For today’s blog post, we talked with Heather Currey, who attended her first conference in 2007 as an individual with OCD, and is now back to tell her story as a presenter at this year’s conference in Chicago. In this blog, Heather tells us about her upcoming talk, “Hope for OCD,” a bit about her past experiences at the conference, and what it’s like to be going back now that she is in recovery.
Can you tell us about the talk that you will be presenting at this year’s Annual Conference?
I will be presenting “Hope for OCD: I Am Living Proof” on Friday, July 27th, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
My primary goal in sharing my personal journey of successfully managing my OCD and BDD is to offer hope to OCD sufferers and their loved ones. For myself, finally being able to speak openly and honestly about my experience of living with OCD and BDD, my treatment, progress, and current challenges, is incredibly healing. Living a life fueled by fear is intense, chaotic, and brutally exhausting; I’m certain many of the attendees can relate. Unfortunately, many of us struggling with OCD and related disorders suffer in secrecy, utterly ashamed of our thoughts and irrational behaviors. My presentation includes a brief history of my struggles with OCD and BDD from childhood to essentially being housebound for nearly 8 years by the age of 36. I will provide details of my treatment at the OCD Institute at McLean Hospital, my maintenance regimen, relapse prevention strategies, and ongoing outpatient treatment.
Tell us a little bit about you, what you currently do, and how you became involved in the OCD community.
I reside in Austin, Texas, with my wonderfully unique 14 year-old daughter, Trinity Sage. I enjoy music, random facts, making costume jewelry, and can typically be found at Galaxy Dance Studio. In January 2013, I will be returning to college to pursue a career in art therapy.
As Outreach Coordinator for OCD TEXAS, the Texas affiliate of the International OCD Foundation, I work with an amazing group of people to promote awareness of OCD and related disorders. We are dedicated to providing support and advocacy for OCD sufferers and their loved ones. Involvement with the OCD community is extremely important to me. It is with the expertise and guidance of my treatment team, the understanding and encouragement of my fellow OCD survivors, along with the unconditional love and support of my family, that I found the courage, strength and renewed hope to claim a life I have never known.
When was your first IOCDF Conference? What made you decide to attend?
In 2007, I attended the 14th Annual IOCDF Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.
I attended the conference — with the encouragement from my family — because I desperately needed access to current OCD/BDD information and treatment resources.
Were you nervous about attending?
Yes, I was terrified. However, I distinctly remember being calmed by the positively welcoming and supportive energy of everyone involved in the conference. It’s a very unique atmosphere to have OCD sufferers, their families and friends, clinicians, and researchers gathered together in a unified manner for the purpose of improving the quality of life for all of those affected by OCD and related disorders.
Do you have a favorite talk from past year’s conferences?
All of the presentations I attended at the 14th Annual IOCDF Conference were absolutely phenomenal: highly informative, motivating and quite beneficial. Notably, the presentations of Dr. Sabine Wilhelm on CBT for Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and Dr. Eda Gorbis on Mindfulness (MBBT) for OCD, were truly exceptional.
What workshops are you most excited about attending this year and why?
Mindfulness is an extremely powerful tool in the management my OCD and BDD so I’m excited about the variety of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) workshops being offered this year. I’m also looking forward to attending the panel presentation “Careers in OCD: Which Path Makes Sense for Me?” Finally, I’m still very challenged by PTSD. I am less educated about PTSD compared to OCD and BDD so attending “PTSD and OCD,” presented by Dr. Edna Foa and Dr. Elna Yadin, is a top priority of mine this year.
If you could give any advice to someone who is not sure about attending the conference, what would you tell them?
As challenging as it may be for some people, I strongly encourage attending the Conference. The environment provides much hope and inspiration, supported by such a wealth of information and scientific research. It’s simply an amazing experience.
What are you most looking forward to about this year’s conference in Chicago?
I will be traveling to Chicago from Austin, Texas, for the Conference. I am eager to reconnect with many of the people from my treatment team and appreciate the opportunity to network with others in the OCD community. I’m also thrilled and quite curious to experience the conference from a recovery aspect. I don’t ever want to forget how symptomatic I was, completely enslaved by my OCD and BDD with such a loss of hope. Some people find this odd. But in living the life I have now, it reinforces on a daily basis that with proper treatment, courage, motivation and determination, it is absolutely possible for people with OCD and related disorders to live a balanced, fulfilling life. I am living proof.
Thank you, Heather, for that inspiring post. Heather is one of many presenters offering a personal look at their experiences with OCD. To learn about more of the personal stories that will be presented at this year conference, view our conference schedule online here.