OCD and the Importance of Specialists

Image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The voice on the other end of the line is searching for an answer. She knows there is another way. There has to be. I’m speaking to a woman. I don’t know her age. I only know that she’s self-diagnosed with OCD and she is looking for help. Her plea to me draws me in; this is what I’m passionate about: helping people with OCD find help and get better. At the same time, the call leaves me furious. Something inside of me demands, “Something must be done about this!

A little background. I am the parent of a young adult with OCD. I am also a clinical psychologist. Several years after my son’s OCD diagnosis and successful treatment, I sought out training and began to specialize in the treatment of OCD. I did not want other families to go through what we did. Heck, I was a psychologist and I had had no clue about OCD. I’d been lucky to find help through my psychology connections. How were people without a psychology background to know the “what’s,” “why’s,” and “how’s” of OCD?

The Woman on the Line

The woman I’m speaking to is resourceful. She’s figured out that there’s a name for the disturbing thoughts that go through her mind, and for the anxiety and discomfort created by them. It’s called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. She is troubled by fears that she will harm herself in some way. She does not wish to harm herself. The thoughts terrify her. She wants to learn to deal with them in a better way, rather than spending great amounts of time ruminating. What she describes to me sounds a great deal like a theme that the OCD community has dubbed “Harm OCD.” It’s a fairly common OCD theme.

“I wanted to use my health insurance,” she tells me. “I went to see a therapist who wasn’t an OCD specialist, but he seemed professional enough.”

What followed was anything but a pleasant experience. When she told the therapist that she believed she had OCD and that her obsessions centered around thoughts of harming herself, the therapist told her that there was no such thing as the disorder she was talking about. His reasoning? He had never heard of it.

He told me I was suicidal and that the thoughts were just fragmented pieces of myself that I’d disowned,” she lamented.

“Let me guess,” I said. “The thoughts and the anxiety only got worse then.”

“Yes!” she responded with fervor.

“This is a frequent problem we see in the OCD community when people see therapists who are not specialists in treating OCD.”

Our talk continued with me providing resources, referrals, and information on finding a specialist to work with her. I trust that she will get into proper treatment and get the help she needs.

The Uninformed Psychology Community

Being immersed in the OCD community, I sometimes forget that the psychology and psychiatry community as a whole can be misinformed about OCD. Although I have never met this woman to be able to diagnose her, nor was I present to witness what happened in the consultation room, what she describes matches what many with OCD describe on their road to finding diagnosis and treatment. Not all mental health professionals are trained to diagnose or treat OCD. When a person has OCD, it is a specialist they must see.

People trust therapists and psychiatrists to be able to identify what is wrong and to be able to treat them. If their diagnosis is OCD, and if it manifests in a way that does not reflect what tends to be shown in the media, the diagnosis can be missed. What’s more, the treatment provided can end up making things even worse, as this woman shared. When she noted that she thought she had harm OCD and was told that that did not exist, it made her doubt and despair even greater.

What frustrates me is when mental health professionals do not admit that OCD is not their specialty, or when they are not willing to listen to the person in the room with them. A quick search on Google for “harm OCD” led me to over 700,000 results in less than a second. A search for “OCD suicidal obsessions” leads to nearly 300,000 results (my friend, Janet, at OCDtalk wrote an article on the subject last year).

Getting Help

The woman I spoke with was informed. She had done her research and she knew what she likely had. It was her reluctance to go outside of her insurance (or, perhaps better, to stand up to her insurance provider and ask that they approve her seeing an OCD specialist since there are none on her panel nearby) that led her to not getting the appropriate treatment. It’s not that the therapist she saw is not a talented professional; they just were not likely informed about OCD.

If you believe that you, or a loved one, have OCD, seek out a specialist. The International OCD Foundation has published a great article called, “How to Find the Right Therapist.” Both the International OCD Foundation and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America have features to help consumers find therapists. Starting with a specialist can help an OCD sufferer avoid wasted time spent in treatment that does not help. If there are no specialists in your area who take your insurance, you still have options. Perhaps there is a therapist on your insurance who is out of your immediate area, but provides therapy via secure video (they must be licensed in your state and your insurance company may or may not authorize this kind of treatment). Perhaps your insurance company can make an exception and authorize treatment outside of network. Additionally, if finances are an issue, do not be afraid to ask providers if they can provide you therapy at a reduced fee you can afford. There are many who will.

Above all, this is your health and your life. Getting the appropriate treatment is important. Do not stay in a treatment situation that feels inappropriate, or with a mental health professional who does not understand OCD, or who will not look at valid articles you point them to on the subject. OCD is treatable – and getting the right treatment is key to recovery.

 

 

 

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OCD is Treatable

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week, as I was thinking about this blog, it occurred to me that something has been missing from my posts for some time. That “thing” is the notion that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is treatable; that there is hope for sufferers, their families, and those who care for them. That OCD is treatable was core to my very intentions behind creating this blog – and I fear that, lost in our situation lately, I’ve forgotten to mention this all-important point recently.

Anyone who is new to this blog may not know the history of OCD in our family. They may not have read my initial post in which I explained that our teenage son, Blake, through participation in treatment, had once lived a life where OCD had become a thing of the past. They may not know that I started this blog as a place to give my emotions and thoughts about our experience an outlet, lest I let them flow in front of Blake, who was refusing treatment at the time. They may not know that this blog began with the eternal hope that Blake, given some space, would decide to return to treatment and beat OCD back into oblivion once again.

I want readers to know that the situation we currently face, one in which our now eighteen-year-old frequently barely functions, is not a typical situation for a young man with OCD. I’m not saying that this does not happen when people do not get treatment. It obviously can happen. Blake, however, besides dealing with OCD, got hit by a tremendous bout of Major Depression – and it took us a while to find a professional who thought he could help even though Blake believed he was beyond being helped. Now we are all in treatment again, and we are peeling back the layers little-by-little with the hope that things will get better again. That is what I’ve been documenting lately.

At the same time, it is important for sufferers, or anyone reading this blog, to know that OCD is treatable. I know this as a mother who has been through cognitive behavior therapy/exposure with response prevention (CBT-ERP) with her son and seen amazing results. I know this as a therapist who has the true honor of watching her patients, young and old, show OCD the door and reclaim their lives. I know this as a reader of many blogs and an attendee at many conferences. People can and do get better from OCD. There is every reason to have hope.

If you continue to follow this blog, you will likely observe our family stumble and struggle. That’s just where we are right now. Yet, I continue to have hope that our son will get better once he can see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Thus, our journey continues. Thank you for bearing witness.

To view helpful information about effective OCD treatment, or to see stories about positive outcomes, I’ve listed a few helpful links below:

*Good Morning!

*On the eve of the annual conference of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), which is taking place in Chicago, I am re-posting this entry from a while back. OCD is a serious disorder that can profoundly affect lives. Knowledge and treatment can make a world of difference.

This is a piece I wrote for myself about three and a half years ago – before I started writing this blog.  It reflects the feelings I felt at seeing my son stuck in an OCD ritual, and my struggles with a public that often does not understand that OCD can wreak havoc on lives. 

Image courtesy scottchan@freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy scottchan@freedigitalphotos.net

“Good morning!” I say in my most cheery voice as I open the car door and a load of kids tumbles out. I’m working at morning valet at my son’s school, a volunteer position I’ve helped with for the past four years. “Have a great day!” I wish them as they enter school for the day. Across the parking lot, I catch sight of my own son, standing by my car.   I can make out the brown curls on the top of his head, which is bowed in prayer. I check my watch – 20 minutes have passed since he began this process. Twenty minutes on a prayer that reasonably ought to take less than five. I can see him repeating the same motions he’s done over and over already. I even think I can see him mouthing the same words.

Enough already,” I think to myself and begin to walk in his direction.

“Be right back,” I tell my fellow volunteers as I leave my post. When I get to him, he doesn’t acknowledge me. He’s deeply, fervently in prayer.

Image courtesy David Castillo Dominici @freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy David Castillo Dominici @freedigitalphotos.net

“Hon,” I ask, “can I help in some way?”

Absolutely no reply. His lips move at rapid-fire pace and he’s planted in place. I put my hand on his shoulder.

“It’s time to go in to school now,” I tell him.

“Mom! I was almost finished! Now I have to start it all over!”

“Honey, you’ve been saying the same prayer over and over for the last 20 minutes. It’s enough. Go join your friends before school starts.”

“I have NOT been saying it over and over. I keep messing up or skipping parts so I have to start again and get it right. I almost had it this time and you interrupted.”

“I don’t think the point is to get it perfectly right. I think it’s about what’s in your heart. You-know-who is just trying to trick you.”

I say this last part in reference to his OCD, which we’ve known he’s had since he was 7. He is nearly 14 now.

“Really? Do you think so?” he says sounding just a little bit hopeful.

“You know that’s the truth. Come on, you can fight this.”

“No, no, no. I have to get it right,” he says. “Just let me do what I have to do.”

“Come on, honey. Stop and go to class.”

“Mom!!!”

“Fine! It’s your OCD. You handle it the way you see fit.”

I throw my arms up in exasperation as I walk back to the waiting line of cars. He goes back to his prayers, trying to finish before he is tardy to class. My heart is heavy as I watch him being caught up in this cycle…trying to get it just perfect and falling short over and over again. I want to make this better for him, want him to be able to go hang with his buddies who are all together before school begins, but I am just an interruption to a process he feels he must go through.

Not long ago I saw a segment of an interview of Howie Mandel by Larry King. Larry was asking Howie about his OCD. At one point Larry looked at Howie and asked, “It’s not a severe mental illness, is it? I mean, it’s not depression.” Larry went on to talk about how we all have a little OCD and how he has all his vitamins and medicine lined up in a certain order and takes them in that order. Howie did his best to explain how OCD can severely impact someone’s life, but I never really felt that the point hit home.

I think Larry’s question reflects what we see in the media about OCD. People with OCD are portrayed as quirky, silly, and super organized. Maybe they are controlling and bothersome. What we miss seeing is the anguish and the suffering. We do not understand how OCD can hold an individual – and entire families – hostage to it. If we can ask the question, “It’s not a severe mental illness, is it?” then we have never witnessed a child with hands so bloody and oozing from over-washing that they wince with pain if anything brushes against them. We have not had a family hike interrupted by the un-ending screams of a child who is certain he is about to die because there may have been a Lyme disease carrying tick on the shrub that brushed up against him. We have never had a sheriff’s deputy come over to us in alarm because our child is screaming so horrifically that they sound like they are being torn limb from limb. We have never had a family meal interrupted over and over because our teenage son has to stop eating to repeat a ritual before he can go on eating. And we have never seen a 13-year-old boy reduced to an exhausted crumpled mass in his mother’s arms after fighting off the demon in his own mind.

“It’s not a severe mental illness, is it?”

Yes, sadly, OCD is a severe mental illness, and it attacks the things that are most precious to a person.   People think our family must be very religious because they see our son in prayer all the time. What they do not realize is that the religion our son practices bears little resemblance to any religion we practice in the home – or that anyone practices anywhere for that matter. His practices are born out of a fear that OCD gives him – a fear that something awful will happen if he doesn’t get things just right. What used to be a source of enjoyment, connection and deep meaning for him – and for us all – has become a source of endless doubt and a cycle of torturous repetition that has long lost its original intent.

Yes, there is treatment. There are terrific, highly effective treatments – and my son is in treatment now. He has beaten OCD to a pulp in the past. With this relapse, he is a teenager, in the throes of puberty and determined to be independent of what Mom and Dad want for him. So we wait, with hope that the day will come that he will decide that he loves himself more than he loves fighting us. We wait for the day that he turns his strong-willed nature against the OCD that currently holds him in its grasp and moves toward a freer life. But it’s going to be one heck of a war when it comes because, yes, OCD can be severe – and it grows in strength over time. In the meantime, our family will be here, honing our skills so that we can back this boy up when he is ready to fight.

For more information and to find help, visit the website of the International OCD Foundation: https://iocdf.org/

Blake Goes To Summer Camp…For The Very First Time!

Image courtesy Dr. Joseph Valks at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy Dr. Joseph Valks at freedigitalphotos.net

Yesterday we dropped Blake off to go to summer camp for nearly three weeks.  I can’t believe he’s actually gone.  I would have written about it right away yesterday, but my heart was just a little too achy to put it down in words.  I fretted all night about whether or not he actually got onto the bus.  Isn’t that silly?  We had to leave before the buses arrived to pick the kids up, and I had images of him pacing in that gated concrete playground all night wondering where everyone had gone (I still have a little post-traumatic stress from when Blake was younger and used to wander off from the group…but I digress).  This morning, however, I spied his face in the corner of a photo on the camp website, and I finally relaxed (My hubby still can’t figure out how I found him in the photo.  It’s a mom thing, right moms?).

The camp is a religious one.  That may seem a bit strange, sending a young man whose primary form of OCD is scrupulosity *(see below) to a religious-based summer camp.  It’s all part of a plan we made a few months back, though.  Blake was constantly seeking out religious information and we decided that it was better if he was getting his information from sources we trusted than from ones we had no control over (i.e., internet searches).  He began working with one trusted local leader.  About the same time, we were referred to this camp by my brother-in-law.  Uncle H has often served as a mentor to Blake, but often their exchanges are via telephone because there is a bit of distance between us.  Uncle H helped us to get Blake enrolled in this camp. My hope is that Blake will accomplish some good learning while he is having fun and that he also may have the opportunity to notice where he takes religion to the extreme compared to the others in the religious camp community he is a part of.

When I enrolled Blake in camp, the admissions forms asked about mental health issues.  I was honest that he has OCD and I requested contact from the camp staff in order to give them the details (and to avoid them freaking out – as some people do when they hear “OCD”).  A couple weeks before Blake left, I received a phone call.

“Hi.  I’m the Camp Mom,” said the warm voice on the other end of the line.  “I’m actually a clinical social worker, but kids prefer to talk to a mom more than to a social worker,” she mused.  “Tell me about Blake.”

I told her about the religiosity, about how OCD is entangled with observance.  I noted how he is constantly seeking out how to “do” religion “just right.”  And I explained how Blake seeks out those he considers religious “experts” to find out the “right” answers and to make sure he isn’t making some religious mistake.  She considered what I’d told her for a moment and then formulated her thoughts.

“I know exactly who he is going to head for at camp,” she told me.  “We have a religious instructor and I’m guessing that Blake is going to go to him with all of his questions.  Here’s what I’m thinking. Since Blake is looking for the ‘right’ answers, I’m going to instruct the staff to give him the more flexible answers to his questions.  Teenagers generally approach our religious staff looking to see how they can bend the rules,” she explained.  “Our approach with most is to give them the most clear answer so that they can’t find a way to wiggle out of it.  With Blake, though, it seems it would be counterproductive to give him a rigid answer.  It’s probably better if he has information he needs to grapple a little more with.”

I suddenly loved this woman.  She seemed to really understand the importance of allowing Blake to stay a little uncomfortable.  And her comments about the difference between Blake and most teens struck me.  Most teens do seek out the grey areas.  They try to find ways to get around the rules.  Blake seeks rules.  They make his world a little more predictable – a little more certain. OCD craves certainty.  I felt pretty sure we’d chosen a good place for Blake to have his summer camp experience.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to search for photos of my young man.  I’m hoping he has a good time and that he meets some nice kids.  Making friends has never been easy for him.  While I hope that he feels comfortable there, I also hope that he will push outside of his comfort zone and challenge himself.  It’s good practice for OCD fighting!

* Scrupulosity is “a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involving religious or moral obsessions.  Scrupulous individuals are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation of religious or moral doctrine (International OCD Foundation)”

 

A Liebster Award!

liebster-award3[1]This morning I awoke to a very nice surprise.  Mrs. Stone at Pebbles On The Road had nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Now, I’ve seen these Liebster Awards on other blogs I read, and I’d wondered about them.  How cool to have this recognition and learn more about it.  Thank you very much, Mrs. Stone!!  I am humbled.  Now it is my turn to share a bit about this award and to nominate others.

Here is what I have learned about the Liebster. The Liebster Blog Award is one given to newer bloggers who have who have less than 200 followers for their blog (yep, that’s me!).  It is a way of showcasing newer blogs/bloggers to the blogging community.  Once you receive the award, you can either accept it or opt out of participating.  I’m opting in!!!  That means I get to nominate other blogs, answer some questions about me, and ask some questions of those I nominate.  Hooray!

Before I go on too far, I have the responsibility to post the Liebster Award Unofficial Rules.

The Unofficial Rules For The Liebster Award

1.  Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog.  Once again, Mrs. Stone, thank you so very much for this award.  Check out Mrs. Stone’s blog, Pebbles on the Road, a witty, humorous look at the bumps and boulders on the road of life.

2.  Display the award on your blog!  Done!

3.  Answer 11 questions about yourself, provided by the blogger who nominated you.  See below.

4.  Provide 11 random facts about yourself.  Again, see below.

5.  Nominate 11 blogs with less than 200 followers that you feel deserve the award. Okay, going to do my best here.  There are so many wonderful blogs.

6.  Create a new list of questions for your nominees.  Let’s see if I can get creative.

7.  Post these rules on your blog.  Done!

8.  Tag your nominees and let them know with a link to your post.

 

My Answers to Mrs. Stone’s Questions

1.  Why did you decide to start blogging?  Well, originally I found myself writing about our experiences whenever I struggled with something regarding Blake’s OCD.  It was therapeutic, and a way to put down into words what was going on in my head.  I occasionally shared my writings with a few close people and they seemed touched by them.  I wondered if my words could be helpful to others, or if others were going through something similar.   I also wondered what it would be like to track our journey over time. Hence, the blog was born.

2. How did you come up with the name for your blog?  Honestly, that was no easy task.  I went round and round for months before I settled on something that worked for me.  OCD In The Family finally percolated up to the top because that’s what our family is dealing with – living with OCD in our midst (Hmmm…maybe I could have named it, “OCD In Our Midst”).

3.  What inspires you to write a blog post?  Sometimes I write because I am overwhelmed with emotions and I need somewhere to put them.  Other times, an issue or comment makes me feel like I need to say something.  Occasionally, my hubby or Michael says, “You should write about that.”

4.  Do you use an off-line editor for composing your blog posts, and if so, which one and why?  Okay, going to sound dumb here:  What’s an off-line editor?  So the answer is, no, I don’t use one.

5.  If you could cure any disease what would it be?  Can’t I cure them all?  Right now I’d like to cure all auto-immune diseases because my mom is really suffering from one and no one can seem to figure out what to do.  Her suffering is just unfair.

6.  What is your favorite thing to do when you have free time?  I can’t decide if I like to eat or to cook more!

7.  Using 10 words or less, how would you describe yourself?  Sensitive, inquisitive, caring, (too) serious, emotional, funny, driven, conscientious. Don’t I sound like a barrel full of fun?

8.  If your life were made into a movie, who would play you in the film and why?  Julianna Margulies.  Why?  Because she rocks the curly or straight look and I like to pretend that I look like her.  And she’s a pretty amazing actress!

9.  How would your life change if you were to win the lottery?  So, I don’t play the lottery because I rarely win anything.  I once tried to play the nickel slot machines in Las Vegas and I was so angry when I lost my roll of nickels!!!

10.  Miracle Whip or real mayonnaise?  Miracle whip – light.

11.  Paper or plastic?  I carry my own bags around with me.

11 Random Facts About Me

1.  I cry when I hear people sing live.

2.  I love old china teacups!  My grandmother got me into it.  Now I can’t stop collecting!

3.  I have two turtles as pets and one day I imagine having a whole bunch of turtles and tortoises in my yard.

4.  One of the most spiritual moments of my life was when I came face-to-face with a green sea turtle while snorkeling.  It was like time stopped.

5.  I’m a sucker for murder mystery novels.

6.  One day I want to travel by ship down the east cost of South America and get all the way to Antarctica on an ice breaker!

7.  My favorite comfort food is macaroni and ketchup!  Sounds silly, right?  Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. My mom used to make it for me when I was a kid.  I don’t know where it came from, but now it’s my go-to when I’m needing a little nurturing.

8.  When I was little I kept a dollhouse in my bedroom in hopes that a family of little people would move in.  I’m still waiting…

9.  Blake is made of Junior Mints.  I craved ’em when I was pregnant with him.

10.  Michael is made of tacos and bean burritos!

11.  I’d love to sing in a choir, but I’ve never had the guts to audition.

My Turn To Nominate

1.  International OCD Foundation BlogI have no idea why this blog has less than 200 followers.  It should have a million followers!  This blog highlights the latest that is up with the International OCD Foundation, an organization that truly is there for people with OCD, their friends and family, and clinicians and researchers, alike!

2.  Ellen’s OCD BlogEllen is fifteen.  Fifteen!  She is a gifted writer who shares her own experiences of having OCD while being an activist who brings awareness to the cause.  I appreciate her ability to share openly an honestly, as well as her determination not to give up in the face of this disorder.

3.  My Twice Baked PotatoKelly is an elementary school teacher and a mom to a twice-exceptional young man.  I appreciate her honesty and her steadfast commitment to her own son and to the needs of families with gifted and special needs children.

4.  Dreams to be Anxiety Free:  Emily provides a true service by sharing what it is really like to live with OCD.  She has an amazing grasp on OCD and what it takes to get better.  I am constantly touched by her wisdom.

Wow, I just realized how difficult it is to nominate 11 blogs.  I read lots of other wonderful blogs, but in looking at them, they have more than 200 followers.  So, I leave you with this small, but mighty, list.

Questions For My Nominees

1.  What prompted you to start blogging?

2.  Do you have a favorite post you’ve written (and, if so, link us to it)?

3.  If there was one thing that you could change in your past, what would it be?

4.  What is the one “takeaway” you’d like readers to get from reading your blog?

5.  Share a funny moment.

6.  Who, or what, inspires you?

7.  If a movie were made about your blog, who would star in it?

8.  Dark or milk chocolate?

9.  If you spent a week in outer space, what would you take with you?

10.  What’s your favorite non-blogging hobby?

11.  A long lost aunt leaves you a large sum of money.  What do you do with it?

Cheers all!  And thank you again, Mrs. Stone!!

Now That I’m Done With My Pity Party…

Image courtesy Bigjom@freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy Bigjom@freedigitalphotos.net

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…

Musings from the OCD Conference

Image courtesy hin255 @ freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy hin255 @ freedigitalphotos.net

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.