“Family after family and child after child talked to me about what the International OCD Foundation means to them and how they have found a home at the conference. This year, especially, so many people commented that they were finding it very hard to conceive of how they would transition back to ‘regular life’ after such an intimate and meaningful experience.”
– Susan Dailey
IOCDF Board of Directors Vice President
Parent of a child with PANDAS OCD
“Family after family…” Each year, there are so many different attendees at our conference with so many similar and different needs. The goal of our Annual OCD Conference is to both provide up-to-date information and education about OCD and related disorders and effective treatment options, but even more so, the OCD Conference is about creating a community for those affected by OCD and related disorders as well as the professionals who treat them.
The program at the conference is incredibly powerful: From internationally known OCD genetics researchers, to individuals with OCD telling their own personal success stories, to experiential activities for kids and teens designed to help them battle their OCD, the presentations and workshops are always the highest rated aspect of the conference in the written evaluations we receive. However, the community created at the conference is equally important. The conference may be the first time an individual with OCD or BDD meets another person facing the same challenges. There are support groups for parents and family members, social activities for kids and teens, networking opportunities professionals learning new and more effective ways to treat individuals with OCD and related disorders, as well as graduate students and trainees, who make career connections with senior therapists and researchers in the field: All in all, a lot happens at this conference!
Each year, we return from this conference filled with stories from attendees. I want to share some of these stories with you.
New this year, we launched a Young Adult track for individuals in their late teens and twenties to discuss the challenges of attending college, starting careers, and dating with OCD. One of these first-time Young Adult attendees, Henry*, had an amazing transformation at the conference. On Friday, he came to talk to staff at the conference registration desk, clearly anxious — he couldn’t find his parents or any of his new friends. He told us he really didn’t like being alone. One of our conference ambassadors offered to help him try to find his friends and parents, riding up and down the escalators with him until he finally found someone. On Saturday Night, our registration desk staff saw Henry again, only this time, he wasn’t anxious or worried. Instead, he was dancing with his new friends and complete strangers out on the dance floor at the Saturday Night Social, having a blast. On Sunday, we talked with Henry’s parents and they told us that it had taken them two days to drive from where they live to attend the conference, but that it was worth every minute – they were so grateful to have had this experience!
In 2012, we launched our Spanish track for individuals in the Latino community affected by OCD and related disorders, to help connect them with needed resources in Spanish. This year, our Assistant Program Director, Stephanie Cogen, met one of the new attendees to this Spanish track as she emerged in tears from the Scrupulosity talk. Olivia* told Stephanie (who is fluent in Spanish) that she had no idea that there was a name for what she was suffering from and that there were others like her in the world who also had scrupulosity. She had managed to connect with a few of the other attendees during the talk, and she spoke of how overwhelmingly gratifying it was to meet other people who understood and didn’t think she was “crazy.” Olivia also expressed her sincerest thanks that we offered the Spanish track — while Olivia was able to attend the full Conference as a fluent English speaker, she appreciated that her Spanish-speaking family was able to come to the conference on Saturday for the Spanish Track and gain some insight about what she deals with, what it’s like for her, and how to better assist her. Olivia attended the conference thanks to the scholarships available for those in need of financial assistance, and she was so grateful to have been given the opportunity.
But I think the most gratifying feedback I heard from the conference this year came from one of our new volunteers at the conference, Julianne, a mental health professional who worked at the Continuing Education desk:
“I cannot thank you enough for including me as a volunteer at your conference — it was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I am in awe, not only of the incredibly hard work that you and your staff have done, but also of the hope and resiliency I witnessed at the conference. This wasn’t about ego, or prestige, but about hope and courage. I witnessed some of the most moving experiences of my career, and I am honored to have been a part of it. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this spectacular example of why we do what we do. You all have restored my hope and energy by bearing witness to all of the small miracles I saw this weekend. I cannot fully express how moved I was, and how special this whole process was for me.”
How about you? What was your experience like at this conference? We’d love to hear more of your stories in the comments below. This is always such a meaningful conference for the entire IOCDF staff, as it is a chance for us to meet so many of the people that we talk to throughout the year on email, on the phone, and via Facebook. It is a privilege to continue to be able to serve the OCD community — and to be part of the recovery process. And we thank all of you for that privilege.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our attendees.