For the last 4 days I’ve been at the annual conference of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). I’ve attended sessions on the latest in research and treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, anxiety disorders, depression and related issues. I’ve listened to leading experts from the United States, Canada and from many countries around the world, and I’ve sat and talked with some of them during breaks and in the evening at dinner. I’ve taken copious notes, filled my head with as much as I can, and I am bringing home a list of books to read and trainings to take. The entire experience has been inspiring, exhilarating and exhausting. What I didn’t expect is that is has also been incredibly emotional.
Being both a therapist who treats these disorders, and the mom of a teen with OCD, I feel like I have a somewhat unusual perspective. If other conference goers or presenters also have these dual roles, they aren’t sharing it publicly, as I did in my own presentation yesterday. Either way, I find that I take in the entire experience in a deeply personal way. Every case triumph presented stirs up feelings deep inside of me.
Yesterday, I listened to Dr. Reid Wilson present on his latest innovations in anxiety treatment – often with very rapid improvements for patients. I sat in row 2 with tears streaming down my face. How amazing to see the joy and triumph on the faces of the case examples he shared. I listened to the International OCD Foundation folks share how they are trying to spread the message about effective treatment for OCD, and their quest to get more clinicians trained. And I cried again at the recognition of how their work has touched my family, my patients, and so many other people. And, today, I watched Dr. Steven Kurtz of the Child Mind Institute tear up as he shared the success stories of graduates of that organization’s intensive program for Selective Mutism – and I cried along with him.
I cried for the triumphs and the struggles. I cried for the hope that people can overcome OCD and anxiety disorders. I cried at the generosity of a representative from the International OCD Foundation, who offered to personally be there for Blake – to discuss his ambivalence about choosing to turn his back on his OCD, and to connect him with other teens with OCD. I cried because I am touched by these people who truly care about the work they do and the people they serve. I sense here a true compassion for the suffering of those with OCD, with anxiety, with PTSD, with depression, etc. This isn’t just a job for the people who do this work; it is a mission and a passion. It is an ongoing labor to halt the suffering, to find better ways to do more quickly, and to continually improve our understanding and keep moving forward.
It is inspiring and an honor to be here. I am deeply humbled.