Redefining Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


It is a single thought, triggering feelings of anxiety in my stomach that gravitate upwards towards my brain, and down towards my feet.​

It sweeps in, its dark cloak hiding the light of reality, shrouding my mind in confusion that will circle until I distract it, or until it becomes exhausted from repetition. In any case, it will eventually fly away, waiting for the next opportunity to come and consume my mind and body.​

My obsessive-compulsive tendencies do not appear like they say in the books. In them, they show pictures of people washing hands and meticulously lining up objects in order of colour and size. I have been known to do these things, but they are not the compulsions that threaten to break me.

​It is the thoughts.

It is the constant cycle as they spin round and round and round and round—like a death march pulling me closer towards an abyss that doesn’t even exist. They create a maze, which, if I am not careful, I begin to believe I am trapped in.

A maze of never-ending thoughts, feelings and uncontrollable behaviours.

I hate my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I do not even like to call it mine; after all, it does not define me. It is but a collection of chemicals and synapses. But in those moments, when I can’t see or think of anything but that which I fear, I start to believe that we are one and the same.​

In the seconds the thought begins, it traces its way through my body towards a reaction. I have learnt to recognize it almost immediately. Once it would keep me up—minutes and hours and days spent obsessing over the same incident. Through time, however, I have become accustomed to OCD’s plans and schemes. How it latches onto words and names, faces and memories. How it likes to catch me off guard when I am tired and burnt out, delivering unfounded threats, saying it will topple my years in recovery and the many times I have conquered it.

The moments it strikes are hard to overcome, because it is difficult to prevent your body from reacting to something it is programmed to respond to. It’s like having something wrestle you to the ground, but when you try to fight back, it increases its grip. Only by waiting out the moment does the thought and sensation lose its power.

And ever so slowly, it leaves you alone and the chemicals in your brain make a new, healthier path, allowing you to see that the attacker wasn’t even really there. It was all just thoughts and chemicals, pulling you into a parallel reality. Sending you into panic mode.​

I know that I am stronger than these thoughts and compulsions.​

As a teenager I would visualize my fears, and they kept me shut inside my bedroom, afraid of myself and the world around me.

I found freedom when I told my parents about these thoughts—about how I was scared they were real, and that I was living a lie.

I found freedom when, with the support of my psychiatric nurse, I took short walks in the daylight, slowly decreasing my irrational fear of being attacked outside of the home.

I found freedom when I realized that I didn’t want to die, even when the thoughts and compulsions told me I did.

The truth is, OCD has robbed me of a lot. Sometimes it still tries to steal precious minutes of my days. But I have realized that who I am today—the strong, resilient woman I have become—would not exist without it.

By facing OCD and anxiety, I have learned that small steps lead to grand adventures, and short walks outside bolster courage within me to explore new lands.

By struggling with OCD and anxiety, I have learned to have empathy and compassion towards people who are different to me, because I have questioned my own identity too.​

By questioning OCD and anxiety, I have redefined and re-evaluated what I believe, and why I want to be alive.​

And by overcoming OCD and anxiety, I have learnt that this all-encompassing illness does not define me. I am not the thoughts it places in my head, or the panic that sets in about something I am in control of. I am not the insomnia, or the chemicals and hormones racing around my body, triggered by a lingering doubt in my mind. ​

I am so much more than this.

I am brave and bold, fearless and courageous. Yet I would not possess these in such great quantities if I did not battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I have hope that one day the OCD will pass forever. That the triggers of this season will cease, as did those of past years. That the fears they bring will be overcome with love and patience and trust. That I will become so confident and certain of my own worth and identity that the moment a thought attempts to trigger a compulsion it will be blocked by my own self-love.

Until then, I ride it out. I take the moments OCD strikes as an indicator that I need rest, and I revel in the victory awaiting me on the other side of it.

I redefine OCD as an illness, not an identity—a moment, rather than a lifetime. I am not my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but because of it I have become me. And that is why I will overcome it, every single time.​

This excerpt comes from Jessica’s memoir, When Hope Speaks: Thoughts on faith, hope, love (and depression). Pre-order the Expanded Edition on Kindle HERE before March 5 and $1 will be donated to To Write Love On Her Arms. 

Do you struggle with obsessive compulsive behaviours or thoughts? Are you concerned about the mental health of a loved one? Here’s what you need to do: contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book on our online diary.

Six ways to manage social anxiety


It’s the thumping heart, the sweaty palms, and the seeming inability to communicate verbally to the person across from you.

It’s the fear that everyone is silently judging you, and if you make eye contact with them something disastrous could happen.

And it’s the isolation you feel it an overwhelmingly crowded place, when the smallest task takes all your energy to complete.

Social anxiety is a beast. Some of us experience it momentarily, like on the first day of a new job, when we enter a uber-competitive environment or see colleagues in an unexpected place. Other people experience it all the time, and a ‘simple’ activity like shopping or going out to dinner nearly feel unbearable.

As someone who still deals with social anxiety, I know what it’s like to freak out over the simplest tasks. And even though I’ve combatted a lot of my (somewhat irrational) fears over the years, I still panic when I encounter a new situation, I’ve just learned to mask it a lot better.

If you also struggle with social anxiety, here are six ways you can begin to manage it.

  1. Realise it’s normal

Feeling anxious about a situation you think ‘normal people’ are fine with only makes your fear escalate. While not everyone experiences social anxiety, we all feel some sort of awkwardness. Remember that you’re not the only one who feels uncomfortable around people. In fact, there are probably others around you at this moment experiencing a similar level of anxiety, you just can’t tell because most of us laugh it off or hide it.

  1. Pre-plan

I’m a terrible decision maker at the best of times, and when I’m in an uncomfortable situation my inability to choose between chai tea and a mocha latte becomes impossible. So when possible, plan where you’re going and what you’ll do there.

If you’re going to an event, make a time to meet up with a friend so you’re not left on your own. If being in a crowded space troubles you, go at a less-busy time, and if talking to a cashier freaks you out, have your money set aside for them before you approach the counter. These are only small steps, but they can help you to avoid an anxiety attack.

  1. Let a friend know

If you struggle in a particular situation, don’t be ashamed to let someone know. A loved one, partner, spouse or friend will likely have already picked up that you’re uncomfortable in some situations, and telling them you have social anxiety will help them to connect the dots.

You can’t always avoid anxiety, but having someone around who understands what you’re experiencing makes a world of difference. Tell them what you need to feel calm, and let them help you to plan for and work through each situation.

  1. Write down your fears

When you’re anxious about something, you might role-play different scenarios in your head until you’re so afraid you decide not to complete the task. It’s important that you consider the event or situation you are entering, but catastrophising about what may occur if you see x or what could happen if you say x, only heightens your emotions.

Before you enter an anxiety-provoking scenario, write down your fears, hopes and expectations around the event. For each fear or problem, write down a possible solution. You may find that just by writing it down, you take away its power and feel more empowered.

Go back over the list when the event is complete, and see what actually occurred. Over time, you’ll begin to control your fear when you realise more often than not, scenarios aren’t as bad as they seem.

  1. Set a time frame

My anxiety is always worse when I am tired and stressed, and I know it’s time to go home when I become unresponsive or irritable. Over time, you’ll learn the physical and mental symptoms you show when you’ve had enough and this will be a sign that you need to have some alone time.

How intense the environment is, the level of social interaction you’ve had and how long you’re out will affect this, so set a time frame for each situation and give yourself permission to leave when its done so you can care for yourself.

  1. See a professional

If your social anxiety is all consuming and you struggle to leave the house, make a phone call or see people, then seeing a counsellor or psychologist is a great first step to managing it.

Lots of places allow you to research therapists online, and some even let you book over the Internet. Ask a friend to drive you to the appointment, and if this feels like too much, ask the therapist if you can connect over Skype or email instead.

It takes time to overcome social anxiety, and for some people (myself included), it becomes a process of learning to manage it. Wherever you’re at, know you’re not alone in these emotions. You can navigate them and with a bit of support, learn to live a happy and healthy life. It just starts with asking for help.

Do you struggle with social anxiety? Would you like some help overcoming your fears? Here’s what you need to do: Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.

This is what anxiety looks like


What happens when you feel anxious? Does your heart rate rise? Do your palms get sweaty? Would you like to run away?

We all experience some form of anxiety and worry, but for people who live with an anxiety disorder, these feelings are more extreme.

In this infographic by Mental Health America, we learn that anxiety doesn’t just affect someone’s thoughts—it also affects the body and their behaviours.  People without anxiety may tell a friend to ‘get over it’, ‘it’s not as bad as it seems,’ or to simply, ‘stop worrying,’ but a person struggling knows this won’t do anything—in fact, the stress of thinking it’s ‘wrong’ to feel so anxious, may make the symptoms worse.

Anxiety is broad and can appear different for each person. Anxiety disorders range from panic disorder, to obsessive compulsive tendencies, social anxiety to post traumatic stress disorder. The cause of anxiety and it’s symptoms vary, but, as the infographic says below, it is marked by feelings of being completely overwhelmed, feeling powerless, experiencing incredibly heightened physical responses like heart palpitations, and/or living in a constant state of fear.

People who experience anxiety will often feel isolated and alone. The good news though, is they are not. In recent years, we’ve learnt that two millions Australians experience anxiety every year, and more than 21 per cent of American adults have an anxiety disorder. By talking about this mental illness, we let our friends and family know that they can get through life and not just survive, but thrive.

If you struggle with anxiety, take a look at the coping techniques listed below. Talking to someone you trust, doing exercise, practicing deep breathing and doing mindfulness are all great strategies when you feel inhibited and your body is in panic mode.


Do you struggle with feelings of anxiety, fear and being isolated? Would you like to break free of your anxiety? Contact us on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute discussion or go to BOOK ONLINE NOW and follow the prompts to make an appointment.

Understanding Anxiety

We all feel anxious at different times in our lives. Whether we are stressed about bills, relationships or work, it is a physical and mental sensation we all must work through. For many of us, anxiety can be far more than a momentary feeling, and we live with an anxiety disorder which causes unnecessary and unhealthy worry about many aspects of our lives. This can also negatively affect our physical health.

This infographic by Global Medical Education shows us some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety, and reveals how it affects our society. Have you ever felt your chest tighten up, your breathing become faster, and simultaneously felt panicky and stressed? Chances are you’ve experienced anxiety. It can be hard to define anxiety, simply because it can come in many different forms. Some people will feel social anxiety, others will find it expressed in Obsessive Compulsive tendencies, and still other people will have phobias. There is no one definite cause for why we experience these feelings and physical symptoms, but those of us who struggle with Depression and other medical conditions can find that we also experience anxiety.

So what can we do to alleviate this and care for our mental and physical wellbeing? Just because we experience anxiety or an anxiety disorder, does not mean we are left alone to struggle. There are many ways to treat and cope with anxiety. From medical remedies, to psychotherapy and counselling or natural techniques like meditation, many of us are able to go on living fulfilling and happy lives. If you or a friend is showing signs of anxiety, be kind to yourself and ask for help. Nearly 29% of us will experience an anxiety disorder during our life time, and it is important we know that we don’t have to do this alone.

Understanding Anxiety

If you continue to struggle with feelings of anxiety, sadness, despair or thoughts of suicide, it is important that you seek professional health assistance as soon as possible to help you recover. Talking to your G.P. and/or a counsellor can give you the additional support you need to help you. If you would like to speak to Colleen for additional support you can contact her on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute discussion or go to BOOK ONLINE NOW and follow the prompts to make an appointment.

Fun Tactics to Tame Your Anxiety

Talking with artist Toby Allen

Recently Watersedge posted a blog about managing anxiety. One of the techniques listed was drawing, or expressing what your anxiety looks like on paper. In our research we came across the artwork of Toby Allen, a young artist from the UK popular for his depiction of mental illness in his series ‘Real Monsters’. We hope you enjoy our interview with Toby as he reminds us of the power of creativity in managing our own anxiety.

Why did you initially decide to draw mental illness and ‘monsters’ and how did this idea come about?

The Real Monsters project originated from imagining my own anxieties as monsters and finding it to be a really therapeutic process to draw them. It made them feel weaker and I was able to look at my own anxiety in an almost comical way. I wanted to expand upon this idea and draw other representations of mental illnesses that could help people in the same way it helped me.

I was hoping that the project would remind people struggling with their own ‘monsters’ that they are not alone and that some of these illnesses can be beaten or at least managed, as I think it is much easier to imagine containing or controlling something that is physical entity. I wanted people to laugh and smile when they see my work and feel a little less negative about themselves or their condition.

What is the process you go through when designing a new ‘monster’?

Anxiety - Toby Allen

Anxiety – Toby Allen

I began each monster design by researching the condition or disorder extensively, often relying on real life case studies or first person accounts of dealing with each disorder. I doodle throughout the researching process and try out many different ideas until I get something that works.

The main focus throughout my research is to try and get a sense of what it’s like to live with these conditions and do away with all the stigma or preconceptions I may already aware of.

When drawing, I will look up reference material of animals that share similar traits to the monster I want to create and use those influences to enhance the design. I then work digitally to create the final artwork, incorporating self made watercolour textures to add a whimsical touch.

How does drawing assist you in coping with your own anxiety?

Schizophrenia - Toby Allen

Schizophrenia – Toby Allen

The creative side of my life is hugely helpful in my day to day struggle with anxiety. Creating a piece of work based on my own anxiety in particular has helped me to view it in a different and more positive light. I have been able to turn something negative in my life into a positive and helpful piece of work that has managed to help people other than myself.

When I am creating artwork I don’t feel anxious or worried about anything. I think about fantastical and amazing worlds filled with amazing characters that could only exist in my mind and in this world I can do anything or be anyone. I feel liberated from my anxiety and free from the pressures of the real world. It’s very much a form of escapism from the everyday worries and troubles.

What has the public response been to your ‘Real Monsters’ series? Has this surprised you?

Social Anxiety - Toby Allen

Social Anxiety – Toby Allen

I was completely taken aback by the public response to the work. It gained a hugely positive response from the Tumblr community in particular and the project went viral within a week of it being published on my blog. I have received so many meaningful messages from people who have one or many of the disorders I have drawn, each message telling me how much the work means to them and how it has helped them to think about their condition in a different or more positive way. I regularly receive heartfelt and sincere emails from people who wish to thank me for creating the work as if I created it especially for them.

Reading articles about the project in national and global newspapers and websites was amazing and humbling. It is also very lovely to be recognised by mental health professionals via articles on their blogs or websites and reading praising emails from professionals within this field of work is hugely gratifying.

Why do you think people relate to it so much?

People seem to appreciate the artwork as well as the unique presentation and stories behind the monster characters. They can relate to the monsters and imagine their condition in a different way than they thought previous, sometimes making them laugh or simply feel a little bit better about their condition.

Art is such a subjective medium and open to interpretation. I think I left the designs open enough for people to make sense of it themselves and therefore make each monster feel more personal to them.

As someone who lives with anxiety, how would you suggest someone reading this can best support a loved one experiencing the same condition?

I recommend talking, or rather, being a good listener. I always find that it helps me, to talk with someone about my worries or fears. I try talk to my parents about what is bothering me or getting me down, talk and joke with a good friend to lighten the mood or even have a heartfelt and honest chat with a pet. I really think that talking about your feelings to someone you trust is a great tool for when it all gets a bit too much or you can’t get something out of your mind. Don’t force someone to talk about it with you, just be there for them should they ‘fall’ and let them know that. Sometimes that can be enough to put their mind at ease.

I would advise people with anxiety or another other condition, to try and do something every day that you really love and that makes you feel happy. Try to make time for yourself. When I am creating artwork I don’t feel anxious or worried about anything. I feel liberated from my anxiety and free from the pressures of the real world- even if just for an hour or two.

Which ‘monster’ is your favourite and why?

I think the anxiety monster is my favourite, as it is a very personal piece of work and reflects my own experience with anxiety well. It has a good mix of cute and creepy and the light and dark colour combination was very fun to play around with. I also really liked working on the depression monster. It’s so round and squishy (its design is based on a manatee, which is one of my favourite animals) and the waterfall like tail was particularly fun to draw.

If you continue to struggle with feelings of anxiety, sadness, despair or thoughts of suicide, it is important that you seek professional health assistance as soon as possible to help you recover. Talking to your G.P. and/or a counsellor can give you the additional support you need to help you.

If you would like to speak to Colleen for additional support, you can contact her on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute discussion or go to BOOK ONLINE NOW and follow the prompts to make an appointment.

Images published with permission by Artist Toby Allen.

7 Techniques to Manage your Anxiety

By Jessica Morris

Anxiety - Toby AllenWhether you have experienced anxiety as a niggling sensation in your abdomen or have dealt with an anxiety attack, everybody is impacted by anxiety. It comes in varying forms and will show itself naturally before a transition. However, many people are impacted by anxiety disorders – 1 in 5 in Australians, and it shows itself in Obsessive Compulsive tendencies, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety, phobias and General Anxiety. While it is easy for people to suggest we ‘get over’ these feelings, feelings of anxiety and anxiety disorders can rarely be so easily overcome whether we are about to sit a big test or perhaps need to step into a shopping centre. avoidant-personality-disorder - Toby AllenSymptoms of anxiety include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Inability to think logically
  • Feelings of ‘butterflies’ in the stomach
  • A feeling of constriction in the chest
  • Aches and pains, muscle spasms
  • Insomnia

Depression - Toby AllenAs someone who lives with an anxiety disorder, I have had to learn that in some ways anxiety will always be an aspect of my life due to the chemical imbalance that it is caused by. However, this is not to say I have to struggle or face it head on every day. Early on in my diagnosis, the battle I waged against anxiety was a 24/7 task, aided by numerous counseling sessions and medication. It was in these early years that I was told about various techniques to handle and manage anxiety in my life. The implementation of these techniques meant that over time my anxiety decreased and became less of a constant enemy and more of a trained pet I was able to leash at any given moment. Anxiety is still a part of my life, but I find that techniques I was taught to train this ‘pet’ mean it no longer controls my life, and I am able to control it. People will try to control their anxiety in many ways, some healthy and some that will involve self-medication and can hurt them even more so in the future. Here are 7 healthy techniques to manage your own anxiety.

1. Deep breathing

It sounds cliché, but it’s true: deep breathing is a key part of calming yourself when anxiety rises. Count to five slowly as you breathe in and out. This stabilises your heart rate and keeps you from hyperventilating which increases your panic. The increase of oxygen will relax your body and lessen the physical symptoms of the anxiety. Using a paper bag to practice your deep breathing is also beneficial if you have trouble regulating it yourself.

2. Exercise

By going for a jog, going surfing, doing some sprints at a nearby oval or even taking a leisurely walk with the dog, allow yourself to step out of your mind and exercise to alleviate the nervous energy in your body. Observe the environment around you and feel the anxiety leave your body with each step and movement you make. Your anxiety does not control you, you control it.

3. Journal

Anxiety would frequently overwhelm me, causing me to feel ten different emotions at once for varying reasons. It can be hard to understand why we are feeling anxiety and sometimes there will be no logic in it. Writing out your emotions whether in a classic ‘Dear Diary’ format or in the context of a story, a song or poetry can help us to understand and accept our experience. Even if no one else in your vicinity understands your anxiety driven response, your feeling are still valid and real. Express them and remember they are passing. If you are a creative person, draw strength from this strategy.

4. Draw

Drawing is not simply an activity for children, it is a strategy that enables us to release the frustration and fear that anxiety induces. Can’t draw? It doesn’t matter. Sometimes scribbling or doodling patterns will help to ease your physical symptoms and slow your brain. Other times drawing the situation or people you are fearful of and how you will overcome this is therapeutic. A great example of this is the ‘Real Monsters’ project drawn by Toby Allen. [LINK] In order to make his anxiety more normal and manageable, this young man drew it as a monster. What does your anxiety look like? Draw it.

5. Colour in

There is strength to be gained as you spread colour between the lines and control the outcome of an image. Use colours that express your emotions and make something beautiful come out of the nervous tension in your hands. Whether you colour in a children’s book or choose a Mandala or pattern, make the image your own and take control of the situation.

6. Massage

While anxiety is rooted in the brain, it will inevitably come out psychosomatically in our bodies. This may take the form of muscle spasms, a twitch, shaking, headaches and migraines or constant tension. Stretching, seeing a masseuse or asking a friend to massage us is a practical way to relieve the tension and ease our long term experience of anxiety. Even rubbing your hands and arms to ease shakingor tension is a useful way of calming yourself.

7. Practice mindfulness

When you are experiencing an anxiety attack, your brain will feel overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings. They won’t make sense or even be connected with one another, yet the process of anxiety is one that snowballs and seems untameable. When possible, step outside, take a seat, or lie down. Put on soothing music and feel every muscle in your body. Relax them from your toes to your face. Allow yourself to think of calmness and serenity, perhaps even listen to a meditation CD. Make your mind and your body relax before you continue with your day to stop this snowball effect.

About Jessica Morris Jessica Morris is a 23 year-old free-lance journalist living near Melbourne, Australia. Passionate about pop culture and how this intersects with mental health, faith and social justice; she seeks represent this generation within the media. You can view her work at

Colleen conducts workshops to explore ways to promote personal health and wellbeing. The next workshop, a Women’s Wellness Workshop, is to be held on Saturday 22nd February 2014, from 9.30 – 4.30 at her office location. Benefits include further tips to calm and de-stress, relaxation, increased self-awareness, inner calm and wellbeing, and connection with other women. The cost is $199.99 which includes lunch, morning and afternoon tea. Find out more at: You can book online by clicking on BOOK ONLINE NOW and following the prompts.

If you continue to struggle with feelings of anxiety, sadness, despair or thoughts of suicide, it is important that you seek professional health assistance as soon as possible to help you recover. Talking to your G.P. and/or a counsellor can give you the additional support you need to help you. If you would like to speak to Colleen for additional support you can contact her on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute discussion or go to BOOK ONLINE NOW and follow the prompts to make an appointment.

Images shown with permission by Artist Toby Allen .