevor Dineen of CBC speaks about his personal struggles with OCD.


By Trevor Dineen

When I walk into an airport bathroom, like I did last week on my way to Vancouver, I hear the flushing, running taps and hand dryers. But I also hear something else.

“You have to pump the soap 25 times and then wash your hands 25 times. Don’t miss any numbers. Don’t skip any pumps. Oh and do that whole cycle 25 times and then you can leave.”

Now why on earth would I do all of that?

“Because if you do, you won’t die.”

Welcome to the inside of my brain. I have obsessive compulsive disorder. I’ve had it for over 15 years. And to be honest, it almost took my life.

When I was 22, I basically lost everything because of it. One day my brain decided to start telling me that if I did these small compulsions, I wouldn’t die. So I did, because honestly, I didn’t want to die. But then these small compulsions got bigger and the routines got more complex.

The next thing you know, it was taking me 90 minutes to get in and out of a bathroom. It would take me 75 minutes to get into bed. I’d have to walk around cars 25 times when I got out of them. I had between 200-300 compulsions that took up four to five hours of my day.

I quit my job, dropped out of school, and pulled away from all my friends. I was wasting away, mentally and physically. A year and a half went by and all I did was get worse. Finally my parents found me collapsed and crying on their basement floor. It was Christmas Eve and and I had just finished doing all of my routines and compulsions in front of my entire family and relatives.

It was my rock bottom.

My mother, Carol Dineen, eventually opened up to me about how terrified she and my father were in those moments. “Watching my son deteriorate to the point where we knew if we didn’t get you help, we were going to lose you,” she said. “I knew that in my heart. That’s why it was so important to find you help.”

Trevor Dineen (CBC)Help, in my world, came in the form of Dr. Willows. He’s a psychiatrist at Seven Oaks Hospital in Winnipeg. He’s the one that saved my life.

When I had the chance to revisit him recently, he told me, “You presented with the perfect illness. You came in with everything people say about OCD. Because you had everything. Remarkable obsessions, very time-consuming compulsions and hours upon hours of routines.”

Without him, and the months of cognitive behaviour therapy that he guided me through, I don’t know where I would be today.

But it’s not gone. I still have compulsions. They rear their ugly heads whenever I get stressed or I’m concerned for someone I love. But overall, they’re much more manageable now. I know I’ll always have them. A handful or more will always linger, and I have to be okay with that. It’s just become a part of who I am.

And it’s a part I’m okay talking about. Because at the end of the day, I hate the idea of anyone ever feeling as lonely and as scared as I did. So hopefully, this helps. Even a little bit.

Anxiety Canada

Canadian Mental Health Association

OCD Canada

Book Recommendations:
Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty (updated edition), by Jonathan Grayson

The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing: The Experience and Treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, by Judith L. Rapoport

When Once Is Not Enough, by Gail Steketee and Kerrin White

Stop Obsessing!: How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions, by Edna B. Foa, and Reid Wilson

The Horror of Thought Spirals

OCD can be extremely sneaky, a common fear I have is “what if this isn’t OCD”? “What if I am wrong, and I actually have something to be worried about”? or “even if there is a 0.000000000001% chance of this terrible thing happening, I am not willing to take that risk”. This type of doubt is extremely common with OCD, we get to a place where we finally have our thoughts labeled as OCD and before we know it we have OCD telling us that well what if your wrong…and the thought spiral starts all over again.

OCD is a disorder that revolves around uncertainty and doubt. A sufferer gets trapped in these thought spirals, because the discomfort and anxiety caused by not being 100% certain. This pushes the sufferer to carryout compulsions to feel relief. A tool that can be used in these moments, is reminding yourself of the following:

  1. No one can predict the future
  2. Life is uncertain (that is the nature of how the world works)
  3. This is OCD *Even when OCD makes us questions whether this is OCD taking that leap of faith that unequivocally this is OCD will help tremendously from getting sucked into the thoughts
  4. Remind yourself that you don’t want OCD to take more away from your life

It’s extremely hard to do this, especially in moment of intense fear and anxiety. OCD can make us question who we are, what we are capable of doing and take away from precious moments and experiences in life. Taking the leap to trust that I have OCD and this is how the disorder works will help create distance from the thoughts. The ultimate goal is to get to a place no matter how uncomfortable, no matter how risky we do not cave and forget that this is OCD.

I try and incorporate this in my meditation every morning, to try and anchor myself before the start of the day. I find even putting a reminder on my phone through out the day that comes up encouraging me to not do compulsions has also helped.

Just remember that OCD is separate from you, and the thoughts, fears and uncertainty is OCD so the second we have doubt that too is OCD.



Politician Who Missed Work Because of OCD


Politician Who Missed Work to Secretly Treat His Mental Illness Releases Touching Video


Simmons explained that in early 2016, he experienced a significant “flare up” of OCD symptoms, and chose to enter residential treatment. This was the second time he had entered treatment for his OCD, the first being his senior year of high school. He said during his time in treatment in 2016, he focused on re-learning tools to control the effects of OCD.

“That treatment helped me to leave full and successful life for more than a decade, graduating college, serving in the House of Representatives, starting a family and more,” he said.

Politicians aren’t typically known for being open about their mental health, and few have. One notable example is Patrick Kennedy, a former Congressman from Rhode Island who wrote about his personal experience with mental illness and addiction in his book, “A Common Struggle.” Still, Simmons told The Mighty, OCD wasn’t easy for him to talk about in such a public way — and he contemplated for several months before releasing the video.

“It’s a very personal issue,” he said in the video. “It’s also an illness most people don’t understand. They think OCD is what they see on TV or in the movies. For some people, it is. But in many cases, it isn’t. It’s an anxiety issue. For example, for me, it sometimes causes me to withdraw, even from family and friends.”

But he also brought up how living with OCD has been a positive thing — and that he hopes to bring more awareness to the issue going forward. “My OCD isn’t something that stops me, it isn’t something that stops millions of other people inflicted with it,” he said. “It isn’t something that stops me from working hard for you and leading a full life with my family and friends. I’ve worked successfully for years while addressing it and will continue to do so in the future.”

No matter what side of the political aisle you’re on, we hope more politicians — and more people from every workforce — feel comfortable coming forward about their mental health struggles. No one is immune to struggling with a mental illness, and even leaders and people in power deserve to take time off for mental health treatment without shame.

Simmons said the reaction to the video has been overwhelmingly positive, and for other people contemplating opening up about their mental health to an employer, his advice is this:

My suggestion would be take your mental health seriously. Make it the number one priory in your life. If you work for a good employer, they’ll understand. I wish I could tell you most employers will be understanding, but I can’t. All I can say is take your mental health seriously. It’s the most important thing in your life.

Letting Go

I have been having a bad month of anxiety & OCD, I feel like I have completely relapsed and the intrusive thoughts have become so intense that I am back to square one. My intrusive thoughts have caused me so much grief and sadness that all my tools I have learned have somehow slipped my consciousness and I have been in the belly of the beast.

At times I feel in control, and other times I feel completely overwhelmed by anxiety and worry. I thought to myself if this continues I don’t think I can function properly, and the urge to want to just stay in my room indefinitely provides me with comfort. As if quarantining myself would somehow lead to me being free of anxiety.

I forgot that I have dealt with this monster many time before, and the idea of  a quick fix or a “cure” just does not exist. I forgot that in order for this to become easier and better I have to force myself to face it head on and push myself through hard work. I forget that I now have to incorporate this into everyday life, it has to become a lifestyle change. Just like going to the gym is hard work, I have to exercise my mind and implement all my tools that I have learned.

The thoughts become so loud, that it can become self consuming the key is to not have any judgment NO MATTER how intense and unpleasant the thoughts may be. It is the balance between accepting the discomfort and loving the self that will ultimately free the grip of anxiety.

Anxiety exists regardless if it is invited in, and my fundamental flaw in my current approach is that I have re-entered the cycle of wishing and praying that my anxiety could just vanish. The notion of that is counterintuitive to my growth, because it assumes anxiety is capable of vanishing everyone has anxiety it is part of being a human being. The sooner I accept that as truth the less power anxiety has. The sooner I embrace anxiety, and stop going to war with myself the sooner I can feel a beautiful inner balance.

Discipline is so important when dealing with anxiety, the discipline to know that it is just anxiety, and the discipline to proactively use tools such as meditation, journals, mindfulness etc. will ultimately create an automatic thought response to counteract anxiety.

Going back to the example of the gym, at the beginning the idea of going to the gym can be so daunting,  especially if you have not gone in years.  The first few weeks seem excruciating, and many people quit never to come back because of the intensity and emotional obstacles they face. But if you stick through it eventually you’ve created a habit and your routine automatically incorporates going to the gym as a natural part of your day. You also start to feel better, enjoy it and even desire to go. This is the same idea for anxiety, the beginning will be so much work, and extremely uncomfortable and intense but eventually it will become an automatic part of your natural life.  A big lesson I learned is during good times I have to keep putting the effort in, just because I feel amazing does not mean I can just revert back to not working hard, that was my downfall this time and I have now been able to catch it. It is easy to slip back into old ways of thinking especially when things have settled down. The motivation for change decreases as the intensity of suffering decreases.

Consistently working on being present and mindful will create a beautiful inner happiness that glows and circulates throughout the entire body. The simple yet complicated practice of letting go…without fear or ruminating.






Extinguishing the “WHAT IF”

Anxiety in the simplest definition is the idea of not knowing what will happen, and the fear of scenarios coming true. People with anxiety need to know with 100% certainty the outcome of a situation, an interaction or their future. The easiest way to combat anxiety is to come to terms with accepting that you will never know 100% and that is okay. In actuality no one will know a future event with certainty and the more we accept this notion the more manageable anxiety gets. I try and start my mornings by telling myself “today is going to be a good day, and I am okay with anything that happens”. The less attention I give my anxious thoughts the quieter their voice becomes, they want to steal the spotlight, and cripple your day by casting a shadow of doubt across all your thoughts. Sometimes anxiety can’t even be pinpointed to a specific event or thing but being anxious alone can trigger “why am I anxious now?”, “nothing is happening, I shouldn’t be anxious…is it because….this or this..”.

You may for example be thinking about an email your boss sent you asking to meet, rather then just simply waiting to meet anxiety strikes by casting fear and plays vivid scenarios of everything that could possibly go wrong in this meeting. These intrusive thoughts don’t stop until the meeting takes place and you get relief from knowing your meeting was not as intense as you played it out in your mind. This way of thinking intrudes on every interaction throughout the day, and can really send a sufferer into a spiral of intrusive thinking. The issue here is that so much time and energy is consumed by anxiety, and it really takes a toll on a person’s life. The next time intrusive thoughts pop up about all the terrible things that can happen try and combat it by saying, “I actually don’t know what will happen, and that is okay”. What I find most interesting about anxiety is that I build up scenarios so much in my head that when the reality happens for example- meeting the boss, the difference is profound. I magnify the outcome so much that it becomes extremely disproportionate to reality, I find relief when I have the reassurance of seeing what the real outcome is; however, I know that will only last a short moment before my mind jumps to the next unknown.

I am okay with not knowing what will happen, I along with everyone else in this world am unable to predict the future so when anxiety strikes and tries to tell me I can somehow control the outcome of the future I now realize how inaccurate that is.


“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” – Sonia Ricotte

24 Comics That Capture The Frustration Of Anxiety Disorders

A great piece shared by BuzzFeed enjoy 🙂

[Editors’ note: Anxiety affects everyone differently. These comics represent the experience of the artists and not necessarily the experiences of every person who deals with anxiety disorders. Anxiety is deeply personal, but we hope you find some solace in these comics.]

1. The way our restless minds consume us.

The way our restless minds consume us.

Art by Spencer of heymonster.tumblr.com

2. The unique experience of having a panic attack.

The unique experience of having a panic attack.

Art by Rachel Poulson.

3. The seemingly superhuman power our minds has over us.

The seemingly superhuman power our minds has over us.

Art by Natalie Dee.

4. How little things can add up.

How little things can add up.

Art by trixibelle.tumblr.com.

5. Our weird ways of coping.

Our weird ways of coping.

Art by Beth Evans.

6. The way anxiety becomes a constant companion.

The way anxiety becomes a constant companion.

Art by Claire Jarvis.

7. The difficulty of communicating our anxiety to others.

The difficulty of communicating our anxiety to others.

Art by boggletheowl.tumblr.com.

8. The way the littlest things can feel like huge accomplishments.

Art by Beth Evans.

9. The hard truth that it’s not something we can run away from.

The hard truth that it's not something we can run away from.

Art by Claire Jarvis.

10. The constant worry that we’re the only ones who think about the big questions.

The constant worry that we're the only ones who think about the big questions.

Art by Kate Leth.

11. The way anxiety can keep us from reaching our potential.

The way anxiety can keep us from reaching our potential.

Art by Beth Evans.

12. The crippling overanalysis of everyday interactions.

The crippling overanalysis of everyday interactions.

Art by socialanxietycomics.wordpress.com.

13. The fear.

The fear.

Art by L.B.

14. How anxiety stops us from being social.

How anxiety stops us from being social.

Art by Sam Brown.

15. The unfortunate fact that anxiety can strike at any given second.

The unfortunate fact that anxiety can strike at any given second.

Art by Cassian.

16. The way anxiety interferes with our ability to exist normally.

The way anxiety interferes with our ability to exist normally.

Art by virtualgirlfriend.tumblr.com.

17. The different forms anxiety can take.

The different forms anxiety can take.

Art by Bethany Rose.

18. The art of giving ourselves credit for the smallest victories.

The art of giving ourselves credit for the smallest victories.

19. The terror of owning up to our anxiety.

The terror of owning up to our anxiety.

Art by Nervous Comics.

20. How anxiety manifests itself physically.

How anxiety manifests itself physically.

Art by Nervous Comics.

21. The way anxiety can overshadow the positive aspects of our lives.

Art by Elena of elena-the-alter-ego.tumblr.com.

22. The endless cycles.

The endless cycles.

Art by ourlittlehappyplace.tumblr.com.

23. The inescapable discomfort.

The inescapable discomfort.

Art by Sean Clark.

24. And the constant feeling of being out of control.

And the constant feeling of being out of control.

Art by everybodyhasabrain.tumblr.com.

Amazing story from Varun Gwalani

Amazing video from Varun Gwalani! So brave of him to share his struggles with OCD, and show that sufferers are not alone. Please take the time to read his story, and watch his video. I was truly inspired by his courage and efforts to spread awareness.


The other day, I heard someone say, “She kept yelling at me when my room was untidy. She’s so OCD, man.”

As someone who is actually so OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I was understandably annoyed. I didn’t turn around and go on a tirade about how offended I was. I don’t do that when people use the term for their own purposes- Obsessive Comedic Disorder or Obsessive Christmas Disorder, or something else that’s clearly not obsessive.

I don’t do that because I know there’s no malice behind it, just ignorance.

To explain OCD simply, first remember that a large part of your brain’s job is to be a warning system, to detect possible threats, to remind you that something as simple as putting your hand to fire, or crossing the street without looking, will harm you.

Now imagine if this warning system, this most fundamental part of your brain, is broken.

Also Watch: Mental Heads: Stamping Out Stigma Around Mental Illness

With a broken system, you’re constantly scared of everything. Anything and everything around you can kill you. If not kill you, it can infect, hurt or damage you in some way or another. Most of the time, though, it’s not just you that it’s affecting. Your parents, your family, your friends, all of them are in supposed danger, if you and you alone don’t do what your broken brain compels you to do.

That’s what OCD is.

There are more than ten different kinds of OCD, and every case of OCD has a high chance of being severe and debilitating to the point that it affects everyday life.

Even those “funny” pop culture stereotypes of people with OCD tics become less funny when you pull back the curtain and see the reality. Repeated hand-washing becomes slightly less funny when your mind compels you to do it over and over again, till your skin strips off your fingers, but you still can’t stop. Counting steps while walking, or having to shower several times because of germs sounds funny, until you realise that the person doing it believes that their life physically depends on it. And why shouldn’t they? Why should you believe your brain is lying to you?

These are all symptoms of different kinds of OCD, which include morality OCD, checking OCD or sexuality OCD. When you have OCD, that’s exactly what your brain is doing. And after a point, you can’t distinguish between what is you and what isn’t. With that, we come to the kind of OCD that I have. It’s called Aggressive OCD. What does that do? Well, it’s really fun: It gives me visions of death.

So when I encounter ignorance, what I try to do instead is to the set the record straight- What exactly does being obsessive or compulsive mean?

Let me answer that by telling you the story of one day in my life.

My eyes open. It’s 4 a.m. Or is it p.m.? I look around. The curtains aren’t drawn, the sky outside is dark. It’s night. Not that it matters much to me. I had fallen asleep for a few minutes before I was jerked awake again by a stabbing. It wasn’t a stabbing pain in any part of my body; it was more like my brain had conjured up an image of my oldest friend stabbing me in the throat. I yawn.

I turn over on my cool, comfortable bed in my big house and I try not to dream of death. I’m able to stop when I’m awake but I need to sleep. I can’t control it while I’m asleep. So I’m simultaneously tensing my body in fear and anxiety, while trying to relax it enough to fall asleep.

I finally fall asleep without knowing. I say without knowing not because I didn’t know when I fell asleep, but rather that my dreams are so vivid and impactful that when I wake up in a few short hours I was more tired than when I went to bed.

I lay in bed for a few minutes, scrolling through Facebook, waiting for the noise and the chaos of my mind to surge once more. Right on cue, they do, and I get out of bed. There’s no need to “steel” myself or “force” myself to get out of bed. Do you have to steel yourself for the sun to rise? It just does. In the same way, the monster in my brain will always be whispering and screaming.

I look into the mirror to brush my teeth and my throat is cut, it opens up before my eyes. I continue brushing. I am boiled alive before I step into the shower. I step in. An image of sprawling intestines from a dead body flashes before my eyes. I eat my ketchup-soaked omelet, the reds melting together.

I am done. I have delayed enough at home. I have to go out into the world, doesn’t matter for what. The monster licks his lips with relish, a visible smacking sound resounding in my head. I roll my eyes.

In the streets is my monster’s favourite weapon: Vehicles. Vehicles off all kinds. Get in a cab and the cabbie will have a secret gun to blow your head off. Ooo, maybe it could be one of those glowing-light cabs. Brains would look so nice splattered on them.

Trains? Everyone on the train is a murderer, rapist, cannibal. Your friends will die over and over before your eyes, your monster will feed on this chaos in your brain, you will suffer. You get the picture.

I get home, staggering and drained. I start writing about this monster and I am still haunted by the inescapable fact that the monster is made in my image.

This monster is made up of thoughts that I couldn’t possibly conceive of myself, but they still come from my own mind. That is what true obsession is: An inability to control your own thoughts. It will be hammered into you every minute of every day until you wish you were numb to it, but you aren’t.

And it’ll make you want to blame yourself. Because the same place that controls all your basic functioning, is also the place that’s rife with corruption. Medicines help me. Therapy helps me. But I don’t know if that guilt and anger I still hold at myself for not being able to control something that is out of my control, will ever fade.

(Varun Gwalani is a TEDx speaker, author and mental health advocate. The First Storyteller, his second novel, is based on his experiences with Aggressive OCD. Twitter: @varunug)

The Imp of the Mind

The Imp of the Mind by Lee Baer beautifully outlines the struggle sufferers go through. Baer a leading expert in the field of obsessive compulsive disorder shares his professional and personal insights. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is impacted by intrusive thoughts.

An illuminating and accessible guide to the kinds of thoughts that create extreme fear, guilt, and worry, The Imp of the Mind provides concrete solutions to a tormenting and debilitating disorder. Including special sections on the prescription medications that have proven effective, it is “a beautifully written book that can be a great help to people who want to know what to do about obsessions” (Isaac Marks, M.D., author of Living with Fear: Understanding and Coping with Anxiety)

Some beautiful quotes from the Imp of the Mind:

The Imp of the Perverse will try to torment you with thoughts of whatever it is you consider to be the most inappropriate or awful thing that you could do. To illustrate this point, each of my patients whose thoughts are summarized below (many of whom you’ll meet in later chapters) told me that his or her particular bad thoughts focused squarely on whatever was for him or her the most inappropriate, awful, or shameful thing he or she could think of doing:3”



Intrusive Thoughts


We have all on occasion experienced an involuntary disturbing thought or violent image which leaves us upset and confused — these are called “intrusive thoughts.” Aaron Harvey, who battled these on his own for over 20 years, has launched an intrusive thoughts website to help people with OCD. According to the website, as many as four out of five people experience such thoughts. However, for some, the repetitive nature of these troubling thoughts may be a symptom of certain forms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Many try to ignore these thoughts and push them out of their head, but that can make them even worse and more frequent. Attempting to repress the thoughts instead of addressing them can lead to heightened anxiety and depression, questioning of one’s character and abilities, creating isolating behavior. Often, those who are tormented by intrusive thoughts are too embarrassed or ashamed to share them or seek help. Intrusivethoughts.org delivers, through a stylish website, carefully curated facts and statistics, videos, information on different types of OCD symptoms and personal stories. It also elaborates on treatment through counseling, yoga, mindfulness and healthy eating techniques. Here, Aaron Harvey seeks to fill the void for an online community forum, which will help educate and provide support and treatment.

Aaron Harvey, a creative marketing entrepreneur, wrestled with these thoughts for over 20 years before being diagnosed. He began having intrusive thoughts when he was 13. “I started to have a lot of graphic violent images in my head that I couldn’t understand. It produced a lot of anxiety and led to panic attacks and constantly questioning my character,” he told Refinery 29. “Any time I would try to escape them, they would get more violent and more graphic.” This vicious cycle is common of many types of OCD. As it says on the website, “for 1 in 50 the fear becomes much harder to dismiss… These thoughts repeat over and over, faster and faster, making the fear we might act more real.”

Aaron Harvey credits the essay “Pure OCD: a rude awakening” by Rose Bretécher with finally providing him with some relief and hope. His suicidal thoughts and anxiety had become unbearable, leading him to search for help online. After wading through immense amounts of psychological studies and treatments, Bretécher’s article published in The Guardian was a breath of fresh air. It addressing the issue head on and with humor, “She forever changed, if not saved, my life,” Harvey told Market Wired.

Harvey saw the need for more approachable information on the disorder, and founded the not-for-profit Intrusive Thoughts, Inc. which launched the website as an “educational hub.” The site is essentially built to appeal to his younger self. “My goal is to capture me when I was 13 and I started to experience this,” he described to Refinery 29, “so that next 13-year-old doesn’t have to spend the next 20 years figuring out what the hell is going on and thinking that they’re a bad person.”

There was a clear opportunity to use my professional skills to create a resource with a youthful look and tone of voice that also humanized the experience of living with intrusive thoughts, promoted a holistic treatment plan and elevated conversations about mental health in the media,” Harvey said, commenting on the approachable and smart design of the website.

This important tool will provide relief to the many who suffer, and help them feel part of a greater community. Harvey hopes to create similar websites for all mental illnesses in the future.

Images: OscarKeyes/Unsplash, ChristopherSardegna/Unsplash, JayWennington/Unsplash, JenelleBall/Unsplash