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.