Tag Archives: mindfulness


It is hard to put in words the distress that OCD causes; it is this weight that follows you around everywhere you go. You can’t escape it, and you can’t run away from it. Throughout the day and night these echoes of thoughts, images and sensations are there with you, the story line so vivid and crippling we fall surrender to its demands. All moments are slightly stolen because your there but your OCD is also there with you.

There has been so much I have lost to OCD, so much I fear because of OCD. I try to beat it and overcome it, but there are days where you are overwhelmed. It is important to remember that OCD does not define you, and even though our minds have turned on us we can live with this monster.

The struggle is real and ongoing; it is hard to explain how your mind can become your biggest hurdle in life. The dark lens of OCD alters reality, and forces us to want to maintain control.

It is so scary to take risks, and to feel brave enough to trust yourself and that this is just OCD. For me my OCD has manifested in a few different forms, but the best way to describe it is imagine watching a horror film over and over again in your mind, but this isn’t any normal horror film all the characters in this story are the people you love and care dearest for. You can’t do anything to stop it, and are forced to be subjected to this torture. The people you would do anything for you would sacrifice anything for you have to live with being bombarded by never ending thoughts and ideas that you can’t protect them and if you don’t engage in certain behaviour they won’t be safe. Even when you are told this is a disorder this is what the disorder does a part of you still is afraid that what if it isn’t? What if they are wrong and there is real danger? You have to ask yourself has what I have been doing worked so far? Am I happy? Maybe I should take the chance that nothing bad will happen and this is just OCD, and every doubt I have is also OCD? It is so hard to take that leap of faith but it is worth a shot to try, I still every morning have that struggle between doubt vs taking a risk. The days when I chose risk always turn out more fulfilling but it is hard to remember that when doubt feels so strong.

I have decided that life will be filled with challenges, uncertainties and pain. But along the twists and turns there will be these beautiful moments, connections and experiences that make it all worth it. We can either let OCD rob us of those moments or accept that it is going to be painful and filled with uncertainty but it is better then letting OCD win.

“In order to write about life first you must live it” – Ernest Hemingway




Dr. Steven Phillipson is a leading expert on OCD his work with patients has provided an immense amount of progression for OCD treatment. His website https://www.ocdonline.com is full of a wealth of knowledge for suffers. I have provided below an excerpt from his article “Choice”, I encourage you to visit his website and read through the articles posted.

In both the treatment of OCD and in living a disciplined life, there is no word more important than “Choice”

by Steven J. Phillipson, Ph.D.
Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

It is unfortunate that our schools do not teach us that our brains are comprised of many systems, some of which operate with considerable independence from the others. The independence of these systems is reflected in the way individuals suffering from OCD respond to episodes of extreme anxiety. Like all human beings, those with OCD have a strong basic survival instinct and are likely to experience great distress at the prospect of leaving a perceived threat unresolved. However, when what they experience as a threat is actually a function of their OCD (and therefore, is essentially the product of misfiring brain circuitry), they still react to this perceived threat as if their very lives were in danger. A conflict of independent systems also can affect those who do not have OCD. For example, a person may have the goal of exercising, but when the opportunity to do so presents itself, she may find herself thinking, “I’ll begin tomorrow.” Similarly, when tempted, someone whose goal is to save money may find himself thinking, “Yes, but this sale is so tremendous! Look at all the money I’d be saving!” The point is that we can only make disciplined and values-based choices that challenge instinctive or self-defeating urges when we are mindful of the contradictory agendas presented to us by our brains.

 To date, the focus of my writing has been on educating sufferers and professionals alike about the various forms of OCD and the methods of behavioral treatment I have found to be effective. In contrast, this article attempts to identify the essential qualities within the patient that contribute to the success or failure of treatment. In my discussion of this subject, I will give considerable attention to such concepts as agency, mindfulness, and autonomy. Agency can be defined as the faith we have in our capacity to respond effectively to challenges in our lives. Mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness of an experience in real time – that is, as that experience is unfolding – and an acknowledgement of our responsibility for the choices we make and/or the beliefs or perspectives we endorse in relation to that experience. The willingness of patients to be accountable for the choices they make has a profound effect both on the recovery process and the achievement of their goals in life. And finally the term autonomy refers to the choices and actions of the “Gatekeeper,” the “I” or “me” who, based upon his or her goals and values, makes the final decisions on matters of importance to the individual.

The conscious, independent behavior (physical or mental) of selecting, making and or acting upon a decision when faced with two or more possibilities: the choice between good and evil, skilled and unskilled as well as, fight or flight.

• A range of possibilities from which one or more may be selected.

• A course of action (mental or physical), object, or person that is selected or decided upon and summarily put into effect.

This writing is a call to arms! Its purpose is to inspire readers to come to terms more honestly with the choices that will be required if they are to achieve their goals in life.

Continue reading at:




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.



The Challenge

The importance of challenging ourselves, even when anxiety is at its worst. We all know that feeling, of an intrusive thought coming in you try to get ignore it but it just gets louder and louder and louder, like an alarm clock that wont turn off. You try your best to not listen to the alarm, but eventually you snap and want to break the alarm clock to stop the incessant beeping. Unfortunately, you can’t just turn off thoughts, or break them and the more you try not listening to them the worse they get. The solution to these thoughts seems backwards, but welcoming and accepting the thoughts actually helps relieve the anxiety being felt.

For example:

Say you have a thought that something terrible is going to happen, you keep playing scenarios out in your head the plot always ends in a horrible terrible outcome. You become so engrossed that your heart starts to beat so fast, you begin to tremble, maybe you carry out compulsions to try and relive your anxiety and before you know it you are having a full fledged panic attack. You try so hard to ignore the thoughts, you might pray, cry or beg them to stop but they just become worse and worse, until you are on the floor trembling in fear. Eventually the panic attack subsides, and your anxiety calms down, until the next intrusive thought enters and the cycle starts up all over again. Now let’s go over this same exact situation but try a different approach, the intrusive thought comes in but this time you allow it in, you even welcome it in, this time you acknowledge its presence and you do not react. The key thing here is not reacting, no matter how intense, no matter how awful the outcome your mind is presenting you. You DON’T react, it might seem so scary, but being brave and allowing yourself to feel the anxiety come on and not fight it will prove to your brain that there is nothing to actually be afraid of. Overtime the more we react to a thought, the more our brain becomes hardwired to think that we need to be afraid of that thought, and the more that thought pops up starting a never ending cycle of fear and anxiety. The moment we decide to let go, and not be afraid of our thoughts, and allow them to be present without reacting no matter how painful resisting the urge of wanting to just completely give in and freak out (like breaking the alarm clock) is worth enduring the temporary pain for the long term benefits. This will help reverse the ingrained fear response. How to do this? It is much easier said then done, the suffocation and intense fear can be so consuming it sounds terrifying to have to sit alone and welcome the anxiety in, but the less you react the quicker the thought gets bored and leaves – you are not providing any energy to fuel the thought. Lets go back to the analogy of an alarm clock, the alarm clock is beeping this time you welcome the alarm clock in, you don’t react and you even accept the uncertainty of not knowing if the alarm clock will ever stop beeping. You are not resisting it and you are not trying to ignore it, you simply are okay with having the alarm noise apart of your life. Overtime you have become so comfortable with having the noise in the background it gets quieter and quieter, you even forget it is there at times. That is the goal with intrusive thoughts, you have to accept the uncertainty and be okay no matter how intense or horrible the thoughts & feelings being presented to you are, even if your mind tells you that you are wrong to be okay with the thought because something BAD is going to happen!!! Try your hardest to resist the urge to react, think about all the times you have been through this and nothing bad ever happened, take that risk even just once, it will be worth it. Think about all the time you gave in to its demands and the time and energy and pain it has caused you, and again NOTHING bad happened….anxiety is a monster and it may never go away but you can learn to coexist with horrible a roommate.




Amazing OCD Podcast!

I came across a beautiful couple Julie and Andy, who both dedicate time out of their life to host a podcast around OCD and Anxiety. This has been a wonderful resource for many people, and makes you realize that other people are also going through what you are. The stories of the guests will leave you inspired and encouraged. I really love their podcasts, not only do they interview people who personally are suffering with anxiety, but they speak with professionals and loved ones of sufferers giving a broader understanding of the disorder.

The link to the podcast is:



Video Journal


I suffer with anxiety and to elaborate more I suffer with OCD. In my previous blogs I speak about what OCD is, how it impacts someone, and what tools may help to combat the crippling anxiety. This week has been a tough week for me, I was experiencing a big spike in my anxiety, once the anxiety passed after a few days I was able to recalibrate and ground myself again. In this moment I wanted to create a reference point for myself for when my anxiety spikes again. I thought about how I was going to capture my ideas, and really communicate to myself in a rational way. I decided I was going to make a private video journal, in this video I would speak to my future self. I found this extremely effective because now I have a moment in time where I can refer back to and guide myself through my anxiety. Seeing myself so grounded and resilient to anxiety is truly empowering and has snapped me out of anxiously thinking. In the video I talk about my past few days of being suffocated by anxiety, I then move on to explain why it is so important to just accept the thoughts for what they are and not allow myself to label or “argue” with my anxiety. I go on to say how important it is to realize that I will never know anything with complete certainty, I wont even know what will happen 5 minutes from now. This was important for me to capture because a huge aspect of anxiety is the “what if” this happens and constantly wanting 100% certainty that it will not happen. Once that certainty is achieved at a level that my anxiety is content, it moves on to another subject matter and there in lies the vicious cycle of anxiety and obsessively wanting to achieve reassurance. In the video journal I remind myself of all the tools I have to tackle my anxiety, and I also address what anxiety is and why I am actually the one in the drivers seat not my anxiety. When anxiety takes over essentially “I” as the driver become the passenger, and it becomes very difficult to reassume the position of driver in these moments. I would highly recommend creating a video journal as a guide to help during times of anxiety provoking situations. It not only helps with combating anxiety, but it also is a great catalogue of showcasing personal growth.

Great Article about Mindfulness!

I wanted to share a great article and initiative by students of a Pittsburg university!

Students get their zen on at mindfulness fair

Will Miller | Senior Staff Illustrator

Andrew O’Brien / Staff Writer
March 27, 2017

Following the instructor’s lead Saturday, a group of students on yoga mats on the second floor of the University Club breathed deeply as they assumed happy baby and downward facing dog poses in unison.

The assembled yogis transitioned into tree pose, poised with one foot rooted on the ground and the other flat against the side of their straightened legs, hands pressed together in a prayer pose, arms stretched as high above their heads as they could go. Yoga — a spiritual and physical practice that originated in India — can strengthen the connection between mind and body by encouraging mental awareness, practitioners said Saturday.
The yoga exercises were just one part of Pitt’s Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies’ second annual Mindfulness Fair Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the University Club building.

About 400 Pitt students and community members attended the event, which offered talks, family-friendly mindfulness activities including sculpting lotus flower tealight holders, yoga and tai-chi demonstrations as well as free food and various informational tables. The fair also included meditation lessons, a mindful eating workshop and a panel discussion between parents about how to teach children to be mindful.

David Givens, a Ph.D. candidate in Pitt’s department of religious studies and the associate director and co-founder of the Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies, sat behind one of the informational tables distributing information about the CMCS.

Given the increasing proximity of finals week at Pitt, it’s a good time for students to learn to exhale.

According to the American Psychology Association, meditation is the most well-established form of mindfulness. A novice meditator might sit for just five minutes a day, eyes closed and focus their full attention on breathing in and out.

Concentrating on the simple, natural process of inhaling and exhaling diverts attention away from anxious thoughts and depressive rumination. It should come as no surprise that mindfulness and meditation can help those with mental illnesses.
“People find mindfulness personally and practically fulfilling,” Givens said. “A lot of evidence and reports indicate that practicing mindfulness helps reduce stress and helps boost energy levels, focus and concentration.”

A 2011 study from Duke University found that mindfulness “increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity and improved behavioral regulation.”

Mindfulness is all about living in the moment. Practitioners focus all their attention on their immediate surroundings, allowing errant thoughts to drift in and out of their brainspace.

Though mindfulness can be useful for anyone, from any background, it is a key part of religions worldwide. People seated at tables throughout the room distributed brochures about more well-known religions, such as Buddhism, and less common faiths, such as Eckankar — a new-age religion that emphasizes personal spiritual experiences as a way to get closer to God.

Mary Diodati from O’Hara Township has been practicing Eckanar for 42 years. She came to the fair to learn about other spiritual groups.

“Mindfulness brings out individuality,” Diodati said. “It brings people in touch with who they are, and shifts their focus away from trying to control other people.”

While Diodati and many others turn to mindfulness for spiritual fulfillment, some, like Pitt senior mechanical engineering major Sean McCarthy, place a higher value on the emotional benefits of practicing mindfulness.

McCarthy meditates for 20 minutes a day, and said it allows him to better understand and react to his feelings.

“I’ve reached profound moments through meditation,” McCarthy said. “You can get to the point where you’re not just being pulled around by your emotions, you’re making a choice how you react to something.”

In one of the fair’s featured talks, “The Science of Overcoming and Mastering Mental Illness via Mindfulness,” Pittsburgh-based ADHD coach Tom Menditto explained that practicing mindfulness can help treat conditions like depression and attention deficit disorder.

Engaging with his audience and all but ignoring his PowerPoint, Menditto shared stories of his personal experiences with mental illness.

“I’ve gone through this myself,” Menditto said. “I know what it’s like to suffer through depression and anxiety … when I wanted to kill myself, learning to love who I was was what brought me out if it.”

He described deep insecurity, anxiety, depression and suicidal urges he faced earlier in life, but said he’s reached a point of self-contentment through his practice. He encouraged others to embrace the parts of themselves that make them different.

“You are not who society tells you you are,” Menditto said. “Stop trying to be like other people. You were born a certain way. Be that way.”


The hidden beast of anxiety…

In a new piece for the Players’ Tribune, Corey Hirsch opens up about his struggles with mental health issues. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

A great article by

For a long time, Corey Hirsch was overcome with dark thoughts.

In a new piece for the Players’ Tribune, the former NHL goaltender opens up about his struggles with mental health issues.

At age 22, Hirsch seemingly had it all: He’d earned an Olympic silver medal with Team Canada, and, as the New York Rangers’ third goalie, he’d been part of a Stanley Cup championship. But the goaltender felt suicidal. As he describes it in the Players’ Tribune, it was a feeling of overwhelming darkness disconnected from his outer life. “Darkness. Pure, relentless darkness,” Hirsch writes. “For no reason.”

The pain was so bad that, while with the Rangers, Hirsch tried to break his hand, hoping to be sent home to Calgary.

After the morning skate, I grabbed an extra stick blade from the bin and stuffed it in my bag. When I got back to my hotel, I sat on the edge of the bed in silence and took out the blade.

My plan was to break my hand and hide the injury until the next day at practice. That way, I could go down after taking a shot, and the team would send me home to recover without knowing what was really going on. In those days, the blades were wooden and heavy as hell. I smashed the blade against my left hand three or four times, as hard as I possibly could.

The Players’ Tribune

It didn’t work. Hirsch ended up with a badly bruised hand instead, and he stayed with the Rangers right up until the team hoisted the Cup. The next day, he promptly flew home.

Hirsch’s struggles continued, and he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. On an East Coast road trip, Hirsch pulled a trainer aside to ask for help. After one meeting with the team’s psychologist, Hirsch finally had a diagnosis: obsessive compulsive disorder.

Having a diagnosis came as a huge relief. Finally, he thought: “I am not insane. I am not a bad person. I am not weak. I have an illness, and there is a treatment.”

His key message? “A mental health issue is not a sign of weakness.”

For hockey players, struggles with mental health can be especially difficult to reveal. But Hirsch implores anyone who can relate to his struggles to find hope.

“There is a light, however faint, in all this darkness,” he writes. “There is help out there for you.”

To read more of Corey Hirsch’s story: