Musings from the OCD Conference

Image courtesy hin255 @
Image courtesy hin255 @

I am writing this as I sit in my hotel room at the 21st Annual OCD Conference. This conference is a godsend to many individuals and families with OCD. Here, top experts mingle with OCD sufferers, their family members and friends, clinicians and researchers. The playing field is level. Anyone can attend any session and the experience of an OCD sufferer holds as much weight as that of a seasoned researcher. It is unlike any other conference I have attended – either as a professional or simply as a mom. I am grateful to the International OCD Foundation for having created this conference as a way for people to connect, get information, and find hope.

It is Saturday evening. The conference ends tomorrow at lunch time. The Saturday night social is going on. Conference attendees are eating and dancing, but I am up in my room. I am purposely isolating tonight. Sure, I have a presentation to do tomorrow at the conference, but that’s not why I am in here, alone. It’s that tonight I don’t feel much like the professional who is to present tomorrow. Tonight, I feel the sadness of a mother who aches for her child. Try as I might to look like I am enjoying myself, or to engage with the other conference goers, I can’t.

Two years ago, we attended this conference in Chicago as a family. I felt strength in our joint attendance. Blake’s OCD was getting worse, at the time, and a couple weeks later he would be in an intensive outpatient program, but there was power in our whole family facing this and learning together. I think I understand why the rest of my family is not here with me – maybe it is that everyone is just sick of OCD – but I miss them just the same. My in-laws have been able to be here for part of the conference, and I am grateful that they can share in this experience, and also that they can get answers to some of their own questions.

The questions that plague me are here swirling around in my head. Why is my son still right in the middle of his OCD? Why does he not see what is going on, not realize that he even has symptoms? Is it really just everyone else’s problem? What are we doing, as a family, to help maintain his symptoms? What do I need to change in myself? Will things ever truly be “better?” Will the tension that exists in our home ever decrease? Will Blake ever be able to be one of those men who is able to tell his victory-over-OCD story?

For now, I don’t know. I listen to the stories of triumph with some envy. And then I am still left with my questions. They are not meant to be answered right now, but I think I will return home with more intent to observe, quietly, what it exactly is that is going on in our home. Maybe I can learn more about myself if I sit quietly. At least for now, that is my plan.


8 thoughts on “Musings from the OCD Conference

  1. Angie, oh I can so feel your frustration and heartache. As a mum also with a son who has quite a severe form of OCD, and having done everything humanly possible with research, therapy, intensive hospital treatment and commencing a support group, still we are no closer to giving him a better quality of life. I too question what more can I do, what could I have done better, will the tension in our house decrease? There are days also when I have to dig deep and regain the passion and renewed energy to keep positive. I also understand that you can only do so much, you can be there for support, hugs and compassion but it takes commitment to tackle OCD. They have to let go of the security blanket, such is OCD. I wish you well with your presentation, say it as it is. You’re a fantastic advocate for OCD.

    1. Janis, I can tell that you do feel those same kind of feelings that I do. And I am sending you a digital hand squeeze in solidarity. You say it so correctly. They do have to “let go of the security blanket.” The presentation did go well. Phew!

  2. I hope that quiet, alone time brought some peace for you. And I hope you’re write about your presentation – I would love to know more and I bet it was VERY well done. -Amy

  3. Angie, my heart aches for you as I have been in your position. I wish I could just tell you that “all will be well” down the road, but we all have to live with uncertainty, right? Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. I truly do believe, however, from reading your posts about Blake and your family, that he is going to triumph over his OCD. His timetable? Who knows?
    I think your plan is a good one. Go home, observe, and reassess, and then you will continue on from there. I always keep you and Blake and your whole family in my thoughts.
    I hope your presentation went well.

    1. You mean, I HAVE TO DEAL WITH UNCERTAINTY TOO??? 🙂 As always, Janet, your voice of calm wisdom provides solace. Thank you for having us in your thoughts. The presentation went very well. I was lucky to be part of a tremendous panel!

  4. Hi Angie, reading your words make me realise what a difficult situation it is for the family involved in all this too. I wish I could provide some insight into why Blake doesn’t engage in treatment but of course I couldn’t possibly know, the only thing I can really do is share my own experience. My OCD first came about when I was a teenager. I didn’t seek help for 15/16 years even though I was miserable, horribly unwell (vomiting with anxiety). It’s hard to articulate why but there’s something about OCD convincing you that you are the exception, that what you think/worry about IS true so what point is receiving treatment? When I finally disclosed to my sister about my intrusive thoughts, specifically POCD she did some research and came back to me and said ” I think you have OCD, other people have these thoughts too”. Even then, I thought somehow I was different, my response was well maybe THEY have OCD but my thoughts are different, they’re facts, they’re true, no one can help me. This of course may be of no help at all, but anything that can shed some light on the thinking/reasoning of sufferers I’m happy to share. Your knowledge and support will always be there for Blake when he decides to re-commit to recovery and he’s very lucky. Emily x

    1. Hi Emily. Thank you for sharing your own insight. It mirrors what I hear again and again – that constant doubt OCD cruelly places in the mind that maybe you are the different one, maybe OCD is right. And I do think it reflects what Blake feels, too. He will often say that he doesn’t care what anyone else tells him, even experts. He is convinced that he is different. Hope you are doing well! – Angie

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