Yes, when I sat down to write a few days ago, I was truly having my own pity party. As those of you who read my last post know, it really was my own party. I was all alone, huddled in my hotel room at the OCD Conference, pondering OCD, my role in how it affects our family, etc. For certain I was exhausted. I did feel all alone. The emotion of the conference was hovering, and I was nervously contemplating how I was going to present to the folks who would be attending my presentations.
Let me tell you, now, what was wonderful at the OCD Conference. What was wonderful was that, yet again, around 1,400 people from all over the United States, Canada, and many other countries found their way to the conference to connect, to share, to laugh, to cry and to grow. As Jeff Bell noted, the OCD Conference is special. There is no other conference that I have been to where professionals, sufferers, friends and family all come together on common ground. No one knows better than anyone else. In an atmosphere where approximately 1/3 of the attendees have OCD, 1/3 are professionals who work with OCD, and 1/3 are friends and family, the comments of the person with OCD carry as much weight as the researcher who has been studying the disorder for more than 30 years. Personally, as a mom of a teen with OCD and a psychologist who treats it, I learn equally from all who share.
The presentations and activities spanned a wide range. There were presentations about the latest research on PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections), panels on new and immerging treatments for families, question and answer discussions on scrupulosity, and panels by teens who shared their successes. There was a family boot camp (where no one wanted it to be over), a virtual camping trip (led by Jonathan Grayson), a ping pong tournament, many support groups, and lots and lots of opportunities to socialize.
Through it all, I watched the tears. I watched the hugs people gave to support one another. I watched the lights go on in a parent’s eyes when they learned something new. I watched children and teens delight to meet someone else who had OCD – or who had a brother or sister with OCD. I watched professionals reaching out to people with OCD and to their friends and family. I watched a community – a community that, for 3 days, wrapped its arms around one another and promised to be there for each other. That last part may be the most wonderful part. So many people with OCD believe that they are alone. This gathering tells them that they are not. It tells them that there is hope. It offers a guiding light to follow on the journey and a hand to pick people up when they fall.
Thank you, International OCD Foundation, for bringing this gift to the OCD community. Thank you for bringing it to me…